Archive for February 28th, 2013

I’ll have Wikipedia and chips, please

[link] Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Wonderful story in The Register about Jimmy Wales’s explanation for the popularity of Wikipedia in Chinese restaurants.

Wales also dropped some fascinating vignettes about the online encyclopedia. The organization was banned in China until the Beijing Olympics, and is still not as popular with local internet users as it is in the rest of the world. But the name has started cropping up on local restaurant menus.

He showed images sent in of menus listing beef brisket with Wikipedia, stir fried Wikipedia with peppers, steamed eggs with Wikipedia, and even a bread company that takes its name from the site. The Chinese Wikipedia editors are mystified by this, but Wales suggested a hypothesis.

“What we figured out was that just around the time of the Beijing Olympics a lot of restaurants were expecting millions of foreigners to flood into the county for the first time,” he said. “Restaurants that wouldn’t normally see foreigners decided to translate their menus and if you type almost anything into a search engine what’s the first thing that comes up? Wikipedia.”

Wales also showed off some country statistics that raised a few chuckles. The most popular type of category for Wikipedia articles in Japanese is pop culture information, he said, which given the country’s documented obsession with such matters is unsurprising.

But in German the most popular topic is geography, which raised a smattering of chuckles from those who know their 20th Century history. In France, one of the least popular categories was sex, which Wales attributed to the fact that the population spent more time actually having sex and so was less inclined to read about it.

Discourse: rebooting the public sphere

[link] Thursday, February 28th, 2013

This is interesting — a serious attempt to re-engineer an online forum system. One of the most depressing things about the last two decades is the way the discussion-group system (the News Groups that were the glory of the pre-Web Internet) decayed and effectively disappeared from view. And yet online discussion is one of the things we need most if the Net is to re-vitalise the public sphere. So this new, open-source project has the potential to restore something really valuable.

Discourse is a from-scratch reboot, an attempt to reimagine what a modern, sustainable, fully open-source Internet discussion platform should be today – both from a technology standpoint and a sociology standpoint.

We tried to build in all the lessons learned from the last ten years of Internet web forums, so that the community has a natural immune system to defend itself from trolls, bad actors, and spammers. There’s also a trust system, so engaged community members can assist in the governance of their community.

The act of participating in a discussion should fundamentally feel good in a way that it currently does not on all existing forums and mailing lists. It should be fun to have discussions with other human beings, not a chore, or something that’s barely tolerable.