Wikinews:Water cooler/proposals/archives/2018/February

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Proposal for a grant

I suggest that we submit a quarterly process grant as either an ad hoc group or a reconstituted Wikinewsie Group. This would fund proper channels for communicating with sources including: setting up a Tor-accesible .onion site with SecureDrop, an independent phone number for tips and leads, and reinvigorating the proper Wikinewsie site on the open Web, all to do outreach to whistleblowers and citizen journalists. For what it's worth, I have some experience writing grants. @Bjarki S, Brian McNeil, LauraHale, Pi zero, ProtoplasmaKid: as the members of The Wikinewsie Group on Meta. Thoughts? —Justin (koavf)TCM 06:53, 21 January 2018 (UTC)


Executive summary: Although, if anything is attempted in future with the Wikinewsie Group, I would probably wish to continue my involvement in it — and if involved I would do my best to help it succeed — I believe only heartache and misery, and loss of project independence and destruction of news values, would come of asking the Foundation to get more involved in the operation of Wikinews, such as providing grant money or seeking affiliated status.


First, regarding the Foundation's ideological stance on news... I thought, when I first came to Wikinews, the oldtimers here seemed kind of paranoid about the Foundation. After I'd learned some of the history, for a while I used to say the Foundation wouldn't lift a finger to help us, but then the Wikinewsie Group experience went by, and after that I started saying that the Foundation would go out of their way to avoid doing anything that might risk helping us. That seems an inadequate characterization, though. How about this: The Foundation, collectively as an institution, is fundamentally opposed to news values, and afaict always has been. I don't know how to elaborate on that without getting bogged down, but there it is. We can and, I maintain, should move forward within the sisterhood, but we need to avoid letting the Foundation shape our ideology.

Ever since the Wikinewsie Group episode ended, I have been mostly holding my tongue about it, because it simply didn't seem worth raising a fuss over. However, now that you're raising the subject again, I feel I owe you an explanation of where I'm coming from on this. When Laura Hale came here and wanted to try to set up a separate NGO for Wikinews, name chosen The Wikinewsie Group, and apply to the Foundation to grant it affiliated status, en.wn oldtimers were cynical about her chances of success, but we sincerely wished her luck and tried to be generally supportive and not let our cynicism interfere with her efforts. Here's my current understanding of that episode. The Board was just opening up affiliation to thematic groups (rather than just regional ones), and Laura hoped the Wikinewsie Group could be the first thematic group to get affiliation. Part of the purpose of AffCom (Affiliations Committee) is to help insulate affiliation decisions from the politics of the Board of Trustees; and after some months, AffCom came to a decision and recommended granting affiliation to the Wikinewsie Group. And the Board of Trustees said no. (Even the way the Board went about it came across as nefarious, though I don't recall the details off hand.) My immediate reaction was only disappointment; after all, I'd been skeptical of the chances from the start. Maybe I was quite disappointed, because I'd allowed myself to become hopeful with AffCom's recommendation. The Foundation uttered some of what I thought of as disingenuous pious mouthings about how we could do this-that-and-the-other for a while to allay the Foundation's concerns, but I didn't for a moment take any of it seriously; the Foundation had already wasted months of our time and effort on something they would never have seriously considered, and intervened politically — exactly what AffCom was there to avoid — to prevent affiliation, and they would continue to do so if we were silly enough to waste more time and effort trying to satisfy them. Mind, this is when I was only moderately annoyed at them. My feelings got stronger later, because of an epilog. After the superprotect incident I decided to be a bit more visible in the community at Meta, figuring my ideas about how to enhance the sisterhood would do nobody else any good if I didn't share them; and at some point I alluded to my dissatisfaction with the way the Wikinewsie Group thing had come out, which apparently got around and I received a message from a member of the Board, providing reasons for their decision. Now, here I made a mistake that I kick myself for: I allowed myself to be drawn into addressing the reasons provided. I can only excuse myself by noting that the reasons given weren't sound, and thus made natural targets for criticism; but of course the correct response would have been that all of those things had been carefully considered by AffCom, whose job is to consider such things in detail, over a period of months. So I'd let myself be distracted by political nonsense; and while I'm annoyed with myself for letting myself be distracted, I was even more annoyed, after mulling over that final incident for a while, by the likelihood that the purpose of that message to me from a Board member was (unconsciously, I hope) to protect the Board from suspicions of political motivation for an action that, frankly, was politically motivated. Politics at its most repulsive.

The other major initiative here, which I've been pursuing, is the development of interactive wiki markup and its use to vastly expand the wiki experience. I mention that here because when I first started working on that (about five years ago?), the first thing I decided was that it had to be done as a javascript gadget because anything that required Foundation approval would, on one hand, be sunk under the added burden and unwieldiness of the approval process, and on the other hand, would not be allowed to go forward unless its ideological foundations were first eviscerated. --Pi zero (talk) 16:15, 21 January 2018 (UTC)

Interesting list of priorities.
  • "setting up a Tor-accesible .onion site with SecureDrop" - there is an internal Wikinewsie wiki for accredited reporters wishing to work on sensitive topics.
  • "an independent phone number for tips and leads" -- There is an independent email address, scoop at wikinewsie dot org, where tips and leads may already be delivered. I'd see some merit in having a phone number after the email capacity is exhausted, there are breaking news with urgent fresh developments, perhaps this is not yet the case. That could be valuable after some technical work to accommodate for larger authoring and reviewing volume. (More below.)
  • "all to do outreach to whistleblowers and citizen journalists" - that could be valuable after some technical work to accommodate for larger authoring and reviewing volume. (More below.)
On the required technical work: As Wikinews is used for a students class, it already gets a large influx of newcomers regularly, particularly towards the end of their semester; they make common formatting, article structure and style mistakes. The way the website works at present does not allow to notify newcomers of these mistakes. Furthermore it is possible to see the inability of reviewers to cope with increased reviewing load efficiently because they need to perform some tasks by hand -- such as plagiarism check, sources check, formatting fixes, communication to all involved authors, article tagging and deletion of abandoned articles -- which are distracting, laborious, and lengthy. This may suggest that the website functionality may be a bottleneck that may need to be addressed earlier rather than later.
Drawing from past discussions that learning curve is steep and barely supported, and that reviewing is currently tedious. There are various efforts contributors put into this. Pi zero is working on dialog tools that allow making wizards using wiki markup. User:Gryllida/Tasks is a list of technical tasks that I'm working on as I think they may be useful for the site in long term; I am writing them in JavaScript also hoping that their codes may be reused for writing new interfaces and codes such as in Dialog tools or in toolbar buttons for other article editors different from the ancient plain text editing box.
Hope this helps. If some priorities are agreed on, volunteer effort or grant seeking may be considered. But priorities need to be agreed on first and their exact implementations need to also be defined. --Gryllida 10:45, 18 February 2018 (UTC)
If I may still add something: I think the reviewing process works in general too slow here, at least for the moment (some of the possible reasons are named hereabove). As a result, many articles fail to be published because the news item has already become stale before the review process is completed. This makes it practically impossible for unexperienced writers who still have to learn important things (such as how "focus", "lede" etc. are exactly defined here) to get their own articles published. De Wikischim (talk) 10:54, 18 February 2018 (UTC)
Yes. There is this hypothesis that facilitating some of the reviewing tasks by creating the correct tools may make the reviewing more efficient. Not only that, but perhaps the efficiency increase may be significant, by a few times. This could also attract new reviewers who would otherwise find the process too daunting. (A click or two for plagiarism check is less intimidating than copy-pasting URLs of the wiki page and of the external source into a plagiarism check page by hand, for instance; I've personally found that encouraging.) --Gryllida 20:33, 18 February 2018 (UTC)

Freshness: 3 or 4 days at most?

Question: is the actual standard criterion which applies here for freshness for a news article 3 or 4 full days after the "focal event" has happened? I thought I read earlier that 4 days was still allowable. Yet I get the impression that news items are already withheld from being published when they are older than 3 days. De Wikischim (talk) 09:21, 18 February 2018 (UTC)

(edit conflict) From the Wikinews:Content guide, "Ensure your reporting is timely and the story is at most a week old with new information come to light in the last 2–3 days. Facts don't cease to be facts, but news ceases to be news." The content guide is the Wikinews policy on the matter. —mikemoral (talk · contribs) 09:36, 18 February 2018 (UTC)

Sergey Medvedev

A Russian national has been arrested by the name Sergey Medvedev, in Thailand, in possession of 100,000 bitcoin, current value nearly $1 billion American, easily the largest lump of cash ever taken in an international raid of any sort, to my knowledge. So far I can't find indication of kinship to Dmitry Medvedev. He is evidently not the son. And I have to assume no article has been written about him, since my search landed me on Dmitry's dabpage. I have never written or collaborated on an article in Wikinews, but I can copy/paste the info I have so far here, if that is appropriate. If someone wants to take that info and "wikify" it, that would probably make more sense than for me to try to learn all the nuances on the fly. Ragityman (talk) 11:43, 16 February 2018 (UTC)

Infraud is the organization, Mr. Medvedev second in command to a Mr. Bondarenko, also a Russian national. Billed as "one-stop shopping for internet criminals". —Rags
Corrected the name. Wikisource has featured a series of busts on grand jury indictment out of Las Vegas by the Justice Dept and various int'l agencies. I've been reading several of the WN "Collaboration" pages, and I now have an idea of my blunder. Sorry. I'm more of a gnome, and Wikinews doesn't seem to have much use for gnomes. —Rags
@Ragityman: Hello, thanks for bringing this up. According to [1] and [2] Sergey Medvedev was arrested on or before the 10th of February so you would have to find another event to write about which may or may not be related to Mr Sergey. Please be aware that events must be 3 or fewer days old at the time of publication, including the time it takes for the story to be reviewed, revised, re-reviewed, and published.
The time you have a recent event to write about, here are Wikinews article title rules and guidelines. Please check them and then get started:

The template for citing sources is explained here. More details: Wikinews:Writing an article. Your article will me marked as a draft, and volunteers may help you finish it if they can prior to submitting it for review. --Gryllida 10:17, 18 February 2018 (UTC)
Tnx for getting back to me. Yes, I think we'll be hearing a lot more about this, so I may give it a go. It's a bit hard for me to be quite so prompt in reacting to a story, as I barely follow the news, but it could happen. If someone else decides to follow up before I do, I won't be offended. So Sergey has been mentioned in the sources you use? When I read of the Las Vegas defendants, he wasn't on the list, so I thought immediately of a Medvedev cover-up. But it's a different prosecutor, so it may be an entirely different case, though still involving INFRAUD. The WP article is written entirely in past-tense, as if old news, but as all are "innocent til proven", I intend to propose changing that. I'm just a bit slow-moving for WIKINEWS, i think. More of a gnome, after the fact. But thanks bor the ref/cites. Cheers! Ragityman (talk) 12: 33, 19 February 2018 (UTC)
I think I will copy/paste this discussion to my WN talkpage for future reference, ss it is likely to be archived or deleted from the Water Cooler before I have need of it. That may be in the far distsnt future. If that is inappropriate, or if I run afoul of other cnventions and customs here, please let me know. A ping as above will reach me sooner than an email. Thanks. Ragityman (talk) 13:02, 19 February 2018 (UTC)

"Freshness" vs. older articles on front page

Chinese Foreign Ministry confirms arrest of bookseller Gui Minhai still appears on the front page, but with 8 February as main date. This can't be called fresh at all anymore, can it? How is this well compatible with the general policy here on "freshness"? And does it really make such a big difference whether a news event is, let's say, 3 or 4 days old when an article here is published? De Wikischim (talk) 10:24, 19 February 2018 (UTC)

Both halves of this suggest missing an important aspect of the term freshness as it applies technically on en.wn. Freshness is about the time between event and publication, which bears on the definition of news, coming at it from both the journalistic and wiki sides of our nature. We produce snapshots in time, which thus capture what things looked like at the time; which cannot be adjudicated after the fact. Thus, (a) yes, it matters when an article is published, relative to its event, and (b) "freshness", as a term-of-art on en.wn, does not apply as a concept to published articles, only to unpublished ones, thus it's misleading in a technical sense to speak of articles on the main page in terms of how "fresh" they are.

Re the underlying time-sensitivity aspect of the question about articles on the main page: In addition to other functions that are obvious even in times of high output rate, we keep at least ten articles on the main page so that a reasonably broad sample of output is visible at all times. Learning from examples is at the heart of the way wikis work (a core principle that, alas, the Foundation has failed to understand or they wouldn't be trying to foist a WYSIWYG editor on us). In times of low output we delay archiving as necessary in order to keep at least ten articles on the main page, serving as a convenient figure to afford that "reasonably broad sample"; otherwise, articles would be sent to our permanent archives after seven days. (The main page is set to display iirc up to 20 of our most recent articles; we haven't been in that range lately, but of course that's where we always want to be, with 20 articles on the main page only because there isn't room for more.) --Pi zero (talk) 12:27, 19 February 2018 (UTC)