Wikipedia right, but on the blockchain

Well Lunyr, the project in question, is more google knol than wikipedia but they aren’t going to say that in their adverts.

Their system is essentially the knol model with writers getting a cut of the advertising revenue although they have also thrown in a review step. This is the short version; the full version is rather messy.

So far so boring. They do have ~$15 million backing it though with the exact amount depending on Cryptocurrency fluctuations.

Okey some background. The latestish thing in cryptocurrency (think bitcoin and various related things) is Initial Coin offerings. The idea is you buy a cryptocurrency that the startup you buy it from will use for some aspect of their business giving it long term value. In practice at lot of these are scams, ponzi schemes or just pure hot air. Lunyr where the idea is that Lun (the name of their coin) is what you use to buy adverts on the site is one of the more coherent ones.

Lunyr is still in private alpha so much of this post is based on screenshots, Lunyr’s own claims and various comments by people with access.

Broadly I don’t see it getting very far. If google couldn’t get knol to work I don’t see anyone else doing so. The reviewing step I suspect will be less helpful than they hope. After all wikipedia surpassed Nupedia precisely because it didn’t have a reviewing step. Citizendium tried something similar and again it didn’t work to well.

Lunyr tries to get around the problem by rewarding both writers and reviewers. The problem is that the payments are unlikely to be high enough to make either worthwhile. Writing a comprehensive wikipedia article can easily take 100+ hours and reviewing such an article to a high standard (in particular checking the sources ) can again be multiple hours of work (even if the sources are fairly accessible). For anyone wanting to write an article for reasons other than money well wikipedia and a bunch of web-hosts already exist. Equally advertisers already have plenty of places that advertise on the web most of which accept $£€ etc rather than making you go through an exchange to buy something you have no other use for.

If they are somehow successful in earning money then system gaming becomes not just a problem but probably the single biggest factor in the system. Consider all the scams used to mess with impact factor in scientific journals then turn them up to 11 in a world where multiple identities are trivial. Registering a bunch of reviewers and using them to reject any article who’s author hasn’t paid you off is simply the most obvious attack.

On the presentation side their layout appears to be the one critiqued here which basically says it focuses on being pretty over being useful. That said with the greater divide between writer and reader and the importance of looking pretty on mobile platforms this may not be much of a problem.

In terms of the cash they have $15 million. This may seem like a lot but Encyclopedia of Life had $50 million and a far more solid support base and still doesn’t see much use.

Full release is probably meant to be in the fourth quarter of 2018 although their description of what that will entire is pretty vague. As in literally “peer review system 2.0”. Meanwhile the link their whitepaper (the thing Initial Coin Offerings mostly write since its part of the ritual) is now dead. They also currently host on InterPlanetary File System which might be a problem if they gain any traction (although I don’t think they will.

Lun is currently declining in value on the exchanges but given how thinly its traded I wouldn’t read much into that. Fundamentally though there is no reason why Lunyr couldn’t just decide to sell adverts for $,£,€, PLEX, CS:GO knives or even bitcoin. Or take they could just what’s left of the money and run. Initial coin offerings don’t really offer any buyer protection.

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Canon EOS 5D Mark III donation

My old 5DIII is now in the hands of Wikimedia UK meaning that they now have a full frame camera. While its a decent camera there are some catches. It has been through about 42K shutter actuations or a bit under a third of its expected life. It has had zero maintenance during that period (no sensor cleaning for example) and not exactly spent its time indoors as a safe studio camera. Its been as far north as Dunnet Head, as far south as Sandown, as far west as Delabole, and as far east as Norwich.

Attitude range is rather more limited. While it has been at sea level I’m not sure its been much above the summit of Arthur’s seat.

That said with the low light performance you can only get from full frame, good autofocus and 22.3 mega-pixels it still have as a lot of use left in it. The real limit it is going to hit is lenses with WMUK currently only having 2 lens that work with it both at 50mm. While there are “50mm only” adherents it is rather photography’s equivalent of iron-man mode.

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The Canon EF 11-24mm f/4 for Wikipedians

Its a £2700 lens. At that price I suspect anyone buying it can come to their own conclusions. Still on a full frame camera it is an extremely useful lens. The width makes it great for urban architecture, larger items in museums, and interiors in general. The short minimum focus distance makes it great for objects in cases and the lens’s sharpness makes it viable to crop the resulting images.

Obviously if you want to shoot longer than 24mm then you need another lens but for wide angle work the lens is excellent.

Downsides. Its a £2700 lens. You could buy quite a lot of other gear for that. The Sigma 12-24mm f/4 is about £1000 cheaper and nearly as sharp at the wide end. If you are shooting on a crop sensor then the 10-18mm is under £300 so unless you really really need the sharpness for some reason I wouldn’t go near this lens for a crop system. On top of that its big and its heavy. Not something I have an issue with but for anyone more weight conscious (but then why shoot full frame?) it may present a problem. The f/4 speed may be less than idea for indoor work but thats becoming less and less of a problem as camera low light abilities improve.

Overall a very useful bit of kit but also really rather on the expensive side.

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It is open acess week

Open access week runs from the 24th of October to the 30th. That is why the featured picture of the day on the English wikipedia comes from PLOS ONE.

Open access material appears to have fallen of the wikimedia radar a bit in the last year perhaps because a lot of it is rather hard to use. Probably the biggest issue is that a lot of papers cover a very narrow area within which wikipedia doesn’t even have a general article. Some of this is simply because wikipedia is weak in certain areas but others look suspiciously like publication padding. There are various strategies to deal with this but most of them run into the next problem.

The is a lot of junk in the databases. Sure if you stick to PLOS ONE most papers will meet a certain minimum standard. Beyond that things get interesting. Anyone can start an open access journal and while there are many decent attempts to do so there are also a lot of scammers and cranks out there. Scammers target the pay to publish model (which a lot of open access follows) by setting up a legitimate looking website and then accepting everything sent to them where the author pays the relevant fee. Cranks just want somewhere to publish their cold fusion and free energy papers that looks legitimate. Checking against Beall’s list provides a degree of protection but well, it is big, new journals pop up all the time and it doesn’t list the journal responsible for this paper arguing that the old Venera images show lifeforms on the surface of Venus.

So if want to add open access content to wikipedia how to go about it. I’m sure the are various methods but this is mine. Firstly I’ll identify journals that publish a lot of papers that can be used for sourcing wikipedia articles. Archaeology, astronomy and history are generally good choices here but there are others. I’ll search for these through DOJA Secondly I’ll see if I understand them. The European Geosciences Union publishes some great journals and the ones covering space science are a good source of things to cite but you need some serious physics to understand a lot of them. Thirdly I’ll make a judgement as to their reliability. I tend to do this by checking who they are affiliated with (if anyone) and if I trust them. I’ll also check them against Beall’s List and just by poking around the site a bit to see what they have published before. After that its just a matter of checking them every few months to see if they have published anything new of interest. Examples of journals I do this for are Internet archaeology and the Journal of Lithic Studies.

Another approach is to get personal recommendations from people active in the field. An example of this would be Polar Research.


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Sigma APO 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports for wikipedians

Would I recommend this lens for wikipedians? In general no. Optically its a perfectly good lens but its size greatly reduces its utility to the point where I have uploaded one image taken with this lens and that was pretty much entirely an example of what the lens can do. If you really need a good (if slow) 600mm lens or simply want a lens that looks big (so you look less out of place with bird watchers or something I guess) then it might be an option. Otherwise for cannon users a 100-400mm (original or mk II depending on your price point) with a x1.4 extender covers much the same range although you would lose autofocus unless you are using one of the cameras on this list

I have got rather a lot of use out of my 100-400mm and pretty much all the images I’ve taken with the 150-600 have been to some extent test shots.

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An unusual issue at featured pictures candidates

It began with Godot13 nominating a scan of a banknote at featured images. That is not unusual. Getting acess to the US National Numismatic Collection with a medium format camera and an aparently impressive knowlegde of how to use it will give you a pretty large number of feature picture candidates (enough to break the wikicup certianly). Godot13’s currency images thus usualy pass through with little fuss.

The problem in this case is that the banknote the image is of (An 1880 Liberian 25-cent note) was previously thought not to exist. This results in one of those rare cases where an image breaks wikipedia’s no orginal research policy. Images are largely exempt unless they “illustrate or introduce unpublished ideas or arguments” in this case the idea is that the note exists. Sure it almost certianly does (although fake items have got into museum and archive collections before) but that is still originaly research. Happily the numismatics mob are second only to the railway anoraks in generating reliable sources for everything so this issue should resolve itself soon.

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What is the most significant subject wikipedia doesn’t have an article on

In absolute terms if you go by size its probably one of the voids that make up the large scale structure of the universe. In terms of mass it is probably a galaxy filament or wall.

On a less cosmic scale and limiting things to earth its probably the only ocean current not to have an article the South Australian Counter Current.

For humans its probably going to be a high ranking civil servant in a major country. Either someone high up in the Chinese system or someone like Kamal Pande the most recent Cabinet Secretary of India not to have an article

The most notable thing in wikipedia terms of shear number of citations commenting on its probably harder. Possibly some bacteria species popular in experiments? Its really rather hard to say.

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