Website Hopes To Explain Dyslexia

Technology can do wonderful things. From giving someone the ability to walk to letting you read news from anywhere in the world on a device as small as your palm. In the latest move to use technology to help people, a website looks to help explain Dyslexia to people who don’t quite understand how the illness works.

Someone looks to help others understand how people with Dyslexia see writing and have done so through a website which actually contains the first paragraph from Wikipedia describing the condition. You can find the original text here but if you are interested in seeing how Dyslexia affects people you may be more interested in this site.

The text appears to scramble itself, replacing one character with another while others move around all over the paragraphs. This is how some people would describe dyslexia, making even the simplest of sentences difficult to understand while large paragraphs become like ancient texts to those affected. As someone who suffers from dyslexia, I can understand what it is getting at. The simplest of texts can become difficult and while others say they “understand” being able to compare the experience to something like what the website shows goes a long way to helping people, both dyslexic and not, understand one another and the difficulties a subtle condition like this can have on everyday life.

Wikimedia Director Resigns Following Internal Row Over Search Engine Plans

Lila Tretikov, the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organisation that runs Wikipedia, has resigned following an internal feud over the organisation’s plans to launch its own search engine, known as the Knowledge Engine. Treitkov’s exit follows the departure of James Heilman from the WMF Board of Trustees over a lack of transparency by the non-profit of the Knowledge Engine project, which is being part-funded by a grant from the Knight Foundation.

In a letter to Wikimedia members, Treitkov wrote:

“It is with great respect that I have tendered, and the board has accepted, my resignation as Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation earlier this week. I am both inspired by, and proud of, the many great things we have all accomplished at the Foundation over the last two years, most significantly reversing the loss of our editorial community. I would like to thank our Board of trustees.”

While Treitkov does not refer to the Knowledge Engine as the motivator behind her departure, Jason Koebler of Vice Motherboard understands that, as the driving force behind the development of WMF’s search engine, the former Executive Director is being sacrificed to appease disgruntled Wikimedia members.

News of the WMF’s Knowledge Engine plan was broken by Wikipedia Signpost board member Andreas Kolbe, despite a previous denial from founder Jimmy Wales that the organisation was building a search engine.

Image courtesy of The Guardian.

Is Wikipedia Building its Own Search Engine?

It appears that Wikipedia could be building its own search engine, despite denials from site founder Jimmy Wales. Documents have emerged that suggest that Wikipedia has invested $2.5 million into the Knowledge Engine project, which is described as “a system for discovering reliable and trustworthy information on the Internet,” according to The Register.

The concept was unearthed by Andreas Kolbe – who is on the board of Wikipedia’s Signpost – following the exit of James Heliman from the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) Board of Trustees. Heliman left the WMF over a lack of transparency of its Knowledge Engine project, which was part-funded by a $250k grant from the Knight Foundation.

A few days ago, Wales denied that the WMF was working on a search engine, writing on his Wiki user account:

“You wrote “The notion that WMF could get into searching is ambitious and interesting, and it also needs a lot of skepticism. A lot of people want to be Google and aren’t.” Both of those things are true in a sense, but they are also not relevant to this situation. To make this very clear: no one in top positions has proposed or is proposing that WMF should get into the general “searching” or to try to “be google”. It’s an interesting hypothetical which has not been part of any serious strategy proposal, nor even discussed at the board level, nor proposed to the board by staff, nor a part of any grant, etc. It’s a total lie.”

Kolbe, however, claims that the documents on the Knowledge Engine that he has presented proves otherwise. “Its gung-ho ‘We’re building a search engine!’ content is a bit of a bombshell for the volunteer community,” Kolbe said. “They were led to believe it was just about getting a central search function to find stuff spread out across the various Wikimedia sites, with OpenStreetMap thrown in perhaps […] Volunteers feel WMF management has purposely kept them out of the loop.”

Wikipedia Founder Says There’s “No Excuse” Not to Use Encryption

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, a major proponent of both freedom and privacy online, as evidenced by him filing a lawsuit against the NSA following the reveal of its mass surveillance program by whistleblower Edward Snowden, has declared that there is “no excuse” for not using internet encryption, whether that is providers arguing that it is cost-prohibitive, or UK Prime Minister David Cameron moaning that it makes spying on people harder.

During his keynote speech at the 2015 IP Expo Europe IT conference, Wales said, “There’s really no excuse to have any major web property that’s not secure.”

“There is a massive trend on the internet towards SSL—secure connections,” citing figures from Sandvine that show nearly 30% of internet traffic was encrypted as of April 2015, which is expected to jump to 65% by 2016. “My expectation is that this is going to narrow; over the next couple of years, [unencrypted traffic] is going to end up being a five or six percent slice,” he said, adding, “All major traffic is going to be encrypted very, very soon.”

“It is not feasible in any sense of the word for the UK to ban end-to-end encryption,” Wales added, in a swipe against David Cameron. “Not only is it not feasible, it’s a completely moronic stupid thing to do.”

Thank you Vice for providing us with this information.

Hundreds of Wikipedia Editors Caught Promoting Brands

Hundreds of Wikipedia editors have been banned from the online encyclopaedia after being found promoting products and brands within articles for pay. Wikipedia’s CheckUser team has been investigating suspected brand promotion for a number of months, and banned 381 editors between April and August, with suspicions that companies had been paying for sock puppet accounts to push products and service over Wikipedia for a long time.

Rather than being instigated by companies, however, it was the editors themselves who were the masterminds behind the scheme. They were effectively extorting the businesses they were advertising, creating articles populated with promotional links, then approaching companies for a $30 monthly fee to keep the articles active.

Wikipedia has deleted any article deemed to have been created for promotional purposes by the offending sock puppet accounts, but it still in the process of investigating other suspected cases of paid-for advertising.

A statement on Wikipedia’s administrator board reads:

The list of articles created by the socks is located at Wikipedia:Long-term abuse/Orangemoody/Articles. This list is not considered complete; due to time constraints, there may be additional articles created by these socks that are not included here. Most articles relate to businesses, businesspeople, or “artists”.

Review of this list of articles reveals that the overwhelming majority of them would qualify for deletion under one or more speedy deletion criteria. In this specific case, however, in order to prevent article subjects from continued shakedowns by bad actors who are causing significant harm to the reputation of this project, the articles are all being deleted. It is important to break the cycle of payment demands, and to make it clear that the Wikipedia community, and not a small group of paid editor accounts, controls the content of this project. This mass deletion is without prejudice to recreation by experienced Wikipedians who believe that the subject is sufficiently notable for an article. We emphasize again that all indications are that the editing was not solicited by the article subjects.

Because so many of the articles contain unattributed material and/or copyvios, administrators are urged NOT to undelete articles or move them to userspace.

Thank you Vice Motherboard for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Wikipedia Wants to Stop the EU From Banning Photos Taken in Public Places

Do you like to read about public places and see how they look like? Wikipedia is full of the latter information, giving its users a chance to read about all sorts of places of interest. The thing is, Wikipedia is the main source of information when searching for just about anything nowadays.

However, the law that protects sites such as Wikipedia when posting public images is now threatened to be removed by the European Parliament. By the looks of it, Wikipedia is making use of the images while also protecting the respective artists’ rights to the photos, which makes it a win-win for both parties. So why take it down?

By revoking the law, thousands of images will be taken down and I personally consider the move to be a big blow to the access of information. For example, if a student would like to document himself about a certain style of architecture found in a place he cannot visit, why not view a picture of it online?

Freedom of panorama status around the world

The law that allows websites to post images taken in public places is named Freedom of Panorama and you can read more about it over on Wikipedia. They are also urging people to take action and block the EU Parliament’s decision to remove the law. More information about the latter can be found here.

Thank you TheNextWeb for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Wikipedia Adds an Extra Layer of Security for Its Readers

Wikipedia just took security up a notch and added some extra security measures for its readers. The founders want to make connections between Wikimedia websites and their users more secure to share and view content.

The extra security measure involves HTTPS as the default encryption protocol being used from now on, along with HSTS (HTTP Strict Transport Security) to protect users from hackers trying to ‘break’ into the secure connections.

“Today, we’re happy to announce that we are in the process of implementing HTTPS by default to encrypt all Wikimedia traffic. We will also use HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) to protect against efforts to ‘break’ HTTPS and intercept traffic.” Wikimedia wrote on their website. “With this change, the nearly half a billion people who rely on Wikipedia and its sister projects every month will be able to share in the world’s knowledge more securely.”

HTTPS connections have been available since 2011 for Wikipedia and its sister websites, but users needed to use the protocol manually. However, in 2013, Wikipedia made HTTPS the default protocol for authenticated users. Now, both authenticated and anonymous users are able to browse Wikimedia websites using HTTPS automatically, regard of whether they are logged in or not.

The founders also stated that migrating to HTTPS as the default connection protocol was not easy and required years of work involving teams from across the Wikimedia Foundation. Nevertheless, their hard work paid off and users can now browse more securely on their websites. But we want to hear your opinion as users too. Do you feel more secure now that HTTPS is widely available in Wikipedia? Let us know!

Image courtesy of

NASA Patches Curiosity Rover’s Chem Cam from 235 Million Miles Away

As if the people at NASA haven’t been doing enough awesome stuff lately they just did one insanely long distance software upgrade. The Curiosity rover just got the auto-focus of its “Chem Cam” improved with an update while it is wandering around Mars.

In case you forgot Mars is currently 2.53au (astronomical units) away, which translates into 235.1 million miles away. The scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory previously took nine pictures of each sample at a different focus in attempt to get one usable photo. All of those nine pictures of the soil and rocks would be transmitted back to NASA. Now after the update the rover actually still takes the same amount of photos, but now it will self-analyze those nine photos for the one with the best focus. This update that brings about a very useful new feature, as it only comes in at 40 kilobytes. Engadget points out that that is lighter than the last Android Gmail update.

It is great to see NASA continuing to amaze us with the Curiosity rover’s journey across the surface of Mars. The mission to find out if Mars can support life has been very interesting to watch, but they still have so much more work to do.

Thank you for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Wikipedia Sues the NSA


Wikipedia has filed a lawsuit against the US National Security Agency (NSA) over the anti-constitutional nature of its internet mass surveillance program, as revealed by whistleblower and former NSA employee Edward Snowden.

The suit, which also names the US Department of Justice (DoJ) as a defendant, accuses the government organisations of breaching the First and Fifth Amendments of the US Constitution, designed to protect free speech and protection against unreasonable search and seizure, respectively.

“By tapping the backbone of the Internet, the NSA is straining the backbone of democracy,” the Wikimedia Foundation’s Executive Director, Lila Tretikov, wrote in a related blog post. “Wikipedia is founded on the freedoms of expression, inquiry, and information. By violating our users’ privacy, the NSA is threatening the intellectual freedom that is central to people’s ability to create and understand knowledge.”

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales also wrote an accompanying op-ed piece for The New York Times, published the same day as the lawsuit was filed. Wales argues that the NSA’s “pervasive surveillance” of Wikipedia visitors is an act that “stifles freedom of expression and the free exchange of knowledge.”

Wales continued, “Whenever someone overseas views or edits a Wikipedia page, it’s likely that the N.S.A. is tracking that activity—including the content of what was read or typed, as well as other information that can be linked to the person’s physical location and possible identity,” Wales and Tretikov wrote. “These activities are sensitive and private: They can reveal everything from a person’s political and religious beliefs to sexual orientation and medical conditions.”

Wikipedia’s lawsuit against the NSA has been filed in partnership with Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and are being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Source: National Journal

Explore the Wikipedia Galaxy

Ever wondered what Wikipedia’s 100,000 most popular articles look like as a galaxy? No, me neither. But at least we can with this, WikiGalaxy a website that literally does that – it allows you to explore the encyclopaedia’s top articles from last year as a galaxy.

Each page in the ‘galaxy’ is represented as a star, with articles in the same category bundled close together and featured in the same colour. It even features ‘shooting stars’ represented by Wikipedia’s many bots hard at work on the site. Be mindful that it is surprisingly resource intensive – I write articles on my little MacBook Air, quite a well performing machine in consumer notebook terms, but it did take a while getting the ‘galaxy’ up and running smoothly.

While the site has no functional use, it is a beautiful way to explore the world’s most popular free encyclopaedia.

Source: Gizmodo

Government Computer Linked to Hundreds of Anonymous Wikipedia Edits

Either someone employed at a Government facility has way to much time on his hand or some automatic process is running. One that is editing hundreds of Wikipedia entries each month, sometimes up to 90 a day and always during work hours. The edits themselves are harmless and mostly made to the fact boxes – a sidebar containing at-a-glance information on the open subject.

The fact boxes have been added to pages ranging from the Aviation Security Act 1982 to the British Homeopathic Association and on December 29th, the connection was used to make 95 edits in a single day. The unusual activity was discovered by the Twitter account WhitehallEdits that is set up by Channel 4 News to automatically tweet whenever a government owned IP address makes changes to Wikipedia.

The system has been very useful in the past and discovered the vandalism of the Hillsborough disaster Wikipedia page back in April. Now however, it has become more or less useless as the system is flooded with all these new edits every day.

A spokesperson for the Cabinet Office said it was impossible to tell which computer was making the edits, or even if they were being made by a single person as public facing IP addresses can be shared by numerous computers. They also told Mirror Online that they were unable to publish information which would confirm whether this IP address had been assigned to a particular Government department, or if it was in use by a local government agency.

But the edits are following a pattern and are edited in an alphabetical order. This suggest the work of a single entity rather than a group of users as suggested.

“Civil servants are required to use their time online responsibly and follow the Civil Service Code when working online,” said the Cabinet Office spokesperson

Thanks to Mirror Online for providing us with this information


Wikipedia Releases First Year in Review Video

Wikipedia has released its first annual year in review video. The video is somewhat similar to Google’s video from Tuesday, highlighting the year’s big events. 

The video touches on Ebola, the World Cup, Robin Williams and more – all through the medium of the many millions of Wikipedia articles. It also includes a number of license free videos and images submitted by ‘Wikipedians’ from all over the world. 

Catch the video bellow. 

Source: The Next Web

Ice Bucket Challenge helps ALS Wikipedia Page Views Grow 18-fold

We’ve been covering quite a lot of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge recently – from Destiny’s Ghost taking up the call, to some very heart wrenching and moving videos.

However, the question is quite often asked on social media by many – what is this actually doing for ALS awareness? Well, thanks to the Wikimedia Foundation, we’ve learned that the ALS Wikipedia page (English) has been viewed 2.89 million times in August alone, compared to a relatively small 163,000 per month on average in the first half of 2014. This means the page views have gone up 18 times their previous numbers.

Thus far, over $100 million has been raised for the ALS Association since the viral challenge hit our news feeds and with this latest Wikipedia news, it’s showing that not only is the challenge a way for some people to show off their best wet t-shirt bods and gain some internet ‘likes’ – there is actually a purpose behind this and it’s quite possibly working.

Have you completed the ice bucket challenge? Did you donate? Have you learned anything? We’re keen to hear from you – so let us know.

Image courtesy of NBC news

Wikipedia Scores $140.000 in Bitcoin Donations

Just over a week ago, Wikipedia announced that it would now be accepting donations in form of bitcoins. The first week of of the new donation system is over and according to Coinbase, Wikipedia made a solid $140.000 worth of donations in bitcoin during that time.

“The news as suggest the staying power of digital currency donations, owing to the combination of tax benefits and transaction cost savings.”  said CoinDesk, a publication that tracks digital currencies.

Wikipedia itself doesn’t plan to keep the donated bitcoins, but rather convert them into dollars as they get them. Having raised 19.7 million in overall donations last year, the new 140 thousand doesn’t sound like much. But considering that they got it in just one week, makes the whole things somewhat more of an accomplishment.

Coinbase, the company used by Wikipedia, doesn’t charge non-profit organisations any transaction fees. So all donations will go directly and fully to Wikipedia.

We’ve seen massive bursts of donations before when companies and groups start to accept them, but over time they start to fade out. We can most likely expect the same here. Wikipedia being run on pure donations, will surely be very happy about each and every donation they get, digital or traditional.

Thank you TechCrunch for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Bitcoin.

Wikipedia Entry Regarding MH17 Crash Reportedly Edited by the Russian Government

Changes spotted by a Twitter bot which monitors Wikipedia edits from Russian government IP addresses indicate that an Internet user revised a Wikipedia entry regarding Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Since the bot monitors government IPs, the only conclusion drawn is that someone within the Russian government wanted to make some modifications to the ‘truth’ out there.

It is said that the anonymous user changed one sentence in a Russian-language page that lists ‘aircraft accidents in civil aviation’. The original sentence stated that “the plane was shot down by terrorists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic with Buk system missiles, which the terrorists received from the Russian Federation.”

However, the revised entry (modified in less than an hour after the original was posted) stated that “the plane was shot down by Ukrainian soldiers.” The Telegraph received information that a user from the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company made the changes, but nothing is for certain.

The aircraft is said to have carried 298 people when it crashed, with no known survivors. US officials have said that the plane was shot down by pro-Russian separatists, having Russian authorities helping them destroy evidence at the crash site. However, separatist leader, Alexsander Borodai, denied that pro-Russian rebels touched the crash site, accusing the Ukrainian government of preventing experts from accessing the site.

The Wikipedia bot monitoring revisions from US Congressional IP has signalled 13 Wikipedia article changes to a variety of topics on Monday as well. It is said that in at least once case, an anonymous user edited an article on Crimea, the region annexed by Russia from Ukraine in March.

Thank you Mashable for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Mashable

Publisher Wants To Print All Of Wikipedia

Wikipedia is both a blessing and a curse for many of us, it’s a great resource of knowledge that you can call upon for that brief moment you need a fact, an answer for a quiz, or to gain insight into something you’re researching. The only issue is that it isn’t exactly the most accurate source of knowledge, but given its overall size it’s still pretty amazing.

Despite the inaccuracy of Wikipedia, one publisher wants to print the whole thing into books, a task that would fill 1000 books per volume! Not exactly the sort of collection that will fit on the average book case, that’s for sure.

Pedia Press have gone to crown funding website Indiegogo with their campaign, hoping to raise $50,000 in funding to get the website printed in book form. At the moment they plan to print in grey scale, but have said that they may switch to colour if the funding goals are exceeded and that new additions would have to be printed in the future to add additional information as the site updates (which happens constantly).

This is a really cool idea, but almost pointless at the same time. I’m not sure what it would archive other than being a fun project and a massive hog on some universities book cases.


Thank you Indiegogo for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Indiegogo.

Future Generations Get To Know How Important People Sounded Like Through Wikipedia

Wikipedia is starting to add celebrity and other public figure voices to one of its projects, called WikiVIP, which stands for “Wikipedia Voice Intro Project”. What is it you ask? Well, Wikipedia thought it could do with some voices through all its article lines, namely important and known people will be voice sampled and the recordings saved on the Wikipedia database for preservation purposes.

The project was started by Wikipedia editors Andy Mabbett and Andrew Gray, who approach celebrities and explained this idea. The first celebrity to join the project was Stephen Fry, who now has a sample of his speaking voice on Wikipedia. The aim is to attract and spread the word so as other public figures, scientists, artists, etc. hear about the project and get their voice sample taken by the Wikipedia team.

Even BBC has reportedly started supporting Wikipedia, having short clips from some of its programming sent for preservation as well. The voices range from Sir Tim Berners-Lee to Augn San Suu Kyi. All recordings have been announced to have an open-license in order to allow others to use them freely. They can be uploaded to Wikipedia Commons in an open format, such as Ogg Vobis, sort of like mp3 but without patents restricting them.

The aim of the project and the preservation of voices is to help “current and future generations” to hear how celebrities and public figures sounded like, basically adding a voice to a face. Those who have Wikipedia pages about them are apparently encouraged to contact the WikiVIP team with a voice recording sample to help contribute to the growing database.

Thank you TheNextWeb for providing us with this information

Wikipedia Pushing Ahead With Encryption To Lock NSA Out

Wikipedia is taking steps to ensure that the NSA cannot spy on it or its users by adding encryption to the website wherever possible according to RT. Users that login will now have to use secure encryption when on the site and visitors to the website will use the HTTPS security protocol as a further defence mechanism.

“[Wikipedia] believes strongly in protecting the privacy of its readers and editors. Recent leaks of the NSA’s XKeyscore program have prompted our community members to push for the use of HTTPS by default for the Wikimedia projects,” said the statement published on the organization’s website.

Wikipedia had already been taking efforts to transfer to the HTTPS security protocol but since recent leaks about the XKeyscore have implicated Wikipedia they are taking steps to fast track encryption and HTTPS with all resources available. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales also stated that he believes encryption is an issue of Human Right’s and that all companies should start using it.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Russia’s SOPA-Equivalent Could Shut Down Wikipedia

The “Wikipedia-Russia” blackout message from July 2012’s anti-legislation protest against this exact legislation.

We already brought you news of Russia’s SOPA-like legislation which is still on track to pass and come into effect by August. Now a new report by TorrentFreak suggests that the Russian SOPA could see sites like Wikipedia, Google and Yandex shut down.

According to Wikimedia Russia executive director, “Stanislav Kozlovsky”, Wikipedia Russia is vulnerable to being shut down. The new legislation, which comes into effect on August 1st, states that copyright holders can have websites blocked if they host or link to infringing material. Wikipedia has millions, maybe even billions, of hyperlinks and other content that is user -submitted and impossible to verify. This leaves it in a vulnerable position. Google and Yandex are also worried because they index billions of links too and they are only search engines. Yet the new law proposes to shut them down if they do not remove infringing links found in search results available to Russian internet users.

Google’s transparency report does show that a lot of copyright holders have been quick to try and get Wikipedia pages de-listed in the past. Now that they can legally complain to the Russian authorities they will no doubt jump at the opportunity. Over the past few years Sony, Microsoft, The Publishers Association, Home Box Office and Warner have all complained to Google and asked them to delist certain Wikipedia pages. In most cases Google denied such requests but would the Russian government do the same? Furthermore, would an overload of anti-Wikipedia requests by copyright holders lead to Wikipedia being blocked?

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Russia