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Wikimedia Quarto/Retro

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In honor of Wikipedia Day this past quarter, the Wikimedia Quarto would like to make a retrospective on the most special events of these past 4 years on Wikipedia, with a special interest for the first 2 years.

In order to do this, we need oldbies :-)

We would like 10 oldbies (at least 3 years on wikipedia) to cite between 1 to 10 special moments or special persons which they think greatly impacted either the direction of the project, or of the community. Fun moments, sad moments, critical moments, controversial moments, special people, special citations still used 3 years later.... OR just events which were strange and reflected a certain spirit at some point -- a spirit perhaps lost now? Just make us remember...

I invite anyone who has been involved with the project for more than 3 years to reflect on his past, and help us to remember. We will also try to contact some people, who do not necessarily answer spontaneously :-) If you think someone needs to be contacted, please actively recruit them. (For instance, the following people are hereby recruited: User:DanKeshet, User:Kpjas, User:TimShell and User:THERESA KNOTT (Original flavours). --sj )

A couple of examples I can think of myself (Anthere, who will consider herself an oldbie)

  • the letter of resignation of Larry Sanger
  • the goatse on the english wikipedia
  • the fork of the spanish project
  • some citations by The Cunctator
  • the major server break in december 2003
  • Lir playing chess on her talk page
  • the polish cities dispute
  • Papot'ages on the french wikipedia

Of course, we will all have different special moments to cite; this is what could make it real fun.

Each vignette reported could be either:

  • a link, which could be self-sustainable or be accompanied with one sentence explanation (example : link to Larry Resignation on the mailing list. Example : a link to an old version of the project)
  • an image, with a legend or no legend at all (Example : the first wikipedia logo. Example : a screen shot of Lir playing a chess game)
  • a short story (Example : a summary of the Enciclopedia Libre fork). This could be proposed by the oldbie himself
  • A citation

Make your vignettes short; make them patchwork -- just an image without description, if you like; make them politically incorrect if you wish :-) ...but stay civil. The Quarto team will decide which vignettes to "report" in the next issue, if there are too many suggestions, but all of them will be collected here.


Please add your wish list and mention your name (and date of arrival if you still remember it :-))[edit]

Warning : this area is senior-editor limited

  • No more CamElCaSe! Cut-and-paste moves from CamelCase titles. Even though CamelCase wasn't required since the earliest days of Wikipedia, new user familiar with other Wikis oftened used it until it was turned off in early 2002. Rmhermen 14:37, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    • It was nice being able to use TheCunctator to link to my username. --The Cunctator 16:41, 23 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    • Actually, it might have been either compulsory or at least common in the beginning. It can't have been long, as we were well out of CamelCase when I came, which was after 2 1/2 months or so, but I have de-CamelCased articles that were left from that time, and I also can remember page titles like "AnarchY" to make CamelCase-linking possible. - Andre Engels 18:43, 23 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • The switch to phase II, of course :-) --Magnus Manske 18:56, 20 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    • With the resulting slooooowness... - Andre Engels
    • And the loss of edit histories. Rmhermen 14:40, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC) 14:37, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    • I thought the edit history loss was due to phase I software ? Fr never went to phase II, and lost of lot of history during phase I. Ant
      • That's the real reason for the loss of early material. -- Derek Ross
  • The "temporary" introduction of administrators (here) -- Derek Ross
    • Jeeee, I did not know about this ! You certainly get a hit here :-) Anthere
  • The introduction of quasi-political/quasi-judicial structures such as the dispute resolution system and the voting systems currently used to choose new administrators, delete articles, choose arbitrators, etc. This has changed the atmosphere slightly from that of a community of equals under Jimbo to that of a community of those and such-as-those. It has also led to a great increase in policies and a corresponding increase in difficulty in changing them. It used to be that one would edit a policy as if it was any other article. If no one changed it back or asked to discuss it, it generally became policy. Quite a contrast to the protocols in place today. -- Derek Ross 07:47, 24 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • The H.J. saga. -- Derek Ross
  • September 11 - in particular the discussion about September 11 victims, September 11 aid pages etcetera, but also September 11 as perhaps the first time an article was created in 'real time'. - Andre Engels (date of arrival: March 2001)
    • ditto -- on the morning of 11Sep01 Osama Bin Laden wasn't even an article <>< tbc 06:59, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    • September 11 is what really made me a Wikipedian. I had contributed off and on for a month or two beforehand, but I spent the two weeks after the attacks pumping information into Wikipedia. It's what saved me from just being a news zombie at that time. Wikipedia allowed me to process information and contribute to the knowledge cycle, to respond and make a difference, instead of simply being inundated by information and fear. I would also argue that September 11 may really be what proved Wikipedia's value. And it of course raised important questions about what Wikipedia's role is, what content it should include, and how. Just the name changes for the main article are a pretty telling comment on the Wikipedia process--each generation wants to have its own impact on important areas of the project, even if the changes really aren't important or necessary. But that is by and large a good thing (though the dropping of "terrorist" to me is silly). --The Cunctator
  • The discussion about the introduction of pictures. If I recall correctly, the main argument against it was that it would take too much disk space ("A picture says more than a thousand words but it also takes more space than a thousand words" I remember someone saying, paraphrased) - Andre Engels
  • The first Slashdotting. Wil Wheaton coming to bang around a bit, updating his entry, and writing (enthusiastically) about it on his blog. The first citation of Wikipedia in a scholarly work. LDC writing Phase III of the software. ! Koyaanis Qatsi 06:13, 21 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • Article count reform (March 2003): when should an article be counted as an article? I pick this one because it is a good example of how much Wikimedia has changed. This was the first project-wide vote on Meta, and at the time, votes were still highly controversial. I had long discussions with Jimbo about whether votes should be allowed at all, and he finally approved this as an experiment. After the vote was closed, I wrote an extensive analysis[1] of the results with recommendations for future votes. The attention to detail in setting up and concluding the vote is almost surreal when compared to how commonplace voting has become today (though it remains controversial for non-policy matters). Note that this vote used average voting, while most Wikimedia votes use approval voting or first past the post (I would probably use approval voting now for cases like this). And yes, of course Anthere complained[2] about the timeframe ;-).--Eloquence 06:52, 21 Mar 2005 (UTC) (editing with an account since Dec. 2001)
    • I still think Voting Is Evil. --The Cunctator 16:41, 23 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • The logo competitions - I loved the old logo with the 'carnal pleasure' quote built-in. You could also mention that it initially used a logo from Nupedia with the two vertical lines over the text globe, and before that the (very temporary) US flag. How POV. ;) - Mark Ryan 14:22, 21 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    • Yep, I still prefer the old logo to the new one. -- Derek Ross
  • The change from wikipedia.com to wikipedia.org. Maybe not a profound change, but still significant, in my opinion, in that it reinforced the non-commercial nature of Wikipedia. - Mark Ryan 14:22, 21 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • For directions we didn't go - Larry's philosophy lectures and the Atlas Shrugged chapter annotations in Wikipedia. Rmhermen 14:40, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC) 14:37, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • Rampant HTML text annotations for bolding and horizontal rules, etc. Rmhermen 14:40, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC) 14:37, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • Conflicts between usernames and subjects before institution of the User namespace. Who had to move again? Rmhermen 14:40, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC) 14:37, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    • Yup. Anthere is a word...
  • HomePage becomes Main Page. But why? Rmhermen 14:40, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC) 14:37, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • Ah for the days when Recent Changes showed multiple days worth of changes and you didn't need a watchlist or New Pages page. Except when KoyaanisQatsi filled it up with that massive early project the CIA Factbook. Rmhermen 15:13, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    • See my comments on the discussion page and the link to 'the oldest still findable recent changes page' below. - Andre Engels 08:24, 23 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • The attempt to transfer articles from Nupedia to Wikipedia and vice versa. Rmhermen 15:13, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • The / subpages. And the people who would start /Discussion to avoid the conflict on the article's /Talk subpage. Rmhermen 15:30, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • Wikipedia:PHP_script_FAQ Why did we use PHP and not PERL -because that was what Magnus knew and nobody else volunteered. Could we get away with the "What the hell happened to subpages" header today? Rmhermen 15:58, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    • I also love that "...much less the 100,000 articles we plan to have one day." In those times we really were daydreaming about having 100,000 or 150,000 once. - Andre Engels 08:31, 23 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • You know, one of the biggest changes is the new atmosphere of respect for the Wikipedia on the web (and off it) nowadays. When we started people were pretty derisive about it if they knew about it at all and (to me anyway) it seemed like something that we were all doing for our own enjoyment. I suppose that we still are really even though most of us old-timers have dropped from "top 20" to "also ran" in the contribution stakes. But I always believed that it would be successful and it's a real pleasure to see that belief turn into reality. -- Derek Ross
    • Of course, the contribution stats don't include any of the pre-changeover articles. See my comment below about restoring the edit history. --The Cunctator
    • The old joke (as much as I remember of it) was that "Wikipedia is that place with all of the Ayn Rand articles"; then it became "that place with all of the stubs for US towns"; now it's the complaint (still somewhat accurate) that Wikipedia has a systemic bias. The hope that enough people with different interests would lead to a balanced coverage on all topics is actually being realized. -- Llywrch 18:16, 2 Jul 2005 (UTC)
  • Remember my "How to Destroy Wikipedia" essay and the dust-up that ensued? I think it's telling that I was able to patch things up with Jimbo and Magnus but not with Larry, after calling out all three for one thing or another that I disagreed with them over. I think it may actually be hidden in the pre-PHP archives. It would be good to go back to it and see what predictions have come to pass. The layers of bureaucracy are building, for example. See my comment below about restoring the edit history.--The Cunctator 16:41, 23 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • A really good way to honor the anniversary would be to put in the work of restoring the pre-PHP revision history to the database. I know it would take some work but I think it's genuinely valuable. We've seen how the Wikipedia editing process is of academic interest, and it's a shame that there's an artificial cut-off in the project's history. What would it take to get it done? I mean, we could even allocate funds to this now that we're a big hunking institution. --The Cunctator 16:41, 23 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    • Must admit I love the idea but I have a feeling that it will only be possible if there are still weekly tape backups of the server from 2001. As far as I recall the UseMod software only stored revisions for the last x days where x was configurable. Sadly anything older than that was lost for good. -- Derek Ross
  • For me personally, the biggest effect of these Wikipedia years has been that I find an NPOV parrot constantly sitting on my shoulder, watching everything I read, write, or even think. So I nominate Larry's formulation of the NPOV policy. AxelBoldt 22:34, 23 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • I distinctly remember the dust-up at the list of famous Canadians, which was the first skirmish with DW IIRC. I also think the switch from wikipedia.com to wikipedia.org was a big deal, and the fork of es.wikipedia. Maybe also the foundation of the first non-Wikipedia projects (I don't really remember when this happened -- was it Wiktionary?) Of course, the Rambot was certainly a memorable part of Wikipedia's history. TUF-KAT
  • Christ, I remember the List of Famous Canadians bust-up (I was partly responsible for some of it, too, for including my favourite Canuck folk musicians). What else do I recall:
    • Spending a weekend writing en:Summer Olympic Games, and the having Larry list it on "Brilliant Prose" ten minutes after I posted it. That was nice.
    • Falling out with Larry for mentioning the en:Sex Pistols on en:God Save The Queen.
    • The First Great Slowdown, obviously.
    • Larry using wikipedia to plug his folk music evenings.
    • Larry leaving in a hysterical fit of self-importance.
    • How nice Jimbo was to me, despite the fact we disagree on almost everything.
    • The hilarity that was/is en:Daniel C. Boyer's attempts to define himself as an important and respected artist
    • My off-the-cuff suggestion that [[hand]]span should render as handspan being implemented by someone (Magnus?), within about 3 hours.
    • A number of ridiculous flamewars engendered by someone (I forget who) insisting that the UK was five constituent countries (adding en:Cornwall) despite the fact this was en:Kernow nationalistic fancy -- en:User:Gareth Owen
  • How to destroy wikipedia by tc
  • In the early days it was not clear what wikipedia was meant to be, so editing was much more experimental. I felt I should just try a bunch of different stuff, see what worked, see what other contributors liked and didn't like. So in the first few months before NPOV policy and "What Wikipedia is not" were fully worked out, I and some other people were doing stuff that would be really not allowed now, but at the time we didn't know.

For example, on January 27 2001 I began creating subpages under the TimShell page where I kept detailed notes about my daily activities: "On Saturday, January 27, 2001, TimShell stayed at home and poached pears in MerloT". This project, it turns out, did not fit well into the encyclopedia project that crystalized in later weeks.

Then on February 15 someone created the ThreeLawsOfRobotics article. I felt compelled to create an article ThreeLawsOfAlGore:

  1. Al Gore may not harm a human being, or allow a human being to be harmed.
  2. Al Gore must obey the orders given by the human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. Al Gore must protect his own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict the First or Second Law.

My recollections are being aided by the backup copy of Wikipedia I have from March 5 2001: "We started work in January 2001. We've got over 1,000 pages already." Maybe this backup should be uploaded somewhere - http://nostalgia-er.wikipedia.org, perhaps. TimShell 03:45, 9 Apr 2005 (UTC)

  • I arrived the month after Larry handed in his resignation. (It was late October, 2002.) The most important thing I remember about the beginning was that here I found validation for being a "knowledge nerd" -- someone who was impulsively curious about the odd facts in the portions of class everyone else slept thru. I mentioned SJC's approval of my rewrite of King Arthur above, but there was also JHK's surprised approval when I name-dropped Viator in a discussion. And it was a time when editors like Adam Carr & Jtdirl were far less cranky towards other editors. (172 was arrogant & fowl-mouthed from practically day one; I still have en:genocide on my watch list due to his actions.) -- Llywrch 18:16, 2 Jul 2005 (UTC)

Links to old projects[edit]