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Comments

Prentiss Riddle

Tagging history! That is a very cool idea. Although I guess the core of what you have in mind isn't the tagging, it's social networking with historical figures and events as the reference points for finding common interests.

One issue which I could imagine would come up right away: people might be less interested in history history than in personal history. "Podunk High Graduation "04" and "Becky and Joe's Wedding" and "the first time I (jdoe666) got lucky" might loom larger than the Emancipation Proclamation or Virginia Woolf. You'd have to decide how far you wanted to go to force people to comply with some definition of "history" and how you'd determine that definition.

One conceivable way to structure it would be as an add-on to Wikipedia. I haven't looked into what Wikipedia offers in the way of an API or at least a reliable way to scrape date information out of entries. If you could automate the linkage of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emancipation_Proclamation to 1/1/1863 then that could do the trick. Although the use of Wikipedia as the historical authority has problems, as you point out.

I believe I've heard of some interesting timeline projects recently. All I can find in my del.icio.us bookmarks is this Timeline of Timelines. A search for "wiki timeline" turns up EasyTimeline, "a wiki way to compose timelines". Possibly you could glue together some open source/web 2.0-ish tools to approximate what you want, although the result might turn out to be be ugly and clumsy.

As for your struggle with Wikipedia -- if you've got a community with a burning motivation to build its own resource for feminist history, then go for it, but I think your time would be better spent trying to remain visible to Wikipedia's vast audience. Think of how many fresh(wo)men writing term papers would find your ideas in Wikipedia versus how many would find them in a standalone site.

I've never engaged in the political and editorial struggles of Wikipedia and I'm sure they're quite a timesink, but you with your network's vast brainpower can probably outgame the maculinist vandals if you get organized. I would think that part of the key would be to appeal to Wikipedia's stated ideology of neutrality. True neutrality may be an impossibility, and at times the cult of neutrality can result in a false parity between flat-earthers and round-earthers, but surely the way to fight back against anti-feminist bias in Wikipedia is to hammer it on the criteron of neutrality.

Prentiss Riddle

Additional idea: how about a metaWikipedia, with which a community could filter and annotate Wikipedia? It would be place to make visible your objections to Wikipedia content and record the work you've put into it that got trashed. Hmm.

NursePam

OK. This is brilliant. If you could tag history kids would want to learn it. I hope someone picks this up. Really like how your head works.

whump

Have you looked at Planet?

It's a feed aggregator written in Python. You give a set of RSS/Atom feeds to monitor, and it stitches them together in one long stream of HTML. The cool thing is that you only need a server that runs Python. Planet can run as a batch process publishing to static files!

Since Wikipedia publishes the deltas of entries as RSS feeds, you could run a planet that tracks and publishes thoses to one page that a group could monitor. Sam Ruby uses it as part of his Planet to keep watch for people changing the entry for the Atom Syndication Protocol.

That doesn't deal with the social problem of deleters and other haters on Wikipedia, but as Prentiss says, Wikipedia is where the eyeballs are.

David Gerard

Please do both - start a wiki for this stuff *and* feed the best-referenced to Wikipedia, putting the specialist wiki under GFDL to be compatible. There's all manner of specialist wikis with this sort of relation to Wikipedia.

We have a page, [[Wikipedia:WikiProject Countering Systemic Bias]], to try to alleviate the effects of Wikipedia's editor population largely self-selecting from middle-class white male computer geeks in the US and UK. And I've had a few discussions with a feminist friend about what to do about the problems with Wikipedia. The only reasonably workable-sounding solution is to get such contributors involved.

The big problem with Wikipedia is that working with people you consider complete idiots is not optional. And they think you're an idiot too. In this, it's a microcosm of the rest of the Internet and the rest of the world.

badgerbag

Ha! That's funny David! I agree with you and will take a look at the Systemic Bias page.

At this point I'm developing a separate wiki with the idea that I'll put entries on the main Wikipedia once they're filled out a bit. I'm having a lot of fun with it and am looking at installing Semantic Mediawiki to give me a bit of flexible searching.

Ide Cyan

I looked at the "WikiProject Countering Systemic Bias" page, and, while there's brief mention of "the average wikipedian" being male, there's squat on the causes of this bias particular bias.

David Gerard

The technical world as a whole is not clear on the causes of the bias and is very annoyed with it. I'm a Unix computer system administrator for a living, and almost every workplace I've been in has been in desperate need of female geeks to counteract the boys'-club-ish tendencies of all-male workplaces. (The one exception was Ericsson, which was about 30% female at the technical end.)

From my (interested dilettante non-academic) readings on social technology, most technical fields over the last hundred years show this, not just computers and not just recently. That is, the males at the end of the pipeline would very much like more women there, but are clueless on what is turning them away along the way. And why 30% seems to be about the best a given workplace can do. (Only anecdotal evidence for that number, but I've seen the 30% counting heads at Ericsson, and it was also mentioned in a Joel On Software column.)

So far, what we're doing is going out and trying to recruit, while saying "and erm please pardon the idiots and trolls." Ah well.

The profile of Internet users in general slowly gets closer to the demographics of the social classes who could afford a connection, so to some extent I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that as Wikipedia continues to be stupidly popular, it'll go the same way a bit. We have to make ourselves friendlier to good newbies without getting flooded.

There's also been a disgracefully clueless kerfuffle on the mailing lists of late with a proposal to form a "wikichix" list. The list has been formed, but the discussion is the appalling part. Sigh.

David Gerard

Oh, and see this post: http://smg.typepad.com/smg/2006/09/wiki_wiki.html

Ide Cyan

I'm a Unix computer system administrator for a living, and almost every workplace I've been in has been in desperate need of female geeks to counteract the boys'-club-ish tendencies of all-male workplaces.

Oh, where to begin... Have those boys been doing a lot of housework lately?

MGoodyear

I have done my best to create a scholarly and inclusive history of feminism for Wikipedia but it has come under fire from those with narrower views. Do feel free to add your comments there.

badgermama

That's great, MGoodyear, and I'm sure it's a good start.

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