London’s most active wikipedia editors.

There are 341 wikipedia users who have added themselves to Category:Wikipedians in London. I wanted to know which of these people had been active recently. My guess was that a small minority of these people were actually still around in the wikipedia community.

I wrote a little bot in java which harvested the information. I needed the date of their most recent wiki edit. Ranking the users by this metric, it turns out I was wrong. About half of these people have edited this month (pretty recently), and the vast majority have made edits within the last year. I guess people who go to the trouble of adding a ‘Living in London’ userbox, tend to be quite dedicated, and likely to stick around in the community.

Active London Wikipedians           

My plan was to send direct messages to the active users, to make sure they know about the next London Wikipedia Meetup. My original idea was to whittle down the list, to eliminate what I thought would be the large majority of inactive users. But this hasn’t helped me whittle down the list at all! It’s a more helpful ranking than an alphabetical list though:

London wikipedians ranked by most recent edit

Fun to play with developing bots too.

Trafalgar Square Hawk

Trafalgar Square Hawk
On Sunday we went on a walk through several parks, but at our start point, before we even got to any parks, we had another interesting ornithological encounter. In amongst the usual tourist crowds I noticed a big brown bird of prey swooping onto a perching spot in one corner. The hawk then flew past my head back to his owner, a guy standing by Nelson’s column. I hadn’t noticed until then, but there were no pigeons. Not a single one!

I must have missed the news, that the authorities have deployed this hawk as a pest control technique. Awesome. It’s amazing how effective it seems to be. We saw one or two pigeons flying very high up, and veering away from the square. Apart from that, nothing.

I notice the idea has its critics, and the enevitable save the pigeons campaign group. They call it “bloodsport”. I didn’t see any blood, because there were no pigeons! They’re obviously all scared shitless of it. Interestingly that website also claims that pigeons do not pose a disease problem. I think they’re probably right about that. How many people d’you hear about catching diseases from pigeons? But I’m not a fan of pigeons. There’s too many of them. They crap everywhere, and they’re just boring.

Hawks on the other hand…. kick ass!

Pharmaceutical wrinkles

I generally dislike pharmaceutical companies, especially cosmetics companies. I could pretend that I have strong ethical, ecological, political rational reasoning behind this. There’s so much to dislike about them. But really I just instinctively dislike them. In a chemist I find the air choking with all the smelly overpriced beauty products. I grab my 55p litre bottle of apple flavoured shampoo and get out as quickly as possible.

But right now I’m particularly thinking about the TV adverts. Cosmetic TV adverts are certainly among the worst kind (well the worst kind generally allowed on british TV, which thankfully has some fairly strict vetting) Do they think we don’t notice the ludicrously bad lip-synching? L’Oreal have always advertised a lot on TV. Their latest ad has that woman from four weddings and funeral, talking about wrinkles. She says:

“…I call them my life story lines”

Why?? No you don’t! Nobody has a special name for their wrinkles! Shut up!

8th London Wikipedia Meetup

We went for a sunday lunch pub meet up with some wikipedia enthusiasts last Sunday. It took us a while to get this organised (and I even ended up doing a bit of the organising) but eventually the turn out was pretty good.

In the pub we had a few others like me, but actually most were wikipedia sysops and some were even more “powerful” within the chaotic organisation of wikipedia. I’m an enthusiastic wikipedia contributor, or at least I’m enthusiastic about what wikipedia represents. I am fascinated by wiki technology, and the processes that it facilitates within wikipedia (the most extreme example of a wiki).  I would say I have a deep understanding of this, but actually as far contributing goes, I only dip in and edit articles briefly when I spot somewhere I can make a quick improvement.

I met James F. who is on the wikipedia arbitration committee, and Theresa knott who used to be, and WJBscribe who is current chair of the mediation committee. What this basically means is, these people dedicate a lot of time and energy into keeping wikipedia going. These are the people who essentially have the “final say” with a calming voice of reason, when disputes turn nasty. I have a lot of admiration for them, but I wouldn’t want to take on the task myself.

What do I mean by “disputes”? Wikipedia encourages good will among contributors, as it opens up every article to public editing. Anyone can edit anything, and provided people act in good faith, that might be the end of the matter; the encyclopaedia just gets built… bit-by-bit, collaboratively. Remarkably this actually works a lot of the time. Unfortunately this is not always a harmonious collaboration. You may have to engage in a discussion to persuade others not to revert your edit. Where there is discussion, there may be debate, which leads to arguments, which lead to furious rows. Still, the people involved in such a row are allowed to edit the articles. To prevent the disputes raging out of control across the community, there are hierarchies and layers of permissions, and processes for “mediation” and ultimately “arbitration”. The people on the mediation and arbitration committee must regularly deal with people who will argue their cases politely (otherwise they would just be blocked), but who are simmering with anger and vitriol.

Seth Finkelstein’s critical description of wikipedia as an “elaborate hierarchical structure which is infested with cliques and factional conflicts” isn’t so inaccurate, but what does he expect? It’s an open community of volunteer editors in which the voices of sanity and calm need to somehow triumph when debates erupt. Perhaps he could suggest a better way of organising it (Instead he seems to be deeply concerned about the state of Jimmy Wales’ ex-girlfriend’s biography article). The mediation and arbitration committee have a kind of a position of power at the top of some hierarchy, but it looks like hard emotionally draining work. Clearly they are an essential part of what allows wikipedia to keep running smoothly. I am grateful that some people have the energy to do it.

Anyway… Those guys obviously enjoyed the opportunity to meet up face-to-face, chatting enthusiastically about organisational voting processes, and other such topics which went way over my head. The rest of us had some more down-to-earth chit-chat about general topics of interests. I briefly showed people some OpenStreetMap stuff before laptop battery died. This was all good fun. Hopefully we can arrange another London meet-up pretty soon.

Unit Testing SOA and Mule talks

I’ve attended another couple of free talks this week:

Frank Cohen: The Next Step in Unit Testing and Java & SOA

Frank Cohen spoke about his company PushToTest and the open source “Test Maker” product, but despite being a bit of product plug, it was interesting and entertaining. He spoke about the rising tide of awareness around unit testing, and explained his company’s approach of providing consulting services around this free open source product. He’s clearly taken on the challenge of competing on an open playing field, which reminded me of the business ideas of wikinomics.

Of course the talk was supposed to be about unit testing in general, and he did talk about various other open source testing tools, which was educational for me, since I’m coming from a world of very expensive “enterprise” proprietory software. I do think that GH Tester holds its own against pushtotest and open source offerings, but it also appeals to an entirely different client base; enterprise customers who are willing to shell out for a supported “product” and a unified interface with drag-n-drop goodness. It was clear from the talks and demos, that there’s lots of open source test tools out there, but most still require you to get your hands dirty with raw coding of scripts / xml configurations, and while being “domain specific” is an advantage, using multiple tools is always a pain. Having to get to grips with two or three different tools with different gui/config faff, is a hassle GH Tester avoids.

Nonetheless I learned a lot, and enjoyed Frank’s friendly presentation style. In fact I found him very approacheable, and wound up chatting with him for hours at the pub afterwards.

Antoine Borg, Mule: SOA or IRL?

I originally thought the title of this talk sounded more interesting than Monday’s, but obviously not many other people agreed. When I turned up, there was only two other people there! I actually attended a talk about mule before, back in the days when EJUG talks were still running, so this served as a refresher. I’m trying to think how GH Tester could hook into this ESB. Connect to a mule broker? or perhaps suck in the mule config, and generate transports from the endpoint definitions?