Do Svidaniya, Tchaikovsky and the Year 1893

Maria de Jesus of Portugal died earlier this year, relinquishing the title of world's oldest known person at 115 years and 114 days. Born Sept. 10, 1893, de Jesus was a farm worker from age 12 who never learned to read or write, ate a vegeterian diet and outlived her husband by 57 years. Perhaps the most amazing facet of her longevity was that she got to know six great-great-grandchildren. The death of de Jesus makes the oldest person Gertrude Baines, an American supercentenarian living in a ... (read more)

Who Belongs in the Brat Pack?

I don't spend enough time tackling the big questions on Workbench, so I'd like to rectify that today by addressing a subject of great import among those of us who came of age in the '80s: Are James Spader and Robert Downey Jr. part of the Brat Pack? The term Brat Pack was coined by journalist David Blum in the June 10, 1985, issue of New York magazine. His cover story Hollywood's Brat Pack describes a world, now lost, in which attractive young women fought for the right to engage in ... (read more)

Wikipedia Documents Fake Syndication Format

Ever wonder how long a hoax page could last on Wikipedia if the subject was technical enough to scare off most readers? The answer appears to be six months. I recently discovered the Wikipedia page for RDX, a syndication format that doesn't exist outside of the encyclopedia and the mind of its creator. I thought I had heard of every feed format after four years on the RSS Advisory Board, but RDX was new to me, so I did a little digging into the subject. As far as I can determine, every single ... (read more)

Long Bet Winner: Weblogs vs. The New York Times

In 2002, blogging evangelist Dave Winer made a long bet with New York Times executive Martin Nisenholtz: "In a Google search of five keywords or phrases representing the top five news stories of 2007, weblogs will rank higher than the New York Times' Web site." Today, Associated Press editors and news directors chose the top 10 news stories of the year, which makes it possible to determine who won the bet. AP's No. 5: Chinese exports The Times ranks 20th for the Nov. 30 article China Agrees to ... (read more)

Big Encyclopedia is Watching You

On July 11, Wikipedia accused me of censoring right-wingers on the Drudge Retort: Cadenhead actively supports liberal causes by removing rightwing commentary he disapproves of, and bans some posters to his sites because they are too effective in discrediting liberal correspondents. Naturally these efforts are rationalized as necessary for political correctness. Wikipedia changed its mind four hours later, but the claim has found its way to the all-seeing Eye on Winer, where McD makes this ... (read more)

Robert Heinlein's Encyclopedia of the Future

One of the things I enjoy about reading old science fiction is grading the speculative guesses about the future. In his 1954 novel The Star Beast, Robert Heinlein imagines the encyclopedia of the future, a giant mechanical supercomputer that occupies an entire building: The universal dictionary in the British Museum was not more knowledgeable than the one in the Under Secretary's office; its working parts occupied an entire building in another part of Capital, and a staff of cyberneticists, ... (read more)

Jimmy Wales Invites Admin to Succeed Elsewhere

Wikipedia boss Jimmy Wales threw Ryan Jordan under the bus this morning: I have been for several days in a remote part of India with little or no Internet access. I only learned this morning that EssJay used his false credentials in content disputes. I understood this to be primarily the matter of a pseudonymous identity (something very mild and completely understandable given the personal dangers possible on the Internet) and not a matter of violation of people's trust. I want to make it ... (read more)

Wikipedia Editor Faces Consequences

One of my favorite short pieces of writing is Douglas Adams' pedantic history of the world, a chronology that notes the start of the new millenium. He must have been sorely disappointed when the events of Jan. 1, 2001, did not transpire as expected. I am a pedant. I once alarmed my relatives in the middle of the night by rearranging their collection of leather-bound Franklin Library Pulitzer Prize classics in the order they won the prize. My brother-in-law, who must also be a pedant, ... (read more)

Wikipedia Admin Loses His Religion

Seth Finkelstein covers the latest scandal to embarrass Wikipedia: a site administrator and Wikia employee who's been lying for years about his academic credentials. Ryan Jordan, a 24-year-old in Kentucky who's never taught a class, claimed on his Wikipedia bio and in an interview with the New Yorker to be a tenured professor of religion with four degrees: a bachelor of arts in religious studies, master of arts in religion, doctorate of philosophy in theology and doctorate in canon law. The ... (read more)

Fuzzy Zoeller Sues Over Libelous Wikipedia Page

Golfer Fuzzy Zoeller has sued a Florida company for libel over edits made to his Wikipedia entry from one of the company's computers. Although I reported one of Wikipedia's best-known gaffes -- project founder Jimmy Wales edited his own page to remove credit from a former colleague -- I'm a defender of the project. I think it's an amazing experiment in collective fact-gathering that deserves to be nurtured, no matter how many different ways Seth Finkelstein proves it should've been smothered in ... (read more)