• 2019

  • Most Wikipedia Profiles Are of Men, Jessica Wade Is Changing That

  • This is how you change perception. From the ground, up. The award winning physicist Dr. Jess Wade is fighting the good fight. From the New York Times:

    Fewer than 20 percent of biographies on Wikipedia in English are of women, according to Women in Red, Wikipedia’s gender gap-bridging project. Jessica Wade, a British physicist troubled by that number, made it her mission to help change it.

    There’s also a spectacular interview with her on the Wikimedia blog. I loved this bit:

    When we hosted a wikithon at Imperial, where I work, lots of members of faculty emailed suggestions of people who deserved a page. I think the stream of friendly tweets has inspired other people too—editing Wikipedia is so easy and rewarding that everyone can get involved, whether it is from their lab, bedroom or office.

  • A rock formation jutting out of the Canadian tundra in the spring.


  • I went down another Wikipedia rabbit-hole this weekend. The last time I did that I learned about Abiogenesis.

    This time around, I began reading more about Aphex Twin, and ultimately ended up at Ivvavik National Park. Not so sure what I read in-between or how I got there — but in case you’re interested, Engigstciak, is a rock formation at the Ivvavik National Park. It’s really striking. I believe it’s particularly beautiful. So much so in fact, I was inspired to write a bit about it:

    A rock formation jutting out of the Canadian tundra in the spring.
    Photo courtesy of Daniel Case and Wikimedia Commons.

    There’s also this really interesting paper available on JSTOR regarding Engigstciak’s surrounding geology. You can view it for free with a JSTOR account. I love this stuff. If you’re a fan of Bill Bryson, something tells me you’ll enjoy this paper too:

    A page from the 1961 paper.

    The Yukon is a pretty vast, and unorganized expanse (something my Texan heritage has informed me I might enjoy). Within the wide and unforgiving tundra are archaeological heritage sites. It turns out, Engigstciak happens to be one:

    [Pottery found at the site] likely relates to the Norton Culture (Norton Check-Stamped Ware) which is found predominantly in the coastal reaches of northern Alaska. Although dating from the last few centuries B.C., this vessel is part of a ceramic making tradition which began in Alaska more than 3500 years ago and was inspired if not imported from Siberia.

    The Ivvavik National Park is so remote in fact, that the nearby airport — Sheep Creek International Airport, is merely just a strip of gravel.

    The Yukon seems nice.

  • 2018

  • Over 9 Million Broken Links on Wikipedia Are Now Rescued

  • On this blog, I rant a lot about the health of the web. Today, is no different.

    The Internet Archive is doing the lord’s work (if you will). Wikipedia, a champion of the web, is expectedly cut from the same cloth. Both non-profits, run a tight ship catalyzed by their bootstraps, bleeding-edge technology and undoubtedly some of the brightest contributors, engineers and computer scientists of our lifetime. They owe us nothing, and we owe them everything. They work tirelessly to realize the true goal of the web — a boundless continuum of mankind’s knowledge like the edge of forever.

    It’s almost always a sad sight coming across a dreaded 404 page. Perhaps, more so when you’ve gone down the rabbit hole on Wikipedia. But the Internet Archive and Wikipedia are teaming up to make the web, a little bit nicer these days:

    For more than 5 years, the Internet Archive has been archiving nearly every URL referenced in close to 300 wikipedia sites as soon as those links are added or changed at the rate of about 20 million URLs/week.

    And for the past 3 years, we have been running a software robot called IABot on 22 Wikipedia language editions looking for broken links (URLs that return a ‘404’, or ‘Page Not Found’). When broken links are discovered, IABot searches for archives in the Wayback Machine and other web archives to replace them with. Restoring links ensures Wikipedia remains accurate and verifiable and thus meets one of Wikipedia’s three core content policies: ‘Verifiability’.

    To date we have successfully used IABot to edit and “fix” the URLs of nearly 6 million external references that would have otherwise returned a 404. In addition, members of the Wikipedia community have fixed more than 3 million links individually. Now more than 9 million URLs, on 22 Wikipedia sites, point to archived resources from the Wayback Machine and other web archive providers.

    This is a massive achievement by any measure, even prior to Internet Archive’s efforts with IABot. The Wikipedia community alone repaired more than 3 million 404s. That’s astounding. One can only hope to see the number of 404s referenced in Wikipedia to diminish even further as the years continue to unfurl before us.

  • Revisiting Card UIs

  • Who doesn't love going down the rabbit-hole on Wikipedia? Easily one of the most beloved treasure troves of information.

    Well, a couple of days ago, Nirvar Pangarkar (@nirzardp), Designer at the Wikimedia Foundation documented his process for rolling out a new feature at Wikipedia. This new feature, isn't particularly groundbreaking. But, I do suspect it will become the norm for Card UI components on the web.

    It's called, Page Previews. Something of a marriage between alt-text and a card. Check it out:

    Graphic by Nirzar Pangarkar/Wikimedia Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0. Text and images from the indicated Wikipedia articles in various languages.

    This looks pretty cool. It's also live by the way! This was literally rolled out 48 hours ago. Visit any random Wikipedia article to see it for yourself.

    An example of a page preview while hovering over the hypertext "home computer" in the Apple II article.

    It's definitely not a new idea, but it's an effective use of card UIs nonetheless. It's an even better example of design solving a problem. To be brief, Wikipedia was having a problem with users rabbit-holing maybe a little too much or in other words, a lot of random pageviews ≠ learning:

    This is one of the most iconic and popular user patterns we see on Wikipedia. People start on one article, and then head somewhere else, and then somewhere else, learning about lots of different topics along the way.

    We design for these readers, optimizing not for page views or engagement — but for learning. And it turns out that context is a key part of learning.

    Nirzar goes on saying that it's possible this preview card UI language could be extended to the wikipedia editor tools and other content types (think audio playback, pronunciations, or quotations). Neat!

    While we're on the subject of context, I want to share this tid-bit from Dave Rupert's, Pitfalls of Card UIs:

    I’m of the opinion that all cards in a Card UI are destined to become baby webpages. Just like modals. Baby hero units with baby titles and baby body text and baby dropdown menu of actions and baby call to action bars, etc.

    The desire to reduce clicks increases complexity and raises the cognitive load. Depends on your situation, but I honestly think the workaround here is to go back to having a strong detail view pages. Scope cards in your UI to truly being previews or –to borrow a term from the watchOS Human Interface Guidelines– a “glance”.

    Dave's note about cognitive load  is important for Wikipedia. A page preview card potentially disrupts a users desire to bounce. Allowing Wiki-users to consume as much contextually relevant content possible before bouncing. Looks like a win for Wikipedia, and a win for staying on topic the next time you're researching anything on Wikipedia.

    I guess cards are destined to become little baby webpages! 👶

    Note: if you don't see page previews while on Wikipedia, you may need to login first and enable it under Preferences > Appearance.