Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Wizard of Wiki

Ever wonder who those people are who leave all those reviews on Amazon? Or who seem to find time to post 25 new YouTube videos a day, or link to story after story on Digg? In a new series of interviews, SMITH unearths some of the people who have made many, many contributions to the Net, each in their own particular way, while remaining mostly under the radar. Where better to begin than the wild, unwieldy, and wonderful world of Wikipedia? Meet Richard Farmbrough, a 45-year-old technology project manager living in Stamford, England—and the man with the most Wiki entries since its launch on January 15, 2001. SMITH contacted him via email.

SMITH: What’s Stamford like?

Richard Farmbrough: Stamford is a pleasant market town in the East of England region, it is generally affluent, and near the city of Peterborough. It has good transport links and an interesting history—see the Wikipedia article of the same name.

SMITH: Why the urge to write and edit so many entries?

Wikipedia is such a good resource, it seems a shame to let gaps remain unfilled, or errors go by uncorrected. This is also in keeping with a community value indicated by the neologism “sofixit”—in other words, on Wikipedia, you are empowered to resolve problems, rather than relying on someone else to do it for you. Of course, some things require collaboration through talk pages and the many wiki-projects that cover everything from specialist subjects to article clean-up and helping new editors find their feet.

SMITH: How did you get involved with Wikipedia?Like most Wikipedians, I started with a minor edit, on a “talk page” (a page where an article is discussed). In my case, I increasingly found that I was, at that time, in a position to add to, correct or create many articles. After some time, I started reading the documents about Wikipedia and how it works, and realized that we were creating good content but with lots of stylistic, spelling, grammatical and other gaffes.
Wikipedia has a Manual of Style, so I read that, and started fixing “violations” wherever I came across them—such as by effectively proofreading, and to some extent, sub-editing. I became frustrated with finding the same errors again and again, and created tools to help find and eliminate them. Round about then, I came across Wikipedia “bots,” or robots, and started using one to fix common errors. That’s under a separate account and is, I believe, the Wikipedia editor with the most edits.

SMITH: What was the first entry you ever wrote or edited?

My first article edit was to Modafinil a keep-awake drug I was investigating at the time. It’s pleasing to see the short article that was there then is now a substantial overview of the drug. The first article I created (you can’t really say you “wrote” an article on Wikipedia, since they are never finished, and have many editors) was Projective frame which is about a mathematical concept that has also been improved substantially–and the same day (I must have been getting into my stride) Ohio House of Representatives with a couple of lines, that are now a reasonable article, Spaghetti House siege substantially as it is now, and Black Liberation Army which again has grown to a reasonable article from my couple of lines.

SMITH: What do your mates think of how much time you spend on Wikipedia?

Actually, I don’t spend all that much time on Wikipedia. I rarely get involved in the behind-the-scenes stuff; although, as an “administrator,” I get asked to help deal with vandals and disruptive behavior. Nor am I involved, at the moment, in anything that takes extensive research. Most of my edits (but by no means all) are minor clean-ups that take a few seconds—that’s the main reason I have so many edits.

SMITH: If somebody were to find out that you had the most entries and wanted to beat your record, what would you do? Would you pull all-nighters to retain your crown?

I would encourage them to make sure that their edits were adding something of value. “Editcountitis” is a well-known affliction in the Wiki community, and to try and reduce it, I would freely state that I consider many editors have made more valuable contributions to the ‘pedia than I have. Of course, it’s “nice” to be at the top of the (human) list—especially as I considered it completely out of the question to be in the top 100 when I first saw it. But really, it’s not that big a deal; I don’t mention it on my user page, and I don’t think I’ve mentioned it to my family or friends.

SMITH: Do you have any other obsessions besides Wikipedia?

Well, I am not actually obsessed with Wikipedia, despite appearances! If I am obsessed with anything, it is continuous improvement. I see Wikipedia as an example of this, as well as my own personal and family development. And the charity I’m involved with, which is trying to improve the education system.

SMITH: Do you think Wikipedia is a better source of information than going to the library?

In some ways. The question only makes sense if you state who is looking for what, and which library is involved. For example, if you have a university library available to you, you will get more and better information on most subjects, except, perhaps, popular culture. If you only have a small-town library, you can probably find out as much or more from Wikipedia on many subjects, but it will be “chunked” differently—it might not be easy to learn calculus, certainly not Linux or Anglo-Saxon from Wikipedia (although, there are sister wikis which address these types of needs). The Wikipedia community has a strong belief in maintaining the goal of building an encyclopedia, rather than a how-to resource, a dictionary (though there is also Wiktionary) or “an indiscriminate collection of information.”

SMITH: Tell us a story about yourself that you haven’t told anybody in a long time.

When I was about eight or nine, I was given a Junior Pears Encyclopedia–a single volume of about 600 pages. Not long after that, I decided it would be extremely useful to have a “book of everything,” since there was clearly a lot of ground missed out in this one. My book would probably have to run to several volumes, perhaps five or ten. I started by preparing some re-cycled envelopes where I could collect information, “The Elements” “The Solar System” “Napoleon” and “Nelson” were a few. Realizing I knew very little about Nelson and Napoleon, I made a trip to the largest local library I could get to, took one look at the biography shelves, and realized the futility of my endeavor. Twenty something years later, the Internet in general and Wikipedia in particular have re-awakened that boyhood dream.

SMITH: What’s next for you on Wikipedia?

I’d like to create a mathematical model of the trends, to investigate how we best go about keeping the vitality of the enterprise without compromising content. It seems to me that while Wikipedia may be the embryonic form of something we don’t yet understand, it may also suffer from stultification and rot; when all the “easy” articles have been written and polished, who will keep an eye on minor jazz singers dates of birth.

SMITH: If you could describe your experience as a Wikipedia writer in six words, what would they be?

Cool, frustrating, satisfying, friendly, challenging, educational.

You can find the actual article here: http://smithmag.net/2007/06/21/the-wizard-of-wiki/
Picture found at: http://www.wikipedia.org/

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Up In Smoke

Flames engulfed an Extreme Scapes truck on Wednesday, May 30th, sending its driver, Samuel Burlum, out and into the street until assistance came to extinguish the fireball. The fire trucks came roaring in about two or three minutes after the incident.

Taking place on Barber St. in Oak Ridge at 10:30 in the morning, Mr. Burlum was servicing his client, Dr. Robert Ashman, the owner of the West Milford Animal Hospital, when it all occurred.

“There was a flash under the driver’s seat and then came a plume of smoke. I grabbed my briefcase and jumped out the car as quickly as possible,” says Mr. Burlum.

The truck was totally destroyed in the fire.

This is actually not the first time sabotage has been suspected, as a post St. Patrick’s Day incident sent another one of Mr. Burlum’s trucks to an early grave, that incident involving nuts and bolts placed in the engine, something that Mr. Burlum said was possibly the work of somebody looking to bring down the company.

Not wanting to point any fingers before the police finish their investigation, Mr. Burlum still candidly admits that there are those he thinks it almost might definitely be.

“There is a history with one or two people [who could possibly be the arsonists].”
All the same, Mr. Burlum doesn’t lose hope and sees this as another loss the company can bounce back from.

“Basically, we’ve been in business for fifteen years. We’ve done work for Northern New Jersey, and Southern New York, and we’ve had our ups and downs,” says Mr. Burlum, offering a personal statement.

“We’ve faced adversity in the past, [but] this will not prevent future business. We ask for our clients to be patient. We just need to recoup our loses.”

“He did report it as suspicious,” adds Jefferson Lieutenant, Eric Wilsusen in an email. “It is currently under investigation.”

Note: This is not the truck that set fire but rather a picture I found on a website.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Voters in Jefferson are lower than ever

By: Rich Knight—Correspondent

Now here’s a story with a headline that practically writes itself. The votes for June 5th’s elections are in, and boy, are they low. With 12,003 registered voters in Jefferson alone, an astonishingly small percentage actually went out to vote—4.29% to be exact. That’s only 515 people.

Coming out the victor in the Freeholder position was Jim Murray, who defeated John Inglesino in the Republican ballot. Murray will be joining incumbents Douglas Cabana and Jack Schrier for a three year term.

But if you think this low turn out at the ballot is something new for Jefferson, think again, as 2003’s election posted similar results—a pathetic 6.28%.

But Municipal Clerk, Lydia Magnotti, thinks she may have the answer as to why the numbers keep getting lower and lower: “Without researching, [I’d have to say] it could be low because there’s no local election, no council or mayor running, that makes it low.”

Checking out 2005’s stats, her story seems to hold weight. In the 2005 primaries, there were 12,142 registered voters, and 1,292 people voted, which is “much better,” says Magnotti, but still leaves room for improvement.

“And it’s a primary,” Magnotti adds of this year’s low turnout Democrats or Republicans [could vote]. The only people affected were the freeholders.”

And that’s just one of the reasons why voters didn’t turn out. Here are two more.

One: the ballots were pretty much uncontested, meaning, all of the candidates were pretty much running against themselves (Turns out voters aren’t going to leave their houses when they could just as easily sit at home and watch Pro Wresling on television and get the same results).

And two: People just don’t vote anymore. At least not until the National 2008 elections roll around. Now THAT’S a different story.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Bossin' Up

It’s time for Steve Rifkind to get that Russell Simmons-type respect. Get your umbrellas out, Rifkind’s about to brainstorm.

Story by Rich B. Knight

(Find the article on the website here: http://king-mag.com/online/?p=3001)

Anybody who’s listened to grimy urban music in the past 25 years has listened to an artist backed by SRC boss and entrepreneur, Steve Rifkind. Founder of the street team mentality (think hip-hop heads handing out flyers and leaving them under your windshield wipers while you’re at a concert), Rifkind also created Loud Records, which at one time featured such benchmark acts as The Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, and Big Pun, amongst others. Even more impressive, the music mogul’s current roster includes Akon, David Banner, and Pharoah Monch in his stable. KING-Mag.com talks to Mr. Rifkind about his business, his internet talent contest, and Akon, his American Idol.

KING-Mag.com: Can you please tell the people about this hip-hop talent contest you have going on at Loud.com?

Steve Rifkind: We’re looking for that next MC, you know. The one that gets $100,000 and a recording deal with SRC.

KING-Mag.com: Can you tell me more about SRC; because I heard you have something going on called SRC 2?

Steve Rifkind: Naw, that was going to be a PND deal (Note: I listened to the tape over and over again and I keep hearing PND, whatever that means) where we would just put out records that weren’t going to sell as much. But, I mean, there’s still going to be SRC, there’s no SRC 100.

KING-Mag.com: So what about this new Wu-tang album coming out in the summer?

Steve Rifkind: Yeah, I’m actually going out on Wednesday to pick up the single.

KING-Mag.com: And is the whole Clan going to be there?

Steve Rifkind: Yep.

KING-Mag.com: Even Cappadonna?

Steve Rifkind: Um, I think he’s on some records. But he was never officially a part of the Clan.

KING-Mag.com: So, musically, what is the future of Loud? Is it obsolete, is there something going on?Loud Records?

Steve Rifkind: Well, we have Loud.com, and a Loud Energy Drink that we have that’s going to be out by the end of the summer. But [as far as Loud Records is concerned], we’re working with Sony now where they’re going to allow me to put out a few records a year under the Loud umbrella. One is going to be Wu-tang, another’s going to be Pharoahe Monch, and another is going to be this West Coast rapper by the name of Topic. He’s somebody new I heard that was incredible from my Drama family. He’s from West Covina.

KING-Mag.com: Let’s talk about the Street Team mentality that you pretty much created. Do you think the internet is killing that energy, or do you think it makes it bigger?

Steve Rifkind: I don’t think it’s killing it; I think it’s helping it. I think whenever there’s a new song out, the word of mouth gets spread a lot quicker now through the internet because it’s going market by market. You have people talking about something within minutes now.
Is that why you decided to have this contest online?No, I mean, hip-hop, well, not only hip-hop, but music in general, we have to get more in the creative mode. You know, I grew up not on computers, and it’s something where we’re building a community where people can start talking and find that next artist to make an incredible record. That’s what made Jay so great. He still does write amazing stuff.

KING-Mag.com: So, since the tracks are already online, it’s kind of sort of like a rap American Idol.

Steve Rifkind: Well, because you get a record deal, that’s the only thing [similar] with American Idol. [With this], you’re not competing with anybody, you’re competing against yourself to make the next pop album.

KING-Mag.com: Speaking of American Idol, I know you have Akon on your label and Akon was actually on American Idol this season. Do you think urban music is getting too popular for its own good?

Steve Rifkind: No. Nothing ever gets too popular for its own good. I mean, Akon is just hip-popular music; he’s more of a pop artist than an R&B artist.

KING-Mag.com: So what would you say is the difference between a pop artist and an R&B artist?

Steve Rifkind: An artist that really crosses over. I mean, popular music is popular music, and it sucks that people have define that you’re an R&B artist, or that you’re a pop artist. Why can’t you just be a creative artist?

KING-Mag.com: What’s going on with Kids Block? Is that still good?

Steve Rifkind: Yeah, that’s amazing. We’re very close to linking it to PBS, and it’s just something that I’m very, very, very excited about. I got an email yesterday from this professor at Harvard University, and he called it really innovative and understanding. It’s going to be on PBS and DVD and we’re going to make a record. It’s incredible. It’s going to be [geared towards] three to eight year olds. It was going to be [geared towards] two to six, but we developed everything more, and from a scale of age, we went a little higher with electricity and math and everything else like that. We’ll have artists on the show. It’s the 2007 version of Sesame Street.

KING-Mag.com: Last year, Nas made a claim that hip-hop was dead. What are your feelings on that?

Steve Rifkind: I don’t think hip-hop is dead, but hip-hop has to get creative again. We have to take a chance on the young and the new and the recording world has to get back to work. And that’s why we’re doing LOUD.com. We have to bet on the new, we have to find that next big thing, that next Dr. Dre, that next Scott Scorch. Because right now, if you want a hit record on the radio, you go to one in five producers, and that’s because nobody’s betting on the new or the young, and that’s the future of our music.

KING-Mag.com: You’ve been in the business for a really long time. Do you have any horror stories you’d like to share?

Steve Rifkind: No, not really. The only horror stories I have I had with Sony, but otherwise, it’s been really, really good to me. It feeds my family well, it takes care of me, I’m good.

KING-Mag.com: You always seem to be one step ahead of the game. So where do you think music is going in the next step?

Steve Rifkind: That’s the million dollar question. I don’t have that answer, but you know, I’m looking for that next cat. There’s no question about it. You know, we did it with Akon, and we’ll do it again. I think music right now might spin off of a few things, but you have rock, you have hip-hop, and then you get closer to popular music. Maybe live bands. There’s so many spin offs, I think the Roots can be stronger than ever.

KING-Mag.com: And have you ever tried to sign a group like The Roots?

Steve Rifkind: Once.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The 80's Project

With an adaptation of Transformers set to be this summer’s biggest blockbuster, KING-MAG.com takes a look at other perennial 80s series that could and could not work on the big screen.

Story By Rich B. Knight

May 31st, 2007

Michael Bay, director of such loud movies as The Rock and Pearl Harbor, is a studio gangsta, which isn’t a bad thing to be in Hollywood. That gangsta mentality is a big reason why he is about to debut his ambitious project to date – a live action movie on the beloved Transformers series. Not since Spider-Man has an adaptation arrived with as much skepticism, and when you’re trying to sell what is essentially a kiddie franchise for grown-up 80’s babies, you’re going to need some bigger guns than the type robots carry.

Fortunately Transformers, which comes out on the fourth of July, is an exception to what kind of 80s cartoon should be revived for the big screen, as many others would be best left in the past. KING-MAG.com takes an introspective look at what 80s cartoons are fair game for the silver screen treatment, and what movies should stay in the decade of crack and Ronald Reagan.


ThunderCats - (1985-1987) If done properly, and not with people in make-up and cat suits like the Broadway musical, Cats, Lion-O and the gang would make great popcorn companions at your local theater. Fighting a raging battle on Third Earth, the ThunderCats could even be an allegory for modern day Iraq if they wanted to take it there. And a remix of the theme song done by Kanye West and Common would be the icing on the cake. Seriously, why AREN’T they making a movie for this already?

G.I. Joe - (1985-1986)Technically, G.I. Joe is not really an 80s thing since the series has been around since the 1940s, but most people remember the cartoon best, and if a movie were made, the studio should stick to this concept: Cobra Commander, played by a masked Terrance Howard, could be in a quest to take over the world, and Hawk, Duke, and the posse of Real American Heroes could fight the good fight in an epic three part series. And if Sergeant Slaughter isn’t doing anything, throw him in there, too. Come to think of it: What is Sgt. Slaughter doing nowadays anyway?

Voltron - (1984-1985)We got so used to hearing the Wu-tang Clan say “arm, leg, leg, arm, head,” so many times it began to be associated with them. A 2010 update of the original flying lion robots in space would go quite nicely as a bookend to the 80s cartoon revival that’s sure to happen if Transformers does well in July. Gotta love those lions.


The Smurfs - (1981-1990)There is actually an animated movie of the little blue weenies slated to come out in 2008, but anybody who can remember the show knows full well that the Smurfs’ reign of terror is best left in the 80’s. From that infectiously God awful song they sing (La, la, la la la la), to their disturbing no-shirts-ever policy, there’s no need to rekindle any long lost memories fans may have had of Papa Smurf and the gang. There’s even word of a trilogy in the works, and, if that’s so, God help us.

Alvin and the Chipmunks -(1983-1991)Alviiiiin! You know if there was a movie made of the three, ball squeezing voiced chipmunks, it would have a trailer that would begin just like that, with Dustin Hoffman probably playing their manager, Dave Seville. And if hearing countless good songs given the Kanye West treatment wasn’t enough, just imagine how annoying it would be to stare at those pudgy little bastards for an over an hour and a half. But to their credit, Alvin and his two brothers, Simon and Theodore, are definitely the original wearers of the long T. Just look at those shirts. They go all the way down to their feet!

Care Bears - (1985-1990) The Care Bears have a look so sugary a person can get develop diabetes just from looking. Imagine taking your little brother, sister, son, or daughter to see these things skipping around a ‘hood called, Care-A-Lot. Even worse, imagine the influence the Care Bear stare would have on young girls everywhere? Do you really want young girls running around sticking their chests out so early in life? If so, then you’re either 10-years-old or just sick.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe - (1983-1985)As much as you’re thinking this adaptation could actually be good, you’re wrong. Very wrong. Having a greased up man in his underwear on the screen swinging a giant broad sword and riding a battle cat might have been cool in the 80s (see: Arnold in Conan the Barbarian), but people, remember Brokeback Mountain? Please, let’s keep the mixed message movies with man riding to once every 20 years.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Comic Book Crushes Reveal the Type of Woman For You

The Bachelor Guy

Here's an article I wrote for a website called The Bachelor Guy. Since it's the kind of site where multiple people write under one nom de plume (notably, the bachelor guy), my name wasn't on the article. Que sera sera, I suppose.

Hope you enjoy the article. I plan to do another similar to this based on the cereal people eat.

Been through countless failed first dates and one night stands looking to find the right woman? Tired of your friends and family telling you what kind of girl you should be dating? Don’t sweat it. You can figure out which girl best suits you without spending hours stalking around on MySpace.Forget astrology. Forget eHarmony's compatibility profiling. The most telling sign of what type of woman does it for you is which comic book characters and anime heroines gave you that strange tingling feeling in your danger zone when you were a kid. She did it for you then, and someone just like her probably still does it for you now.

Rogue (X-Men): She's hot. She's sweet. She's dedicated to you and only you. And she can literally suck you dry of all your life energy. If Rogue's your type of girl then you need someone who is into commitment. And settling down. And being your everyone and everything. Twenty-four-freakin-hours-a-day. Look for a woman with few friends. And an obsessive personality. Someone with a lot of cats or an extensive ceramic unicorn collection, let's say. Take the long list of things she needs you to do over the weekend. Then hand over your wallet. Say goodbye to your friends. Turn over your balls. Because as soon as she knows you're willing to fall into a coma just for a single kiss, you're done.

Sailor Moon: Rarely seen without her fellow Sailor Scouts, she's part of a small, extremely tight-knit circle of friends. A bit flighty at certain times, and very self-centered the rest of the time, Sailor Moon demands a lot out of a man and expects to be swept off her feet. If Sailor Moon did it for you, you’re all about bravado and over-dramatic affection. You want a girl who'll bombard you with 15 emails the day you're introduced, tell you she loves you in the second or third email, and suggest her friends "come with" on your first date.

She-Hulk: The ultimate independent woman, She-Hulk can be a bit tomboyish at times, but man is she hot. (Looking past the whole green thing.) If the rock hard She-Hulk made certain parts of you rock hard, you're searching for a strong willed woman. A woman who takes control. Whether you want her to or not. You want a woman with fire and passion. Which can sometimes come bundled with a nasty temper. So don't push her. She might just push back. And send you hurdling through a brick wall.

Betty: Ah, Betty, the girl next door who likes to play sports and wear blue headbands. She never lets anyone get in the way of her fun. The perfect loyal girlfriend, she can tend to get a little catty when another woman moves in on her territory. (Especially black-haired hussies.) A Betty fan from way back? Find yourself a free-spirit who isn't afraid to hang out with the guys. Or fight for what's hers.

Marge Simpson (The Simpsons): They don’t get much more dedicated than Mrs. Simpson. Willing to put up with just about anything, Marge will wash your nasty underwear, cook your pork chops, and pop open a cold one for ya, as long as you can bring home the bacon and tell her every so often, in your own uncomfortable way, you love her. If gazing upon Marge's big blue beehive gets your loins a buzzin, then you need to find yourself a modern-day throwback to the women of yesteryear. A woman who waits on her man hand and foot. A woman who will pop out a bunch of kids and sacrifice her own dreams and desires to be a stay at home mom. A woman who stands behind her man no matter what kind of drunken, barely employable half-wit he might be. In other words, a woman who only exists in cartoons.

Betty Boop: Ultra flirty, ultra sexy, and ultra seductive, Ms. Boop was the kind of girl you wouldn’t dare bring home to mom, but would brag about to your dad while you’re out fishing. If you thought Betty was the bee's knees, you're looking for a gal who will give you the ride of your life. And give your brother the ride of his life. Same for your boss. And all your coworkers. You might find her in an online dating site. She's the one with two or three hundred "reviews". And the video tapes to prove it.

Olive Oyl (Popeye): Olive is the ultimate drama queen who likes to be the center of attention. And have guys fight over her. Constantly. If you ever sat in front of the TV looking to scrap with Popeye and Bluto for the right to claim Ms. Oyl, you're looking for a lady with a lot of baggage. Look for a single mom, with a bad-tempered ex looking to get back in the picture. I suggest hanging out at tractor pulls or the Jerry Springer Show. Contacting Britney Spears might be an option.

Bugs Bunny in Drag: This requires far more space than I have here.