Wikipedia – How it works

The Decline of Wikipedia

The community that built the largest encyclopedia in history is shrinking, even as more people and Internet services depend on it than ever. Can it be revived, or is this the end of the Web’s idealistic era?

  •                   By Tom Simonite on October 22, 2013
    .Also featured in: MIT Technology Review Magazine       November/December 2013 More in this issue »

The sixth most widely used website in the world is not run anything like the others in the top 10. It is not operated by a sophisticated corporation but by a leaderless collection of volunteers who generally work under pseudonyms and habitually bicker with each other. It rarely tries new things in the hope of luring visitors; in fact, it has changed little in a decade. And yet every month 10 billion pages are viewed on the English version of Wikipedia alone. When a major news event takes place, such as the Boston Marathon bombings, complex, widely sourced entries spring up within hours and evolve by the minute. Because there is no other free information source like it, many online services rely on Wikipedia. Look something up on Google or ask Siri a question on your iPhone, and you’ll often get back tidbits of information pulled from the encyclopedia and delivered as straight-up facts.

Yet Wikipedia and its stated ambition to “compile the sum of all human knowledge” are in trouble. The volunteer workforce that built the project’s flagship, the English-language Wikipedia—and must defend it against vandalism, hoaxes, and manipulation—has shrunk by more than a third since 2007 and is still shrinking. Those participants left seem incapable of fixing the flaws that keep Wikipedia from becoming a high-quality encyclopedia by any standard, including the project’s own. Among the significant problems that aren’t getting resolved is the site’s skewed coverage: its entries on Pokemon and female porn stars are comprehensive, but its pages on female novelists or places in sub-Saharan Africa are sketchy. Authoritative entries remain elusive. Of the 1,000 articles that the project’s own volunteers have tagged as forming the core of a good encyclopedia, most don’t earn even Wikipedia’s own middle-­ranking quality scores.

The main source of those problems is not mysterious. The loose collective running the site today, estimated to be 90 percent male, operates a crushing bureaucracy with an often abrasive atmosphere that deters newcomers who might increase participation in Wikipedia and broaden its coverage.

When Wikipedians achieved their most impressive feat of leaderless collective organization, they unwittingly set in motion the decline in participation that troubles their project today.

In response, the Wikimedia Foundation, the 187-person nonprofit that pays for the legal and technical infrastructure supporting Wikipedia, is staging a kind of rescue mission. The foundation can’t order the volunteer community to change the way it operates. But by tweaking Wikipedia’s website and software, it hopes to steer the encyclopedia onto a more sustainable path.

The foundation’s campaign will bring the first major changes in years to a site that is a time capsule from the Web’s earlier, clunkier days, far removed from the easy-to-use social and commercial sites that dominate today. “Everything that Wikipedia is was utterly appropriate in 2001 and it’s become increasingly out of date since,” says Sue Gardner, executive director of the foundation, which is housed on two drab floors of a downtown San Francisco building with a faulty elevator. “This is very much our attempt to get caught up.” She and Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, say the project needs to attract a new crowd to make progress. “The biggest issue is editor diversity,” says Wales. He hopes to “grow the number of editors in topics that need work.”

Whether that can happen depends on whether enough people still believe in the notion of online collaboration for the greater good—the ideal that propelled Wikipedia in the beginning. But the attempt is crucial; Wikipedia matters to many more people than its editors and students who didn’t make time to read their assigned books. More of us than ever use the information found there, both directly and via other services. Meanwhile, Wikipedia has either killed off the alternatives or pushed them down the Google search results. In 2009 Microsoft closed Encarta, which was based on content from several storied encyclopedias. Encyclopaedia Britannica, which charges $70 a year for online access to its 120,000 articles, offers just a handful of free entries plastered with banner and pop-up ads.

Newcomers Unwelcome When Wikipedia launched in 2001, it wasn’t intended to be an information source in its own right. Wales, a financial trader turned Internet entrepreneur, and Larry Sanger, a freshly minted philosophy PhD, started the site to boost Nupedia, a free online encyclopedia started by Wales that relied on contributions from experts. After a year, Nupedia offered a strange collection of only 13 articles on such topics as Virgil and the Donegal fiddle tradition. Sanger and Wales hoped Wikipedia, where anyone could start or modify an entry, would rapidly generate new articles that experts could then finish up.

When they saw how enthusiastically people embraced the notion of an encyclopedia that anyone could edit, Wales and Sanger quickly made Wikipedia their main project. By the end of its first year it had more than 20,000 articles in 18 languages, and its growth was accelerating fast. In 2003, Wales formed the Wikimedia Foundation to operate the servers and software that run Wikipedia and raise money to support them. But control of the site’s content remained with the community dubbed Wikipedians, who over the next few years compiled an encyclopedia larger than any before. Without any traditional power structure, they developed sophisticated workflows and guidelines for producing and maintaining entries. Their only real nod to hierarchy was electing a small group of “administrators” who could wield special powers such as deleting articles or temporarily banning other editors. (There are now 635 active admins on the English Wikipedia.)

The project seemed laughable or shocking to many. Wikipedia inherited and embraced the cultural expectations that an encyclopedia ought to be authoritative, comprehensive, and underpinned by the rational spirit of the Enlightenment. But it threw out centuries of accepted methods for attaining that. In the established model, advisory boards, editors, and contributors selected from society’s highest intellectual echelons drew up a list of everything worth knowing, then created the necessary entries. Wikipedia eschewed central planning and didn’t solicit conventional expertise. In fact, its rules effectively discouraged experts from contributing, given that their work, like anyone else’s, could be overwritten within minutes. Wikipedia was propelled instead by the notion that articles should pile up quickly, in the hope that one Borgesian day the collection would have covered everything in the world.

Progress was swift. The English-language Wikipedia alone had about 750,000 entries by late 2005, when a boom in media coverage and a spike in participation pushed the project across the line from Internet oddity to part of everyday life. Around that time, Wikipedians achieved their most impressive feat of leaderless collective organization—one, it turns out, that set in motion the decline in participation that troubles their project today. At some time in 2006, the established editors began to feel control of the site slipping from their grasp. As the number of new contributions—well-meaning and otherwise—was growing, the task of policing them all for quality began to feel impossible. Because of Wikipedia’s higher public profile and commitment to letting anyone contribute even anonymously, many updates were pure vandalism. High-profile incidents such as the posting of a defamatory hoax article about the journalist John Seigenthaler raised serious questions about whether crowdsourcing an encyclopedia, or anything else, could ever work.

As is typical with Wikipedians, a response emerged from a mixture of cordial discussions, tedious arguments, and online wrestling matches—but it was sophisticated. The project’s most active volunteers introduced a raft of new editing tools and bureaucratic procedures intended to combat the bad edits. They created software that allowed fellow editors to quickly survey recent changes and reject them or admonish their authors with a single mouse click. They set loose automated “bots” that could reverse any incorrectly formatted changes or those that were likely to be vandalism and dispatch warning messages to the offending editors.

The tough new measures worked. Vandalism was brought under control, and hoaxes and scandals became less common. Newly stabilized, and still growing in scope and quality, the encyclopedia became embedded in the firmament of the Web. Today the English Wikipedia has 4.4 million articles; there are 23.1 million more in 286 other languages. But those tougher rules and the more suspicious atmosphere that came along with them had an unintended consequence. Newcomers to Wikipedia making their first, tentative edits—and the inevitable mistakes—became less likely to stick around. Being steamrollered by the newly efficient, impersonal editing machine was no fun. The number of active editors on the English-language Wikipedia peaked in 2007 at more than 51,000 and has been declining ever since as the supply of new ones got choked off. This past summer only 31,000 people could be considered active editors.

“I categorize from 2007 until now as the decline phase of Wikipedia,” says Aaron Halfaker, a grad student at the University of Minnesota who has worked for the Wikimedia Foundation as a contractor and this year published the most detailed assessment of the problem. “It looks like Wikipedia is strangling itself for this resource of new editors.”

Halfaker’s study, which he conducted with a Minnesota colleague and researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Washington, analyzed Wikipedia’s public activity logs. The results paint a numerical picture of a community dominated by bureaucracy. Since 2007, when the new controls began to bite, the likelihood of a new participant’s edit being immediately deleted has steadily climbed. Over the same period, the proportion of those deletions made by automated tools rather than humans grew. Unsurprisingly, the data also indicate that well-intentioned newcomers are far less likely to still be editing Wikipedia two months after their first try.

In their paper on those findings, the researchers suggest updating Wikipedia’s motto, “The encyclopedia that anyone can edit.” Their version reads: “The encyclopedia that anyone who understands the norms, socializes him or herself, dodges the impersonal wall of semi-automated rejection and still wants to voluntarily contribute his or her time and energy can edit.”

Because Wikipedia has failed to replenish its supply of editors, its skew toward technical, Western, and male-dominated subject matter has persisted. In 2011, researchers from the University of Minnesota and three other schools showed that articles worked on mostly by female editors—which presumably were more likely to be of interest to women—were significantly shorter than those worked on mostly by male editors or by men and women equally. Another 2011 study, from the University of Oxford, found that 84 percent of entries tagged with a location were about Europe or North America. Antarctica had more entries than any nation in Africa or South America.

The Upgrade When asked about the decline in the number of editors, Gardner carefully explains that she is addressing it only as a precaution, because there’s no proof it is harming Wikipedia. But after a few minutes discussing the issue, it is clear that she believes Wikipedia needs help. A career journalist who headed the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s online operations before taking her current position, Gardner reaches for an analogy from the newsroom to explain why the trend matters. “The Wikipedians remind me of the crusty old desk guy who knows the style guide backwards,” she says. “But where are the eager cub reporters? You don’t get the crusty old desk guy out at three in the morning to cover a fire. That’s for the new guy, who’s got a lot of energy and potential. At Wikipedia we don’t have a sufficient influx of cub reporters.”

In 2012 Gardner formed two teams—now called Growth and Core Features—to try to reverse the decline by making changes to Wikipedia’s website. One idea from the researchers, software engineers, and designers in these groups was the “Thank” button, Wikipedia’s answer to Facebook’s ubiquitous “Like.” Since May, editors have been able to click the Thank button to quickly acknowledge good contributions by others. It’s the first time they have been given a tool designed solely to deliver positive feedback for individual edits, says Steven Walling, product manager on the Growth team. “There have always been one-button-push tools to react to negative edits,” he says. “But there’s never been a way to just be, like, ‘Well, that was pretty good, thanks.’” ­Walling’s group has focused much of its work on making life easier for new editors. One idea being tested offers newcomers suggestions about what to work on, steering them toward easy tasks such as copyediting articles that need it. The hope is this will give people time to gain confidence before they break a rule and experience the tough side of Wikipedia.

These might seem like small changes, but it is all but impossible for the foundation to get the community to support bigger adjustments. Nothing exemplifies this better than the effort to introduce the text editing approach that most people are familiar with: the one found in everyday word processing programs.

Since Wikipedia began, editing has required using “wikitext,” a markup language painful to the untrained eye. It makes the first sentence of Wikipedia’s entry for the United States look like this:

The ”’United States of America”’ (”’USA”’ or ”’U.S.A.”’), commonly referred to as the ”’United States”’ (”’US”’ or ”’U.S.”’) and ”’America”’, is a [[federal republic]]<ref>{{cite book |title=The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge, Second Edition: A Desk Reference for the Curious Mind |year=2007 |publisher=St. Martin’s Press |isbn=978-0312376598 |page=632}}</ref><ref>{{cite book|last=Onuf|first=Peter S.|title=The Origins of the Federal Republic: Jurisdictional Controversies in the United States, 1775–1787|year=1983|publisher=University of Pennsylvania Press |location= Philadelphia |isbn=978-0812211672}}</ref> consisting of 50 [[U.S. state|states]] and a [[Federal district (United States)|federal district]].

After years of planning, the foundation finally unveiled Visual Editor, an interface that hides the wikitext and offers “what you see is what you get” editing. It rolled out in a site-wide trial in July, with the expectation that it would soon become a permanent fixture.

But in the topsy-turvy world of the encyclopedia anyone can edit, it’s not a fringe opinion that making editing easier is a waste of time. The characteristics of a dedicated volunteer editor—Gardner lists “fussy,” “persnickety,” and “intellectually self-confident”—are not those that urge the acceptance of changes like Visual Editor.

After the foundation made Visual Editor the default way to edit entries, Wikipedians rebelled and complained of bugs in the software. In September, a Request for Comment, a survey of the community, concluded that the new interface should be hidden by default. The foundation initially refused, but in September a community–elected administrator released a modification to Wikipedia’s code to hide Visual Editor. The foundation gave in. It made Visual Editor opt-in rather than opt-out—meaning that the flagship project to help newcomers is in fact invisible to newcomers, unless they dig through account settings to switch the new interface on.

Many opponents of Visual Editor dispute the idea that it will help Wikipedia. “I don’t think this is the cure the foundation’s looking for,” says Oliver Moran, an Irish software engineer who has made thousands of edits since 2004 and is a top administrator. Like some other vocal Wikipedians, he considers it patronizing to say that wikitext keeps out certain people. “Look at something like Twitter,” he says. “People pick up the hashtags and @ signs straight away.” Much criticism of Visual Editor is also underpinned by a feeling that it proves the foundation is happy to make unilateral changes to a supposedly collaborative project. Moran says Visual Editor was rolled out without enough input from the people providing the voluntary labor Wikipedia is built on.

When asked to identify Wikipedia’s real problem, Moran cites the bureaucratic culture that has formed around the rules and guidelines on contributing, which have become labyrinthine over the years. The page explaining a policy called Neutral Point of View, one of “five pillars” fundamental to Wikipedia, is almost 5,000 words long. “That is the real barrier: policy creep,” he says. But whatever role that plays in Wikipedia’s travails, any effort to prune its bureaucracy is hard to imagine. It would have to be led by Wikipedians, and the most active volunteers have come to rely on bureaucratic incantations. Citing “WP:NPV” (the neutral point of view policy) or threatening to take a matter to ARBCOM (the arbitration committee for dispute resolution) in a way that suggests you know a lot about such arcana is easier than having a more substantive discussion.

This is not to say all Wikipedians disagree with the Wikimedia Foundation’s assessment of the site’s problems and its ideas for addressing them. But even grassroots initiatives to help Wikipedia can’t escape the community’s tendency to get bogged down in navel-gazing ­arguments.

In July 2012, some editors started a page called WikiProject Editor Retention with the idea of creating a place to brainstorm ideas about helping newcomers and fostering a friendlier atmosphere. Today the most vibrant parts of that project’s discussion page have gripes about “bullying done by administrators,” debates over whether “Wikipedia has become a bloody madhouse,” and disputes featuring accusations such as “You registered an account today just to have a go at me?”

Public Good Even though Wikipedia has far fewer active editors than it did in its heyday, the number and length of its articles continue to grow. This means the volunteers who remain have more to do, and Gardner says she can sense the effects: “Anecdotally, the editing community has a sense of feeling a little bit beleaguered and overworked.” A 2011 survey by the Wikimedia Foundation suggested that being an active editor already required a significant time commitment. Of 5,200 Wikipedians from all language editions of the project, 50 percent contributed more than one hour a day, and 20 percent edited for three or more hours a day. Wikipedia’s anti-abuse systems are probably effective enough to keep vandalism in check, says Halfaker, but the more complex work of improving, expanding, and updating articles may suffer: “When there’s fewer people working, less work gets done.”

When the topic of quality comes up, anyone affiliated with Wikipedia often points out that it is “a work in progress.” But such caveats aren’t very meaningful when the project’s content is put to use. When Google’s search engine puts Wikipedia content into a fact box to answer a query, or Apple’s Siri uses it to answer a question, the information is presented as authoritative. Google users are invited to report inaccuracies, but only if they spot and then click an easy-to-miss link to “feedback/more info.” Even then, the feedback goes to Google, not to Wikipedia itself.

Jimmy Wales, now just a regular Wikipedian but still influential with editors and the Wikimedia Foundation, dismisses suggestions that the project will get worse. But he believes it can’t get significantly better without an influx of new editors who have different interests and emphases. “When you look at the article on the USB standard, you see it is really amazing and core to our competency as a tech geek community, but look at an entry about somebody famous in sociology, or Elizabethan poets, and it is quite limited and short and could be improved,” he says. “That’s not likely to happen until we diversify the community.” Wales hopes Visual Editor will do that by attracting people who are similar to those already editing the site but have interests beyond the male- and tech-centric—as he puts it, “geeks who are not computer geeks.” But he admits to worrying that making Wikipedia simpler to edit could instead confirm that the project doesn’t appeal to people who are not computer geeks.

Indeed, larger cultural trends will probably make it a challenge to appeal to a broader section of the public. As commercial websites have risen to prominence, online life has moved away from open, self-governed crowdsourcing communities like the one that runs Wikipedia, says Clay Shirky, a professor in the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University. Shirky was one of the biggest boosters of an idea, popular during the previous decade, that the Web encouraged strangers to come together and achieve things impossible for a conventional organization. Wikipedia is proof there was some truth to that notion. But today’s Web is dominated by sites such as Facebook and Twitter, where people maintain personal, egocentric feeds. Outside specific settings like massive multiplayer games, relatively few people mingle in shared virtual space. Instead, they use mobile devices that are unsuited to complex creative work and favor neatly self-­contained apps over messier, interconnected Web pages. Shirky, who is an advisor to the Wikimedia Foundation, says people steeped in that model will struggle to understand how and why they should contribute to Wikipedia or any project like it. “Facebook is the largest participatory culture today, but their mode of participation is different,” he says. “It’s aggregating rather than collaborating.”

Gardner agrees that today’s Web is hostile to self-organized collective efforts, likening it to a city that has lost its public parks. “Our time is spent on an increasingly small number of increasingly large corporate sites,” she says. “We need more public space online.” In fact, Gardner is leaving the foundation at the end of the year in search of new projects to work on that very problem. She contends that even with all its troubles, Wikipedia is one of the Web’s few public parks that won’t disappear.

She is surely right that Wikipedia isn’t going away. On Gardner’s watch, the funds the Wikimedia Foundation has raised each year to support the site have grown from $4 million to $45 million. Because the encyclopedia has little competition, Web developers will continue to build services that treat its content as fact, and ordinary people will rely on Wikipedia for information.

Yet it may be unable to get much closer to its lofty goal of compiling all human knowledge. Wikipedia’s community built a system and resource unique in the history of civilization. It proved a worthy, perhaps fatal, match for conventional ways of building encyclopedias. But that community also constructed barriers that deter the newcomers needed to finish the job. Perhaps it was too much to expect that a crowd of Internet strangers would truly democratize knowledge. Today’s Wikipedia, even with its middling quality and poor representation of the world’s diversity, could be the best encyclopedia we will get.

Electricity industry must open its eyes to benefits of homes installing solar panels

By Rob Stokes

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'Solar panels have moved from being a fringe technology to a disruptive technology, challenging the way energy businesses operate.'‘Solar panels have moved from being a fringe technology to a disruptive  technology, challenging the way energy businesses operate.’ Photo: Emma  Kelly

Solar panels are revolutionising the Australian electricity market.  The pace  of change is faster than official projections, and the effects  on customers and  energy companies are profound and irreversible.

Australian homes and businesses have installed almost three gigawatts of  rooftop solar photovoltaics  –   one of the highest rates  in the world.

Solar  panels have moved from being a fringe technology to a disruptive  technology,  challenging the way energy businesses operate.  As with every  revolution, the solar  revolution is facing a reactionary response by the  established order.

Last week the body charged with the development and maintenance of the   national electricity market, the Australian Energy Market Commission,  set out  its   priorities for  developing  the electricity market.

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One sentence in the report grabbed my attention in particular: “Stakeholders  are concerned that network costs of consumers with solar  are cross-subsidised  by other consumers, due to current inefficiencies in network tariffs.”

In other words, energy companies want households with solar panels to pay  more to access the electricity grid than customers without solar.  The idea is  that because  electricity pricing reflects the total volume of energy taken from  the grid, households generating some  energy are not paying their fair share of  the cost of being connected to the network, and should therefore compensate  those who buy more electricity.

This is a really bad idea. First, it is  unfair.  In  the past few years,  more than 1 million  households have installed solar panels on the understanding  that they would pay the same amount for  electricity they buy as everyone  else.

Second, it is discriminatory.   Solar panel users are not the only  electricity customers having  an impact on the electricity grid.  The  installation of cheap, imported airconditioning units in hundreds of thousands  of households in recent years is a big contributor to the rise  in capital  spending by networks to enable them to meet peak demand.

However, I cannot imagine  anyone seriously arguing that households with  airconditioners should pay more network costs than other customers.

So, why is solar energy  being targeted?  Perhaps because solar-powered   households buy less electricity than non-solar households with  airconditioning?

While solar  might disrupt the way in which the electricity grid operates,  rooftop solar in the right locations can actually help to defray network  upgrades by supplying energy in constrained areas of the grid to meet demand  spikes.  The hot, sunny weather that induces people to buy airconditioning also  generates lots of  photovoltaic electricity.

A strategic approach to solar panels  can lessen  the need to bolster  the   grid, the main contributor to higher  electricity prices.

Finally, the idea of slugging solar households for extra network costs is bad  politics. Already 1 million households have solar  panels and the  government  plans to support installation  for another  million.

Rather than seeking to target and penalise households that are taking  advantage of renewable energy technology to lower  their bills and environmental  impact, it is time for energy businesses to change their thinking to embrace  innovation,  rather than thinking up ways to stop it.

Dr Rob Stokes is the NSW parliamentary secretary for renewable  energy and energy innovation. He does not own solar panels, or an  airconditioning unit.

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50 rules for doing business in Australia

50 rules for doing business in Australia


Date  October  24, 2013        by  Paul  Colgan &amp;amp;lt;iframe id=”dcAd-1-3″ src=”;cat1=management;ctype=article;cat=exec;sz=120×50;tile=3;ord=8.0996905E7?&#8221; width=’120′ height=’50’ scrolling=”no” marginheight=”0″ marginwidth=”0″ allowtransparency=”true” frameborder=”0″&amp;amp;gt; &amp;amp;lt;/iframe&amp;                

Rule #7: Never wear shorts in the office (unless you’re on the way to the  beach).

Australia has a dynamic, diverse business community and despite the country’s  reputation for being laid back, there are some rules of engagement.

We spoke with business leaders including CEOs, company directors, and  successful people in finance, construction, IT, and media sectors about what’s  really expected when doing business in modern Australia. Here’s the result.

What to wear

Rule #4: We don't want to see them.Rule #4: We don’t want to see them. Photo: iStock

1. Contrary to the rules everywhere else in the world, it’s OK to wear a  double-cuff shirt and cufflinks without a tie.

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2. Black shoes and a black belt for men in a suit. No exceptions.

3. A bloke can never, ever have dyed blonde hair, highlights, or tips. A buzz  cut is just fine.

Rule #24: Never be rude to the waiter.

4. If you have tattoos that can be seen through your shirt, for God’s sake,  wear an under-shirt so we don’t have to look at them.

5. Suits with a large pin stripe are for corporate lawyers, bankers and  company directors only.

6. If your boss wears a tie every day, wear a tie every day.

7. The only time shorts are OK in the office is when you rock in on a  Saturday to pick something up on the way to the beach.

8. Only Twiggy and Clive get to wear a yellow tie.

9. A beard is fine but you’d better grow it on a week off and trim it  weekly.

10. In the main, dress for the weather. While there may be standard business  attire there’s nothing more wince-inducing than someone in too many layers on a  hot day.

11. But no matter how hot it is, it’s never too hot to turn up to a finance  client meeting without a jacket.

12. And no, you can’t wear a t-shirt under the jacket.

13. If in doubt, dress like the CEO.

What to say

14. Once an hour’s up in the meeting, stop babbling and leave. That’s all the  time you get.

15. Having an opinion your peers don’t like is better than having nothing to  say at all.

16. Don’t say “at the end of the day”. Ever.

17. If you have a hang-up about diversity, know that in the small pool of  Australia’s elite CEOs, one is a gay Irishman and another is a mum of triplets.  Consider this for five seconds before opening your mouth.

18. Nobody cares how busy you are.

19. Be to-the-point. Have the conversation but do it efficiently and out of  the way. People will appreciate getting the time back; it’s like giving a small  gift.

20. Melbourne folks want to know who your family is and where you went to  school.

21. Brisbane people want to know where you were born and if you are buying  the drinks.

22. Sydneysiders want to know what they can get from you and when you are  leaving.

23. Adelaide people should order the wine and are more connected than you  think.

24. Being rude to a waiter is the biggest sin.

25. You don’t have to be interested in sport but you do need to know which  teams are doing well and which ones suck.

26. They are either rugby fans or league fans. Never both.

27. Gossip is like exactly like Facebook. It’s excellent, and best used  judiciously and infrequently.

28. If meeting someone from Sydney, ask where they went to school. Make it  your business to know someone from every school and recite the relevant alumni  at every opportunity.

29. Talking about your degree is fine as long as you remember something  interesting that you learnt. Don’t just talk about your days at university.

30. It’s OK to talk about your successes. People will happily steal the  IP.

31. You don’t need to point out the douchebag. Everyone has spotted him or  her already.

32. Beers are sacred, so no pitching for business in the bar. Exchanging  advice is fine.

33. Be original. Never tell a story the same way twice in meetings. You will  be caught.

What to do

34. Know what’s making news.

35. Have plans for the weekend.

36. Start early.

37. Pay the lunch bill without expecting anything in return.

38. Respect the advice of people who are more experienced than you, but do  not take it as gospel.

39. Research the person you are meeting. Be familiar with their  achievements.

Humility, like chivalry, should never die.

40. Don’t schedule meetings on Friday afternoon, unless there are drinks  involved.

41. Australians love to travel and tell stories, so it’s a career investment  to go to interesting places.

42. No sympathy for the hangover. You can — and will — be at work.

43. Put your phone away in meetings. You’re not that important.

44. The maximum number of times you can check your phone during lunch is  twice.

45. Don’t ever call just to “touch base”. What does that even mean?

46. Aim to show up two minutes early to every external meeting. If you’re  going to be more than three minutes late, text your appointment to let them  know.

47. Look people in the eye.

48. Follow up.

49. Don’t try to kick off a major project between Christmas and Australia  Day, Not only is it un-Australian, but it will fail.

50. Decide. It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.


Do you agree or disagree? Can you think of any  more?

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Report cites Iran gas pipeline as ‘economic death sentence’

In this Monday, March 11, 2013 file photo, Iranian welders work on a pipeline to transfer natural gas from Iran to Pakistan, in Chabahar, near the Pakistani border, southeastern Iran. – AP Photo

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s plan to import natural gas by pipeline from neighboring Iran would be an economic ”death sentence” for the country because the gas price is too high, a Pakistani advocacy group said in a report released Wednesday.

Despite US pressure, the Pakistani government struck a deal with Iran to import gas in the hope of relieving the country’s energy crisis, especially the shortage of electricity.

Gas is used to fire many of Pakistan’s power plants, but insufficient quantities mean rolling blackouts are common.

The Islamabad-based Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) said in its report that the contract with Iran means the gas sold to Pakistan likely will be several times more expensive than the domestic gas currently used.

“This is a death sentence for Pakistan’s economy,” the report said. It criticised Pakistani officials who “blatantly ignored the energy dynamics and its pricing while going for this deal.”

An official at the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources rejected the report, saying the pipeline project was good for Pakistan. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to journalists.

The advocacy group’s findings represent the latest challenge to the plan. There are also serious doubts about how Pakistan could finance the at least $1.5 billion needed to construct the pipeline and whether it could go through with the project without facing US sanctions in place over Iran’s nuclear program.

“This gas will be an economic disaster for us,” said the lead author of the report, Arshad Abbasi, at its release in Islamabad.

The chief guest was Shamsul Mulk, an ex-chairman of Pakistan’s water and power authority and former head of the advocacy group’s board of governors. Many other former senior officials and academics are affiliated with the institute.

The report called on the Pakistani government to renegotiate its contract with Iran and uncouple the price of gas with the cost of oil. That could produce lower gas prices that are closer to Pakistan’s domestic cost of gas.

The agreement with Iran stipulates that Pakistan must construct its side of the pipeline by December 2014. If the country fails to meet this deadline, it will be liable to pay fines that could run into the millions of dollars per day.

The Iranian government says it has built 900 kilometers (560 miles) of the pipeline on its side of the border, with about 320 kilometers (200 miles) remaining to be built inside Iran. The Pakistan segment of the pipeline is expected to be about 780 kilometers (500 miles) and has not yet been constructed.

The US has opposed the project, instead promoting an alternative pipeline that runs from the gas fields of Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and then to India. The US also has championed a number of electricity generation projects within Pakistan, such as helping renovate hydropower dams.

The advocacy group also championed the use of hydropower, which is much cheaper than gas but can require significant up-front costs.

Pakistan for years secretly approved of US drone attacks on its territory

2013-10-24 – Pakistan secretly endorsed drone strikes: report

WASHINGTON: Pakistan for years secretly approved of US drone attacks on its territory despite public denunciations, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing secret documents.

The purported evidence of Islamabad’s involvement came as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited the White House and urged an end to the attacks, which are widely unpopular with the Pakistani public.

Pakistani support for drone attacks has long been widely suspected, although strikes reported by the Post involved several years up to 2011 — before a slowdown in strikes and Sharif’s election in May.

The newspaper said that top-secret documents and Pakistani diplomatic memos showed that the Central Intelligence Agency had drafted documents to share information on drone attacks with Pakistan.

The report by the Washington post comes just days after a separate UN report suggested that there was  “strong evidence” that top Pakistani military and intelligence officials approved US drone strikes on Pakistani soil during 2004 and 2008.

At least 65 drone strikes were marked for discussion with Pakistan, including through briefings at its embassy in Washington and in materials sent physically to senior officials in Islamabad.

In one case in 2010, a document describes hitting a location “at the request of your government.” Another file referred to a joint effort at picking targets.

The article — co-written by Bob Woodward, one of the two journalists who broke the Watergate scandal in the 1970s — said that the documents also showed that the United States raised concerns that extremists were linked to Pakistan’s powerful intelligence service.

In one incident, then secretary of state Hillary Clinton confronted Pakistan about cell phones and written materials from dead bodies of militants that showed links to the Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

In turn, a Pakistani memo gave the names of 36 US citizens believed to be CIA agents and urged the embassy in Washington not to issue visas to them, the newspaper said.

The report came a day after Amnesty International said that the United States may have broken international law by killing civilians with drones.

It pointed to an October 2012 attack that killed a 68-year-old grandmother as she picked vegetables. For the first six months of 2011, 152 combatants were killed, according to a table cited by the Post that did not list any civilian casualties.

The Obama administration has defended drone strikes as a better way to avoid civilian casualties, saying that it carefully selects Al-Qaeda-linked extremists in lawless parts of Pakistan.

Students walk against Polio

Students walk against Polio – October 25, 2013\10\25\story_25-10-2013_pg12_4

KARACHI: The district administration of Karachi Central on Thursday marked the World Polio Virus Eradication Day through active participation of teachers, students of local seminaries and schools in a public awareness walk.
The walk led by Deputy Commissioner Dr Syed Saifur Rehman that started from Katti Pahari of Shahrah-e-Noor Jehan was symbolic, as the area was registered as largely inhabited by people reluctant to get their children vaccinated against polio.
Carrying banners and placards inscribed with public health messages about the relevance of oral vaccines against poliovirus, they urged their elders to respect their right to a quality and impairment-free life.
Many of the teachers accompanying students said lessons must be incorporated into  curriculum about prevention of different diseases.
Some of the parents, particularly mothers, present on the occasion said communities needed to get together to counter elements trying to sabotage polio eradication efforts in the country.
Many of them also had their reservations on the commitment of the polio workers and questioned absence of strict vigilance vis a vis monitoring of their performance. Some of them also questioned arrangements made to maintain the cold chain, pre-requisite for efficacy of the OPV.
Pakistan, in the current year has reported more than 40 cases of polio, mainly pertaining to tribal areas and KPK. However, three cases each have also been reported from Sindh and Punjab.
Reports of people refusing to administer vaccines to their children have also surfaced from Karachi.
DC Rehman said religious scholars, imams of mosques and administrators of religious centres pertaining to all religions and schools of thought have also been taken on board to counter the misconceptions being generated by unscrupulous elements. app

Saudi Arabia warns women against defying driving ban

Saudi Arabia warns women against defying driving ban – October 25, 2013\10\25\story_25-10-2013_pg4_12

* Ministry says laws of kingdom prohibit activities disturbing public peace and opening venues to sedition
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Thursday warned it will take measures against activists who go ahead with a planned weekend campaign to defy a ban on women drivers in the conservative kingdom.
“It is known that women in Saudi are banned from driving and laws will be applied against violators and those who demonstrate in support” of this cause, Interior Ministry spokesman General Mansur al-Turki told AFP.
Activists have called on social networks for Saudi women, individually, to go behind the wheel on Saturday, in a campaign in the world’s only country that bans women from driving.
On Wednesday, the Interior Ministry issued a statement saying it would crack down against anyone who attempts to “disturb public peace” by congregating or marching “under the pretext of an alleged day of female driving.”
“The laws of the kingdom prohibit activities disturbing the public peace and opening venues to sedition which only serve the senseless, the ill-intentioned, intruders, and opportunity hunters,” said the statement carried by the official SPA news agency.
It added that the Interior Ministry “will fully and firmly enforce the laws against violators”.
Turki insisted that “all gatherings are prohibited” in Saudi Arabia.
Rights watchdog Amnesty International urged the Saudi authorities not to thwart the women’s right to drive, saying the ban was “demeaning”.
“It is astonishing that in the 21st century the Saudi Arabian authorities continue to deny women the right to legally drive a car,” said Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa programme head, Philip Luther.
“The driving ban is inherently discriminatory and demeaning to women and must be overturned immediately. It is completely unacceptable for the authorities to stand in the way of activists planning to campaign against it.
“Instead of repressing the initiative, the authorities must immediately lift the ban to ensure that women are never again arrested or punished simply for being behind the wheel of a car.”
Women who defied the law in the past ran into trouble with the authorities and were harassed by compatriots.
In 1990, authorities stopped 47 women who got behind the wheel in a demonstration against the driving ban
In 2011, activist Manal al-Sharif, one of the organisers of this Saturday’s campaign, was arrested and held nine days for posting online a video of herself behind the wheel.
That year Saudi police arrested a number of women who defied the driving ban and forced them to sign a pledge not to drive again.
Activists have repeatedly insisted throughout their campaign that no demonstrations will be held.
“October 26 is a day on which women in Saudi Arabia will say they are serious about driving and that this matter must be resolved,” the Dubai-based Sharif has told AFP about the weekend protest.
She said women have begun responding to the call and over the past two weeks have posted videos online showing women already driving in Saudi Arabia.
With the exception of two women who were briefly stopped by police, authorities have so far not intervened to halt any of the female motorists.
Amnesty quoted one woman involved in the campaign as saying: “This is a natural right for us, a most simple and basic right, it relates to our freedom of movement… and give us a sense of control over our lives.”
Saudi women are forced to cover from head to toe and need permission from a male guardian to travel, work and marry. afp

World Polio Day : Aseefa urges society, media to help eradicate polio

World Polio Day : Aseefa urges society, media to help eradicate polio – October 25, 2013\10\25\story_25-10-2013_pg7_14

KARACHI: On the occasion of World Polio Day, Aseefa Bhutto Zardari urged all sections of society and media to support efforts to eradicate polio from Pakistan.
Aseefa emphasised on measures to completely eradicate the potentially fatal and infectious disease of polio from the country and achieve the status of polio-free Pakistan. “Let us all, as a nation, be united for the sake of our own children,” she said. “I feel a special responsibility towards eradicating polio from the country, as I was the first ever Pakistani child to have been administered polio drops by my mother Shaheed Mohtarama Benazir Bhutto as the prime minister of Pakistan, when the anti-polio campaign was formally launched on April 27, 1994 under her watch.”
“My mother left a great vision and I will give my best to carry her legacy to make Pakistan a polio-free country,” said Aseefa. “I salute the brave anti-polio workers on the ground, going door to door to ensure children’s safety. I would like to thank WHO, UNICEF, The Gates Foundation, Rotary International and so many others for their continued support. Awareness is the first step towards prevention. I will and I hope others will join me too into continuing to spread the word, go door to door and help in any way they can help to achieve a polio-free Pakistan. Our commitment must be unwavering.”
Aseefa said that now is our chance to beat polio and we must seize it. “Polio is preventable and we must do everything possible to make Pakistan polio-free and save our children from this crippling disease.”

POLIO – Pakistan – Fatwa

Fatwa declares polio vaccine Islamic  –\10\25\story_25-10-2013_pg1_2

LAHORE: The Darul Afta (fatwa council) of Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) has issued a fatwa, saying that the administration of polio drops to children is not forbidden in Islam. It says prominent scholars and experts of the Muslim world are convinced that polio drops do not contain anything that is harmful to health or against sharia. The fatwa issued from the PUC’s central office refers to Shaykh Al-Azhar of Jamia Al-Azhar Egypt, Maulana Samiul Haq of Darul Uloom Haqqania, Mufti Rafi Usmani, Maulana Zahid Mahmood Qasmi, Mufti Muhammad Naeem, Maulana Abdul Bari of Qabail Ulema Council, Maulana Anwarul Haq Mujahid, PUC Central Chairman Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi and other Islamic leaders. The fatwa says that the holy Quran and Sunnah command us to provide proper medication to our children. It notes that polio is an incurable disease once infected. There are only three Islamic countries where polio still exists and one of them is Pakistan. Therefore, Islamic scholars have urged parents to administer polio drops to their children. The fatwa also demands the UN formulate laws to ensure global spies are kept away from healthcare organisations. It strongly condemns the actions of Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani physician who helped CIA track al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and says that people in tribal regions and many areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan have refused to administer polio drops to their children to protest against the actions of Shakil Afridi. staff report



highest ranking female police officer in Pakistan’s KP

Updated 2013-10-21 08:53:54

ABBOTTABAD: When Shazadi Gillani, the highest ranking female police officer in Pakistan’s most conservative province, wanted to join the force she had to defy her father, forego marriage and pay for her own basic training.

During the next 19 years, Inspector Gillani and her faithful sidekick Rizwana Zafar, brought up as a boy after becoming her frustrated father’s ninth daughter, have battled bandits, earthquakes and militants.

The Taliban are so pervasive in Gillani’s northern Khyber Pakhunkhwa province that she wears a burqa, a head-to-toe robe with a small mesh window for the eyes, when she travels.

Zafar dons a fake moustache to escort her.

But the women’s biggest challenge is helping new female police recruits.

Women make up just 560 of the province’s 60,000-strong force.

Police chiefs hope to double that within a year, but tough working conditions make recruitment hard.

There have been small victories.

Germany funded female dormitories at three training colleges.

Women recruits no longer wait years for basic training.

This summer, the province opened women’s complaint desks in 60 male-run police stations.

Many Pakistani women face horrifying violence and officials hope more abused women will report attacks. Tradition forbids them from speaking to male officers.

The province opened two women-only police stations in 1994.

But they have long been starved of resources and responsibility.

“We are fighting a war in the workplace,” said Zafar, whose uniform sports a karate patch. “We are supporting our juniors. There was no one to support us.”

From schoolgirls to cops

As a schoolgirl, Gillani wanted to join the army like her father. They were not recruiting, so she proposed the police instead. Her father and seven brothers were horrified.

“They said police disrespected women,” she said, auburn hair peeping out from her cap. “I had a lot of opposition.”

After a week of refusing to eat, and lobbying by her college lecturer mother, Gillani’s father gave in. He had three conditions: Be brave. Marry your job. Bring a friend.

So Gillani recruited her school friend Zafar.

Zafar cut her hair short and dressed like a boy. She taught herself to ride motorbikes, use computers and fix engines. She is Gillani’s bodyguard, assistant and friend.

“I don’t cook. I don’t have a dress. I’m not scared of anyone except God,” Zafar said. “We protect each other, we guard each other. When one is sleeping, the other is awake.”

When a colleague tried to force his way into their tent after an earthquake levelled their town, Zafar and Gillani fought him off together.

Women police were not respected when Gillani joined, but the military was.

Her army major father shoehorned them into courses and footed the bill.

Gillani’s training cost $2,000.

The money was returned eight years later.

Not everyone had a powerful father.

Rozia Altaf joined 16 years ago and waited six years and submitted more than 50 applications to get her basic training.

Now head of the women-only station in the provincial capital of Peshawar, she says things have changed, a little.

“We were neglected,” she said, waving a dismissive hand. “But now I make sure my junior officers get training and promotions on time.”

The Peshawar women-only station gets about 50 complaints a year, far less than a male-run station.

The last crime reported at the Abbottabad women-only station was in 2005.

Station head Samina Zafar sits at a bare desk in an empty room lit by a single naked bulb.

“We are not given good facilities,” she said. “I want this place to be like a man’s police station.”

Attackers rarely prosecuted

Women do prefer to confide in female officers, says professor Mangai Natarajan, who studied women police stations.

She says domestic violence accounted for two-thirds of cases reported to women’s stations in India’s Tamil Nadu state.

Police mediation reduced violence for half the complainants.

No Pakistani data exists.

The women’s desks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa receive a complaint every few days, mostly domestic violence.

The attacker is usually simply rebuked. Victims fear a formal case will bring further violence.

But some policemen still say no woman willing to join the police is worth having.

“Women who join the force don’t care for their reputations or have nowhere else to go,” said one senior officer.

Gillani and Zafar are infuriated by such talk.

“If people see women police doing their jobs well, they will change their minds,” said Gillani, supervising the fingerprinting of a tearful accused kidnapper.

While she must wear a burqa to head home, she refuses to do so in the station.

“If we are doing the job of a man, why should we not show our faces?” she asked. “Change is a challenge for all of society, not just police.”