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Hacking vs Editing, Wikipedia & Declan Donnelly

On the 18th of November 2018 the Wikipedia article for Declan Donnelly was edited and vandalised. Vandalism isn’t new on Wikipedia, it happens to all sorts of articles throughout every day. A few minutes after the vandalism the change made its way to Twitter and from there on to some media outlets such as thesun.co.uk and  metro.co.uk the following day, with another headline scaremongering and misleading using the word “hack”.

“I’m A Celebrity fans hack Declan Donnelly by changing his height on Wikipedia after Holly Willoughby mocks him”

Hacking has nothing to do with it. One of the definitions of hacking is to “gain unauthorized access to data in a system or computer”. What actually happened is someone, somewhere, edited the article, which everyone is able and authorized  to do. Editing is a feature, and its the main action that happens on Wikipedia.

The word ‘hack’ used to mean something, and hackers were known for their technical brilliance and creativity. Now, literally anything is a hack — anything — to the point where the term is meaningless, and should be retired.


The word ‘hack’ is meaningless and should be retired – 15 June 2018 by MATTHEW HUGHES
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freenode #live – Bristol 2018

freenode #live is a “community-focused live event designed to build and strengthen relationships between Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) developers and users”. The 2018 event was held in Bristol, United Kingdom at We the curious with roughly 100-200 people attending (from my guesswork).

The event essentially had a single track of talks. The old IMAX theatre above the Aquarium was used as an auditorium with various stalls for organizations set up outside. These stalls included KDE, Kiwi IRC, Private internet access and more.

Most of the talks were recorded and can be found on this YouTube playlist. Now for some of my main takeaways or points of note, most of which are IRC related, which might make sense as the conferences is called freenode #live…

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Wikidata is 6

It’s was Wikidata’s 6th birthday on the 30th of October 2018. WMUK celebrated this with a meetup on the 7th of November. They also made this great post event video.

Video from WMUK hosted Wikidata birthday event
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Wikidata Map October 2018

It has been another 6 months since my last post in the Wikidata Map series. In that time Wikidata has gained 4 million items, 1 property with the globe-coordinate data type (coordinates of geographic centre) and 1 million items with coordinates [1]. Each Wikidata item with a coordinate is represented on the map with a single dim pixel. Below you can see the areas of change between this new map and the once generated in March. To see the equivalent change in the previous 4 months take a look at the previous post.

Comparison of March 26th and October 1st maps in 2018
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Quickly clearing out your Facebook advert ‘interests’

Over the past years Facebook have had a few privacy related issues. First came the ‘scandal’ with Cambridge Analytica and more recently a bug (or series of bugs) that apparently affected 50 million accounts allowing peoples access tokens to be stolen. Oh, and there was also the story about Facebook using your 2 factor authentication phone number for targeting advertising.

With all of the goings on recently, as well as the new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in the EU, Facebook have attempted to make the data that they have about an individual easier to see, understand and edit or remove. One such section of this data covers your “ad preferences“.

Screenshot of Facebook ad preferences
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Wikibase extensions on Wikidata.org

Wikidata.org runs on MediaWiki with the Wikibase extension. But there is more to it than just that. The Wikibase extension itself is split into 3 different sections, being Lib, Repo and Client. There are also 6 other extensions all providing extra functionality to the site and it’s sisters. The extensions are also loaded on a different combination of Clients (such a Wikipedia) and the Repo itself (wikidata.org).

A diagram of current dependencies between the various Wikibase extensions running on wikidata.org
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WordPress plugins

A few people I know are now running WordPress installs, or are currently setting them up. The one question that always seems to come up while discussing them is “what plugins are best”? I try to sum up what I use below (in alphabetical order), as well as how these might be changing in the near future due to the new Gutenberg WordPress editor.

I won’t bother to list some of the more common plugins such as Akismet Anti-Spam or Jetpack, as these are already pretty visible in the WordPress world.

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Grafana, Graphite and maxDataPoints confusion for totals

The title is a little wordy, but I hope you get the gist. I just spent 10 minutes staring at some data on a Grafana dashboard, comparing it with some other data, and finding the numbers didn’t add up. Here is the story in case it catches you out.

The dashboard

The dashboard in question is the Wikidata Edits dashboard hosted on the Wikimedia Grafana instance that is public for all to see. The top of the dashboard features a panel that shows the total number of edits on Wikidata in the past 7 days. The rest of the dashboard breaks these edits down further, including another general edits panel on the left of the second row. 

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Using Hue & Hive to quickly determine Wikidata API maxlag usage

Hue, or Hadoop User Experience is described by its documentation pages as “a Web application that enables you to easily interact with an Hadoop cluster”.

The Wikimedia Foundation has a Hue frontend for their Hadoop cluster, which contains various datasets including web requests, API usage and the MediaWiki edit history for all hosted sites. The install can be accessed at https://hue.wikimedia.org/ using Wikimedia LDAP for authentication.

Once logged in Hue can be used to write Hive queries with syntax highlighting, auto suggestions and formatting, as well as allowing users to save queries with names and descriptions, run queries from the browser and watch hadoop job execution state.

The Wikidata & maxlag bit

MediaWiki has a maxlag API parameter that can be passed alongside API requests in order to cause errors / stop writes from happening when the DB servers are lagging behind the master. Within MediaWiki this lag can also be raised when the JobQueue is very full. Recently Wikibase introduced the ability to raise this lag when the Dispatching of changes to client projects is also lagged behind. In order to see how effective this will be, we can take a look at previous API calls.

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Python3, Using some shared state in 2 async methods

Python logoThe asyncio module was added to Python in version 3.4 to “provides infrastructure for writing single-threaded concurrent code using coroutines, multiplexing I/O access over sockets and other resources, running network clients and servers, and other related primitives”. If you want an introduction to asyncio take a look at this blog post.

This post will look at how to share state between multiple async methods that may be running at the same time without using anything silly like globals. The examples should be easy to follow and easy to extrapolate from. Also I’ll be embedding trinket.io  code snippets which you should be able to run in the browser.

Disclaimer: I don’t really write much python so there might be better solutions. This post is only meant to serve as a consolidation of knowledge to be passed to another.

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