Wiki-worlds Need More Women & Less Snarky-ness!

Delete Wikipedia Toronto What is it about the Wiki-worlds that seems to encourage no boundaries, let it rip, snarky-ness?  I don’t get it, but I’m pretty sure it needs to be fixed.

Two cases in point:  New York Times editor Bill Keller’s piece on Julian Assange and Wikileaks and the “calling all women” initiative at Wikipedia’s 10th birthday bash.

I’m sure I’m the only one, but the Times when over board this weekend with “all the news the elites can eat!” as their new slogan, and they did so without the least hint of irony.  Here they are doing an “insta-book” on their redaction of the Wikileaks documents triangulated to them via Julian Assange, and they are selling the insta-book for money, but they then think that they should also distance themselves from their golden news goose by making fun of him, trivializing his real situation, and thereby acting like their inside baseball slams that he was a “source” rather than a fellow “journalist” has some meaning to the poor readers.  They think he is paranoid because he is moving all around London believing he may be followed or others are trying to get him, but he’s in jail now and in fact there’s every reason to believe he was being pursued.  They are offended in equal measure when their reporter first meets him in London because he was (a) tall and (b) smelled a bit ripe.  They need to get past their hangups with being short, ok?  And, is it now part of the Times style book under Keller and his snarky crew to comment on the scent of every “source.”  Might have to rewrite a lot of the reports from other climates without the air conditioning of the Times building in New York.  They make a big point that Assange didn’t trust them.  Hmmm….given how they so demonstrably were dealing with him, seems Assange was perfectly tuned into them.

So for the Times, how about learning a little, “just the facts, ma’am,” huh?

And, speaking of the facts, Wikipedia celebrated its 10th birthday and enormous accomplishments, but could not escape recognition of the fact that of their huge army of contributors, only 15% are women, and that’s a problem.  They make some claims about what they are doing about that but part of the real problem, I’ll bet is once again the snaky-ness quotient.  If anyone has ever tried to correct an error in Wikipedia, good luck and I hope you are ready to quit your full-time job.  It’s an endless maze of contention as you try to correct something and endure the aims of others trying to distort the story.  I learned all about this in the ACORN-wars with the right.  Eventually you throw your hands up.

Small example.  I learned recently that Gary Delgado, the first great organizer I ever hired at ACORN, had even written Wikipedia to try and get them to correct the listings in various spots that he and I were co-founders of ACORN.  I had just sort of shrugged, though it is a little vexing when so many people try to go to Wikipedia as the source for real information.  Eventually in the push with the right and others with different interests, Wikipedia simply doesn’t allow changes to be made at all, so whatever is wrong, becomes wrong forever (or a while), who knows?

For a while my daughter and some of her friends took it as a project to try and fix the ACORN listings on Wikipedia.  Talk about the “wall of hate” they were scaling, wow!  They ended up stepping back because no one had time to keep up with the haters out there and their project to defame and distort.

So, I love the call for women to step up and make sure that “their facts” are welcome at Wikipedia, but unless Wikipedia can control the contention and the misogyny of too many folks who contribute but have a horse in the wrong race, this is going to still be an unregulated and unfriendly environment for folks more comfortable with snarky than the facts in Wiki-world.


More Tenants? More Rights!

2739044670_102bbef9d9-1Toronto Given the housing and foreclosure crisis in the United States, it was not surprising to see that homeownership rates have fallen rapidly in recent years.  The Wall Street Journal published an estimate saying:

The nation’s home-ownership rate is also falling, to 67% of U.S. households in 2010, after topping 69% in 2004, according to the Census Bureau, with further declines expected. Each 1% decline represents one million households moving to rentals, housing experts say.

Conservatively that means 2 million fewer homeowners in the USA.  Where are they going?  Into rentals.  The same WSJ article estimates the following:

Renter households now top a record 37 million after increasing more than 3.5 million in the past five years, partly due to the foreclosure crisis. Green Street Advisors expects an additional 4.4 million rental households to be added by 2015.

Part of this increase is fueled by the transfer of owners to renters and part of it is undoubtedly fueled by the tightening credit markets that will produce longer term rents, particularly among the young in expanding markets.

It is hard not to think about tenants in Toronto.  At best only 50% of the city is composed of homeowners and estimates are only a little better than 60% in the greater Toronto area.  In the neighborhoods where ACORN Canada organizers virtually everyone is a tenant in one high rise complex after another.  The longest running organizing campaign not surprisingly has been the effort to win what we call, “landlord licensing,” which would be a process of licensing (and de-licensing) based on inspections (which would lead to repairs and improvements) and finally assure our tenants safe, decent, and even affordable housing.  In this long running battle the real estate interests cry like stuck pigs at our every proposal, but there has been sure and steady progress.  Last year winning a better auditing and inspections process, even though far short of licensing, according to the City of Toronto housing department led to $100 million in landlord upgrades and improvements.  Now ACORN Canada is trying to secure another small, but significant victory in this guerrilla campaign where a box would be required in the lobby of all major apartment complexes where the audit reports and improvements would be available to any tenant seeking to rent creating a transparency that would hopefully steer tenants towards better properties and shame landlords into making needed repairs.

There’s no way to imagine cities with burgeoning numbers of tenants who will no longer be seeing apartments as way stations to homeownership but increasingly as permanent addresses and not realize that the long imbalance where landlords have held the upper hand and tenants in most cities and states have been virtually stripped of any rights, as a time bomb ticking.  New construction of apartment blocks is being accompanied by rental inflation, so there are bound to once again be calls for controls if (when?) greed laps past demand, but perhaps even more urgently there will need to be tenant rights campaigns, like the ones in Toronto, to secure basic housing decency for the millions and millions who now understand that apartments are central to the urban future.