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Data Sheet—How We Can All Fix Wikipedia’s Lack of Female Representation

October 4, 2018, 1:25 PM UTC

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On Tuesday morning, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced three winners for this year’s Nobel prize in Physics. As we mentioned in Data Sheet, one of those winners–Donna Strickland of the University of Waterloo—was the first woman to win the award in 55 years and only the third woman ever, following atomic modeler Maria Goeppert Mayer in 1963 and radiation research pioneer Marie Curie in 1903. As has also been widely reported, Strickland was also the only one of those three women who lacked a Wikipedia page prior to Tuesday.

Back in March, someone tried to write a Wikipedia entry for one of the most important optical physicists on the planet, only to have their proposed entry rejected on May 23 by one of Wikipedia’s volunteer editing crew because the “submission is about a person not yet shown to meet notability guidelines.” That the draft entry cited four major scientific awards Strickland had won and her stint as president of the Optical Society seemingly went over the head of said editor. As Quartz pointed out, the sad story isn’t all that surprising, as only 17% of Wikipedia’s biographical articles are about women. Thankfully, yesterday’s female Nobel winner, chemist Frances Arnold of CalTech, was not among the overlooked—she’s had a page since 2008.

The overall state affairs remains sad, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. Recently, the New York Times decided to begin correcting a terrible historical oversight in its obituaries. Since 1851 and until only a few decades ago, the paper ran obits mainly for men and overlooked the lives of hundreds or perhaps thousands of worthy female subjects. Even pretty famous people like the poet Sylvia Plath, the writer Charlotte Bronte, and the photographer Diane Arbus were ignored at their passing. Now the paper is trying to rectify those oversights by slowly adding obituaries for people from the past. Some recent entries include journalist and anti-lynching advocate Ida Wells, who died in 1931, and Chinese poet Qiu Jin, who passed away in 1907.

Fixing the thousands of overlooked women, alive and dead, in Wikipedia could be even easier. That’s because anyone can write an entry in the gigantic online encyclopedia. The site itself has an excellent beginner’s guide to writing entries. Physics researcher Jess Wade is already hard at work on the task—she’s added hundreds of entries covering women scientists. As they say in journalism, write what you know. Who’s a leader, a standout, a pioneering woman in your field who is lacking a Wikipedia entry? What are you waiting for, get busy.

Aaron Pressman


How truly magnificent a motor car can be. Which automaker has the best autonomous driving system so far? Consumer Reports says its Cadillac’s SuperCruise. Tesla's Autopilot actually outscored SuperCruise in "capability and performance" but lagged in "keeping the driver engaged," a pretty important task given the current state of the art. Speaking of self-driving cars, Toyota is combining its Mobility Services Platform and information infrastructure for connected vehicles with SoftBank’s Internet of Things platform in a joint effort dubbed Monet. Monet aims to launch its autonomous mobility services in the late 2020s in Japan and eventually worldwide. SoftBank will own 50.25% of the venture Toyota gets the remaining 49.75%.

Hop to it. Software developer JFrog, which offers programs to help programmers program, is the newest unicorn, attaining a valuation of at least $1 billion in a $165 million private fundraising deal. Citing Microsoft's $7.5 billion acquisition of GitHub, JFrog CEO Shlomi Ben Haim tells Fortune: “It’s very good timing for us to scale." In other deal news, two relatively young cloud service companies that went public in recent years are joining forces. Cloudera and Hortonworks will merge in a deal valued at $5.2 billion. Shares of Cloudera were up 21% and Hortonworks stock jumped the same amount in premarket trading on Thursday. At those prices, investors are up about 37% since Cloudera's April 2017 IPO and 66% since Hortonworks' December 2014 debut.

Precluded. The telecom and cable industries went to court on Wednesday in an effort to block California's strict new net neutrality law, which is based on now-revoked 2015 federal net neutrality rules. Industry groups CTIA, NCTA, USTelecom, and the American Cable Association say current federal rules prohibit states from enacting their own Internet content protections.

Bad day at the office. It was not a great day for tech industry workers on Wednesday. Verizon said it was outsourcing many IT jobs overseas to Infosys and also offering early retirement to 44,000 workers. And while Amazon this week announced it was raising its minimum wage to $15, some workers discovered that the company was also simultaneously eliminating monthly bonuses and stock awards for hourly employees.

Sherlock Fitbit. A murder victim's Fitbit helped police crack her case. Karen Navarra was stabbed to death in San Jose and her Fitbit Alta HR pinpointed her exact time of death. Police checked security cam footage and discovered that her stepfather's car was in her driveway at the time. Anthony Aiello is now sitting in the Santa Clara County jail awaiting trial on the murder charge.


A lot of big tech companies think they know how Apple got to be the world's most valuable public company: hardware. That's led a bunch of other giants, including Google, Microsoft, and Amazon to start building their own branded gizmos and gadgets. This week, Microsoft announced a refresh of its entire Surface computing line up. And some observers think they may be exceeding Apple's most recent efforts. Developer and writer Owen Wilson blogs that Satya Nadella's crew, not Tim Cook's, "now has the best device lineup in the industry." All of the various laptops, tablets, and PCs unveiled support touch screens and styluses, he notes:

Microsoft, it seems, has removed all of the barriers to remaining in your 'flow.' Surface is designed to adapt to the mode you want to be in, and just let you do it well. Getting shit done doesn't require switching device or changing mode, you can just pull off the keyboard, or grab your pen and the very same machine adapts to you. It took years to get here, but Microsoft has nailed it. By comparison, the competition is flailing around arguing about whether or not touchscreens have a place on laptops. The answer? Just let people choose.

This coherency is what I had come to expect from Apple, but iPad and MacBook look messier than ever. Sure, you can get an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, but you can't use either of them in a meaningful way in tandem with your desktop workflow. It requires switching modes entirely, to a completely different operating system and interaction model, then back again. That isn't all, either. The MacBook Pro doesn't have a touchscreen, but does have USB-C, which is still omitted from the iPad and iPhone. There's a touch-bar version, the non-touch-bar version, the ultra-light MacBook 12-inch and the rotting MacBook Air, all of which have oscillated in and out of being updated over the years.


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Ingenious and creative iPhone users are developing all kinds of interesting functions for the new macro-like shortcuts feature Apple added to iOS. Robert Petersen of Arizona created one called Police. Add it to your iPhone and if you say "Hey Siri, I'm getting pulled over," the shortcut will turn down the brightness on your phone, turn on do not disturb mode, send a text message to a preselected contact, and start a video recording. "It seemed to me that if you're getting pulled over it couldn't hurt to have a recording of the incident," Petersen tells Business Insider.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.