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Not As Wiki As It Used To Be 349

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the reining-in-control dept.
jonney02 writes "The BBC NEWS is running a story about how Wikipedia plans to take back control due to the recent onslaught of malformed articles." It's always been a scary balance between allowing total anonymous participation in a web forum, and preventing yourself from being overrun. I don't envy the Wikipedia designers one bit.
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Not As Wiki As It Used To Be

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  • Sources (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HoosierPeschke (887362) <hoosierpeschke@comcast.net> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:50AM (#16014956) Homepage
    Wiki is a nice, centered information solution. The biggest problem I see for articles that aren't instructional is a lack of references. Some writers to a good job, but it seems that articles of fact should cite where those facts come from. After all, it's not Slashdot...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by log2.0 (674840)
      I agree! Its a great source of info. However, I think we should not allow anonymous edits! I think it would help a lot. An account IS free after all.
      • You are a total fucking moron. You think that just because people have a login ID that they are somehow all of a sudden more likely to treat others with respect and behave with decorum? Were you sucking dick while they were handing out brains?

        Sincerely,

        Logged in person
        • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:29AM (#16015174) Homepage
          Good example, but vandalism is pretty well covered by the system already. It is easy to detect and easy to repair. The biggest danger to Wikipedia's quality are claims that aren't easy to verify, usually concerned with specialized fields that few people are familiar with. The best argument for account registration is not to keep out deliberate troublemakers, but to make it easier to trace factual statements to the one who made them and ask followup questions for references or credentials.

          If a scientific article is amended with a certain statement, it would be useful to have a user name attached to that edit, so the user can be asked to clarify where the information is from and what credibility the source has. An IP address is not so easy to contact.
          • by blueZ3 (744446)

            Actually, IMO the biggest threat to Wikipedia's "quality" claim is that, contrary to the disclaimer at the bottom of pages on en.wikipedia.org, "This Wikipedia isn't English." Vandalism has nothing to do with the problem -- un-vandalized articles are just as bad as the vandalized ones.

            Until someone comes up with a way to sort out the crap writing, Wikipedia is still going to have the appearance of something that's poor quality. Some of the articles read like they were written by a random spam generator.

            So

            • by KillerDeathRobot (818062) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:05PM (#16016428) Homepage
              I'm kind of wondering if this was meant as a troll or what. Yes, plenty of articles have grammatical flubs and/or factual errors, but it's simply not true that any fixes you make to these will be immediately reverted. It's not even kind of true. I think what I would call it is "completely false."
              • by blueZ3 (744446) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:22PM (#16016593) Homepage
                Let me suggest that before you write me off as a troll, you try it for yourself: Pick an article with an egregious grammar error, correct the mistake, and then come back in a week or ten days. Unless the article is completely obscure (i.e. no one ever sees your changes) chances are that the article will be back in the same sad shape within that time.

                When I first discovered the Wikipedia, I thought that it was cool that I could help to "fix" broken articles (I'm a writer in my day job). So I spent a little free time correcting the grammar errors (and generally sloppy writing) in a number of articles, probably around 10. Within a week, all but one of them had either been reverted so that the original mistakes returned, or re-edited introducing the same or similar mistakes. When I saw that, it became clear to me that what Wiki-boosters claim as the main strength of Wikipedia is also a weakness. It also significantly cooled my interest in editing the poorly written articles I come across.

                Basically, writing done by committee is always going to be inferior. Since that's the method that the Wikipedia currently uses, it's hard to see any significant improvement in the quality of the articles coming along. Further, I think that there's no real solution to this problem as long as every article is open to editing by anyone at any time. Someone suggested that there should be a static "live" article and then people would work on a dynamic "backend" article that would become the live article once it was edited and checked for accuracy. But I'm not sure even that would work, since it requires someone to take ownership of the article.

                Perhaps there's a solution out there, but none of the proposals I've seen suggested looks like it would work.
                • by MaelstromX (739241) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @03:49PM (#16018382)
                  Hang on -- are you out of your fucking mind? People are THANKED when they make grammatical corrections. What in the world would anybody revert a grammatical correction for? I DARE you to show me your accounts where you've done that and had it reverted soon after. Chances are if that happened you weren't just fixing grammar, you were inserting other garbage that didn't deserve to be there.

                  The nice thing about Wikis is that they keep track of each individual change. No vague or mysterious claims permitted; every edit is well documented. I hereby call you on your bullshit and ask you to produce the "diffs".
      • IAWTC. I never saw what the big deal was about allowing anonymous edits. Besides, they're not even completely anonymous, as it does log your IP address. Accounts are free, and people should be required to get one (so they can easily be banned once they start causing trouble).
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Zenaku (821866)
          Accounts are free, and people should be required to get one (so they can easily be banned once they start causing trouble).

          I hope you were joking. Don't you mean, "Accounts are free, and people should be required to get one (so they can easily be forced to JUST OPEN ANOTHER ONE when they start causing trouble)?" Requiring a freely obtained login will not strip user's of their anonymity, and as you pointed out, Wikipedia already tracks the ip address for each edit.

          Simple fact of the matter is that even

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by LiquidCoooled (634315)
            We could all be forced to enter our AOL id number in :D

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Yusaku Godai (546058)
            Of course they can open another one. They can keep opening accounts and keep getting them closed. Believe it or not, people do get tired of doing that eventually. It does act as a deterrent. It's also often pretty easy, when you're tracking a troll on Wikipedia, to tell when a banned user reregisters an account, and to simply have then banned again before they can cause any more vandalism.
    • Re:Sources (Score:5, Informative)

      by interiot (50685) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:13AM (#16015080) Homepage
      If there's an article that obviously needs better sources, feel free to add {{unreferenced}} [wikipedia.org] to an article that has no sources whatsoever, or otherwise add {{fact}} [wikipedia.org] after a sentence that seems like it's badly in need of a source to back up the claim made.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by shreevatsa (845645)
      That is official policy on Wikipedia: See Wikipedia:Verifiability [wikipedia.org]. Let me quote:

      This policy in a nutshell: Information on Wikipedia must be reliable and verifiable. Facts, viewpoints, theories, and arguments may only be included in articles if they have already been published by reliable and reputable sources. Articles should cite these sources whenever possible. Any unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

      Anytime you see something that does not have a reference, put {{Citeneeded}} or {{Fact}} af

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That is official policy on Wikipedia: See Wikipedia:Verifiability.

        Bwahaaha... oh yes. Good one. I'm a three year veteran of Wikipedia (with 4 featured articles behind me) who recently packed it in because I was sick of the bullshit and idiots swamping Wikipedia, and having to listen to people say things like "believe in the Wiki", as if a Wiki is some magical force that gravitates towards wonderfulness. I spent those years watching good editor after good editor get fed up and leave Wikipedia because they

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zakezuke (229119)
      Some writers to a good job, but it seems that articles of fact should cite where those facts come from

      I could not agree more. One issue is the fact that wiki is not a citable source at many accidemic institutions, but having clear sited sources. At times even when people are corrected, they don't bother updating wiki.

      Case in point [wikipedia.org]

      Here is a case where a man seems to remember an Episode of Urusei Yatsura, an odd ball 80s Japanese animation series, which seemed to pay hommage to Bruce Lee in the form of a ye
    • Re:Sources (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jd (1658) <imipak @ y a h o o .com> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:55PM (#16016943) Homepage Journal
      Oh, that is very true. For myself, I've written a few articles and have tried to provide references. Sometimes two or three sources to the information. I've also contributed to a bunch of articles. Where I am uncertain on the data or the relevence, however mildly, I put the suggestion in the discussion page and not the master page.


      Have the articles I've written been subject to vandalism? Sure. The logs also show that fairly substantial vandalism was completely eliminated within a matter of days. That's not bad going for pages on some truly obscure, regional information. We're not talking about stuff likely to get a hundred visits an hour, I'd be amazed if the articles got a hundred visits a month. For readers to spend the time to undo damage, refine the page (there have been numerous truly wonderful additions to the articles) and contribute some excellent material is (to me) proof that the Wikipedia system works fine even for stuff that is rarely visited. (Those who contribute to the less-popular pages can consider themselves thanked. General knowledge can be found anywhere, so the true power of a system like Wikipedia is felt when more obscure material that would normally be scattered and incoherent - if it existed on the Internet at all - is readily available.)


      I would like to see reference enforcement added to Wikipedia, but it is unclear how you'd go about doing that. You can check a link exists, but the book and paper references would be hard even to verify to that degree, and AI text analysis systems are not nearly advanced enough to tell if a reference has anything to do with the claims in the article, although it might be possible to eliminate some definitely invalid references. No automated validation of articles is possible at this time.


      It might also be good if Wikipedia also provided a grammar checker. They are far from perfect, but it would be useful for catching some of the more basic errors. A spellchecker would be good too, for the same reason. Again, perfection isn't necessary, it merely has to reduce the number of uncaught errors to make it worthwhile. Requiring approval would catch very little outside of the specialist knowledge of the approver and the more general-knowledge stuff. (This is why journals use peer-review, where the reviewers are - by definition - peers in the same specialist field. It is also why newspapers - who tend to rely on sub-editors and editors who do not have specialist knowledge - are forever apologizing for article errors.


      Wikipedia hasn't the resources to provide a full nth-degree cross-checking peer-review system. As such, changes to the submission process will really contribute little. Having validators for Wiki syntax, grammer and spelling would likely correct a far greater number of errors with far less effort. Validators would also add insignificant latency compared to full reviews. Yes, I understand that Wikipedia is in an unenviable position as a result of vandalism creating libellous content. However, Wikipedia has some grounds for claiming common carrier status at the moment, as it just carries the content and does nothing more. If it had a review process, it would lose any such defence, so any libel that DID slip through the cracks would be a far greater risk.


      All in all, then, I think Wikipedia is reacting under intense pressure but is diving in entirely the wrong direction and may actually put itself more at risk with this idea.

  • by unity100 (970058) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:51AM (#16014962) Homepage Journal
    So who will guarantee that the administrators will have a high culture rating and knowledge to discern truth from fiction ?

    And who is going to guarantee that they will not prevent anything from publication if it does not fit administrators' political, religious views or outlook on life ?

    Huh ?

    Has dmoz been successful ?

    NO.
    • by saboola (655522) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:54AM (#16014971)
      This goes back to "and who is policing the police?". If there is human involvement, then all things human will naturally be involved (emotions, agendas, etc..). There is nothing that you can do about it except to just trust that the system "works", at least most of the time.
      • by GundamFan (848341) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:09AM (#16015063)
        There is one thing that can be done; peer review. I am not talking about college proffesors in tweed jackets (but I am sure they would be welcome). The problem I see in Wikipedia is that the "rules" the comunity has developed seem more important to the registered users than presenting nutral, correct and well referenced content.
        • There is one thing that can be done; peer review. I am not talking about college proffesors in tweed jackets (but I am sure they would be welcome).

          Peer review is how Wikipedia has always worked, though in Wikipedia everyone is a peer. I assume what you are suggesting is some way of ranking peers, but that is not as easy as it sounds. Sure, a professor of astronomy from UCLA is the peer of a professor of astronomy from Harvard, but what about an experienced amateur astronomer or a high school science teac

      • That reminds me of the Gowachian (sp?) riddle from one of the Frank Herbert novels:

        Q: Who governs the governors?
        A: Entropy.

        I think this applies to Wikipedia more than just a little.
    • And who is going to guarantee that they will not prevent anything from publication if it does not fit administrators' political, religious views or outlook on life ?

      Noone's going to guarantee that. It's wikipedia, there are no guarantees.

      The question is whether ngoing vandalism outweighs the potential for abuse by the administrators. German wikipedia appears to think it is. We shall see.
    • by halivar (535827) <bfelgerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:00AM (#16015008) Homepage
      How does Encyclopedia Britannica do it? Or the NYT? For one thing, Wiki'ers are supposed to cite their sources. If sources are cited or don't check out, edits don't get made. That's the way it ought to be. Statements of fact should always be allowed, and statements of opinion should be quotes from notable figures (such as a historian or something), and the person making the statement should be identified.

      Just my $0.02.
      • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:05AM (#16015039) Homepage
        There is a however a common-sense limit to this.

        Wikipedia (nor any other encyclopedia that I know of) doesn't give any sources for its claim that, for example, Norway borders on Sweden, that it has a "very elongated shape" or that it is "generally perceived as clean and modern".

        Giving sources for *every* claim you make quickly degrades into nonsense. It should be sufficient to give sources for any claim that isn't patently obviously true. (to anyone with a knowledge of the field anyway) One could actually well argue that the last claim I mention, what Norway is "generally perceived as" doesn't really belong in an encyclopedia, it's very subjective anyway, certainly it's not an undisputable fact.

        • There is most likely a treaty which specifies the borders of Norway w.r.t. Sweden....

          Just saying...

          Tom
        • by gkhan1 (886823)
          Ofcourse there is a stylistic choice made when we don't included sources for things like that. If someone comes along and says, "That's BS! And here is why..." we should always be prepared to provide a source. And it is very easy to find sources of statements like that, you can just look it up in, like, the CIA world factbook or something, they probably have it (I haven't checked so I could be wrong, but you get my point). If nothing else, they have a map. There have been indeed a lot of discussion regardin
        • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:35AM (#16015224)
          The standard in academia is, basically, a citation for any idea that is outside basic survey knowledge (and, of course, for quotes or paraphrases from a distinct source). So if I said "Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860," I wouldn't need a citation. But, if I said "Some historians have argued that Abraham Lincoln shared a proto-Dorian view of blacks with many Southerners" or "Abraham Lincoln wrote, in 1859, that..." a citation would be expected.

          -Eric

      • If sources are cited or don't check out, edits don't get made. That's the way it ought to be.

        Hmmm, that almost sounds like some sort of editorial control or something...
      • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:37AM (#16015246)
        How does Encyclopedia Britannica do it? Or the NYT?

        They FIRE people. People LOSE THEIR JOBS. If someone abuses or games or otherwise plays loose with the facts they risk MAKING LESS MONEY.

        Money. You want capital 'T' Truth? Make it about the money.

        The wikipedia "model" as it stands now is all reward (big ego boos, "Look Ma, I edited Luxembourg!") and very little risk (Dood1: "Yo, I just got banned from posting in wikipedia!" Dood2: "Like, D00d, you are so-o-o-- cool! That rawks, man! And screw them!"). The day a writer of a wikipedia article loses his source of income for doing a bad job is the day wikipedia begins to be credible.

        You want "community"? Go to a parade or fireworks display. You want an encyclopedia of facts? Pay people.
      • by jerryasher (151512) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @10:37AM (#16015740)
        Sorry but that's not how it works at the Wikipedia, because at the Wiki, there is Facts, Opinions, NPOV, and endless battles over whose NPOV is more POV than N and so my NPOV IS REALLY THE ONLY NPOV and that other guy's NPOV IS POV POV POV POV!!!!!!

        Check out the history of cyberstalking, for one. See how repeatedly it morphs into a completely bland and useless article that makes no mention of the use of an false accusation of cyberstalking as a means to suppress dissent.

        Try adding mentioning, with citations, that people can be falsely accused of cyberstalking. Watch how that is reverted away. That has happened repeatedly on this article. On July 11th, a section containing the DOJ description of cyberstalking and how it compares to physical stalking was added, along with a section containing a link concerning the problem of false accusations, and the use of the accusation of cyberstalking itself as a means of well, stalking. Note how in the span of 15 days, Aine63 repeatedly attacks the article, until by July 21st, there is no indication that the DOJ itself say that cyberstalking has no universal definition but that stalking laws generally require a credible threat of violence. And also gone by July 21st is any mention of the problem of false accusations.

        So who is the cyberstalker here? Is it Aine63 who stalks that article to keep out for his/her own reasons any discussion of false accusations? Or is it me because I a) used the compare feature to find out why a section was removed, b) noted Aine63's involvement, and here state that Aine63 is a Wikinazi, who has a definite POV and should be first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

        I wonder why Aine63 is so worried about false accusations as to remove their discussion from the wikipedia.... What a fucktard though.

        If you read the talk page you find out that this has happened repeatedly. Someone puts in sections about false accusations and things like that, and it gets expunged by some sort of article stalker. In fact, the discussions of this behavior have themselves been removed from the talk page. Why is the wiki so worried about talking about false accusations? Well you might look at how the wiki itself has been used to promote false accusations against John Seigenthaler.

        My sense is that the Wikipedia ultimately is doomed due to its insistence on Neutral Point of View articles and all of the fights that that causes. The traditional media is encountering the same thing with the bloggers. An open, but non neutral point of view is far superior in terms of presenting information AND context than a supposedly neutral, objective, point of view that can only fail to provide context and that hides a hidden agenda.

        Because let's face, to claim that cyberstalking is not subject to false accusations is just bullshit, and definitely not a neutral point of view.

        So what have we learned here? Wiki's NPOV is fatally flawed. Wikiality, truth based on majority rule is fatally flawed. Aine63 is fucktard that probably uses the false accusation of cyberstalking as a tool in his/her life.

        I don't know how their new editing rules will prevent Aine63's malicious attacks, we shall see.
        • POV (Score:3, Insightful)

          Why not have subsection/articles related to the NPOV parts that are difinitively bias POV, for perspective sake. Let's look at how this relates to your stalking example.

          Give generally accepted and nominal usage of what cyberstalking is, give related pages to "cyberstalking - cases" which gives backgrounds and such on cases, examples of, etc. and then have a "cyberstalking - false accusation" which gives examples such as you have pointed out.

          Better usage would be for highly charged political topics like GWB,
    • Currently there is nothing to determine anyone who post information credit. What I gather this whole admin approval thing will do is simply the admins will scan changes and note for obvious errors or vandalism. People will be able to see these changes according to the articles update, before admins approve them. The thing I want to know is will regular users be able to see what was rejected. Then users should then be able to report abuse by an admin.
    • dmoz was only unsuccessful because they did very little to promote themselves, and they refused to have a consistant easy to remember url (well they do now, but not at the beginning). It could still resurface.. If people knew about it.
    • At least if users were required to sign in in order to edit, malicious edits could be reported by user name and/or ip address, and they could be banned from editing if they get reported so many times. I believe the administrators role is to just keep a watch on the malicious reports and ban appropriate parties.
  • Corruption (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tygerstripes (832644) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:52AM (#16014967)
    Power corrupts, some being more susceptible than others - give everyone the power to make changes, and you can guarantee they will not all be entirely scrupulous or responsible.

    So you need some form of regulation to curb corruption. You introduce editors, moderators, whatever.

    And then you have to ask: who watches the watchmen (quis custodiet custard or summat)

    (Cue the usual /. Wikipedia flame-war)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by RobotRunAmok (595286)
      give everyone the power to make changes, and you can guarantee they will not all be entirely scrupulous or responsible.

      "Scrupulous and responsible"!?! Dood! How about "old enough to shave"? More edits to global geo-political articles in wikipedia are crafted in a week as a result of dares made in the backseats of school buses than in a decade's worth of Britannicas. Why not just take the ten most altered articles each day and have the people watching MTV's Total Request Live call in and vote for the ch
    • Who watches the watchman? Easy, let the community do it by making each step of the editing process as transparent as possible. Everytime someone submits a change the proposed submission, whether it's ultimately accepted or rejected, should be accesible somewhere along with the reason for it being accepted or rejected. If an editor is clearly biased it will visible for all to see. If enough people complain the higher ups in the organization can look into it and remove the editor if they find sufficient cause
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Cylix (55374)
        This is all true unless a large number of the "community" is against you. Fairly quickly you can find yourself on the outside of the wall.

        So here is what life has taught me, "Wikipedia hurts the underdog and there is Slittle you can do about it."

        At least that is my experience with wiki-crap.

        Me, I've given up on it and relegated it to the trash bin. For the longest time I didn't understand why so many people actually hated it, but then I started to realize there were issues.

        My last effort to clean up some wi
  • by halivar (535827) <bfelgerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:56AM (#16014981) Homepage
    I like the idea of there being "gatekeepers" who keep the "canonical" article, pulling from various "dev branches", a la Linux development. I think Wikipedia could use this more mature approach now. In the beginning, of course, it benefited greatly from its openness, but now it's time for editors to start provided more focused guidance.
    • by GrEp (89884)
      I agree. Versioning whenever the editor gets around to it is much more scalable than putting holds on updates until an editor has time to look at them. To me the question is that of user interface. Personaly I would default to the un-moderated version, then have a button to rollback to the last editor approved version.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by beaverfever (584714)
      "In the beginning, of course, it benefited greatly from its openness, but now it's time for editors to start provided more focused guidance.

      And lo, hopefully the deathknell of web 2.0 has been rung. I have been predicting that it won't be long until the overload of simply way too much unfocused content on sites like digg or myspace will quickly wear people out and remind everyone of the benefits of having professionals provide editing and focusing of information. Having someone provide oversight and separat

    • Hm, to my great surprise, that actually sounds like it would work. The analogy is good; Wikipedia is like a large open source project where EVERYONE has commit rights and where commiting requires a single click.

      I would imagine that a fairly structured system would be needed, with provision to make sure that editors who die or lose interest don't result in permanently stagnant articles, and so on; but these are all things that OSS projects have faced in the past and they are relatively well understood.

      Now,
  • by SlappyBastard (961143) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:57AM (#16014995) Homepage
    Wikipedia is making a mistake. The wiki model brought Wikipedia to the dance, and Wikipedia is now running off with another guy. This usually ends in gun play.
    • by dougjm (838643) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:16AM (#16015099)
      I see what you're saying.

      But if we modify the analogy so that wiki IS the dance and that all the people meet at the dance and pair off and settle down, they don't need to go to the dance anymore.

      What I'm saying is that after the initial wiki process is over for a given article you could say that - as long as people agree that it's a complete and up to date article - the wiki process could be closed since there is no more to be added at the present time.

      I'm not saying that this would work but I can see on both sides of the line.
    • by hey! (33014)
      Wikipedia is making a mistake. The wiki model brought Wikipedia to the dance, and Wikipedia is now running off with another guy. This usually ends in gun play.

      No, it usually ends in the girl and the new guy being happy for a while, while the old guy makes such a pest of himself complaining to his buddies that they suspect she might have had the right idea when she ditched that whining cry-baby. But of course men are useless when you bring them problems they can't fix; if that sounds rendundant to you, then
  • subuse level 2 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sugapablo (600023) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:57AM (#16014996) Homepage
    subuse.net/level2 [subuse.net] is completely free of any rules. Unlike most wiki's it doesn't even have a purpose. Wikipedia wants to be a wiki-encyclopedia, so when people stray from entering encyclopedic worthy entries, the wiki model fails.

    But when a forum is completely anonymous, and completely without an intent on what the content should be, you have something that never needs "control taken back".

    Besides, anarchy can be fun! :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 1u3hr (530656)
      But when a forum is completely anonymous, and completely without an intent on what the content should be, you have something that never needs "control taken back".

      Until it gets found by the porn link spammers who have destroyed many unregulated wikis elsewhere.

  • by Billosaur (927319) * <`wgrother' `at' `optonline.net'> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:58AM (#16015002) Journal
    Under the new approach, page edits will no longer be immediately applied to pages but will instead have to be approved by an administrator before they become visible. Vandalism or changes which are not approved will not appear.

    This is a major shift, from a "publish and fix" policy to one of prior restraint, where a cadre of privileged users will supervise what appears.

    It is still only a proposal, so it is not yet clear if the new checks would be applied to every page, but this is obviously being considered seriously by Wikipedia's founder Jimmy Wales, and the site's Wikimedia Foundation.

    And who decides who will be part of the cadre? Jimmy? I think we can see from his past actions, that he may not be the best judge of who would make the best administrator. I think they need to take a vote within the ranks, and let the editing community decide, then give Jimmy a limited number of vetoes to remove people he doesn't want.

    • by DaoudaW (533025) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:17AM (#16015110)
      And who decides who will be part of the cadre?

      Hey, I've got an idea. Let's do something based on the Hindu concept of rewards for good deeds. We could call it "Karma". Like if someone had done a bunch of editing that nobody disapproved of they could accumulate points and after they get a certain number of points they earn the right to approve changes... we could call that "moderating."
    • by Improv (2467)
      What past actions are you talking about?
    • by wowbagger (69688)
      In case anybody wants to look up some of Jimbo's actions from another perspective, go to Wikitruth [wikitruth.info].

      It is to Wikipedia what DailyKos is to conservatism or Instapundit is to liberalism - a completely biased site decrying the flaws in a philosophy. As such, take its claims with some skepticism and salt, feel free to reject them, but do at least consider them before you reject them.

      Note: I am not associated with WikiTruth - but I feel they make some good points.
  • Backlog (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wellington Grey (942717) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:59AM (#16015004) Homepage Journal
    Under the new approach, page edits will no longer be immediately applied to pages but will instead have to be approved by an administrator before they become visible. Vandalism or changes which are not approved will not appear.

    With the thousands of edits that happen on wikipedia per second, I don't see how this change will do anything but create an impossible backlog.

    -Grey [wellingtongrey.net]
    • Re:Backlog (Score:5, Informative)

      by rbarreira (836272) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:10AM (#16015073) Homepage
      I agree with you, but Wikipedia doesn't have thousands of edits per second. Not even per minute. Check this out [wikimedia.org]. 3.6 million edits in June means 120000 per day, or 5000 per hour.
    • by LoudMusic (199347)
      With the thousands of edits that happen on wikipedia per second, I don't see how this change will do anything but create an impossible backlog.

      Because when people quickly realize that their changes are being monitored and filtered they'll stop making defacement changes to the site.
  • I Appreciate Them (Score:5, Informative)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:01AM (#16015015) Journal
    I don't envy the Wikipedia designers one bit.
    Well, consider what they've done. They created something in which anyone can store any information about anything. And it seems to work to some extent. Yes, there are drawbacks but ... well ... a lot of times my research into something I don't know about starts at Wikipedia. Especially if it's something obscure because the links at the bottom of the articles are the most pertinant.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that I envy and appreciate the designers of Wikipedia.

    Now, I know you're going to post some examples in response to this of just crazy outlandish things (see GW's page if it isn't on lock down) but all and all, I appreciate what they've done for me.

    To illustrate the shortcomings, however, enjoy this Onion Article [theonion.com].
  • by MikeRT (947531)
    I like Wikipedia, but it's based on a fundamentally flawed premise which is that it allows every bozo to contribute. That's what the blogosphere is for, but that's not what an encyclopedia is supposed to be based on. Do you really want people without credentials to be contributing?

    Now here's my suggestion on how to fix it. They need to hire a few full time staffers with their donations and have them handle written applications to contribute to Wikipedia. Let anyone with sound credentials contribute, but req
    • Yes, we really want people without credentials to be contributing. There's a bunch of work that people without credentials can do perfectly well, and there's some of those without credentials that are more competent in the field than those that DO have credentials. This is especially obvious in the computing/programming area.

      We also want those with credentials to be able to contribute without the hassle of having to prove their credentials, as that would cut off 90%.

      Eivind.

    • by ari_j (90255) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:41AM (#16015277)
      The problem is that credentials are rarely relevant to the broad array of information Wikipedia covers. For instance, I wrote the article about the headbolt heater [wikipedia.org], which is the device that causes people from warmer climates to ask people from colder climates if their cars are electric (as its 3-prong 110-volt plug typically dangles a few inches out of the vehicle's grill), but I have no qualifications in the field of headbolt heaters outside the fact that I happened to know about them and find some good information about them. In another example, I am a law student and found an article or two that was written by a practicing attorney but needed some clarification.

      In a purely credentials based system, I would likely not have been allowed to edit the work of a more experienced person in my own field. To allow otherwise would be to defeat the entire purpose of the credentials system, as an amateur hobbyist in any field would have to be allowed to edit the work of a seasoned professional, and that's essentially what already exists.
    • by autophile (640621) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:48AM (#16015344)
      Now here's my suggestion on how to fix it. They need to hire a few full time staffers with their donations and have them handle written applications to contribute to Wikipedia. Let anyone with sound credentials contribute, but require that they prove that they have some idea of what they are talking about.

      Dear Sir:

      I hereby submit my application, attached, to become a contributor to Wikipedia. Specifically, that section of Wikipedia that deals with the 1970's. Specifically, 1970's American television. More specifically, 1970's American television commercials. Specifically, the 1979 American television commercial for Planters Peanuts depicting a man being chased for his delicious nuts. Although many of the people who worked on this commercial are dead, dying, ill, or on vacation in Belgium, I was part of the janitorial staff at the editing house where this particular commercial was cut, and during my very long breaks, I observed with a keen and jaundiced eye the cutting of this animated gem. I am also neither dead, dying, ill, nor on vacation in Belgium.

      I look forward to your quick acceptance of my editorship. I have some very interesting revelatory facts about Mr. Peanut that I would like to add to the article.

      Yours,

      (name redacted)
  • by hernyo (770695) <laszlo.hermann@gmail.com> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:12AM (#16015079)
    Wikipedia could be called an experiment in human nature: assuming that everybody does their best (and no evil) is just like one of the principles of communism (everybody should do their best at work, despite their motivation, salary, etc). I did never believe it could possible work as well as it did.

    I did not research this but I assume that in the beginning mostly more educated people used it and they tend not to abuse it too much. As it became widely adopted and used, everybody started to use it, meaning a higher percentage of people who would like to abuse it.

    Unfortunately I don't believe that a [global] experiment in human nature can survive... Check out Winterbottom's movie, "24 hour party people [imdb.com]".
    • As in society as a whole, Wikipedia is adding checks and balances. Where society has police and the justice system to combat criminals, Wikipedia is using administrators to combat juvenile assholes and manipulative bastards who vandalize pages and add biased/untrue information to entries. Wikipedia was utopian in the past, and that never lasts. Now it's becoming more realistic.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by LauraScudder (670475)
        I don't know if Wikipedia ever resembled a utopia, I think it used to operate more like any small society: if one asshole started to dick everyone around the whole community would tell him to leave, and an admin would enforce that. Most of the "policing" structures now are basically the same sorts of things that grow up in community no longer small enough for everyone to know everyone else's business.

        Wikipedia has actually hung on to some surprising small society-type things. For instance, a significan
  • Keep it as it is!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tritonman (998572) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:17AM (#16015107)
    I say keep wikipedia as it currently is, you can add a disclaimer to the top of every page saying that the information is freely edited and may be false, but if I wanted an encyclopedia that was completely written by a bunch of elitist self-important ivy-league PhDs, then I would just dust off my encyclopedia brittanica books.
  • by porkchop_d_clown (39923) <mwheinz@[ ]com ['me.' in gap]> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:17AM (#16015112) Homepage
    I had tried to create a user id for myself on wikipedia, in order to update an article I was reading, and was immediately banned, along with my IP. I was quite angry because there was no warning - and I complained. A response came quite quickly, politely informing me that the name I chose violated some pattern matcher for inappropriate names. I was still annoyed, but after they released the IP block I created an appropriate account and put a "watch" on the article I had wanted to update.

    Over the following weeks, this relatively low-profile article was vandalized several times; each time it was corrected but also represented a vulnerability to people reading the page. One attack, in particular, deliberately reversed the sense of several health and safety tips, making cautions into recommendations and recommendations into cautions.
  • Amazing? (Score:4, Informative)

    by ACAx1985 (989265) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:20AM (#16015129) Homepage
    It's somewhat amazing how, at a major university, I still sea at least 50% of my fellow students handing in midterm papers with blue underlined links crediting Wikipedia as a source on their Works Cited page. Unreal.
  • It needs a ranking system that seperates hobbyists and dabblers and amateurs from specialists, doctors, and professionals, and gives them voting power on articles in their field accordingly.
  • by h2oliu (38090) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:35AM (#16015225)
    I have seen arguments [wired.com] that Digg will take over slashdot. But when a site grows, it always faces these types of issues, and editorial oversight is the only defense.
  • by daranz (914716) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:42AM (#16015289)
    I think a better decision would be setting up something akin to the meta-moderation system here on slashdot. Instead of designating users to do the reviewing, why not let all users (or at least those that had an account for a while) review random edits from wikipedia. You could then assign higher weights to edits of users whose edits are often marked as incorrect/vandalizing in the moderation system, and make them come up more frequently on the not-so-random list of edits to review. That way, you'd keep control in hands of the contributors, and vandalizing edits of obscure pages would have better chances of being caught. Of course, such a system would not be perfect, but on the other hand, peer-review by a smaller group of people that you trust wouldn't be that perfect either.
  • Probably a good move (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blantonl (784786) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:47AM (#16015337) Homepage
    .. but how will they staff it?

    I think the Wiki concept is perfect for a niche application, such as documenting a software process, or a software project, or some other specific topic that has a focus. I use a number of corporate Wikis and hobby related wikis for these exact types of topics. However.. in Wikipedia's case, it is a whole different ballgame.

    The problem with Wikipedia is that the folks that *now* are most inclined to contribute to Wikipedia are the ones that stand to benefit from their contribution, either by pushing an agenda, or disparaging another source. Granted, there are a number of contributors that are active with good intentions, but I suspect as Wikipeda continues down the path of letting *anyone* contribute immediately, that subsequent contributions will be more skewed towards revert wars and subtle edits to existing content vs. new content and contribtions.

    The reality is, all the editing of existing content will become more of a platform to introduce opinnions and agendas vs usable content. Not to say that there aren't contributors that will continue to give good content, but what might have been 5% of agenda pushing 2 years ago is going to be 40% now with the critical mass of information.

    Wikipedia is making a good move and the social dynamics will be interesting (i.e. Managing and Staffing this new model)
  • by billthom (599863) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:57AM (#16015419) Homepage
    I wrote the BBC piece, and it's generated a lot of discussion on the WikiEN-l [wikipedia.org] mailing list, as well as some correspondence between me and senior wikipedians around the question of whether the German proposal amounts to making the Wikipedia *more* or *less* wikilike. My blog posting [thebillblog.com] goes into more detail. At the moment Jimbo and I have agreed a truce- we disagree over the implications, and I accept that he sees what's happening as an improvement not a restriction.
  • *sigh* (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WWWWolf (2428) <wwwwolf@iki.fi> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @10:11AM (#16015525) Homepage
    From relatively early in its existence it has been possible to ensure only administrators edit a page, but recent changes make it harder for ordinary users to create and update pages on the site.

    For reference, this is supposed to be about the semi-protection. Which just happens to involve registering an user account and showing, just for a few passing moments, that you are capable of appropriate conduct.

    That is, if you want to edit the couple of popular articles that happen to be semi-protected at the time.

    There's 196 semi-portected articles at the moment in English Wikipedia. There's 1,355,706 articles. There's 70 articles at the moment that are full-protected, as well as handful of articles that show up in article count but are actually protected against recreation.

    It still leaves you (...calculations, calculations, I'm a bit bad at math...) over 1.3 million articles for you to completely vandalise if you don't bother to spend a whole two minutes registering an user account.

    You don't even need to confirm your email address.

    And the separation of approved / unreviewed edits has not yet, as far as I know, even been implemented in MediaWiki.

    Sorry if I sound a bit tired. I just find it a little bit vexing that people get stuck on small things like "hey, it says 'anyone can edit', and I get this error message that says that I can't". This is what happens when someone realises that you need some control. Regrettably, utopias where everyone can do anything don't work - human nature being what it is, you need some control. It's almost like saying "Oh, sure, everyone can come in our country!... except for people who don't have a passport and visa... and people who try to cross the border at a funny place... and armed, hostile soldiers of another country... obviously... But apart of that, everyone can come!"

    So read "a free encyclopedia that anyone can edit" just like you would read "a city where everyone can perform on the streets." (don't be surprised if, in such city, the police asks you to get the hell away from the way of the traffic and move to the sidewalk like everyone else.)

    Secondly, what the heck is wrong with the concept of reviewed versions? It doesn't prevent anyone from editing the stuff or even seeing the unreviewed edits, it just prevents people from seeing stuff we don't know to be good. It's a quality control measure, not a barrier to contributing.

  • Wiki Truthiness (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gelfling (6534) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @10:28AM (#16015677) Homepage Journal
    Wiki is a wonderful example of people shaping information to reflect what they want it to represent instead of what it actually represents. It's really a self referential reference to the internet in general. Things mean what you want them to mean, fact is whatever you're willing to assert loud enough and people are experts if they say they are.
  • by jwales (97533) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @10:59AM (#16015900) Homepage
    I don't really know what else to say about it.

    We are introducing some changes, yes. The changes are specifically designed to make us MORE of a wiki than before.

    We used to have to protect articles. We didn't like that, so we moved to what we call semi-protection. We still don't like that, so we are moving to non-vandalized-version flagging.

    Each of these steps was specifically designed to make Wikipedia MORE of a wiki.

    Sheesh.

    --Jimbo
  • by IIH (33751) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @11:22AM (#16016056)

    This to me, looks like a description of the proposal (marked as rejected) of Wikipedia:Stable versions now [wikipedia.org].

    In some ways, that proposal would make it very like the linux kernel. The public face which most people see would be the stable branch, with the "unstable branch" still open to edits, and once stabilised, becomes the new stable version.

  • by David Gerard (12369) <slashdot@@@davidgerard...co...uk> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @11:43AM (#16016248) Homepage

    From Wikimedia Meta-Wiki [wikimedia.org]:

    What is changing?

    We want to open up editing without damaging the reader's experience.

    We want to be more wiki and let editors edit freely, which is where all the good things come from. At present a small percentage of articles (a few hundred out of 1.5 million on the English language Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/ [wikipedia.org]) are locked or partially locked from editing. We want to open these up. But Wikipedia is a top 20 website (Alexa ratings, no. 17 on 3 month average; no. 15 on 30 August 2006 -- http://www.alexa.com/ [alexa.com]), so we must keep it good for the readers.

    The new feature will mean that edits from new or anonymous editors will be delayed before being shown to readers - they will see a 'flagged OK' version by default, with a link to the live version. The idea is to enhance the reading experience, and free us to enhance the editing experience. If vandalism can't be seen by the general public, there will be less motivation to vandalise.

    Anonymous or new-editor edits will need to be approved by a logged-in editor. Of the thousands of editors on the large Wikipedias, many concentrate on checking revisions and dealing with odd changes and vandalism -- this will assist their work and we do not expect new delays.

    We are also considering a related feature to flag particular versions of articles as being of high quality. This is to a different end: a high-quality finished product. This will likely be tested first on the German language Wikipedia (http://de.wikipedia.org/), which has already had three stable editions released on CD and DVD, which have sold quite well. If the feature works there, it may be used on other language Wikipedias.

    These features are not finished, so we don't have a lot of fine detail as to how it will all work as yet. But we hope this change will allow us to do things such as open up the George W. Bush article or even the front page itself to full unrestricted editing.

    When was this proposed?

    Jimmy Wales asked for a time-delay feature for casual readers in late 2004; after very fast editing on the Indian Ocean tsunami produced a very high-quality article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Indian_Ocean_ea rthquake) very quickly, but with some highly visible vandalism; we've hotly discussed how to achieve stable high-quality editions of Wikipedia since almost the start of the project, in 2001.

  • by rinkjustice (24156) <rinkjustice.NO_SPAMrocketmail@com> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:24PM (#16016619) Homepage Journal
    Wikipedia is still, by-in-large, a respectable and reliable source of information when compared to professionally produced encyclopedias. For example, in a study [nature.com] where experts evaluated 42 entries between Wikipedia and Britannica's online version, the experts found an equal amount of *serious* errors (four each) along with 123 factual errors in the Britannica and 162 in Wikipedia. So, that means the professionally-produced encyclopedia had three errors for every four in an amateur and openly edited one. Not too shabby for free.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DiamondGeezer (872237)
      Not true. Nature cooked the books [theregister.co.uk]. Wikipedia is much, much worse quality than any professional encyclopedia.

      I've lost count of the number of times this canard has been repeated on Slashdot.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DragonWriter (970822)

        Not true. Nature cooked the books [theregister.co.uk].

        An opinion piece repeating uncritically the claims in Britannica's response and ignoring Nature's counter to Britannica's response. Proves...someone at the Register has an opinion, and not much else.

        I've lost count of the number of times this canard has been repeated on Slashdot.

        Soon, I'll lose track of the times this false rebuttal has been posted in this thread on Slashdot.

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