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More Wiki Than Ever 170

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the fact-checking-a-lost-art dept.
Earlier today Slashdot took a look at a change being implemented on the German version of Wikipedia which raised quite a few eyebrows. Many of the implications, however, led the readers to believe things that just are not necessarily true. Wikipedia founder Jimmy 'Jimbo' Wales took a minute to help set the record straight. Jimbo writes: "Recent media reports have been quite confused about the new feature we will be testing in the German Wikipedia. Some explanation is in order. Wikipedia is undergoing change. The fundamental nature of that change, the fundamental trend of that change, is to open up more than before, and to become more of a wiki than ever before. If you have read otherwise in the mainstream media, well, digital culture is hard to understand, and it is no wonder that errors are made so often."

From the early days of Wikipedia, we were forced to do something that we did not like to do: protect (lock) pages. For a long time, whenever there was a major editing dispute requiring a cool-down time, or a sudden spate of vandalism to an article, the community administrators of Wikipedia were forced to put pages into a state where no one could edit them. (Admins could technically edit them, but by social custom did not, in order to preserve the level playing field between admins and ordinary users.)

Protection was a good way to prevent further vandalism, but it did unfortunately still allow the general public to see the vandalism.

After many years of this, we recognized that protection was too un-wiki for us, and so the community devised a new software feature: semi-protection. An article which is semi-protected is more open than an article which is protected, because it is open for editing for all but anonymous editors and the very newest of accounts. This innovation has been very popular in Wikipedia precisely because it allowed us to be more wiki, more open, than when we were forced to lock articles.

Encouraged by this development, and after carefully watching the use of the feature and finding it to be a net improvement, members of the German community in particular thought creatively about how we might do an even better job of openness and therefore quality. Could we simultaneously open editing still further, while also dealing better than ever with the problem that protection and semi-protection were designed to solve?

After much discussion, a clever and elegant innovation was found. This innovation holds forth the promise of Wikipedia being able to open the front page for editing for the first time in 5 years! And at the same time, it provides a finer tool for preventing much of the vandalism that had unfortunately slipped through to the general public, while eliminating the need for semi-protection!

The new feature will allow the community, using the same sorts of procedures and norms that we have used for years to determine semi-protection and protection status, to flag certain versions of articles as "non-vandalized", and these versions are what will be shown to users who are not logged in. The feature will be tested in the normal manner of all new features at Wikipedia, with a simple quiet introduction and a period of testing and evaluation within the community.

We expect the following benefits from this innovation:

  • Wikipedia will be more wiki than ever, in the sense that for the first time in years, we expect that nearly ALL pages will be open to editing by ANYONE, even non-logged-in users. This means the almost complete elimination of the editing restrictions we have been forced to have for years.
  • We have good reason to believe that the primary incentive for most vandalism, as the primary incentive for most graffiti in the real world, is that the vandalism can be seen by the general public. Vandals seek to shock people. The new feature will deprive them of that benefit, and we expect to see a corresponding drop in the total amount of vandalism that the community has to deal with. This is an excellent example of our philosophy of trusting the general public to do the right thing when given the right incentives, and an illustration of why openness and transparency is better than control.
  • Although not all pages will have the 'non-vandalized versions' feature enabled, we expect that it will be enabled quickly by the community on all the pages that are currently semi-protected due to being popular vandalism targets. Thus, we will achieve our aim of preventing the general public from seeing vandalized versions (as we do now on these articles), but at the same time allowing open editing of these articles.



A quick summary to make this even more clear:

  • PROTECTION - NO ONE can edit, NO ONE can affect the public version
  • SEMI-PROTECTION - all except new users and anons can edit, all except new users and anons can affect the public versions
  • VERSION FLAGGING - ANYONE can edit, all except new users and anons can affect the public versions

As you can see, each step of this chain allows MORE people to do MORE things, rather than less. Each step of this chain is becoming MORE wiki, not LESS wiki.

The news media has an unfortunate temptation to follow a story arc that goes something like this. "Open editing is impossible. It worked for a little while at Wikipedia, but now even Wikipedia is admitting that it does not work, so they are closing off public editing step by step. This proves that our traditional model is best in the end."

The fact that this story arc has no relationship to the reality of changes in Wikipedia has not stopped them. I am hopeful that this post will catch enough attention that journalists will start to grasp the real revolution that is taking place here.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

More Wiki Than Ever

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  • Article updated (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daveschroeder (516195) * on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:54PM (#16020455)
    The original BBC article [bbc.co.uk] on this has been updated:

    There's been quite a lot of discussion about this article over on the Wikipedia mailing lists, and as a result the details of what the German group are proposing to do are a lot clearer.

    Rather than hold any pending edits until they are approved, edits will still be allowed to any unlocked page on the site.

    Unregistered users will not automatically see these pages when they visit, so that the chances that someone will inadvertently come across a vandalised page should be reduced, but the pages will still be available if someone wants to see them.

    There's no decision yet as to who will be able to "approve" a page, and of course the English-language Wikipedia is simply watching what happens in Germany and seeing how it works, so there will be no change for those of us who use the English version.

    This clarifies a number of the points I raised in the article. I was wrong to say that "Under the new approach, page edits will no longer be immediately applied to pages", since the changes will be there, and someone who wants to see the latest edits will be able to do so.

    However for most users, the page they see will not be the latest edit but the latest approved page, so my wider point that this would mark a significant shift in the "wikiness" of the site if it was universally adopted still holds.

    In the end, the success of Wikipedia depends on the willingness of large numbers of us to write, edit, fix and expand articles all over the site.

    Whether the technology which makes this possible is a wiki or a more conventional editorial process is less important than the project itself, which has provided millions of people with a (mostly reliable) source of information that can transform their lives - or just help with their school projects.


    Wales didn't "set the record straight".

    If anything this is not becoming more "open" or "wiki" than ever before. It is, however slightly, less wiki than it was. Now, make no mistake, this plan may ultimately be a very good thing, but to say that restricting and approving edits, and having the default page visible to normal people browsing only be the latest "approved" page, is becoming "more of a wiki" is a little bit disingenuous. It would be more accurate to say that it might be a better model, and we're exploring it.

    The most open state for a wiki, fundamentally, is to allow, and immediately publish, all edits. If Wikipedia is backing away from that, that's not becoming "more of a wiki".

    The most useful state for a wiki like Wikipedia, however, may be some reasonable ratcheting back that makes it the most accurate, functional, and stable source of information for all users.

    It seems like they're stuck unnecessarily on trying to defend this decision, when some type of balance like this may ultimately be the best.

    Even if it makes it "less of a wiki".
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The original BBC article [bbc.co.uk] on this has been updated again:

      There's been quite a lot of discussion about this article over on the Wikipedia mailing lists, and as a result the details of what the German group are proposing to do are a lot clearer.

      CHUCK NORRIS RULEZ!!! CHUCK NORRIS RULEZ!!! CHUCK NORRIS RULEZ!!! CHUCK NORRIS RULEZ!!!


      Damn those Wiki Vandals.
    • Update (Score:5, Insightful)

      by daveschroeder (516195) * on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:02PM (#16020499)
      I should also note that I understand the argument that the new move is "more open", and thus "more wiki", than protection and semi-protection.

      That's debatable.

      Protection and semi-protection only applied to a very small proportion of pages. This new mechanism of "approving" the page that is default-visible will now likely be applied to many more pages than protection or semi-protection ever did, precisely because it's so tempting to use. Yes, I realize that there are ways to see the most recent edits. That's irrelevant to most people. They'll be seeing the latest "approved" page, and that's it.

      Now, I still say that this may be a good thing.

      But it's at most misleading, and at least subjective, to say this makes it "more wiki".
      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        by NNKK (218503)
        What you're missing in your rush to find something wrong with the plan is that the version flagging is NOT being applied site-wide -- it is being used as a less-restrictive alternative to full- and semi-protection currently applied to SOME pages, the result being that users previously unable to edit those pages AT ALL will be able to edit them, but the changes won't be displayed by default to random non-logged-in ("anonymous") users until their edits have been flagged as not-vandalism (though they'll still
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by daveschroeder (516195) *
          What you're missing in your rush to defend it, and to disagree with me (even though I think the plan is a good idea), is that most wikipedia users ARE "random" not-logged-in anonymous users. They're not registering accounts. They're not editing pages. They're using wikipedia as a resource. Those people will never see anything but the most recent "approved" page on version-flagged pages, and that takes away a certain amount of the "wiki" nature, at least from those pages.

          And also, I didn't say it was being a
          • Re:Update (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Bastian (66383) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:52PM (#16020762)
            What you're both missing is that this doesn't categorically make Wikipedia more or less of a wiki. It makes Wikipedia less of a wiki for some users, and more of one for others. I think this is a Good Thing.

            The biggest problem Wikipedia ever had is that too many people can't tell the difference between "wiki" and "encyclo." The genius of this plan is that it makes Wikipedia behave more like an encyclopedia for the people who expect it to behave like one, or don't realize that it's fundamentally different from Britannica. There's at least some guarantee (or at least good faith effort) that all the pages will be reasonably accurate, and it's going to be a lot harder for people to vandalize it and confuse users in the process.

            However, it gives a big opt-out for people who want it to be more open than that - all they have to do is get an account and log in. For these people, Wikipedia will now be a whole lot more wiki-like simply because, if everything goes as planned, every single one of Wikipedia's pages can now be open for editing. And the whole reason why they are now free to do things that way is because the people who don't "get" wikis can now be insulated from the site's inherently volatile nature, leaving everyone else to enjoy their wiki-ness without disturbing passers-by.
            • by kthejoker (931838)
              If any project ever screamed out for a fork, it's Wikipedia, for exactly the reasons you state.

              It is a wiki, it is an encyclopedia. Weren't we promised a "stable" version of Wikipedia? Where has that agenda gone?

              Prominently link back and forth between the two - stable to wiki, wiki to stable. Make changes to the stable be part of a rolling process, constantly updated by approved personnel. The equivalent of the peer-reviewed thing.

              This decision is stupid, because it simply removes the most important aspect
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Bastian (66383)

                This decision is stupid, because it simply removes the most important aspect of a wiki - INSTANT gratification. It solves one underlying problem, but creates another. A fork could solve both.

                I fail to see two things:

                1. How does it remove instant gratification, except as much as is necessary to satisfy users who expect Wikipedia to be more like an encyclopedia. Users who want their instant gratification will just need to log in. I don't see what's so hard about that.

                2. How would forking the project increase

            • by astralbat (828541)

              What you're both missing is that this doesn't categorically make Wikipedia more or less of a wiki. It makes Wikipedia less of a wiki for some users, and more of one for others. I think this is a Good Thing.

              I think it's more of a wiki for EVERYONE.

              The reason is that wiki means you can edit it. With the new rules applied to all protected and semi-protected pages, the encyclopedia would allow everyone to edit every page. As long as anonymous users can edit and view their own edits, the encyclopedia should

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by mdwh2 (535323)
            What you're missing in your rush to defend it, and to disagree with me (even though I think the plan is a good idea), is that most wikipedia users ARE "random" not-logged-in anonymous users. They're not registering accounts. They're not editing pages. They're using wikipedia as a resource. Those people will never see anything but the most recent "approved" page on version-flagged pages, and that takes away a certain amount of the "wiki" nature, at least from those pages.

            Compared with currently protected pag
        • If it was sitewide it would be a huge mess, as anyone who has dealt with merging changes in a version control system knows. Two people see an outdated page, because they newest version isn't flagged safe yet. They both make changes. You now have a diverging tree. This can happen today with Wikipedia but it is rare enough not to discourage people from contributing. If this policy was sitewide (it isn't) this would, as I said, be a huge mess.
          • One idea was to make approval of anonymous and new-editor edits automatic after some length of time (a few days). So if no-one gets around to flagging a good edit or fixing a bad one, it doesn't sit in limbo forever.

            Please note, again, that almost all details of these new functions are undecided as yet. The story is hardly news ... it's just that the Bill Thompson piece, despite being unfortunately silly [*], has been spreading like wildfire. Yay.

            [*] and you should have seen the prima-donna email I got from

        • It irks me everytime someone says some users can't edit semi-protected pages. That's not true. All users can edit; some of them just have to wait 4 days.

          There is a big difference between 'can't edit' and 'can't edit now', just like there is a big difference between 'can't make changes' and 'can't make immediately viewable changes'.

          There's nothing un-wiki about changes not being immediately viewable.
          • by TeknoHog (164938)
            There's nothing un-wiki about changes not being immediately viewable.

            Except that 'wiki' literally stands for 'quick' :-/

      • Re:Update (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Red Alastor (742410) on Friday September 01, 2006 @01:12AM (#16021992)
        I'd like a color code on Wikipedia where recent changes are highlighted (let say during 48 hours) so I can easily spot recent changes and mentally assign them a lower priority (possible vandalism). It would be even wikier than flagged versions.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dubl-u (51156)
        This new mechanism of "approving" the page that is default-visible will now likely be applied to many more pages than protection or semi-protection ever did, precisely because it's so tempting to use.

        That's a fine assertion, but I don't see any real evidence for it. The Wikipedia editing community is generally widely opposed to any sort of editing restriction. And even if the number of restricted pages ends up going up, it's not clear to me that a moderately larger number of less restricted pages will mean
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by noidentity (188756)
      Sounds like the standard thing that happens to any concept or idea. Over time, it becomes associated with "good", and its absence associated with "bad". The term then has its meaning diluted by more and more things being shoved into its definition, to avoid them seeming bad. I'd guess that something like that is going on here. "If it's Wiki, it's good; if it's not Wiki, it's bad (for Wikipedia). Since our new changes are good, they must make it more Wiki."

      For a perfect example of this process, examine the c
      • examine the concept of theft and the rampant misuse of it (theft = bad, here's something that's bad, therefore it must be theft).

        I am not an native English speaker, so besides being able to tell your from you're ;), I can maybe shed some light on this :)

        For many people (including me), theft is synonymous to misappropriate, to take what is not yours. Extending this slightly you arrived at accessing what is not yours, or even just copying what is not yours. Thus theft comes to include copyright infringeme

    • I think you are missing the point of this change and how it is making things MORE Wiki.
      Previously only Administrators could make a page me protected, or semi-protected (which wont change).
      That mechanism meant it was the Adimistrators which determined what the anonymous or new users would see and be able to edit.

      This new system will be controlled by the internet community at large.
      The permissions are in a sence becomming Wiki'd.
      (granted the protection editing is semi-protected ;-)
      Welcome to meta-recursion.
    • Re:Article updated (Score:5, Informative)

      by Darkforge (28199) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:33PM (#16020677) Homepage
      If you think this is "less wiki", then you've missed the point of Wales' response. Here's a ranking from least wiki to most wiki:

      1) Every page is locked: only modifiable by the admins (this is almost every page on the web right now!)
      2) Every page is semi-protected: only modifiable by logged in non-new users
      3) Every page is version-flagged: where anyone can make a modification, but only non-new users can "bless" the page to make it public.
      4) Most pages are a wiki-like free-for-all, but some pages are Locked
      5) Most pages are a wiki-like free-for-all, but some pages are Locked and some are Semi-protected (today's status quo)
      6) Most pages are a wiki-like free-for-all, but some pages are Semi-protected (and none are locked)
      7) Most pages are a wiki-like free-for-all, but some pages are Version-Flagged (and none are locked or semi-protected)
      8) All pages are a wiki-like free-for all

      Clearly, moving from 5 to 3 would make Wikipedia substantially less wiki, but that's not what they're proposing. But that's not what's happening; they're going to 7. Moving from 5 to 7 makes Wikipedia substantially more wiki.

      Thanks!
      • Re:Article updated (Score:5, Insightful)

        by daveschroeder (516195) * on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:39PM (#16020705)
        I actually spoke to this in a couple of my other responses.

        I believe that version-flagging will be seen as less "drastic" than protection, and, over time, will be applied more than protection would have been.

        So when you say "some pages", what if "some" is "x" for 5, and "10x" for 7?

        I'd agree that if version-flagging was never used more, or more quickly, than protection/semi-protection would have been, which is a future that I guess can't necessarily be predicted until we see what happens with the German team's proposal, that you could argue it to be "more wiki". But if far more pages are version-flagged than ever would have been protected, which is what I believe will happen, and significantly so, it's not "more wiki".
        • by Darkforge (28199)
          I agree, and that's a very legitimate concern. I guess we'll just have to see what happens...
        • Re:Article updated (Score:4, Informative)

          by David Gerard (12369) <slashdot@NospAm.davidgerard.co.uk> on Friday September 01, 2006 @06:42AM (#16022923) Homepage
          Possibly, but I don't think the present behaviour reflects such a tendency. English Wikipedia presently has about 800 locked pages and about 200 semi-protected. If a tendency to overapply softer protection did exist, I'd expect that second number to be higher.

          Further, there are many admins on en: who are fiercely opposed to any locking down whatsoever, want it kept as absolutely open as possible and regularly patrol locked or semi-locked pages to get them unlocked. I'd expect them to do the same with this option.

      • Clearly, moving from 5 to 3 would make Wikipedia substantially less wiki

        Clearly? Sorry, but I actually think it's better and "more wiki". I think that your 3) is actually more wiki than any of your point 4) to 6).

        With the new scheme, *anybody* can edit *any* page. Isn't that better than have *some* pages not editable at all? With 3), anybody get a chances to see their changes on a public page. It may require approval, true, but at least you can be heard. That is not the case with 4)-6)

        • by Darkforge (28199)
          It sounds like you agree that 4-6 (various degrees of Locking/Semi-Protection) are all "less wiki" than 7 (mostly free-for-all, some version-flagging). I think you also agree that 3 (everything version-flagged) is less wiki than 7 (only a few things version-flagged).

          Since the proposed move is to 7, IMO, it doesn't matter which of the other options is more/less wiki... 7 is wikier than them all. :-)

          With that said, you raise an interesting point re: whether 3 is actually more wiki than 4-6. Do we measure it
      • by TheSpoom (715771) *
        It should be noted that there's no way they're eliminating Protection and Semi-Protection. So really, they're just adding another level of approval. Whether or not this is a good thing depends (as do most things) entirely on the community.

        My guess is that it will help though.
        • "It should be noted that there's no way they're eliminating Protection and Semi-Protection."

          Actually, Jimbo is hoping this will eventually allow us to unlock even the Main Page.

          Protection won't be "eliminated", but we're hoping this will let us apply it way less.

    • by AuMatar (183847)
      WHat you have to remember is- Wales never wanted to create Wikipedia. He wanted to create Nupedia- a free resource that was created and edited by experts. Wikipedia was a side project that eventually eclipsed it. This is yet another step to bringing back Nupedia- have anyone edit, and then let the experts pick the displayed version. Since he's been slowly trying to turn it back into Nupedia for a while, I would expect the entire site to quickly get version flagged.
    • by Ibag (101144)

      The most open state for a wiki, fundamentally, is to allow, and immediately publish, all edits. If Wikipedia is backing away from that, that's not becoming "more of a wiki".

      Yes, the most open state for a wiki is when anybody can do anything, and so the more things people can do, the more "wiki" the site is (that has to be the stupidest sounding adjective I have ever heard, but I digress). Changing protected or semi-protected pages over to the new system means that more people can now do more things, and wh

    • In the end, the success of Wikipedia depends on the willingness of large numbers of us to write, edit, fix and expand articles all over the site.

      What makes us such experts? How does more people changing things make the WikiPedia a more reliable source?

      Last I read, the entropy of the universe is increasing. Why is WikiPedia exempt from universal laws?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:03PM (#16020506)
    What is it that makes people always want to jump to conclusions about Wikipedia? A site that has the noblest goals at heart, seems to always have a torch bearing mob knocking on its door.
    • by thelost (808451)
      because it's a summation of a massive amount of information that we are all sharing, and until recently this kind of information has been bartered and edited by a privileged few, the thought of the basic building blocks of wisdom being communally kept and edited by not few but many is a powerful and intimidating idea.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        When you seek medical advice, do you ask a doctor's opinion, or do you listen to someone who wishes he were a doctor? On wikipedia, these two people are given equal authority. The democratization of reference information -- without strict oversight for correctness and motives of authorship -- is a terrible idea.

        Everyone who stops to think about it will agree that Wikipedia can never replace traditional reference material. But the danger lies in that not everyone will stop to think about it, and that many
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by thelost (808451)
          Yeah I've heard that one before and to be honest it doesn't hold water. If people do start using wikipedia to self diagnose themselves then that is *their* problem, not wikipedias and nor is wikipedia being misleading and suggesting itself a medical authority.

          Ignore Wikipedia for a moment, lets look at medical texts. Anyone can go and in the appropriate place purchase a medical text that tells them a-z what illness they have, self-diagnosis is just an index-search away. Do people do it? No, unless perhaps t
        • by pilkul (667659) on Friday September 01, 2006 @12:44AM (#16021872)
          Even if Wikipedia didn't exist, reference information is still becoming democratised. For the people who don't "stop to think about it" and get carefully checked sources, the de facto reference on a topic is whatever website Google turned up as its first result. And it's pretty clear that Wikipedia usually has less errors than Joe Random Webpage. (Or, for that matter, Joe Random Reporter for almost any middlebrow news source.)

          The problem with all of Wikipedia's critics is that they view it as potentially replacing traditional reference material, when really it mainly just replaces a bunch of even less reliable material. As an additional benefit, its open model even leads most people to be more careful and skeptical of what they read there, which they might not be with other sources. Wikipedia is a net win for propagation of accurate information.
          • The problem with all of Wikipedia's critics is that they view it as potentially replacing traditional reference material, when really it mainly just replaces a bunch of even less reliable material. As an additional benefit, its open model even leads most people to be more careful and skeptical of what they read there, which they might not be with other sources. Wikipedia is a net win for propagation of accurate information.

            Repeated for merit. You rock!
          • by kabocox (199019)
            The problem with all of Wikipedia's critics is that they view it as potentially replacing traditional reference material, when really it mainly just replaces a bunch of even less reliable material. As an additional benefit, its open model even leads most people to be more careful and skeptical of what they read there, which they might not be with other sources. Wikipedia is a net win for propagation of accurate information.

            Now, if we could just have Wikipedia have a science peer-review section so that the w
    • by TheLink (130905)
      Because it's a site where stuff like "we are at war with oceania" can be continuously redefined and changed.

      You can claim there's a history of changes etc but I say that's not true because stuff can be deleted and does get deleted. And it seems pretty arbitrary what ends up being deleted and what doesn't.

      If more people start depending on it then that sort of thing becomes important.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by imlepid (214300)
      This kinda reminds me of an argument I made one day in defense of Wikipedia. It goes like this, I was looking up some fact on Wikipeida to discredit something someone said, they said "You can't trust Wikipeida, any one can edit it." to which I responded "And any one can create a web page you can get to using Google. The difference is since Wikipedia is a central point for the colleciton of knowledge it is more likely that an 'expert' reviewed it and, if someone found an error, they can correct it, unlike so
    • by SamSim (630795)
      It's always cool to hate things which are massively popular.
  • by Quaoar (614366) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:06PM (#16020519)
    I don't know, but I bet it has something to do with Schteffen Colbheimer...
  • Oh well (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Elektroschock (659467) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:10PM (#16020548)
    Wikipedia is just fine as it is. Press complains about single cases but non-perfection is essential for getting people involved. 'Peak Britannica' is just a matter of time.

    The complaints of conservative outsiders have to be used in a productive fashion. Ask them to donate staff to QA wikipedia.

    Wikipedia has almost no employees. A public library gets more public funding than wikipedia. I think as Wikipedia fulfills an important or key task for society, the governments shoudl spent a few dollars on it.

    So if they complain about Wikipedia next time ask for more public funds. And deny any approach which compromises the WIKI-success model.
    • Re:Oh well (Score:5, Informative)

      by 9x320 (987156) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:16PM (#16020579)
      Donations by governments have been rejected as a risk to its impartiality, or perceived impartiality, at least.
    • A public library gets more public funding than wikipedia.

      And, in the US, a public library gets twisted by the government and its agendas far more than wikipedia ever has. Look at all the censorship laws directed at library internet access and justified, or excused by the apologists, because of their public funding.

      Government(s) already have too much power to censor the net, we don't need to give them any more.
      • The cyberlibertarian approach leads to a situation where public authorities spent millions on their commercial counterparts and useful projects run with almost no fuel. I don't say decision. I say funding for what is succesful.
        • The cyberlibertarian approach leads to a situation where public authorities spent millions on their commercial counterparts and useful projects run with almost no fuel.

          Huh? How do you go from "don't spend public money on non-goverment projects like wikipedia" to "leads to ... public authorities spend[ing] millions on [non-government projects]?"

          I don't say decision. I say funding for what is succesful.

          You can say what you want. But the only example we have to indicate what will happen indicates bad will hap
          • It is an efficiency argument.


            * public authorities spent millions on their commercial counterparts

            * useful non-profit substitutes run with almost no fuel.


            Public procurement, e.g. say who buys EB? Public libraries!! Wikipedia is more open, more accesible,better, cheaper etc. Why not transfer 10% of what governments pay for EB to the Wikipedia foundation, so it can become even better.

            Other
            a)
            * you get a National Spam Council with a large conference series and spam awareness raising programs, high level. After 2
  • by theglassishalf (216497) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:14PM (#16020567) Homepage
    I always thought it would be a great idea if some group (a major university, perhaps) were to fork Wikipedia and make "confirmed correct" pages that could then be used for real research. This is an interesting spin on that: not "confirmed correct" but at least "not patently wrong", and it (may) approach this goal without needing to fork. Good luck guys.
    • Vouching (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Harmonious Botch (921977) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:28PM (#16020642) Homepage Journal
      I always thought it would be a great idea if some group (a major university, perhaps) were to fork Wikipedia and make "confirmed correct" pages

      Good idea, but there is no need to fork Wikipedia, just have a protected field for organizations or people who are considered athorities in their area. A cosmology article, for example, might have a note at the bottom that says "Roger Penrose has looked at this and vouches for it's accuracy". If somebody edits it, the field then reads "Prior to the most recent edit, this page was vouched for by Roger Penrose."
      A person would think twice about changing something when the record would show that he thereby made it inferior.
      • Re:Vouching (Score:5, Insightful)

        by amRadioHed (463061) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:50PM (#16020756)
        A person would think twice about changing something when the record would show that he thereby made it inferior.

        If that was the case, that would be rather unfortunate. Just because Penrose has verified that a certain page is accurate as best as he knows, doesn't mean that it doesn't have room for improvement. Especially in a field such as Cosmology where changes are so frequent and substantial. It would not be good for any sort of marking that would hinder future development of the page.
        • It would not be good for any sort of marking that would hinder future development of the page.

          Hmmm...true...perhaps the wiki should be divided into two sections: a 'vouched for' and an 'addendum' section; or a 'above the voucher' and 'below the voucher'. The expert of Wikipedia's choosing could vouch for the part that he considers correct, and anybody else could add newer stuff below.
          Every now and then the expert would scan the newer parts, and if he liked what he saw, he could move his voucher down t
      • Re:Vouching (Score:5, Informative)

        by NumbThumb (468496) <daniel@@@brightbyte...de> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:55PM (#16020770) Homepage Journal
        Something like this is in fact part of the proposal currently under discussion: a seconds flag ("validated" or something) in addition to "not vandalized". The ability to set this flag would be reserved to a special group of experts. For core articles about science, etc, I think this can work. I'm not sure though how much of Wikipedia can be covered this way.
      • by mean pun (717227)
        The best approach would probably be that anyone can add such a tag, but by default only a few authoritive tags are visible. If you're interested in the tag 'The US governement approves of this version' that's up to you.

        The only drawback I see is that I, random outsider, may be able to improve on an authoritive version, simply by fixing a spelling error. Are these authority figures going to approve all such changes? That may grow old very fast.

    • There are various ideas along these lines. The important thing is not to foul up the normal Wikipedia creation and editing process. See Category:Wikipedia release version work [wikipedia.org] for some ideas on the English language Wikipedia. Like this proposal, most of the workable ones tend toward flagging or listing particular articles or article versions on the existing wiki, rather than bothering with a fork.
  • by madhatter256 (443326) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:19PM (#16020592)
    Q: Why did this take so long?

    A: Because people in general can be idiots and can mess around with information posted on wikipedia for a few giggles before someone has to go in and moderate it back to the article's original state. For example, remember the fiasco with Stephen Colbert? That page on elephants had to restricted because people kept on going in and changing it. Before that, there was restrictions on congressmen from editing pages on their opponents (search slashdot) because they were putting in false information about them as well as false accusations.

    Although I like the idea of having information free and able to update it instantaneously, however, the vast majority of people are not ready to truly treat wikipedia the way it should be treated.

    Before, information was only allowed to a select few but as technology evolved, so did the ability to acquire information as well. And now it really is becoming highly accessible for everyone, however, there are no checks and balances to see if the information that is posted/edited is correct and factual, even if a majority thinks one entry is true but in reality it isn't, this can and will happen and the rest of the world isn't ready for a true wikipedia.

    I do have to say though that this venture in Germany will kick off well because Germany has less chance of people, anonymous people, go in and just start messing around.
    • by mapkinase (958129)
      I could not help paraphrasing Tom Lehrer: "... and Germans did not bother us much since 1914".
  • by CDarklock (869868) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:22PM (#16020612) Homepage Journal
    I go to Wikipedia to look things up. Usually, I'll click through to a few related links. If I happen to see that something is vandalised or blatantly wrong, I will log in and either fix it or stick one of the dispute bugs on the page and open a talk issue about it.

    The important thing here is that I am NORMALLY not logged in. If the most-vandalised pages are version flagged, I will never see the vandalism, and thus I will never fix it.

    I don't know how many people browse this way, but if there are enough of them, it will have an impact on how the whole wiki concept works.
    • by jchenx (267053) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:39PM (#16020707) Journal
      I don't see how this breaks it at all. All it requires is one change on your part: stay logged into Wikipedia. Now, I don't know how hard or feasible this is to you, but it seems to make sense for me.

      I, as well as most other folks, just use Wikipedia as "read-only", to look things up. I don't really envision myself being the helpful type, as you are. So there's really no reason for us to be logged in.

      But for those like you who want to help Wikipedia, just stay logged in! I don't know if they have a "keep me logged in" feature, but I imagine they do ... or should now. Otherwise, you're right ... it'd be a pain in the butt for helpers to have to log in every time they visit the site.
      • by 9x320 (987156)

        I, as well as most other folks, just use Wikipedia as "read-only", to look things up. I don't really envision myself being the helpful type, as you are. So there's really no reason for us to be logged in.

        There is a reason for non-editors to have a username. Logged in users can change how the layout of Wikipedia appears to them through this page [wikipedia.org]. Here are previews of different layouts, for non-logged in users:

        Nostalgia [wikipedia.org]
        Chick [wikipedia.org]
        MySkin [wikipedia.org]
        Cologne Blue [wikipedia.org]
        Classic [wikipedia.org]
        The default you probably have on right now is called MonoBook

    • by myspys (204685) *
      i guess the key thing here is that this flagging only relates to some pages
    • Wait, I think I have a solution for your problem:

      Log in.

      I do. It's fun!(tm)
    • Yes, this is a problem some have mentioned in the discussions about the plan - that it makes regular editing of Wikipedia easier, but casual editing (anon typo fixing) two clicks instead of one, and that will be enough for people not to bother. Since most of our anonymous edits are in fact perfectly good edits, this is an effect that the experimental period will be watching for.
  • by brundlefly (189430) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:30PM (#16020659)
    This is a security model inversion which is better suited to Wikis than traditional security, and it's Good.

    Traditional security (i.e. non-communal) says "only privileged users can make changes", and "the more privileged you are, the more you can change".

    This security inverts that concept and focuses not on who can change what, but rather on how pervasive their changes are once they have made them. If the old model is a Privilege-Heirarchy model, then this is a Popularity-Broadcasting model. It says "anyone can change anything", and "only if you matter will your changes be seen by anyone else who matters".

    It removes the temptation to vandalize anonymously, because anonymous folks have no rep and therefore no power. It idealizes having a good reputation, because therein lies the path to the biggest podium.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by bherman (531936)
      You must be a college student.

      You just took the article and reworded it perfectly to say the same thing without having to cite your source.

      good job A+ for you!
    • It's not an inversion, it's a focus on a different part of the security process, one that isn't talked about so much: Recovery.

      People talk a lot about Detection and Prevention, which is good since a lot of times Recovery isn't feasible (for example, if a virus wipes someone's home PC, it's likely not recoverable since they probably didn't have a backup).

      However, sometimes it's better to allow a potentially bad thing to happen and recover from it later if it turns out to actually be bad, than to prevent it i
  • 1. There are two wikipedia's - public and "underground". There are two classes of people for those two wikipedia's. Instead of one most recent version with equal access, now we will have two. Depending on the level of care for the underground Universe - it will becomes "street"opedia as in wise and street-wise.

    2. Wrappers around "underground" wikipedia will appear exposing it to the public.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by amRadioHed (463061)
      1. There are two wikipedia's - public and "underground". There are two classes of people for those two wikipedia's. Instead of one most recent version with equal access, now we will have two. Depending on the level of care for the underground Universe - it will becomes "street"opedia as in wise and street-wise.

      That's just silly. For that to be the case it would require a conspiracy of all registered wikipedia users to prevent the best, most up to date pages from being seen by the unwashed masses. Obviously
      • by mapkinase (958129)
        Nobody says which versions will be the best. May be you should start reading what IN lines,not BETWEEN the lines.
    • by Jetson (176002)
      You forgot:

      3. ???

      4. Profit!

  • "version-flagged: where anyone can make a modification, but only non-new users can "bless" the page to make it public."

    Whether it really is more wiki in practice depends on:

    1) how many pages end up version flagged
    2) who are regarded as non-new users

    Given the way they've tried to spin it as "definitely more wiki", I think soon we'll have "all are equal but some are more equal than others".

    If Wikipedia was a humour/satire site then that's probably fine, but it seems it is supposed to be a site about truths.

    An
  • It's about time. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DeadboltX (751907) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:36PM (#16020944)
    Programmers have been using this method for years. It's called Beta testing.

    A page gets edited, new page is tagged 'beta', registered users check the page to make sure its clean and tag it 'stable' where it is then released to the rest of the world.

    The fact that anyone can become a registered user makes this open-source, so the slashdot community should be behind it 100%!!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DiamondGeezer (872237)
      The fact that anyone can become a registered user makes this open-source, so the slashdot community should be behind it 100%!!

      But open source software is not written like this. Instead the code is watched over by extremely knowledgeable people, and changes are made after full testing has been done to confirm functionality.

      Open source software engineering does not involve anybody just registering and altering the live code (even with versioning)

      It doesn't matter, Wikipedia is not opensource even in the sense
  • I'm curious what the ratio of signed in / anonymous article views is. Obviously the number of anonymous views must be many times larger for them to feel this will help.

    I see a few issues with this.

    Since user contributions (for protected articles) will have to be specifically flagged as valid, there will be a delay before the contribution is seen by all. For obscure articles this delay could be measured in days. It also lessens one of the strengths of Wikipedia over other encyclopedias, which is immediacy
    • by pilkul (667659)
      Subtle modification of article facts is what is really dangerous (like changing a birthdate by a few days, etc).

      I've done some vandalism patrol, and actually changes like what you describe from anonymous or new users immediately raise a red flag. Think about it: what are the chances that the original author(s) somehow got this simple, easily-looked-up fact wrong? It actually takes a huge amount of effort and intelligence to come up with plausible-sounding false statements: most people can't do it. And
    • by Baricom (763970) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @10:35PM (#16021293)
      I've been considering the proposal, and I think the extension could be fairly simple, and address most of your points. Here's how I'd do it:

      1. Unless an article has been protected, editing works as it does today - somebody clicks Edit, makes the change, hits Save Page, and the edit immediately shows up.
      2. If an article is either protected or semi-protected, the appropriate class of users cannot immediately alter the article. In this case, when they click Edit, they'll receive a warning message, something like this:
        This article has been protected or semi-protected. Any changes you make will be saved for possible inclusion in a future version of the article.
      3. If the article already has a "future version", rather than the typical edit screen, MediaWiki will take the editor to the Show Changes screen, which will show a diff between the latest version of the article and the protected version (the one displayed by default). When they save, the saved version becomes the protected version, assuming they have sufficient access. Something on the page should also change (perhaps the edit tab's name?) to alert users that future revisions exist.
      4. Future versions can be accessed by anybody (even logged-out users) from the history. As far as the software is concerned, these versions are no different than previous revisions. This is on par with the status of most previous revisions now - if you choose to, you can go see the vandalism. The only difference is now you can also see vandalism that hasn't happened yet.


      Here's responses to some of your points:

      Obviously the number of anonymous views must be many times larger for them to feel this will help.
      I suspect that the vast majority of hits to Wikipedia are users with no account who are there purely for research purposes. Wikipedia comes up first in many Google and Yahoo! searches.

      Since user contributions (for protected articles) will have to be specifically flagged as valid, there will be a delay before the contribution is seen by all.
      My proposal addresses this by making the edit available, just hidden by default. It also eliminates the separate flagging process by letting anybody who could make an instant edit in the current system make an instant edit to a protected article.

      More reversion of vandalism will fall on signed in users, since anonymous users cannot see the vandalism and thus cannot revert it themselves.
      In this system, anonymous users can see vandalism - they just have to go looking for it. A logged-in user or admin can trivially "bless" the revert by a null edit, which are sometimes used now for other reasons.

      Since regular contributors will know that vandalism cannot be seen by the general public, it may lead to apathy, leaving the vandalism in the article for longer.
      It may, but since the next valid editor has to take care of it before saving their edit, I don't think it'd be too much of a problem.

      I don't think it's perfect, but I think this proposal could work given sufficient buy-in by editors. It's fairly easy to understand, uses concepts editors are already familiar with, and steers users into the desired behavior (less vandalism, and more attention to articles before they're changed).
  • by Asmor (775910) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:53PM (#16021055) Homepage
    It sounds like a good idea in practice, but it's susceptible to a large-scale conspiracy. And don't go waving that off as some silly paranoid delusion, not only can it happen, it HAS happened.

    I submit the Colbert Report. He's got a huge legion of geeks ready to do whatever he says, albeit all in good-natured jest. He overwhelmed an online vote in some European country to name a bridge after him (he got something like 2 million votes, which was significantly more than the population of said country). He's even gone after Wikipedia, suggesting that people edit the page on African elephants to suggest that their population has tripled in the past few years.

    Now, imagine if this system were in place. The same legion of Colbert-inspired editors would also flag the page as valid, thus making it the default page and making the harm difficult to repair.
    • by Webz (210489)
      With versioning systems, damage was never difficult to repair. Consider this: if you approve an article that isn't really kosher, your name shows up in the history as the one who approved it. If you have a history of approving unfit articles, maybe your privilages should be taken away. Your reputation with the Wikipedia community is at stake, just because you want to support Colbert?
    • Yes, but then once the vandalism was detecting, the sme legion of persons would have their accounts flagged as unreliable. Vandals generally avoid signing their name to their vandalism.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dubl-u (51156)
      Now, imagine if this system were in place. The same legion of Colbert-inspired editors would also flag the page as valid, thus making it the default page and making the harm difficult to repair.

      And a bunch of other Colbert-watching editors would put it back. Or, at worst, the page would get protected for a couple of days until the pranksters found a shiny new video on YouTube.

      With version control and one-click reversion, it is easier to clean up messes than to make them. That fundamentally shifts the balanc
    • by soliptic (665417) on Friday September 01, 2006 @05:56AM (#16022828) Journal
      He overwhelmed an online vote in some European country to name a bridge after him (he got something like 2 million votes, which was significantly more than the population of said country)

      I'm going to take a wild stab in the dark and guess you're American? I mean, wtf, "some European country"? It was Hungary, which has a population of about 10 million, and last time I checked 2 million wasn't significantly more than 10 million.
      • by Asmor (775910)
        I have a memory like a sieve and couldn't remember which country it was. Wasn't too sure about the vote count, either. Could well have been 20 million for all I know. All I remembered was that Colbert said it was more than the population of the country. <shrug>
  • Here is a truly inventive way of solving a difficult problem. They've basically flipped everything on its head. Instead of voting to exclude, they vote to include, without distorting the current system or balance (not everything must be tagged include).

    I think many others should take note of this system if it works. It's not exactly like Digg, but the idea of inclusion moderation could work in many other areas. To me, this is like switching from blacklisting to whitelisting to stop spam, and I think it
  • Not bad - I'm surpised it took them this long to adopt the obvious solution, but the implementation details are much better than expected, so good on them for taking the time to get the implementation right. Now, all they need to do is build the logic of how pages are 'protected' into the system directly, so that when certain edit patterns or questionable new content is detected (presence of dirty words, etc), the pages go into protected mode automatically and flag an administrator to investigate. If it's l
  • So if what they are describing is limiting the visibility of pages that are edited by anonymous and new users, whats to prevent the chronic vandalizer? A feedback system like ebay, or even like the karma system her here, where editors' reputations are visible to everyone would allow more insight into the veracity of every edit. A poster upstream suggested "believable" pranks would be hard to spot, but they might be easier to spot if the user had a low reputation value. Reputation points could be either rand

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