Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Is the Wiki Cracking?

A Wiki is a grand and a noble concept. It aims to harness group intelligence to create content -- anyone with the knowledge of a topic and a willingness to write could create a page or edit it. Wikipedia - the free encyclopedia - is the best and arguably the most successful Wiki project today (the english version currently has 675,268 articles).

But there are reports (MSNBC via Reuters) now that Wikipedia plans to impose stricter editorial rules to prevent vandalism of its content. Wikipedia is imposing stricter editorial control in response to vandalism such as that on the page about the new Pope Benedict. Following the new Pope's election in April this year, a user substituted the pontiff's photo with that of the evil emperor from the Star Wars film series. Though it was rectified within a minute, Wikipedia feels that such incidents still damage the overall credibility of the Wiki. Wikipedia is now also toying with the idea of "freezing" some of its pages.
There may soon be so-called stable contents. In this case, we'd freeze the pages whose quality is undisputed.
-- Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia founder)
Jimmy Wales who launched Wikipedia with partner Larry Sanger in 2001, said that Wikipedia needed to find a balance between protecting information from abuse while at the same time and providing open access so that entries can be improved.

While Wikis traditionally stand for complete openness, Wikipedia's experience shows that not all online users (human nature being what it is) use this freedom with responsibility. This has now lead Wikis to explore alternatives -- like the one of "partially closed Wikis" that Wikipedia is thinking of trying out. Probably in the near future Wikis might move on to displaying entries that are written and edited by experts who themselves have been through some "vetting" process. It will be indeed be sad if such a wonderful concept is eventually so diluted that it's no longer viable simply because we can't conduct ourselves responsibly.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wiki's have not traditionally stood for "complete openness;" Radical Inclusiveness was discredited a long long time ago.

The difference between wiki and some other systems, is that wiki subtracts priviledge (from everything,) whereas others add priviledge (from nothing.)

Don't worry about the purity of the concept. Wikipedia is still harnessing group intelligence and creating content. There's no danger of that going away.