Bizwiki Blog

Wikipedia breaks with the tradition of ‘Anything Goes’

The Independent newspaper published an article on Tuesday, 3 February 2009, titled ‘So is Wikipedia cracking up?’ in which Stephen Foley explores the problem of vandalism plaguing certain areas of the online encyclopaedia site, and Wikipedia’s reaction to it.

The article states, ‘Barack Obama’s inauguration day was the final straw for Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s founder and visionary-in-chief, who declared that it was time to break with the tradition of “anything goes”.

From now on, he proposes, editing the biography of a living person will be a two-stage process; anyone can still make a revision, but it will have to be flagged as “approved” by someone higher up the Wikipedian food-chain before it goes live on the site. “This sort of nonsense would have been 100 per cent prevented by flagged revisions,” Wales stated.

Of course, apart from the headline itself there is no indication of Wikipedia ‘cracking up’ – it remains a source of information that millions of people around the world are coming to rely on more and more. What we are really seeing here is Wikipedia moving to a more ‘managed’ approach to editing,  but even this limited move towards moderation will be a big change to Wikipedia’s former somewhat laissez faire approach in allowing changes to instantly go live.

We have implemented a similar approach in having editors involved in the moderation of new company data and business information here on Bizwiki because as a business site, it’s vitally important that users can trust and rely on information. This does slow the process of adding new records down somewhat, but we believe we’ve still kept the best part of the wiki-model, which is a site made by its users for its users.

In Wikipedia’s case, Reid Priedhorsky, who studies Wikipedia and similar social projects at the University of Minnesota, estimated in a recent paper that the chances of any one visitor seeing a damaged Wikipedia page are about one in 140, as the average time it takes to repair damage is less than three minutes, and even less for heavily tracked pages.
However, the most startling fact about Wikipedia remains how accurate it is, not how inaccurate.

“As a researcher, I’m baffled that it works, but Wikipedia is one of the wonderful things that has happened in the 21st century. Many hands make light work. There are millions of people who edit Wikipedia, and many of them track changes to the pages they are interested in. I have 43 pages on my watchlist, for example, covering subjects I know things about. Any controversial edit is likely to be quickly seen by many people.”

So while we can expect their approach to continue to gradually change and evolve, long live Wikipedia and their brave goal of enabling users to create the largest encyclopaedia of knowledge the world has ever known.

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7 Comments so far

  1. parcellink on March 23rd, 2009

    I have definitely agree with the argument that wikipedia is a great thing. It has also had the ability to change and quickly realised when the information it exposed to the general public was not quite correct. I remember years back when wikipedia was just a very small website, visited by just a fraction of the people visit it nowadays, that the information provided on one the subjects I was searching for was not quite correct. It was an historical fact which I was very familiar with, which was presented on wikipedia incorrectly. I thought I’d never return on the website. I considered that websites presenting inaccurate information should not be allowed to stay live, especially if there are historical facts involved. The World Wide Web is a huge place and any information you might put on the net becomes known by many, many people worldwide. It should not be the wrong info. Ultimately, it is the users which will condemn the website to death, as policing the web would be far too time consuming, virtually impossible. However, returning to wikipedia, since then, they have become a different place. You’d search for any information these days, and even if on certain subject the info is not in abundance, it is clear and certainly I haven’t found anything wrong since that initial experience.
    With this in mind, I’d say long live wikipedia. One of the greatest websites ever created. But it must be mentioned, never as good as the old Encyclopedia. It might sound strange, but paper will always be paper and I do not believe the internet will be able to take over completely.

  2. ma and van on April 21st, 2009

    This is the longest comment so far, dudde do you work for them!

  3. parcel delivery on May 15th, 2009

    No me friend. We don’t work for them… but I appreciate your possitive comment…next time we’ll try to keep it short. would yes or no, do duddde?

  4. Home Removal Services on June 9th, 2009

    Yes, the comment from parcellink was incredibly big. But let’s get back to praising wikipedia. It is just a wonderful piece of web and it is very useful for research and many more.

  5. Bert Catt on July 29th, 2009

    wikipedia will not allow the word terrorist on their site, unless it’s Islamic Terrorist (See article about 9/11). So Islamic Terrorist = OK
    IRA Terrorist = not allowed.

    Perhaps because the IRA only killed British people whereas 9/11 killed Americans?

    You make your own mind up.

  6. [...] February we reported that Wikipedia was considering just such a move in our post Wikipedia breaks with the tradition of ‘Anything Goes’. They are now going ahead with what is being termed “flagged revisions” which means [...]

  7. man and van on October 17th, 2009

    yes i must agree that it takes great work to to develop great things

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