Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wikipedia: the end of the dream?

There’s a blog post on the New York Times saying that Wikipedia might introduce a system of approvals for edits. The problem Wikipedia is trying to solve has been around for a while – people apparently go in and delete or alter chunks of material about current topics, especially politicians, usually in violation of Wikipedia’s policies such as the neutral point of view. People and companies have been caught trying to spin their entries, or paying others to do so.

Various solutions have been tried, such as locking political articles close to elections, or only allowing certain people to edit the most controversial ones. What’s now being proposed is that all edits to the encyclopedia should be approved by a member of some trusted group before they go live.

This is a shame. The core of Wikipedia was its “anyone can edit” ethos. This was a fantastic idea that has worked a whole lot better than its critics said it would. It’s why Wikipedia has succeeded in building such a large corpus of knowledge ahead of other online and offline encyclopedias. And yes, at times its authority is open to question, but it makes a great place to start researching something.

It seems as though human nature is catching up with the policy unrestricted editing that has made Wikipedia so great. I’m sorry about that.

posted by colin at 7:00 pm  

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