Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Good post about the media and wikipedia. (I should steal the disclaimer for this blog.) One highlight:

The point of registering users is not to make it easier to sue errant Wikipedia contributors. It will in fact have the opposite effect. Wikipedia tracks unregistered users' IP addresses — which, with a court order, can usually be traced back to a real-world identity — because it has no other way of telling if a slew of trash articles are coming from a single source. Wikipedia does not track the IP addresses of registered users because their pseudonyms serve the same purpose. So requiring people to log in will make them more anonymous, not less. But it will enable Wikipedia's reputation system to operate more effectively on new entries. And it will cut down on the ~5,000 new entries created every day, of which about 3,500 are obvious junk ("Asdfasdf" is a particularly popular entry) quickly weeded out by the Wikipedians who patrol the site.

Allowing unregistered users to edit existing articles plays into that reputation system. Says Jimmy: "Why do we allow anonymous users to edit existing articles when we know that the flow of edits from anonymous users is worse than from logged-in users? It implicitly self-selects trolls because we see the IP number but not the login name."

Jimmy thinks the the mainstream media misunderstood this story because they have a cognitive problem when it comes to anonymity and accountability:

"The thing that people always latch onto is that it has to do with anonymity. But it doesn't have to do with knowing who you are [in the real world] . We care about pseudo-identity, not identity. The fact that a certain user has a persistent pseudo-identity over time allows us to gauge the quality of that user without having any idea of who it really is."

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