Wikipedia is considering a basic change to its editing philosophy to cut down on vandalism. In the process, the online encyclopedia anyone can edit would add a layer of hierarchy and eliminate some of the spontaneity that has made the site, at times, an informal source of news.
It well could bring some law and order to the creative anarchy that has made the site a runaway success but also made it a target for familiar criticism.
The idea, which is called “flagged revisions,” has only been possible in the last few months because of a new extension to the software that runs Wikipedia. It is sure to be a hot topic here at Wikimania 2008, in Alexandria, Egypt, because it promises to enact a goal for “stable versions” of articles that has long been championed by Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales.
An administrator at the German Wikipedia, where the first large-scale experiment is happening, will give a talk Friday on how it’s going.
Was anyone there? How did it go?
Here's an interesting comment from the Times post:
Wikipedia seems to want to pretend that it is some sort of old school Encyclopedia. However Wikipedia is not an old school Encyclopedia, its better than that. It’s a forum where ideas compete in the full light of public scrutiny in the best traditions of free speech.
This culture shift has been underway for a couple years. Wikipedia is trying to change from a set of town squares (hey heavy metal fans, let's all gather at Heavy Metal!), each with its own idiosyncrasies, to a more formal and static reference work.
This isn't surprising -- if you call yourself an encyclopedia, you're going to attract people who want to weed out the "unencyclopedic". But it could have unintended side effects -- at worst, it could undermine the enthusiasm that makes wikipedia tick.
(Here's another Times dispatch from the conference.)