Wikipedia considers limiting user edits

After its site is edited to say Sens. Kennedy and Byrd had died, user-generated resource looks at allowing only trusted users to immediately publish content changes.

Just as Encyclopedia Britannica is moving in the direction of user-based entries, Wikipedia might soon be clamping down on theirs.

Wikipedia is apparently considering instituting a new editorial process that would put better safeguards in place and require all updates to be approved by a "reliable" user. The so-called Flagged Revisions process would allow registered, trusted editors to publish changes to the site immediately. All other edits would be sent to a queue and would not be published until they get approved by one of Wikipedia's trusted team of editors.

The proposal comes in the aftermath of a false entry that was posted by a user, saying Senators Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd had died after an inaugural luncheon last week.

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On his public discussion page, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said, "This nonsense would have been 100 percent prevented by Flagged Revisions," adding that the system gives the site the flexibility to cover breaking news stories quickly while avoiding some of the shenanigans it's seen in the past.

The German version of Wikipedia has been using the system for a while now (partially since May and fully since August, according to one Wikipedia user). But Wales himself points out one major problem with the German model, citing delays of up to three weeks before edits get approved and go live.

"Our version should show very minimal delays (less than 1 week, hopefully a lot less)," wrote Wales, "because we will only be using it on a subset of articles, the boundaries of which can be adjusted over time to manage the backlog."

Which subset of articles would be flagged and exactly how those boundaries would be set isn't clear from the discussion.

Wales writes in his comments that 60 percent of users who responded to a poll approved of the move. Think Wikipedia's plans are a bad idea? There's time to give your input. Wales has asked people opposed to the Flagged Revisions plan to propose other workable solutions to the problem of wiki malfeasance.

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Jennifer Guevin is managing editor at CNET, overseeing the ever-helpful How To section, special packages, and front-page programming. As a writer, she gravitates toward science, quirky geek culture stories, robots, and food. In real life, she mostly just gravitates toward food.

 

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