Accessible Almanac Abates Anonymous Abilities

Wikipedia, at the direction of its BDFL, Jimbo Wales, recently stripped article creation abilities from users who are not registered and logged in. This was done in response to some negative press in USA Today. While “anons” or “anon ips” as they are commonly called by Wikipedians like myself are still allowed to edit existing articles, this new requirement is worrisome for a few reasons.

Firstly, its not the most effective response to vandalism, while a large amount of vandalism comes from anonymous IPs, the stuff that has been tradititionally tough to deal with comes from logged in registered users—I know of two such infamous vandals: Willy on Wheels and Michael. The reason these users are tough to deal with is because they have slightly more power (like moving pages), and are generally the more dedicated vandals, and since to be successful (if thats the correct term), they create many accounts and vandalize with new ones as old ones are blocked from editing.

Also, it makes vandalism a little bid harder to catch, as users who are going to vandalize by creating new articles are now required to log in. That means your average recent-changes patroller (like myself) will not catch their edits, as we only scan edits by anons.

On a more idealistic and political note, we have now entered a brave new world that the Cabal (which does not exist…hehe) said would never exist. Users frustrated by with vandalism to Wikipedia have made repeated calls for limiting anon creation/editing abilities, almost since the dawn of time (er… Wikipedia). But, it was basically promised that this would never occur. So an article (op-ed at that) in the country’s most popular (although not most respected) newspaper blasts Wikipedia for one rather large factual error, Wikipedia has been the target of unending criticism for years, and will be for years to come. The proper way to deal with such criticism is to fight the problem at its source—deal with uncited facts. If something is not commonly available, it should be cited. Yes, I have been guilty of not citing reasonably obscure facts, but I will definately change that now. This would help resolve the real problem: misinformation, incorrect information, and non-neutral information presented in the encyclopedia.

The reason the reason above matters, aside from keeping Wikipedia free (as in speech, not as in beer), is that there is a higher adoption barrier. A first time visitor, or an editor that prefers to remain anonymous will be less likely to create a new article, even where one is desired. Since, in my opinion, Wikipedia’s primary strength right now is breadth (although its depth improves by the day), this is a bad thing.

Anyways, once finals are over (forever, as an undergraduate!), I will certainly take some time to check over articles I’ve done lots of editing on, and perhaps try to get anon creation abilities reinstated, although Wikipedia policy debates leave a yucky feeling in my tummy.

Also, if you are an expert on something, and are a user of Wikipedia, a good deed would be to review the articles on the topic you are an expert on, and add some references, check/cite facts which you are unsure of, and contribute anything you kno that isn’t covered (:

1 Comment »

  1. jenny Said,

    December 18, 2005 @ 1:16

    this is good.

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