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Wikipedia’s tactical change mistaken for strategic

At the English language version of Wikipedia now, changes to articles about living people won’t be posted until a Wikipedian has reviewed it. Those articles are now moderated. (See Slashdot for details and discussion.)

I am surprised by the media being surprised by this. Wikipedia has a complex set of rules, processes, and roles in place in order to help it achieve its goal of becoming a great encyclopedia. (See Andrew Lih’s The Wikipedia Revolution‘, and How Wikipedia Works by Phoebe Ayers, Charles Matthews, and Ben Yatesfor book-length explanations.) This new change, which seems to me to be a reasonable approach worth a try, is just one more process, not a signal that Wikipedia has failed in its original intent to be completely open and democratic. In effect, edits to this class of articles are simply being reviewed before being posted rather than after.

The new policy is only surprising if you insist on thinking that Wikipedia has failed if it isn’t completely open and free. No, Wikipedia fails if it doesn’t become a great encyclopedia. In my view, Wikipedia has in many of the most important ways succeeded already.

PS: If you think I’ve gotten this wrong, please please let me know, in the comments or at, since I’ll be on KCBS at 2:20pm EDT to be interviewed about this for four minutes.

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5 Responses to “Wikipedia’s tactical change mistaken for strategic”

  1. I think you got it 100% right. It’s not even really a tactical change yet, it’s just a test of a tactical change.

  2. I’m a bit more moderate in my opinion about this fact.
    I agree that it is not any u-turn of Wikipedia’s idea of openness and freedom of publishing,

    But I’m not surprised that media noticed the step.
    People are worried about the possibility of the largest existing corpus of human knowledge to lost its grounds. Some could take this small step as a bad signal.

    I feel I want to paraphrase your expression:
    Wikipedia could fail in her efforts to be the greatest encyclopedia if it compromised on freedom and openness…

    Is your KCBS interview somewher on the web?

  3. I thnk it’s part of the media’s generally negative reaction to the Internet: If it seems to show that the Net isn’t as good as people think, they run the piece.

    My KCBS interview was fleeting and isn’t posted. Nice of you to ask, though.

  4. It seems to me that the idea that open-edit wiki can create a great encyclopedia was pushed by Wikipedians, while the gut response of the media was to resist this idea. So naturally, they would want to say “I told you so”. But in fairness to them, it should be acknowledged that the over the top claim that an unmoderated wiki is the way to go often comes from Wikipedia lovers.

  5. Well, I think that openness of Wikipedia was one of the gusts of a wind call “Web 2.0” and I would never credit only Wikipedians for the idea.

    However, I think both of you (comments #2,#3) may be right about classical media “mental” attitude toward Web. Digging in my memory I could dig out articles, columns, essays in my part of the world, that indeed were negatively biased against all things on the Web….

Web Joho only

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