Crowd-sourcing to create an online repository of data/information has been a masterstroke from Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia! However, monitoring content in flow and validating data to be “clean” is key to building credibility. A little bit of censorship/discipline of data may actually favor Crowd-sourcing and content democratization!
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia launched by American entrepreneur Jimmy Wales in 2001 with the idealistic intention of being an online repository of all human knowledge, announced this week that it would have to abandon one of its founding principles. To combat a growing amount of vandalism on the website, all entries would be edited before they go up on the site. Wiki announced this on August 31st and will conduct a pilot run over the next fortnight to assess the data validity, cleanliness on these lines.
Previously, any user was allowed to make – almost – any change to any entry: this was hailed as part of the democratizing power of the internet. But a sharp increase in false information – particularly in relation to people still alive – has forced a rethink.
How did the Wikipedia work before?
Wales has been feted as a brilliant business mind and social innovator for tapping into a popular impulse to add to public knowledge that few people knew existed, and even fewer publicly predicted.
Wikipedia still works largely by allowing anybody to login as a user and click on an “Edit this page” tab at the top of an entry. From there it’s simply a case of making changes and saving them, albeit according to a policy on “biographies of living persons”.
Any changes are then filed under the “Edit history” of the page, and the IP address – a numbered identity that shows where the change has been made from – is also kept on record. Pages that contain unverified information are highlighted.
Wiki introduces “Flagged Revisions”
The new policy is referred to as “flagged revisions”. It allows editors to adjudicate (mainly through reference to other news sources) on changes made to the pages of a living person. The flagged revisions will be rolled out by September15th,2009, and Wikimedia, the non-profit organisation that runs the website, will monitor users responses over the trial period.
A team of “experienced volunteer editors” will oversee amendments to such pages. “We are no longer at the point where it is acceptable to throw things at the wall and see what sticks”, said Michael Snow, chairman of the Wikimedia board.
And Mike Peel, its UK spokesman, clarified the intention: “Anyone can continue to edit these articles, but the work of inexperienced editors with less than three days’ experience will be subject to review by more experienced editors”, he said. “This is our attempt to create a buffer to ensure that editors do not commit acts of vandalism.”