A better Wikipedia

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A better Wikipedia

This is an open debate for Wikipedians not satisfied with the current state of Wikipedia.

There are propositions put forward by Wikipedians :

  • there should be "closing" or "freezing" mechanism for Wikipedia pages

Here're some thought on the subject (disclaimer: I'm mainly a lurker, though I have contributed some content). The current scheme, in which the author must keep watch on his contributions in order to be sure that valuable content is not lost, is inefficient and may become a source of extreme frustration to authors who value their sense of authorship (this is very distinct from intellectual property!). Another problem is of course the controversial topics with many vocal advocates on both sides such as evolution/creationism. Here're some possible mechanisms that can deal with it:

  • a page may have a status: freely editable / frozen / add-only. The last choice is especially convenient for /Talk pages (the editing form would show the current page and let the user add content to an empty form). The status would not be permanent, it could be changed. The question is - how easily should it be possible to change it; here there's a tradeoff between the anarchy of Wiki and the rationale of page status, which is to discourage loss of valuable content and mindless changes. One extreme is to allow changing the status freely, but still make this an atomic operation with the page, which shows up in some emphasized form on the recent changes page. The other extreme is to require some kind of voting or hierarhical control on the proposition to freeze/thaw a page, or to temporarily make an add-only page freely editable (e.g. to better organize the discussion).
  • Signing a contribution to an add-only page can be made the default choice (when the name of the user is defined), though anonymous contribution should remain to be easily possible.
  • there might be a mechanism of sending a notification by email to user X whenever a page Y is changed, after X registers his desire to get such notifications for Y.

-- AnatolyVorobey

I quite strongly disagree with content freezing. I think that for Wikipedia to be successful, people are going to have to let go of the idea of authorship. People that are too attached to what they have contributed are unwilling to allow improvements to their articles. A freeze function would only escalate this problem. An add-only function would be very bad as well; people would have to tack "improvements" at the end of the text, instead of integrating them into the body of the article. Mistakes could not be corrected. If you want to claim credit for your authorship, there's nothing stopping you from copying any article you've written to you own webpage, but please, don't get so attached to your Wikipedia contributions that you'll be offended if someone changes them. -- STG

And yet, you signed this contribution - why aren't you letting go of the idea of authorship? Signatures are all over the place in Wikipedia, people are building lists of articles they watch closely, keeping track of their contributions -- why? People just aren't going to let go of the idea of authorship. And it's a good thing they aren't; their sense of authorship works against the complete anarchy to create the tradeoff that is Wikipedia. But the current tradeoff leans towards anarchy a bit too much; perhaps by merely slowing down some of the desctructive processes that are going on in Wikipedia (such as replacement of valuable content by misinformed mishmash) -- not abolishing the anarchy, but merely making some actions a little bit more difficult to achieve -- we can create a better tradeoff that will more rarely frustrate authors. --AV.
Generally, signatures are on commentary or opinion, not actual articles. I tend to agree with STG. Granted tighter control may be needed later, but I don't think we're there yet. --loh
I recommend that you, Anatoly, continue to work on Wikipedia and consider why it is that page freezing has been so far been generally regarded as a nonstarter (but you might like the Nupedia Chalkboard because it does have a "freezing" policy of sorts--at the option of the first author). I or someone could explain to you why it is unnecessary and disadvantageous, but simply spending more time on Wikipedia will make this clear to you in due time. --LMS
I claim authorship on my comments and discussion, but I was refering to Wikipedia articles, which are the real content of the encyclopedia. I stand by my comment; the points made in it have been left unanswered. -- STG

Page freezing has advantages: (1) attracting authors with a big ego, and (2) avoiding mess in the structure of articles (people tend to squeeze something in and ruin the flow of thought). A simple mechanism for kicking out unwanted freezes via vote could solve most of problems. You cannot correct Britannica, yet many still consider it unbeatable -- Piotr Wozniak

I have the same reply to you, Piotr; I haven't heard of either you or Anatoly until today, which I take is because you're new here. --LMS
If you haven't heard of Piotr, Larry, shame on you. He's been giving Wikipedia lots of great content. -- STG
Stephen, my comment was from weeks ago, when Piotr really was new. --LMS
My mistake. ;) -- STG

Once you have page freezing, you need a policy and mechanism in place to decide when a page can be frozen. Essentially, you need editorial oversight. I don't think we want that here, but luckily it is already in place at the Nupedia. So if an author feels reasonably confident that their article is complete, they can always submit it to the nupedia where it will be rigourously reviewed and then frozen. (And you'll even get a t-shirt!)

I think we should however make it easier for Wikipedia authors to monitor their "babies". I want to be able to set up a page which only monitors changes to pages I'm especially interested in, somewhat like a personalized [[Recent Changes]] and I also want to be able to get email notification whenever one of those pages is changed. --AxelBoldt

There are several services on the web that will monitor pages for you and email you when they change. Until Wikipedia has such functionality of its own, we could use them. -- STG

Freezing is surely a controversial issue. There must be very good reasons to freeze a page. One that comes to mind immediately - the page is finished.

But when is a page "finished"? One of the beauties of a dynamic, editable encyclopedia is that it can be kept up-to-date and is for that reason never "finished" in the sense of being "the final word." The best situation occurs when someone has written an article that is so fantastic that people are nervous about changing it, for fear of messing it up. That already happens. But if another expert happens along and has more to add, or a subtle edit to make, we shouldn't prevent him from doing it. --LMS

Other things I personally would welcome in Wikipedia2 or A Better Wikipedia are :

  • statistical pages of all imaginable sorts
  • category based "Recent Changes" ( as listed on homepage)
  • knowledge discovery hints
  • ask jeeves


Is the Wiki software open source? I looked around, but couldn't find anything regarding it. Even if it's not, if anyone could use some help, I, or more likely my friends, could probably do some good. I keep thinking there must be a better cgi search scheme ( though I don't have the foggiest idea what it currently is ), and the formatting bugs seem fixable with a few patches. I could write a capitalization fix function in a few hours, though it might not be terribly efficient. Seckstu - who has little programming talent but many computer nerds for friends.

It's just one big perl script, a modified UseModWiki, freely available; I even have it (UseMod, not the Wikipedia variant) running on my Windows (spit) laptop. --loh

I love the idea of setting up a homepage that lists articles I've written, contributed to, or otherwise have interest in to see how they develop. This way people who write more about physics can be in on the loop of many interesting projects (articles, etc) that might be happening in the physics area of Wikipedia, and which may otherwise go unnoticed in the current system. -CM

Many people already do this on their Wikipedia personal pages. It seems like an excellent way to give yourself credit for work on an article, without as it were "owning" it and thereby discouraging others from improving it freely. --LMS
Besides, each article's history page gives unambiguous credit for every change to the page, as long as the author has bothered to log in. So a record of authorship is perfectly preserved. <>< tbc
These only record recent changes; the information about original authorship eventually expires and is lost. --LDC
I use my /Interests subpage precisely like CM suggests – it enables me to track activity without relying on Recent Changes. One could even get tricky and link to the URL for the diff page instead of using just a plain free link. <>< tbc
In addition to an /Interests subpage, I also have a /Todo subpage so I can capture ideas I get without cluttering up article pages and creating stubs. (I've found that even creating a stub article is enough work that sometimes I'd rather just add it to my todo list and move on...) <>< tbc