Chris O'Meara/AP
Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia

Does Wikipedia's Flagged Revisions Plan Mean the Death of UGC?

January 27, 2009 01:01 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales' plan to have content approved beforehand has ignited debate about the site's purpose and renewed questions about user-generated content.

Wikipedia Might Pursue Flagged Revisions Policy

Wikipedia may require certain user-generated content to be approved before it shows up on the site, according to the BBC. Wales is pushing for the revision after Wikipedia pages for Sens. Robert Byrd and Edward Kennedy falsely claimed that they had died after leaving the congressional luncheon for President Barack Obama's Inauguration.

Wales wants to have a system of “flagged revisions,” reports the BBC, in which a site's editors would have to approve changes from a new or unknown user before they appear on a page. Such a policy would “would mean a radical shift from the site's philosophy that ostensibly allows anyone to make changes to almost any entry.”

Wikipedia currently does “protect” select pages from user-generated content, according to FOX News. Issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other particularly controversial topics fall under the more stringent monitoring.

Many Wikipedia editors have criticized the proposal and say that it is too difficult to implement. One user wrote a comment on Wales’ blog that said, “Enabling Flagged Revisions will undoubtedly create backlogs that we will be unable to manage.” Another one said that there are "gaping holes in what you propose to do.”

Wales responded to the uproar by proposing a compromise: critics should make "an alternative proposal within the next 7 days, to be voted upon for the next 14 days after that."

German Wikipedia has used an approval system for about a year. But some opponents have said the German method requires a substantial amount of work and revisions could take days or weeks until they are published.

But Wales argues that the lag time wouldn't be as bad. "Our version should show very minimal delays (less than 1 week, hopefully a lot less) because we will only be using it on a subset of articles," writes Wales, according to FOX News. "the boundaries of which can be adjusted over time to manage the backlog."

Background: Knol challenges trustworthiness of Wikipedia

Google unveiled Knol last year, a new online encyclopedia, written by experts, that aims to take user-generated content to a more sophisticated level.

According to Google’s official blog in July 2008, “the key principle behind Knol is authorship” because “not everything worth knowing is on the Web. An enormous amount of information resides in people’s heads.”

Google’s head of search engineering Udi Manber explained to Wired how Knol differs from Wikipedia, saying, “One article is written by one person, and it’s one person’s opinion. You know who that person is and where they’re coming from.”

However, some critics have questioned how Knol will really help Internet users locate the best information, as Google expected numerous knols to be written for each topic. The Marketing Pilgrim blog asked how users will find specific knols, and which knols they should adhere to when authors present opposing information.

Knol had been dished about in the blogosphere for months, but its launch signified a culmination of the growing backlash against unmoderated, user-generated Web content. “People are beginning to recognize that the world is too dangerous a place for faulty information,” said Charlotte Beal of Iconoculture, a Minneapolis-based research firm.

Wikipedia in particular has been cast as an Internet villain by the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, which asserted that students were relying too heavily on Wikipedia for research, and coming up with inaccurate information.

Related: Young people may not be so Web savvy

Reference: Guide to Wikipedia; Web research


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