CNET reported on Friday that Wikipedia, the massive user-collaborated online encyclopedia, is planning on imposing stricter editorial rules and “freezing” pages that contain stable, undisputed content.
This move stems from founder Jimmy Wales’ desire to prevent vandalism of the information on the site. He cites a recent example of a vandal replacing Pope Benedict’s photo with the evil emperor from Star Wars on the Wikipedia site. The issue here is who defines undisputed? A “commission” set up to determine “undisputed content” is being discussed as a viable option.
With this move and with the collapse of the LA Times Wikitorial, it seems the original zeal for collaborative environments is waning to caution. Is this as Jeff Jarvis says, in his summary of the collapse of the LA Times Wiki, “like hearing Kathie Lee Gifford try to rap and then, upon hearing the results, declaring hip hop dead” or is it a wakeup call to our dreams of an online utopia where the “Wisdom of Crowds” is realized?
I’m, personally, holding onto my faith that a few “trolls” (as they’ve been referred to) won’t ruin my utopia. The reality is that wiki vandalism will happen. Not everyone online has the same passion for sharing and collaboration. Akin to the offline versions of vandalism, some users desperate for attention will cause a ruckus no matter how utopic a project.
What concerns me is that the benchmark for “why collaboration works” is now backing down on their own ideals. When “commissions” (Who is on this commission? How are they chosen?) are formed to decide “which entries could be ‘frozen’ in perpetuity,” I feel like we’re taking a major step backwards.