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Sunday, August 19, 2007

You Can’t Have It Both Ways

The NYTimes writes about WikiScanner, a new Web site that traces the source of millions of changes to Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. The site, Wikiscanner, created by a computer science graduate student, cross-references an edited entry on Wikipedia with the owner of the computer network where the change originated, using the Internet protocol address of the editor’s network. Wired points out that the new data-mining service traces millions of Wikipedia entries to their corporate sources, and for the first time puts comprehensive data behind longstanding suspicions of manipulation, which until now have surfaced only piecemeal in investigations of specific allegations . This is downright scary – so I looked at the protection policy of Wikipedia.
Administrators can protect pages to restrict editing.
- Full protection disables editing for everyone except other administrators. Fully protected images cannot be overwritten by new uploads.
- Semi-protection disables editing from anonymous users and registered accounts fewer than five days old.
- Move protection protects the page solely from moves. Fully protected pages are move protected as well, by default.
- Cascading protection fully protects any page transcluded onto the protected page.

Clearly for the volume of content that Wikipedia is hosting, this is far too impractical to implement. Wikipedia is a very useful site – I do refer it whenever needed, but slowly it’s edge seems to be fading. Its key strength of parading collective intelligence, come to think of it appears to have been arm twisted by people/entities related – so it clearly loses its reliability factor as one source to look for reliable content and data. It is an irony that its core strength of being able to invite lot more people to contribute is actually hurting it. Cardinal principles can never go away - As they say, “You can’t have things both ways”.

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