Wikipedia to fight vandals in Germany

Wikipedia will start testing a new system at the German version of its site to prevent vandalism and other mischief.

When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected as pope last year, some Internet users who logged onto Wikipedia to see what he looked like found a rather different image: that of the evil emperor from "Star Wars."

The prank lasted only a minute or so before someone fixed it, but it highlighted one of the chief problems faced by the online encyclopedia: How to remain open enough that anyone can contribute entries and edit them while also keeping pranksters at bay.

In the coming days Wikipedia will begin using a new system at the German version of its Web site that it hopes will fix that problem. If successful, the system is likely to be introduced at Wikipedia sites in other languages.

At the German site, users who have been registered for four days or more will be able to flag a recent entry as being correct and unvandalized, effectively locking it for a period of time. People will be able to update the entry with new material, but it won't be visible as part of the main entry until another trusted contributor has flagged the updates as being correct.

Four days may not seem a long time to become "trusted," but it should be enough to deter troublemakers who come up with an idea to deface the site on a whim, said Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder, at the IDC European IT Forum in Paris on Tuesday.

The idea isn't to flag all of the half million or so entries on the German site, just the contentious or topical ones likely to attract attention-seekers, he said. People who visit the entry will be able to see that it's flagged as vandal-free, and have the option to click through and see the recent additions that have not yet been vetted.

He unveiled the German plan in August at the Wikimania conference in Massachusetts, U.S., and it's likely to go live any day now.

"I'm just off to look at the software to see if it's ready," Wales said Tuesday. The exact details are still being worked out and the flagging system may be updated even after it goes live, depending on what works best, he added.

It's one of several measures that Wikipedia has taken to improve the quality of its content, some of which have drawn criticism for making the encyclopedia less open. At Wikimania, Wales also talked about creating "stable" or "static" pages for entries that are considered complete, to help people who want to cite them in published works.

The plan being tested in Germany appears designed to root out mischief, as opposed to inaccuracies that may be harder to detect.

The question of accuracy spurred Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger to unveil plans last week for a "progressive fork" of Wikipedia called Citizendium (a compendium created by citizens), which will enlist so-called experts to resolve disputes and verify that entries are correct. The experts will have to publish their credentials online to verify they are who they claim to be.

Citizendium will begin life as a mirror of Wikipedia, the contents of which can be used by anyone under its GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL). But articles that have been updated at Citizendium will remain that way in the future, according to a description at http://www.citizendium.org/.

Wales noted that the content of Citizendium will also be available under the GFDL, so if the new site is successful, Wikipedia will be able to incorporate the changes back into its own site.

Asked about Citizendium in Paris, Wales said that he and Sanger had a "difference of vision," but he said the two men are "still friends."

Some animosity seems to exist, however. One of the entries flagged as "disputed" at Wikipedia is Sanger's biography. Sanger calls himself a co-founder of Wikipedia, a claim that Wales disputes.

"He used to work for me," Wales said in Paris. "I don't agree with calling him a co-founder, but he likes the title."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

James Niccolai

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?