Feeds

Jimbo Wales ends death by Wikipedia

Kennedy murder shames online cult

Boost IT visibility and business value

On Tuesday afternoon, following a Washington luncheon celebrating the inauguration of President Barack Obama, longtime US Senators Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd kicked the proverbial bucket. At least, that's what happened in Wikiland. In our world, they're still among the living.

Ted Kennedy - diagnosed with a brain tumor last year - was rushed to the hospital on Tuesday, after suffering a seizure at Obama's post-inauguration lunch, and just before 3pm Eastern time, he turned up dead on "the encyclopedia anyone can edit" - the victim of an overzealous Wikifiddler.

Then, a few minutes later, 91-year-old Robert Byrd died his own Wikideath. He too left the luncheon early due to "a medical issue." But as with Kennedy, Wikireports of his death were greatly exaggerated.

This sort of Wikinonsense is nothing new. In recent months, the free encyclopedia murdered both Sinbad and Paul Reiser. But this time around, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales felt the need to take some action.

In the wake of the Kennedy-Byrd embarrassment, reported yesterday by The Washington Post, Jimbo ordered the site's IT staff to roll out a new Wikitool designed to mask encyclopedia "vandalism." With "Flagged Revisions," certain edits won't be shown to the public unless they're approved by "trusted editors."

Wikipedia admins already have the power to "protect" articles (i.e. lock them down to prevent edits entirely) and "semi-protect" them (prevent edits from editors without established accounts). But Wales sees Flagged Revisions as a more-nimble solution. "[The Kennedy-Byrd situation] would have been 100% prevented by Flagged Revisions," Wales wrote yesterday.

"It could also have been prevented by protection or semi-protection, but this is a prime example of why we don't want to protect or semi-protect articles - his was a breaking news story and we want people to be able to participate (so protection is out) and even to participate in good faith for the first time ever (so semi-protection is out)."

A Wikipoll recently approved Flagged Revisions, with 60 per cent of "the community" voting in favor of the new tool. Flags will make their debut on a trial basis, turning up on all articles that describe, yes, living persons.

Anyone can still edit these pages. But certain "trusted editors" will decide which edits are seen by the public at large. "The version shown to the public will not automatically be the most recent revision of the article," explains longtime admin David Yellope. "At least for some articles, only 'approved' revisions - those reviewed by administrators or trusted users - will be shown publicly."

This will spare Jimbo at least some embarrassment. But we all know that trusted Wikipedia editors can't always be trusted. "Yes, there's a chance that folks with a certain Point of View will use this to 'Flag' a revision that's pro their side," Yellope admits. But he says the Wikicommunity will quickly revoke flag rights if they're misused in any way.

So, if you're plotting a Wikikilling, you should get cracking. Flags will appear at any moment. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Why has the web gone to hell? Market chaos and HUMAN NATURE
Tim Berners-Lee isn't happy, but we should be
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
China hopes home-grown OS will oust Microsoft
Doesn't much like Apple or Google, either
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Sin COS to tan Windows? Chinese operating system to debut in autumn – report
Development alliance working on desktop, mobe software
Eat up Martha! Microsoft slings handwriting recog into OneNote on Android
Freehand input on non-Windows kit for the first time
Linux kernel devs made to finger their dongles before contributing code
Two-factor auth enabled for Kernel.org repositories
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Scale data protection with your virtual environment
To scale at the rate of virtualization growth, data protection solutions need to adopt new capabilities and simplify current features.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?