Changes in Wikipedia

Wikipedia, that amazing encyclopedia "written collaboratively by volunteers, [which allows] articles to be changed by anyone with access to the website"1 has changed that very policy.

From the beginning, back in 2001, Wikipedia has been growing at a phenomenal rate (now up to nearly 2,000,000 articles in English, and about as many in other languages besides) almost entirely through the efforts of volunteer contributors.

For the uninitiated, a "wiki" is a site that allows users to collaborate, and gives anyone with access to the page the right to add, delete, or change the content.

Despite its many detractors, the concept has gained a lot of traction, especially in the business world. Many companies use internal wikis to facilitate project management and content development, with collaborators sometimes being across the office, and sometimes across the world.

Wikipedia takes a collaborative approach to all knowledge. The idea is to have experts contribute articles to their respective areas of expertise. Then other experts can refine and expand these initial articles, and so the whole grows and improves with time.

Almost from the beginning, there has been "controversy over Wikipedia's reliability and accuracy, with the site receiving criticism for its susceptibility to vandalism, uneven quality and inconsistency, systemic bias, and preference for consensus or popularity over credentials. Nevertheless, its free distribution, constant and plentiful updates, diverse and detailed coverage, and versions in numerous languages have made it one of the most-used reference resources on the Internet."2 

This week, however, Wikipedia announced changes that some claim prostitute the very ideas which have made Wikipedia what it is today.

[The new] measures can put some entries outside of the "anyone can edit" realm. The list changes rapidly, but as of yesterday, the entries for Einstein and Ms. Aguilera were among 82 that administrators had "protected" from all editing, mostly because of repeated vandalism or disputes over what should be said. Another 179 entries — including those for George W. Bush, Islam and Adolf Hitler — were "semi-protected," open to editing only by people who had been registered at the site for at least four days. (See a List of Protected Entries)

While these measures may appear to undermine the site's democratic principles, Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder, notes that protection is usually temporary and affects a tiny fraction of the 1.2 million entries on the English-language site.3


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