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Formerly active admin and still a regular (many times daily) Wikipedia reader.

On Wikipedia

Flagged revisions

I support efforts to improve Wikipedia's reliability by introducing flagged revisions. We should remember that the wiki model is a means to an end: getting a freely-licensed encyclopaedia written from a neutral point of view by people all over the world. Such a project can never be finished due to new things happening in the world and the boundaries of knowledge being continually expanded, so there's no danger of us losing the wiki. Content generated by wiki editing should feed into something slightly more stable that's displayed to readers. Having edits immediately visible and risking our integrity is not vital to Wikipedia's nature: a backlog of a few days for sanity-checking of contributions is no threat to the way we do things. The German Wikipedia is leading the way on this and many other things and we ought to follow them instead of being dogmatic in our insistence on instantly visible edits.


Wikipedia:Improving referencing efforts says (26 January 2009):

Each month roughly 6000 to 8000 articles are marked with {{unreferenced}}: This article does not cite any references or sources. With a 2.5 year backlog in this category,[1] there is little chance of editors catching up if something new is not done. (As of late December 2008, the total number or articles in this category was about 130,000.)

Our policies insist that everything added must be verifiable and cite sources, but on the whole Wikipedia's editors do not insist on that. Most people slap [citation needed] or {{unreferenced}} on and it stays there forever. We need to make it very clear to contributors that if they don't cite their sources whatever they've just added gets reverted. This is how we turn Wikipedia from a vast collection of usually accurate information that's sometimes backed up with sources readers can follow up into a vast collection of as accurate as possible information that's always backed up with sources readers can follow up.

Content filtering

At the time of writing (1 September 2011), the image filter referendum has just concluded, with results forthcoming. This has got to be one of the worst ideas ever floated on Wikipedia, and the 'referendum' is anything but, as there is no opportunity to reject the proposal. The referendum's talk page makes for interesting reading. Numerous sensible concerns are raised there about this filter but they are not seriously addressed. Among them:

  • Categorising images by potentially offensive content makes it easier for third parties to censor, harming our mission of delivering free, NPOV knowledge to the world
  • Culturally neutral categorisation is impossible (Are bare breasts sexual? How many followers does my religion need before its prohibition on depicting its prophet is accommodated?)
  • Non-restrictive content labelling (telling people they might not want to look at something, but not prohibiting them from looking at it) might sound harmless, but isn't, according to some very thoughtful people
  • We should not be pandering to people's prejudices and superstitions by helping to hide aspects of reality they may not like, as our job is to document the world warts and all
  • Wikipedia is freely licensed and can be forked and censored by anyone who wants to, making it unnecessary for us to do their destructive job for them
  • On an individual scale, browsers make it easy for people to turn off image loading if they so desire
  • People who don't like certain images being in Wikipedia want them filtered out for other people ("think of the children!"), so this personal filter compromise satisfies no one
  • Inexperienced editors are being spammed with emails directing them to a hopelessly biased summary of the proposal before they vote on it, in order to achieve ballot-stuffing

The Wikipedia community and the Wikimedia Foundation should ensure scrupulous adherence to NPOV in terms of presentation of controversies within articles, but we should adopt one unashamedly political goal: opposition to obscurantism and censorship, and promotion of access to knowledge. This should include helping users defeat censorware and other technical and legal measures that prevent them from learning about the world. As they say at Peacefire, "you'll understand when you're younger" (and I include 'infantilised by employers, governments and prudish Wikipedians' under Peacefire's "younger"). Unfortunately there is no stopping the filter, since its adoption was decided on before the 'referendum' was launched. Governance of the project has passed from respected and thoughtful voices within the community of editors to the Board and its ill-informed external consultants.


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