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9/21/2007
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Wikipedia Discredits Reports It's Abandoning Open Editing

However, one possible change under consideration is a revision tagging tool that can be used to verify a Wikipedia article as accurate.

Reports of the death of Wikipedia's democratic editing model appear to be greatly exaggerated.

According to the Telegraph in the U.K., Wikipedia plans to end the practice of letting anyone edit encyclopedia entries. Instead, the paper reports, users will have to submit changes to "trusted editors."

Were this true, it would be a major defeat for everything that Wikipedia has come to stand for.

But that's not quite right, said Wikipedia spokesperson Sandra Ordonez. "Wikipedia will continue working as it is right now," she said.

More or less. There are some changes in store for Wikipedia, but nothing as radical as an end to anonymous contributions. There's also nothing that's certain at this point.

"None of this has been decided firmly at all," said David Gerard, a director of Wikimedia U.K., the foundation that runs Wikipedia. "We're deciding this over the next two months... to see if there's anything that makes people cough up a hairball."

Wikipedia's minders and members are currently hashing out how best to make the online encyclopedia more trustworthy.

A recently posted Web site, quality.wikimedia.org, details some of the proposals under consideration. These changes may or may not be implemented uniformly across the various versions of Wikipedia.

As the site explains, Wikipedia doesn't "want to abandon the fundamental principles of mass collaboration: low barriers to entry and flat, meritocratic hierarchies. But when you look at a Wikipedia article, we want to tell you exactly what it is you are seeing. Think of it as food labeling for information."

One possible change under consideration is a revision tagging tool that can be used to verify a Wikipedia article as accurate. "The goal of the revision tagging tool is to allow a subset of editors to identify the most recent version of an article that has been checked for vandalism, or even gone through an in-depth review process," the Wikimedia quality site reads.

As to whether tagged articles might be limited so that subsequent changes need approval from a set of trusted editors, that has not been decided.

Another possible change involves implementing an automated trust system designed by Luca de Alfaro, an Associate Professor of Computer Engineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The system colors the text of Wikipedia article text to reflect the reputations of the editors responsible for the various words.

While Wikipedians have yet to make up their minds about how to best make their articles more trustworthy, they're aware that something has to be done. "People keep believing what they read so we have to try to turn it up a bit," said Gerard.

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