A Better Wikipedia

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A better Wikipedia

This is an open debate for Wikipedians not satisfied with the current state of Wikipedia.


There are propositions put forward by Wikipedians :

Content freezing[edit]

  • there should be "closing" or "freezing" mechanism for Wikipedia pages

I think that there should be something in place so don't have to link one page to another if you want to create an article. It would be great if there was a "create new article" option at the top, then title and text boxes.


Here're some thought on the subject (disclaimer: I'm mainly a lurker, though I have contributed some content). The current scheme, in which the author must keep watch on his contributions in order to be sure that valuable content is not lost, is inefficient and may become a source of extreme frustration to authors who value their sense of authorship (this is very distinct from intellectual property!). Another problem is of course the controversial topics with many vocal advocates on both sides such as evolution/creationism. Here're some possible mechanisms that can deal with it:

  • a page may have a status: freely editable / frozen / add-only. The last choice is especially convenient for /Talk pages (the editing form would show the current page and let the user add content to an empty form). The status would not be permanent, it could be changed. The question is - how easily should it be possible to change it; here there's a tradeoff between the anarchy of Wiki and the rationale of page status, which is to discourage loss of valuable content and mindless changes. One extreme is to allow changing the status freely, but still make this an atomic operation with the page, which shows up in some emphasized form on the recent changes page. The other extreme is to require some kind of voting or hierarhical control on the proposition to freeze/thaw a page, or to temporarily make an add-only page freely editable (e.g. to better organize the discussion).
  • Signing a contribution to an add-only page can be made the default choice (when the name of the user is defined), though anonymous contribution should remain to be easily possible.
  • there might be a mechanism of sending a notification by email to user X whenever a page Y is changed, after X registers his desire to get such notifications for Y.

-- AnatolyVorobey


I quite strongly disagree with content freezing. I think that for Wikipedia to be successful, people are going to have to let go of the idea of authorship. People that are too attached to what they have contributed are unwilling to allow improvements to their articles. A freeze function would only escalate this problem. An add-only function would be very bad as well; people would have to tack "improvements" at the end of the text, instead of integrating them into the body of the article. Mistakes could not be corrected. If you want to claim credit for your authorship, there's nothing stopping you from copying any article you've written to you own webpage, but please, don't get so attached to your Wikipedia contributions that you'll be offended if someone changes them. --Stephen Gilbert

And yet, you signed this contribution - why aren't you letting go of the idea of authorship? Signatures are all over the place in Wikipedia, people are building lists of articles they watch closely, keeping track of their contributions -- why? People just aren't going to let go of the idea of authorship. And it's a good thing they aren't; their sense of authorship works against the complete anarchy to create the tradeoff that is Wikipedia. But the current tradeoff leans towards anarchy a bit too much; perhaps by merely slowing down some of the desctructive processes that are going on in Wikipedia (such as replacement of valuable content by misinformed mishmash) -- not abolishing the anarchy, but merely making some actions a little bit more difficult to achieve -- we can create a better tradeoff that will more rarely frustrate authors. --AV.
Generally, signatures are on commentary or opinion, not actual articles. I tend to agree with STG. Granted tighter control may be needed later, but I don't think we're there yet. --loh
I recommend that you, Anatoly, continue to work on Wikipedia and consider why it is that page freezing has been so far been generally regarded as a nonstarter (but you might like the Nupedia Chalkboard because it does have a "freezing" policy of sorts--at the option of the first author). I or someone could explain to you why it is unnecessary and disadvantageous, but simply spending more time on Wikipedia will make this clear to you in due time. --LMS
I claim authorship on my comments and discussion, but I was refering to Wikipedia articles, which are the real content of the encyclopedia. I stand by my comment; the points made in it have been left unanswered. --Stephen Gilbert

Page freezing has advantages: (1) attracting authors with a big ego, and (2) avoiding mess in the structure of articles (people tend to squeeze something in and ruin the flow of thought). A simple mechanism for kicking out unwanted freezes via vote could solve most of problems. You cannot correct Britannica, yet many still consider it unbeatable -- Piotr Wozniak

I have the same reply to you, Piotr; I haven't heard of either you or Anatoly until today, which I take is because you're new here. --LMS
If you haven't heard of Piotr, Larry, shame on you. He's been giving Wikipedia lots of great content. --Stephen Gilbert
Stephen, my comment was from weeks ago, when Piotr really was new. --LMS
My mistake. ;) --Stephen Gilbert

Once you have page freezing, you need a policy and mechanism in place to decide when a page can be frozen. Essentially, you need editorial oversight. I don't think we want that here, but luckily it is already in place at the Nupedia. So if an author feels reasonably confident that their article is complete, they can always submit it to the nupedia where it will be rigourously reviewed and then frozen. (And you'll even get a t-shirt!)

I think we should however make it easier for Wikipedia authors to monitor their "babies". I want to be able to set up a page which only monitors changes to pages I'm especially interested in, somewhat like a personalized [[Help:Recent changes|Recent Changes]] and I also want to be able to get email notification whenever one of those pages is changed. --AxelBoldt

There are several services on the web that will monitor pages for you and email you when they change. Until Wikipedia has such functionality of its own, we could use them. --Stephen Gilbert

Freezing is surely a controversial issue. There must be very good reasons to freeze a page. One that comes to mind immediately - the page is finished.

But when is a page "finished"? One of the beauties of a dynamic, editable encyclopedia is that it can be kept up-to-date and is for that reason never "finished" in the sense of being "the final word." The best situation occurs when someone has written an article that is so fantastic that people are nervous about changing it, for fear of messing it up. That already happens. But if another expert happens along and has more to add, or a subtle edit to make, we shouldn't prevent him from doing it. --LMS

Other things I personally would welcome in Wikipedia2 or A Better Wikipedia are :

  • statistical pages of all imaginable sorts
  • category based "Recent Changes" ( as listed on homepage)
  • knowledge discovery hints
  • ask jeeves

--Kpjas


Is the Wiki software open source? I looked around, but couldn't find anything regarding it. Even if it's not, if anyone could use some help, I, or more likely my friends, could probably do some good. I keep thinking there must be a better cgi search scheme ( though I don't have the foggiest idea what it currently is ), and the formatting bugs seem fixable with a few patches. I could write a capitalization fix function in a few hours, though it might not be terribly efficient. Seckstu - who has little programming talent but many computer nerds for friends.

It's just one big perl script, a modified UseModWiki, freely available; I even have it (UseMod, not the Wikipedia variant) running on my Windows (spit) laptop. --loh

Content attribution[edit]

I love the idea of setting up a homepage that lists articles I've written, contributed to, or otherwise have interest in to see how they develop. This way people who write more about physics can be in on the loop of many interesting projects (articles, etc) that might be happening in the physics area of Wikipedia, and which may otherwise go unnoticed in the current system. -CM

Many people already do this on their Wikipedia personal pages. It seems like an excellent way to give yourself credit for work on an article, without as it were "owning" it and thereby discouraging others from improving it freely. --LMS
Besides, each article's history page gives unambiguous credit for every change to the page, as long as the author has bothered to log in. So a record of authorship is perfectly preserved. <>< tbc
These only record recent changes; the information about original authorship eventually expires and is lost. --LDC
I use my /Interests subpage precisely like CM suggests – it enables me to track activity without relying on Recent Changes. One could even get tricky and link to the URL for the diff page instead of using just a plain free link. <>< tbc
In addition to an /Interests subpage, I also have a /Todo subpage so I can capture ideas I get without cluttering up article pages and creating stubs. (I've found that even creating a stub article is enough work that sometimes I'd rather just add it to my todo list and move on...) <>< tbc

Note that the comments above this point date back to 2002, before the Wikipedia software was rewritten first as a PHP (rather than Perl) script, and then again to become the highly refined MediaWiki software now in use. Many of the features suggested above have in fact now been implemented (e.g. watch-lists)

Reader interface[edit]

I think Wikipedia is fantastic. But I'm concerned that it might not appeal to a wider audience because of its layout. I think that it might be useful to have a 'reader' version (or interface), that doesn't contain a lot of the links that are on every page. For example, there is the big block of links to other languages, which I think is unnecessary. Also, references to page editing, logging in etc. I personally find it distracting to read text full of hyperlinks, rather than a few select ones. Its far less cluttered than a lot of other websites, but more cluttered than what I would consider a 'user friendly' interface. --Jmhannan

Well, that's not going to go away; the site is explicitly designed for being hyperlinked, editable and linking a multilingual set of articles on each topic. However you may want to check out the new page layout in development. --Brion VIBBER 18:13, 3 Apr 2004 (UTC)
That new layout addresses all of the issues I've raised. All the extra links are neatly partitioned or are more subtle. It looks great. --Jmhannan

Branches[edit]

I agree with Stephen Gilbert against freezing and for using signatures. To cope with conflicts of contents, could one consider branching, i.e. the edition of alternative versions of a given page? There could be a list of active branches, out of which one would be the default one. This one could be selected by voting, although I am not sure how robust this idea is, in presence of anonymity --how to ensure that everyone uses only one account? Other subtleties could be considered --registered branch types and config specs to address consistency accross versions; editors would be allowed to contribute to only one branch, but to merge in contributions from others in other branches; etc... Marc Girod 16:43, 18 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Sorry to be negative, but this sounds like a horribly complicated solution to a problem that doesn't really exist - how would you ever hope to keep all the versions in sync, and why would anyone bother? You may not realise that a lot of the comments above are very much redundant, as they refer to a long abandoned version of the software. On the other hand, I'm not sure I grasp your meaning completely: what do you mean by conflicts of contents? - IMSoP 18:56, 18 Apr 2004 (UTC)
It need not be horribly complicated, and one doesn't need to keep all versions in sync (or what do you mean?). In fact, if one cares to offer to others a set of versions, it is probably a good idea to have it in sync, but then there is somebody who cares. Did I answer your question? I have editorial conflicts with somebody who doesn't quite grasp my intention, but is very active to add his crap in the middle of my inserts. If I remove them (or just move them out), he shouts that I practice censorship. I'd be glad to have some space in which I could edit my stuff to some decent status before offering it to voters (but offering it still for preview to possibly interested people, whom I don't know in advance). My point is not to be alone providing some contents, but to have an opportunity to keep it consistent before it gets destroyed. This concept of branches is quite commonplace in SCM, you know? No rocket science... Marc Girod 20:03, 19 Apr 2004 (UTC)
OK, I think I'm beginning to understand what you mean now (no need to get shirty, I really didn't understand the first time) - you're suggesting branches as an alternative to using an (arbitrary) temporary page for a rewrite in progress, am I right? If that is what you mean, then I can see advantages and disadvantages. As you say, it allows people to fully develop their version independently before presenting it for approval; but on the other hand, it encourages duplication of information, thus making it less obvious to others where to add information.
In general, it is complicated as compared to the traditional wiki approach - there is a long-standing tradition that it is better to use ad hoc facilities as and when they are needed than to try to provide technological solutions to every problem. With the current system, you can create parallel versions if you want to - and people often do, usually as sub-pages of the discussion or their user page - but alternatively, you can simply discuss the issues with the other user(s) involved. It's not perfect, but it is very flexible, since different situations require different approaches.
Right, having said all that, I'm still not 100% sure we're talking about the same thing, so feel free to tell me that I'm barking up completely the wrong tree. - IMSoP 22:06, 20 Apr 2004 (UTC)
I think you got my point. I believe using branches makes it less complicated for others to follow, and reduces the duplication of information by making it explicit where there are alternatives and where there are other situations. It makes it somehow manageable. Do people often use "temporary pages"? I have not seen that. In general, I believe that supporting divergence is a key to promoting convergence (the goal). Marc Girod 17:12, 21 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Just a quick answer to your last question (I may write a general response later, but don't have time to think right now): I wouldn't say temp pages are used often, exactly, but I have come across them on some highly disputed pages, such as en:Talk:Artificial consciousness (which had at least 3 versions at one point, I believe!). Indeed, they are often necessitated by an edit war causing the article itself to be protected. I also use en:User:IMSoP/sandbox for intermediate edits if I'm completely rewriting an article, and sometimes "offer" my version to others on the appropriate Talk: page. You could claim the various subpages of en:Main Page (as listed on its talk page) as examples of the same method, I suppose. - IMSoP 21:36, 21 Apr 2004 (UTC)
I guess I'll have to try this and give concrete examples to argument further. One more however. One goal of SCM is to support referencial transparency, i.e. the possibility to separate the concerns between identifying a concept (e.g. refering to it) and discriminating between various possible representations. This discrimination may thus be factorized. Marc Girod 09:15, 24 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Hi folks, I'm new to this discussion, but very interested in the branching idea. I've written up a short proposal over on my user page about how it might be implemented without imposing undue complexity or destroying the freeform, ad hoc "wikiness" of wiki. :) Let me know what you think! (either here or on my talk page.) Cheers, Brynosaurus 15:35, 13 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Wikidebate[edit]

Just a thought that it would be possible to make a wikidebate or wikiopinion community so that people posting opinions and debate in wikipedia have a place to discuss hot topics. This would be basically a seperate site from wikipedia as a seperate wiki. Whether this would end POV disputes in hot topics or not is uncertain. This could also include a functional wikiblog connection. Bloggers could post and link to other blogger's posts. Most primary opinions would be locked and be similar to a NYTimes article but the water cooler discussions could take place in a wikidebate forum with POV defended on each side. This certainly seems like something that could be done on a 3 year scale. It has been seen that people want their POV seen and others want to discuss it, why not let wiki have a place for POV seperate from areas already designated as NPOV. --Dave moeller 22:29, 27 July 2005 (UTC)

In-line expansion of links[edit]

A separate concern of mine, related to a matter of style. I favour, by taste but also for reasons of manageability, small pages focused upon one single concern. This matches with a major strategy of hypertext: a page is the natural target of a link. Sub-page anchors are only a workaround, and a discontinuity of the representation, and bring multiple problems, starting with multilingual links for instance.

One conflicting requirement comes from the wish of some users to collect some contents according to some ad hoc need, e.g. for printing purpose. There is currently some support for table of contents, and separately modifiable parts. Could these be handled in separate pages, with a folding effect, i.e. supporting the in-line expansion of some links, on-demand? Marc Girod 09:15, 24 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Killing non-functioning wikis[edit]

See Proposed policy for wiki closure. -- Toytoy 15:53, 25 July 2005 (UTC)