Wikipedia mirror articles

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by 00000 10:02, 12 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Motivation[edit]

Let's say you are an open source software developer. Let's say your software is released under a particular weird license. With this license, only the latest released version of the program is allowed to exist, and as soon as somebody else releases a new version of your program, everyone is obliged to withdraw any other existing versions of the program, including your original version. That's exactly how Wikipedia works. And this obviously doesn't have anything to do with the GNU FDL, but only with the way Wikipedia itself works.

Although we all like to think it's not the case, there's a great lack of freedom in Wikipedia, and I believe that is one of the main reasons. If that software situation was true, everyone would be fighting to keep their version of the program available to the public, just like the current situation in Wikipedia. Many, many times, the information that stays in Wikipedia articles is not actually the most neutral or the most widely agreed, but rather what the most "persistent" user managed to maintain. Some people just do not have the patience and/or the time to go through edit wars, and so after having their contributions unscrupulously reverted by "persistent" users, they might just give up on that particular article, if not leave Wikipedia altogether. When I say "persistent" users, I'm refering to certain users who delete things and even start edit wars just to keep things they don't like out of articles, even if these things are factual and correct. To complicate things further, many times these persistent users are actually recognised community users (who might have still made good contributions to Wikipedia), so people who disagree might even prefer to avoid an argument with them, so that the article also ends up as the persistent user intended.

Here goes a silly (but nonetheless realistic) example. Suppose there's this actress called Actress1 who used to be a porn actress in her early carrer. User1 decides to add this relevant information to the Wikipedia article "Actress1", and so User1 writes: "Actress1 used to be a porn actress in her earlier carrier (http://www.p0rn-company.com/filmography/actress1/)". Then comes User2, who is a fan of Actress1, and quickly reverts the edit giving the following summary: "reverted anti-Actress1 edit". In this example, it is very clear that User1 didn't show any apparent objection to Actress1, and had simply added factual information to the article (including a reference link), but which was unfairly deleted by User2 who wanted to withdraw that information from the public. Although this seems a silly example, I think most people have probably seen something similar in Wikipedia.

Of course most of the times things are not as obvious as in the example above, and people fight over various things. Sometimes it's someone trying to impose an opinion, other times people just disagree, and yet other times people just see or treat things differently.

Also, I think the current system is a major reason for why many people prefer to stay non-registered (or even decide to leave their usernames). If nobody knows who you are, there are less chances of you getting persecuted and having your contributions reverted just on the basis of them having been added by you.

Suggestion[edit]

When people feel they are having a hard time contributing, and/or feel they are being censored, they would be allowed to create "mirror articles" (or just "mirrors"). The mirror article would be a copy of the main article kept separately and only allowed to be edited by the particular user who created it. There would still be the "main article", which could be an agreed average of the mirrors. That way, disputed topics could have different "sub-versions", available to everyone (both public and editors), so that people wouldn't feel they are being censored. Like having modified versions of a software program without having to destroy everyone else's versions.

I must clarify that the intention is not to create a wiki-based blog-like environment, nor a place for personal biased essays, nor a substitute for discussing things in the talk pages. The mirrors would still be subject to all other Wikipedia rules and admin intervention, and the talk pages would still be used for discussing about the content integrated to the articles, just like now.

The main article would still be, well, the main one, but with the mirrors, people would be able to get a broader view of the whole picture, rather than just what's currently visible. If a user doesn't want to participate in an edit war for example, they can create a mirror, and third parties might have a look at it sometime, and perhaps add some of its content to the main article, without the contributor even having to fight for it.

Another possible use for mirrors could be when people want to make major changes in popular articles. They could instead create a mirror, make the intended major changes to it (with no guilt or fear), and then make it available for the community to decide wether to adopt the changes or not.

Possible implementations[edit]

Maybe there could be a function "Mirror", like this: "/wiki/Mirror:Actress1" (similar to /wiki/Talk:Actress1), which would show a list of all mirrors available for that article, for instance "Actress1 mirror by User1", etc. Maybe there could also be a similar function like "/wiki/Actress1:User1" which would link straight to the mirror article by User1. There could also be sub-functions such as "Compare Actress1 mirror by User1 with Actress1 mirror by User2" or "Compare Actress1 mirror by User1 with main article". I wouldn't know how to implement these things myself, but these are the principles.

Possible benefits[edit]

  • Decrease of edit wars:
    • Talking to people who unfairly delete other people's contributions many times doesn't help at all. Rather than going through edit wars with them, one would be able to make information available to the others by creating a mirror.
  • Decrease of violent arguments:
    • People would be able to make facts available for anyone interested in them, without the need of going through arguments to put them in the main article.
  • Decrease of censorship:
    • Since nobody other than the mirror creator would be allowed to edit it, people would feel less censored and nobody would be able to hide important facts from the others. It also would be a lot harder to impose opinions in the main article since people would be able to compare it with the mirrors and have a broader view of the subject.
  • Incentive for people to register:
    • As persecution would likely decrease, people might feel more comfortable with registring a username.

Possible problems[edit]

  • Memory usage:
    • Although an increase of memory usage for extra articles could happen, we should also weigh that possibility against the potential decrease in edit wars and the arguments in the talk pages, which could actually reduce memory usage. And since mirror articles could be perhaps treated as modified versions of the main article, maybe the memory usage wouldn't need to be higher than with regular edits on the main article.
  • Abuse:
    • Abuse could be possible, but as the mirrors would still be subject to the same Wikipedia rules and admin intervention, the chances wouldn't have to necessarily be any higher than with the normal articles.

See also[edit]