San Francisco (CA) - It would seem that absolutely nothing is immune to abuse and misuse, which is why Wikipedia is now prepared to introduce a system which disallows new and anonymous users to instantly publish changes to its virtual encyclopedia.
This change comes shortly after vandals changed Wikipedia entries to reflect that Senators Robert Byrd and Edward Kennedy died. An episode of the TV show "30 Rock," which utilized as part of its plot the vandalism of Janis Joplin's Wikipedia article, also produced a spike in the number of malicious editings on the website - forcing Wikipedia to put an article on lockdown which completely prevented changes.
The new system is called Flagged Revisions, and would highlight any changes that are significant. The system insures only registered, reliable users can post their material changes instantaneously to the general public. Other contributors would still have the ability to edit articles, however their changes would not be made public until a reliable user had "flagged" (or approved) the revisions.
German Wikipedia has been utilizing the system since May to test its ability. German site users report that over 95 percent of articles have been flagged, thus causing extensive days of up to three weeks prior to revisions appearing on the website.
Following the false death reports of both Byrd and Kennedy, Wikipedia CEO Jimmy Wales demanded that Flagged Revisions be rolled out to the English Wikipedia, noting that "This nonsense would have been 100% prevented by Flagged Revisions."
Wales has stated that sixty percent of Wikipedia users are in favor of the proposal. The individuals that proposed the new system immediately started throwing insults in Wales' direction, deeming him a dictator.
In response to the few individuals that proved to be outraged, he is giving them an opportunity to deliver a proposal for a better system designed to prevent site vandalism. Individuals interested have 7 days to deliver a proposition, which will be voted by users for 14 days following.
So, the next few weeks will tell what the outcome will be for the English Wikipedia. Will it stay Flagged, or will there be something bigger and better? Stay tuned...
See also Encyclopedia Britannica's recent decision to become more Wikipedia-like by providing user-editable content as well.
[Note: TG Daily's editor is in favor of Flagging, and believes this should've been instituted as policy long ago. For the time being, know that Wikipedia pages have change histories available for review and that the change author's IP address is logged. In addition, and as obvious as this might sound, it's always a good idea to examine the history of changes made before blindly accepting information on Wikipedia as fact. Many online sites do not take the time to do this before citing Wikipedia itself as a reference. Also, look to see if the Wikipedia page contains internally cited references which point to external, well-known sites backed up by personal interviews, quotes or released documents as they tend to solidify claims made (making the articles more reliable). The best citations are those which go back to the article subject's website, such as pointing to www.amd.com for something relating to an Opteron or Phenom II processor spec. -Editor]