Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia that has increasingly drawn some decidedly juvenile pranks, is looking to impose more discipline with new restrictions on the editing of articles.
The latest changes come as Wikipedia continues trying to balance a need for credibility and a desire for openness.
While anyone can still edit entries, the site is testing pages that require changes to be approved by an experienced Wikipedia editor before they show up.
If the site’s users respond well to the test run, the new restrictions will apply to all entries for living people in the next few weeks.
The idea is to block the kind of high-profile vandalism that has marred some pages.
In one of the most recent embarrassments, Democratic Senators Robert Byrd and Edward Kennedy were prematurely declared dead by rogue editors.
Still, Wikipedia risks discouraging legitimate editing if restrictions on changes or additions become too burdensome, such that articles won’t get better or keep up with events.
That may be especially true on more obscure pages with fewer active volunteers to approve edits in a timely way.
Aware of the risks, Wikipedia has set the criteria for “experienced editor” status relatively low. Users who are registered for a few days can give changes the OK, said Jay Walsh, a spokesman for the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the site.
Stressing the importance of increasing awareness of knowledge sharing projects like Wikipedia in India, Shankar said starting this year, there will be a lot of outreach programmes to achieve this objective. “Wikipedia academies have already started functioning in many cities,” he said.
Asked if the site’s operations had changed from an open door policy, allowing anyone who had the time and energy to contribute to becoming more exclusive one now, he said it was still open to anyone who wants to add or edit information.
“There has been corrective steps implemented to reduce vandalism and unnecessary negative edits. These steps will actually help in increasing the accuracy and richness of information,” he said.
On whether the site had become a battleground with one section of editors trying to tighten control on contributions and another believing in the motto that more the articles the better it is, Shankar, also a Wikipedia editor here, said both groups would continue to co-exist.
“A tussle for both openness and quality will continue to happen and it is a sign of a healthy system,” he said.
Asked if any ‘Wikicamps’ were being organised, Shankar, who has organised many Wikipedia ‘unconferences’, where all participants would interact freely in an informal session, said some Wikicamps would be planned.
While Wikipedia’s English version remains the largest, the German wikipedia is nearing the one million mark. The site also include articles in Indian regional languages such as Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu.