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The germans will save Wikipedia

The german flavor of the OneTrueWiki will be getting an update soon. Nate Anderson writes at ArsTechnica:

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales told CNET in an interview that the Germans are coming—and they have a plan to save Wikipedia. The German-language version of Wikipedia will get an experimental overhaul in the next few weeks designed to cut down on vandalism, edit wars, and misinformation. How will it work? Through the magical power of trust.

In the German system, any user will still be allowed to make edits to any article. Those edits won’t show up in the live version of the site, though, until a registered user with a certain level of time and experience approves the changes. It’s a simple change, but one that could prevent the most juvenile forms of vandalism from ever appearing on the main site, which should do much to remove the appeal of vandalizing articles.

This is interesting on a few levels.

The wiki phenomenon we’ve all experienced in the last few years has definitely reached a tipping point – a point where an educated populace has probably heard of, and might even be able to explain, what a wiki is. We’ve seen NYTimes articles, CNN reports, and BBC broadcasts. We’ve considered what it means to be a ‘real’ resource for our children’s homework assignments – what it means to have a NPOV (neutral point of view).

But we’ve also learned that communities of trusted peers do a very good job of policing themselves (it takes a global village?). While inalienable rights are great, I think this movement away from ‘all users are created equal’ is a good thing. We need to better mirror our real world and give credit and affordances to those who are experienced. We should allow those who are the experts, those who have done this a few times before us, to have more say in how things run. They’ve probably learned something.

This decision by Wikipedia, while in part a reaction to a lengthy court case, is a welcome one. The pantheon should be allowed to speak a little more loudly than the peons. It’s only fair. We’re not all equal when it comes to knowledge. Trust, reputation and expertise are what allow us to divide and conquer. Adam Smith’s Division of Labor is most efficient when we let the experts do what they do.

I welcome this change and can’t wait for it to trickle across the rest of the Wikipedia and the rest of the sites that let allow/encourage user-generated content. The sooner we have more than the lowest common denominator, the sooner we can tap the real power of everyone.

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