[Foundation-l] [Wikipedia-l] Regards marking article revisions as stable

Virgil Ierubino virgil.ierubino at gmail.com
Fri Apr 13 03:17:45 UTC 2007

I understand that this is a planned feature for the MediaWiki software.

I heard recently that a co-founder of Wikipedia has become highly
dissatisfied with it on account of it containing so many factual errors that
it was useless (and beyond repair), and he's quite right - this is a major
issue that needs to be addressed. Obviously, the ability to mark
revisions is the perfect solution. If there was a way to pick out a revision
as being error-free (I assume, synonymous with "stable"), Wikipedia could
potentially progress towards being an academically-citable encyclopedia.

I was just wondering who would feasibly *do* the marking as a stable
revision? Obviously if this can be done by any users then there will be no
advantage to it (as just the same liability toward inserting errors will
transfer into a liability towards marking stable revisions which aren't
actually stable). If you restrict it to registered users then there will
still be no advantage, as even long-time registered users often vandalise
and get things wrong. If you restrict it to admins then there will be too
few of them.

The real problem is that it will take proper peer-reviewing - by experts -
to really mark an article as "stable" in the sense of containing none of the
errors and mistakes that caused the aforementioned co-founder to give up on
Wikipedia. Obviously this is because any average editor (even an admin) is
not necessarily qualified to declare an article error-free. Certainly, if
nothing else, it will take expert-reviewing to bring an article up to
"citable" standards.

So how do we currently suppose this will all work? Will the Foundation hire
experts to check articles? Will we rely on expert volunteers contacting the
Foundation so that they can be given "expert" accounts that can mark stable
revisions? Or will we just allow long-time trusted editors to mark versions
as stable, which leaves us in the same position of not knowing whether the
article is *mistakenly* stable or not?

One feasible way I can see this as working is defining an arbitrary amount,
say 100, that has to be reached for an article to become stable. If one
person marks a revision as stable, it gets +1, and if they are a more
trusted editor (been around for longer, done more major non-reverted edits)
then it may get +5. If someone marks it as unstable it gets -5 (weighting
towards holding back). And so on. Then if the article reaches 100 it becomes
stable. This method roughly solves the problem of there being vandal or
mistaken stable articles, but assumes that one revision of an article will
stick around for long enough to be evaluated in this manner. Will we have to
freeze the page after an admin puts it into "evaluation mode", or perhaps
set it aside into a subsidiary page where it is evaluated, after that
revision has been nominated for Stable Revision Evaluation? Obviously this
is all a very tricky issue because we're dealing with a wiki!

I was just wondering what people thought of these issues, and what plans
there are, if there are any.
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