[Foundation-l] Wikipedia Attribution and Relicensing

Sam Johnston samj at samj.net
Thu Jan 15 00:54:37 UTC 2009


I've been following with great interest the endeavour to relicense Wikipedia
for some time, though this is my first meaningful contribution to it.
Attribution is an important and sensitive issue but I think the discussions
so far are missing a great opportunity to promote Wikipedia itself while
further simplifying (and thus fostering) re-use. Focus so far has been on
arduous processes for identifying authors and linking to revision histories
which runs the risk of continuing to stifle adoption of content even after

It appears that it would be adequate (as a minimum acceptable standard) to
specify the CC-BY-SA license and refer to the Wikipedia article - certainly
the license section 4(c) allows for significant flexibility in this regard.
The attribution itself would then be something like "Wikipedia 'Widgets'
article" which is enough in itself for a user to be able to find the article
and associated revision history (concise attributions are critical
especially for print work, on t-shirts, etc.).

My primary concern is that it can be essentially impossible to reliably
identify key contributers, and that doing so in an environment of stigmergic
collaboration can be very misleading as to the value of each contribution
(even the most minor of edits play a critical role in the building of
trust). It is also a potential source of significant contention, both
internally between editors and externally with editors individually seeking
attribution from content consumers.

Take for example the cloud
computing<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing>article which I
[re]wrote last year, the vast majority of which is to this
day still my work. In this case it is clear from the
I am the primary/original author but had I have confined my updates to
a single edit there would be no way to reliably identify me, short of
tracking the owner of each and every character (and even this is far from
perfect). In any case my contribution was intended to further the objects of
Wikipedia and if I need to derive recognition for my work then I will
reference it directly myself.

Please consider adopting as low a minimum acceptable standard for
attributions as possible so as to derive the full benefit from this exciting
transition by lowering the barriers to participation.

Kind regards,


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