[WikiEN-l] [Foundation-l] Porchesia

Erik Moeller erik at wikimedia.org
Sun Oct 1 19:27:09 UTC 2006

On 10/1/06, daniwo59 at aol.com <daniwo59 at aol.com> wrote:
> There is a tension between accuracy and openness. Citizendium and
> Everything2 are two extreme answers to that tension. If, however, we are to  maintain
> both, we must address the tension when it occurs. We must come up with  creative
> solutions. And that is something that involves more than just the  English
> Wikipedia.

I do agree. I think we have to come to a shared understanding (which
includes our readers) that wikis are open workspaces, and we need to
define clear processes by which content can gradually (!) reach the
state of being a verified, reliable encyclopedia article, textbook, or
whatever. Porchesia is merely a good, fairly value-neutral example of
a general problem.

If the article about Porchesia had told me, as a reader, in no
uncertain terms that the content has undergone no verification
whatsoever and could be complete bollocks, whereas the article about,
say, Albert Einstein, has undergone verification for sources,
comprehensiveness, neutrality, and so on, then I would be much more
comfortable with the current model. The fact is that, with the
exception of a very small number of articles, we put rubbish on the
same level as elaborate work that has continued for several months,
and that is a disservice both to our readers and to our community.

Whether we are talking about companies or fictitious islands, I do not
believe "block, nuke, and salt the Earth more aggressively!" is the
answer. That's partially because blocking is a very, very flawed tool
(it's very easy to circumvent), and "hard" security measures in a
fundamentally open environment tend to only inspire people to find
clever ways to circumvent them and to make themselves even more of a
PITA than they already are. Of course we should block individuals
where appropriate, but I'm not convinced that increasing the amount of
blocking and nuking is going to help us much right now.

I do believe "identify, label and improve more systematically!" is the
way to go. In this process, we need to not only have a "gold standard"
of articles which we strive for, but should also make the entire
process of article review more transparent and participatory. We may
not have a "featured revision" for each article, but at least we
should have a "best known available" one, and make it clear what
exactly has and has not been done.

As is typical in such cases, the article on Porchesia was copyedited
before it was discovered to be a hoax. That someone chose to copyedit
it should not be held against them; it's perfectly fine that people
work in the areas where they are strong. Some people love fixing typos
or adding category metadata, no matter how many quality initiatives we
launch. However, that it was _only_ copyedited and not fact-checked
could have been made clear to the reader.

For some further thoughts on this, see:

I believe that the problem of developing a collaborative, scalable,
functional quality annotation model for wikis is as complex as all the
work that we've done so far. Nor is this problem limited to certain
areas, like companies or living people. It's just that inaccurate
articles, vandalism and hoaxes hurt us more in some areas than in

This problem is not going to be solved by writing a couple of software
features. It needs a long term, ongoing collaboration of interested
developers and Wikimedians. And you are absolutely correct that this
is not an en.wp issue, but a Foundation issue. I will have a
discussion about this with members of the Technical Team once the very
important and pressing need of single login is finally resolved.
Peace & Love,

Member, Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees

DISCLAIMER: Unless otherwise stated, all views or opinions expressed
in this message are solely my own and do not represent an official
position of the Wikimedia Foundation or its Board of Trustees.

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