December 5, 2005 4:00 AM PST
Growing pains for Wikipedia
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Thus, to avoid future problems, Wales plans to bar anonymous users from creating new articles; only registered members will be able to do so. That change will go into effect Monday, he said, adding that anonymous users will still be able to edit existing entries.
That's less of a problem, Wales suggested, because changes are frequently vetted by members who keep watch lists of articles they want to ensure remain accurate--perhaps even articles they've written themselves.
The change is one of the first that would specifically limit what anonymous users can do on Wikipedia. And some may see that as a significant step for a service that's traditionally prided itself on letting anyone participate. But Wales said the move is not a major one because, as mentioned, most new articles are already written by registered Wikipedia members, and most anonymous users' actions are edits to published entries.
Meanwhile, the brouhaha surrounding Curry and the podcasting article raises new questions about whether people should be allowed to create or edit Wikipedia articles about themselves or projects they've been involved with.
"Wikipedia is so often considered authoritative. That must stop now, surely. Every fact in there must be considered partisan, written by someone with a conflict of interest," blogging and podcasting pioneer Dave Winer wrote in his blog. "Further, we need to determine what authority means in the age of Internet scholarship."
Curry deleted references to work presented by Technorati principal engineer Kevin Marks at the 2003 BloggerCon at Harvard University. But from Curry's perspective, conflict of interest had nothing to do with it; he simply believed the references were inaccurate.
And when he discovered they weren't, he explained in an e-mail to CNET News.com, he realized he'd made a mistake.
But that "doesn't mean I'm not allowed to have an opinion of the facts and change Wikipedia to represent my viewpoint," Curry said.
Wales said he's not sure how to approach the question of whether people should be allowed to post on subjects in which they have a personal interest.
"That's an interesting philosophical issue," Wales said. "Because on the one hand, particularly with things like podcasting, the people involved are people who know a lot about it, and on the other hand, when people are editing something they've been personally involved in, it can be hard for them to be neutral."
He added that traditionally, Wikipedia has discouraged users from participating in such entries and asks them to be mature and serious when they do.
"But we don't have a rule about it, because it's too hard to enforce, and it may not be a good idea."
In the blogosphere, however, Curry is getting beaten up for having edited out the Marks references as well as a sentence in which Stephen Downes had been credited with delivering MP3 files via RSS feeds.
But Curry bristles at the accusation that he was intentionally trying to deprive anyone of due credit.
"That I'm trying to inflate my role in the history of podcasting is a mean-spirited claim," he said, "and not based on the facts of my (Wikipedia) edits and entries. But the meme took, and now I'm the asshole of the week."
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