Wikipedia is working towards fixing its most towering problem – the inability to assure that information appearing on its website is true and reliable.
The online encyclopaedia is coming up with a package designed to improve its credibility and trustworthiness, by taking away the option of instant editing from readers in a new German-language version.
Though Wikipedia is immensely popular since it was set up in 2001, its exclusive structure, by which anybody can add, remove or edit information, is both, its strength and weakness.
The German-language version is preparing to break all grounds as the first and potentially most controversial change. Through the new version, ordinary readers will lose their ability to change any entry and see their changes emerge immediately on the screen.
Instead, instant editing will be restricted to a group of “trusted editors”, who will be required to first earn their status by proving their commitment to the Wikipedia concept. One proposal is to limit trusted status to those who have made 30 reliable edits in 30 days.
According to New Scientist, ordinary users will still be able to recommend changes, but these will have to be scrutinized by a trusted editor before they appear online. The English-language version will retain instant editing for now.
The proposal also talks of another upgrade, which will involve the introduction of a software, designed by Luca de Alfaro, of the University of California, Santa Cruz, that gives all editors a reliability rating, based on how their previous edits have performed.
If information posted by them goes untouched, they will be awarded high ratings, while if it is later edited by other users their ranking will fall, reports Times Online.
Once the ratings are compiled, the computer can give each chunk of text a reliability score, according to the editors who have changed it. Readers will be able to see this score on a special page in which text will be darker when it is judged less likely to be reliable.
However, the new proposal is not without its shortcomings. Some users will be suspend from editing by the vetting process, and as the number of trusted editors is expected to reach about 2,000, there is likely to be a long wait before many authentic changes are incorporated.
The main drawback, experts say, will be that committed editors who correct defacement may be penalised, as offenders often reedit their changes.