Wikipedia's system of flagged revisions, for better or worse?


The online user-generated encyclopedia Wikipedia is considering a radical change to how it is run.

It is proposing a review of the rules, that would see revisions being approved before they were added to the site.
The proposal comes after edits of the pages of Senators Robert Byrd and Edward Kennedy gave the false impression both had died.
The editing change has proved controversial and sparked a row among the site’s editors.
Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, is proposing a system of flagged revisions, which would mean any changes made by a new or unknown user would have to be approved by one of the site’s editors, before the changes were published.
This would mean a radical shift from the site’s philosophy that ostensibly allows anyone to make changes to almost any entry.
In a blog entry, Jimmy says the nonsense of the false reports would have been 100% prevented by Flagged Revision and said he wanted the changes to be implemented as soon as possible.
Flame war
However, this posting caused a storm of comments on his site, with many editors saying the proposal was unworkable. 
One user posted that Enabling Flagged Revisions will undoubtedly create backlogs that we will be unable to manage while another said that there were “gaping holes in what you propose to do.
Jimmy Wales has now offered a compromise, asking those who were opposed to the changes to make an alternative proposal within the next 7 days, to be voted upon for the next 14 days after that.
A system of flagged revisions has been used by the German Wikipedia site for almost a year. However critics say that the process is labour intensive and some changes can take days, if not weeks, to appear.
Do you think the government is pressurizing Wikimedia? 
If this happens won’t it destroy the core essence of Wikipedia and demotivate the volunteers?


  • Whether it will work depends on the quality of the people with the power to approve edits. What is the basis for approving them and establishing the reality of their expertise? If there are enough people with real expertise that have the time and patience to review in a timely fashion, it will work. But if all that is required is a given number of edits approved, the system will be gamed and the changes worthless. a balance need to be struck between the hopeless bureaucracy of citizendium and the anarchy of wikipedia. Until this happens, both will fail, albeit in different ways.

  • I do not think the government has anything to do with it.
    Wikipedia is a great thing, but the accuracy can be compromised and that makes it a potential source of misinformation.
    I agree that there should be some system of notification and mitigation for stakeholders. It should be easy enough to send emails to prior editors of the piece on an edit. How you mitigate differences of opinion is another matter. It could get personal.

  • We have to put up with flagging onm Linkedin… let’s say we spread the misery around a bit. I think changes should be reviewed anyway, otherwise how useful is the site’s information… answer… not at all.
    No Gov’t involvement here, perhaps the two non- dead people may have been a little upset at being pre emptively dead !

  • Anyone using Wikipedia seriously should do the double checking of the facts themselves, like with any source, whether the content is approved or not. And it probably won’t be long until one of the site’s editors let’s something embarrassing slip through, and then Wikipedia has a bigger problem then they have now. Wikipedia should realize that they are just a source, not the source, of information. They seem to have some Google-complex.

  • Wikimedia envelopes 12 different websites, all of which can contain international content. The background information about the wikipedia issue does not contain anything that connects it to wikipedia. So, “No” to the question asking about government pressure.
    A better solution is to leave it alone, for the moment. Study the information on wikipedia that pertains to the edits ion question, to the next events including that which gave rise to what has become an “issue”. It seems likely that someone, rather than re-editing or reverting to older content, probably acted innapropriately and that this is the issue that needs to be addressed.
    At present, if a page changes too frequently it gets locked. That this became an issue instead of getting locked suggests either a flaw in the process or that someone acted out of turn.

  • Roland makes a good point about fact-checking. Any user-generated content system has to balance between 100% open access – where anyone can create, modify, and remove information – and a closed system – where every entry is reviewed by some pre-determined group of individuals.
    As an avid user of Wikipedia, I always consider the information suspect until I refer to the sources listed at the bottom of the article. I base my trust in the data contained on Wikipedia on the community-at-large and the reliability of the sources the community uses to back up each article.
    Changing Wikipedia to require some articles to be reviewed by a group of editors creates a substantial problem. Now, I need to also consider the reliability of the editors. Do they have a motive to deny certain content or authors? Do they act promptly, ensuring that I am reading the most current information available? Does everyone in the community have an equal opportunity to contribute? These are all questions that would have to be addressed before the suggested change would work.

  • Hi Ali,
    The suggestion is indeed unworkable…perhaps an alternative would be to make the names of all authors of all revisions public and allow the public to flag deliberately stupid or malicious revisions?

  • In any case it will surely increase “Revisions approval people’s Job Market” 🙂

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