Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Wikitorial Experiment

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Excel web sharing - spreadsheet collaboration over the Internet made easy with BadBlueThe LA Times has called a halt to its commendable Wikitorial experiment. The groundbreaking attempt at an interactive, user-edited op-ed piece was defaced repeatedly with obscene photos, according to the New York Times.

Imagine an editorial that anyone can read and modify -- along the lines of the outstanding Wikipedia online encyclopedia -- and you pretty much have the general idea.

Of course, with that sort of openness comes a certain level of risk, as the Times discovered:

...During most of Friday and Saturday, readers thoughtfully altered the editorial. By Friday afternoon, hundreds had weighed in. Some did add profanity but just as quickly a Web master from the paper took it down.

"Nothing bad happened really until after midnight on Saturday," said Michael Newman, deputy editorial page editor...

This is an idea that deserves some refinement and a few more chances. Here are some tactical suggestions for the folks who could back another pass at Wikitorials:

  • Force contributor registration - many newspapers already require that users open a free account. Force Wikitorial editors to open an account. If the user's account ends up abusing the Wikitorial, lock the account out. Since the account registration process takes upwards of a minute or so, editors can make it somewhat painful to deface content. In addition, allow users to rate other users.

  • Ban images - simply don't allow images to be posted or linked. That gets rid of the obscene image issue.

  • Solicit trusted editors - just as Wikipedia relies upon trusted contributors, use the rating system described above to create and nurture a community of trusted editors. Then let the editors worry about cleaning up the content and banning abusive users. It works for Wikipedia... and it can work for Wikitorials.

  • I commend the Times for their experiment. While I usually disagree (vehemently) with much of their op-ed content, this is an idea with stunning potential. Here's hoping they continue to work out the kinks and allow a new idea to germinate.

    N.Y. Times: Postings of Obscene Photos End Free-Form Editorial Experiment

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