Part of the real Wikipedia FAQ series, this time we deal with the issue of just who can edit Wikipedias (why is a whole different kettle of fish).
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For clarity, this entry will deal specifically with the English version of Wikipedia - it should be noted that other language editions of the online encyclopedia, and indeed all the other websites hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF), have their own rules, but inevitably, being the biggest and most well known site, the English Wikipedia is really the only one where the issue of who can edit has been stress tested.

Now, to business. Like most people, you're probably only vaguely aware of the cancer on humanity that is Wikipedia, and as part of that knowledge you've probably at one time or another absorbed the basic idea that anyone can edit it. But is it true? Well, at one time it arguably was - Wikipedia originally was after all just a place where gullible people could contribute draft articles for Nupedia, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia would have been, had it not sucked.

Because Nupedia did suck, Wikipedia quickly became the only game in town, and the people behind it began peddling the idea that the fact anyone could edit it was a major feature, a founding principle even. And arguably it is the single biggest reason why it took off. Even today, it remains one of their stated fundamental principles, although bizarrely it is now wrapped up in the issue of copyright (which is ironic in the extreme, since most people who edit Wikipedia are quite clueless about copyright issues).

But that was when the problems began. As soon as Wikipedia, or rather the 'community' writing and running it, as they bizarrely became known, became too large for personal relationships to suffice as a management tool, that was when they first began to compromise on this principle and start to divide editors into the haves and the have nots, or rather the could's and the could nots.

At this point the heads of a few Wikipedians will be boiling over, so I'll set their minds at ease and freely declare that yes, even today, you can still just turn up and edit most of Wikipedia's articles - in percentage terms it's a really high number. You can still edit 'anonymously', i.e. as an IP user, or you can register an account and edit with a user name (counter-intuitively, the latter is the more anonymous method, in theory at least).

But this doesn't tell the whole story. The reason why they began introducing limitations as to who could do what was because they quickly realized that their Utopian project had a couple of major flaws - for one, if you let anyone edit, you cannot always be sure their edit is correct, or even deliberately malicious, and it takes time to ascertain this and take corrective action. And for two, they realized that when two editors, or groups of editors, disagreed on the content of an article, well, if you just let them resolve it by editing it to and fro for eternity, sure enough, they would. Since their other access management tool, the block, is rather crude, they often reach for one of these can/cannot type solutions to these problems.

So, fast forward to today, and Wikipedia now has a dizzying array of technical and social means to dictate who can and cannot do all sorts of things to articles that have been either vandalized or fought over in the past, which, as you can probably appreciate, accounts for a huge chunk of all articles readers would actually be reading, and budding editors would want to edit. The list of these measures is so long I'm not even going to enumerate them here - ultimately I hope to include it as a second post - it will have to be updated regularly, as the Wikipedia community and their pseudo-law enforcers are still finding new and different ways to make it harder for newcomers and novices to play in their sandpit.

Even worse, there has been a creeping acceptance of the principle that these measures can be applied preemptively, merely on the suspicion that something will happen, rather than reactively to something that has happened. For a time, preemptive action like that was fiercely resisted by the community for the very reason that it violates this principle in a major way, but even there it has been sacrificed on the altar of pragmatism as they gradually realise the operating model of their project isn't all its cracked up to be, especially in the face of hemorrhaging numbers of experienced users needed to monitor all manner of things if you did allow just anyone to edit anything.

Needless to say, in the functionality of all these various restrictions, IP users are always at the bottom of the hierarchy of privilege. Next comes registered users who haven't been around long or done much. Established users form the majority of the user base who can do most things, sort of akin to a Wikipedia middle class. Within the middle class, you can also obtain certain other privileges if you jump through certain hoops. Next comes admins, and while the community is still pretty convinced that this is just a janitorial role and they have no editorial authority over the middle class writers, it is notable that, due to the litany of different restrictions that now exist, in many circumstances even the most proficient editors cannot do functions which most outsiders would consider basic tools if you are doing nothing more than 'building' an encyclopedia.

Outside of the technical and policy based measures, there are also various cultural ways that the Wikipedia community ensures that the principle that anyone can edit isn't really true. Basically, if you've just arrived and don't have much of a record of constructive editing, then you will be accorded a much lower social standing - the practical effects of which mean you will be shown less respect and given less leeway for mistakes. You will also be more likely to have your work undone, often without any explanation at all, and you will generally be treated as if you are a disposable part in a giant impersonal machine, not a potentially valuable member of their community with skills and knowledge to utilize for the common good.

It is not unusual for IP users to be referred to in the most unflattering of terms even if they're doing nothing wrong at all, and they are left in no doubt that their lives on Wikipedia would improve immeasurably if they simply registered an account. It's not too dissimilar to the sort of pressure seen in protection rackets. Needless to say, this is not and never was how the founding fathers ever wanted their project to run, and indeed this is all behavior that is squarely condemned in their various rules which govern how they're supposed to interact. But the sad fact of Wikipedia is that in practice, they have no way of stopping this being the default way most community members behave - if they've tried telling people to be nicer to each other and treat all users equally once, they've tried it a hundred times. Indeed, most admins are among the worst offenders in ensuring this hierarchy exists.

If that sounds bad, you've not heard the worst of it yet - such is the Wikipedia's level of distrust of any newcomers or novices, one of the functions that IP users are completely prohibited from doing is posting in Wikipedia's version of Supreme Court proceedings, no matter what your motive - it is an automatic ban from participating. And while newcomers are not explicitly banned from using the site's other areas for reporting things needing attention, most notably the general incident noticeboard, invariably unless it's the most banal of requests, the reaction is usually to just ignore your complaint and instead focus on the fact you are a new user.

On Wikipedia, in stark contrast to other walks of life, concerned onlookers and even whistleblowers seeking to be heard on condition of anonymity, are expected to use only back-channels such as email, and trust that the people in positions of trust and power will act appropriately. As we critics have learned, they invariably do not. This would be bad enough if the only problems on Wikipedia were good faith disputes over what an article should contain, but it's horrific when you consider that Wikipedia has, for obvious reasons, become a haven for all sorts of truthers, cranks, PR agents, obsessives, trolls and narcissists.

At this point I'll also note with some amusement that the situation regarding these privileges has become so complex that it really isn't unusual now to find admins making mistakes in how and when the various different restrictions could/should be used. Needless to say, if they can't understand it, what hope for the very users they impact? As for whether they actually work, you'll struggle to really find any evidence that the introduction of any of these different erosions of the basic principle that anyone can edit has been done for sound, evidence based reasons. They get discussed, sure, but it's all very much based on gut feeling, with generous helpings of ideology. Some have been rushed through based on single high profile incidents, as opposed to any specific known trend. There's also more than a few Wikipedians who quite like to use the wedge strategy to ensure that once initially adopted, these measures get utilized far beyond their original scope.

So, in summary, while it is true that anyone can edit Wikipedia, in all likelihood, if you can and your edit sticks, then it is most likely an article literally nobody else in the world cares about, or you have expended enormous time and energy to become accepted by the community. In other words, it's a closed shop. And before you get the wrong idea, none of this entry is meant to be a resounding endorsement of the whole idea that allowing anyone to just turn up and change something is the perfect recipe for creating an encyclopedia - it is still the case that this feature is behind many of Wikipedia's biggest failings, even after they have eroded it in the many ways I've outlined. And on any measure, it has not resulted in anything that can reasonably be called an encyclopedia.

This FAQ exists to counter the idea that people can be part of the Wikipedia project from edit 1. If, after reading this, you still want to edit Wikipedia and work your way up these various levels, that's fine. It's not like people learning how the mafia worked suddenly cut off their supply of new recruits. But if you end up sleeping with the fishes because you didn't show one of your superiors enough deference or started asking questions above your pay-grade, well, you can't say you weren't warned. And there are, as they say, no refunds. Any time, indeed any money, you may have poured into the activity of editting Wikipedia, is lost forever. And if you're wondering why they now link this founding principle to copyright rather than any sense of a higher purpose, it's because everything you write for Wikipedia is instantly considered common property, and your rights over it are limited to merely being identified as one of the authors. You can no more retract or otherwise claim ownership of text, or indeed images, that you contribute to Wikipedia after the fact, than you can reclaim urine you contribute to the sea. And in many ways, that analogy is apt.

If you are anything like us and believe that Wikipedia is a corrupt and immoral enterprise, and humanity's thirst for knowledge would be better served if it was destroyed and replaced with something that actually worked, well, hopefully this entry has given you plenty of ideas on how you can exploit the Wikipedia's innate paranoia and mistrust to ensure that their march toward ever more restrictive hierarchies of user privilege continues apace. HTD. And if that's not your kind of thing, then just be vigilant and ready to correct anyone who is stupid enough to try and tell anyone else that you really can just turn up at Wikipedia and edit it.

Who can edit wikipedias ? wikipedia critics
Q: Who can edit wikipedias ?
Ans: Any computer (or mobile phone) connected to the internet can edit a wikipedia. It usually isn't even necessary to create an account to edit one of the less reputable wikis.

The Decline of Wikipedia - MIT Technology Review The foundation can't order the volunteer community to change the way it operates. But by tweaking Wikipedia's website and software, it hopes ... Growing Wikipedia Refines Its 'Anyone Can Edit' Policy - Unless you want to edit the entries on Albert Einstein, human rights in China or Christina Aguilera. Wikipedia's come-one, come-all invitation to ... The Covert World of People Trying to Edit Wikipedia for Pay - Can the site's dwindling ranks of volunteer editors protect its articles from ... from him about the editing process for Wikipedia's medical content. The number one rule of wiki editing is to be bold. Go ahead - make changes. Other people can correct any mistakes you make, so have confidence, and give it a ... How does Wikipedia's editor team notice that a Wikipedia article has ... Some great info provided by Amir E. Aharoni and Andrew Hennigan about how volunteers patrol. There are also bots that watch the recent changes log, and can ... How to edit Wikipedia pages – a guide for PR execs Wikipedia debate, here's a guide for how PR can edit. ... news; it's against Wikipedia's policies for people with a conflict of interest to edit pages. Geek to Live: How to contribute to Wikipedia - Once you save the page, your change will be noted in Wikipedia's Recent Changes which lists the thousands of Wikipedia edits that happen ... How to Edit a Wikipedia Article - YouTube Video for who can edit wikipedias If you edit a piece without registering, the site will record your IP address ... Keep an eye on the featured ... Study reveals bot-on-bot editing wars raging on Wikipedia's pages ... - Over time, the encyclopedia's software robots can become locked in combat, undoing each other's edits and changing links, say researchers. Wikipedia's Edit Wars - and the 8 Religious Pages People Can't Stop ... - On Wikipedia, the collaborative Internet encyclopedia, articles on religion become a point of serious contention. Searches related to who can edit wikipedia is wikipedia down right now, decline of wikipedia, wikipedia website review, what is wikipedia's neutrality policy? why is it important? unable to access wikipedia, wikipedia problem, which of the following is a serious problem with wikis quizlet wikipedia review

What is a wikipedia ? wikipedia critics
Q: What is a wikipedia ?
Ans: A wikipedia (also called "wiki") is a massively multi-user collaborative blog edited by its mostly anonymous users, which deceptively calls itself an encyclopedia. Of course a wikipedia is not a real encyclopedia, being constantly changing and filled with anonymous deceits, lies and misinformation and so most wikipedias cannot be trusted.

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A small FAQ about wikipedias which I am putting together for my students and how they can use it for school, and very much an evolving work in progress.

Ans: A wikipedia (also called "wiki") is a massively multi-user collaborative blog edited by its mostly anonymous users, which deceptively calls itself an encyclopedia. Of course a wikipedia is not a real encyclopedia, being constantly changing and filled with anonymous deceits, lies and misinformation and so most wikipedias cannot be trusted.

A: Any computer (or mobile phone) connected to the internet can edit a wikipedia. It usually isn't even necessary to create an account to edit one of the less reputable wikis.

Q: Who owns wikipedia ?
A: A wikipedia is owned by whoever has control of the servers and has the login password. Since wikipedia softwares are usually free anyone can create their own wikipedias.

Q: Is wikipedia information trustworthy ?
A: No ! wikipedia entries simply cannot be trusted. Because wikipedia entries can be edited by anyone, they are often made from ignorance or deliberately with malice and often for payment by undisclosed interests. Since all edits on a wikipedia are anonymous the pedia simply cannot be trusted. When editors are caught posting blatantly false and deceitful entries the wikipedia managers will refuse to correct the entries or declare their identity even to the courts.

Q: Can I have my own wikipedia page and how much it cost?
A: Yes, because it is possible for anyone to edit a wikipedia you can easily have your own wikipedia page for free. If you do not know how to edit a wikipedia then you can hire professionals to do it for you on sites like fiverr and elance.

Q: I was badly abuse when I edited wikipedia about India. Why nobody objects racism there ?
A: This is an excellent question and most Indians face this kind of overt racism at western wikipedias. The reason is that wikipedias are actually all-white male drinking clubs for the lower classes ("dregs") of Anglo societies who are inherently racist.

Q: I was blocked at a wikipedia after I complain about an admin, what now ?
A: You can change your sex, color, eating and drinking habits and then become an admin yourself.

Q: Is it better to use Quora or Wikipedia to ask questions?
A: You can post this question on both those websites. Have you considered joining Reddit ?

Q: What are the benefits of writing for Wikipedia ?
A: You usually get the satisfaction of seeing your brilliant authorship removed from view within a few minutes

Q: Is Quora really Wikipedia's worst nightmare ?
A: No. That would be Jimmy Wales.

Q: Is there any list of things wrong about Wikipedia ?


[The Wiki Critic]: Try these links

1) The Bomis Connection
2) Pedophilia Allegations
3) Wikipedia Accuracy Problems
4) Summary of the problems with Wikipedia
5) Bias in child abuse articles

Q: Does Wikipedia track my identity and how to prevent it ?