Monday, 12 Mar, 2007 Technology

Wikipedia to Verify the Contributors' Credentials


Jimmy Wales - one of the founders of the world largest online encyclopedia: the Wikipedia - has suggested a way to check a contributor's level of trust. The reason for this was served by the fact that an administrator on Wikipedia has come up with a history of his academic certificates.

The main idea of this suggestion is to implement a voluntary system of accreditation for certain contributors, who state to have advanced degrees, such as Ph.D. or M.D.

Most of the Wikipedia's society still have doubts about this suggestion, as there is no certainty in how all this would work. One of the suggestions was that the editors would fax copies of their degrees and certificates to the Wikipedia's offices. But how would the staff manage checking all of them?

Another idea was to introduce a "circle of trust". Here a trusted member of the community would be in charge of checking the documents.

Mr. Wales was quite optimistic in his speech. He said that some of his ideas would be implemented "in a week".

However, Florence Devouard, current head of Wikimedia Foundation, expressed certain doubts about the ideas of her predecessor. The main thing in Wikipedia, according to Mrs. Devouard, is the quality of the provided content and not the quality of the credentials. Mrs. Devouard's point of view is that the main weapon of fighting poor quality content should be stricter rules about citing the sources.

The main goal of this credentials-based contributing is to prove the trustworthiness of the Wikipedia. The problem is that students and pupils are more and more likely to use Internet, with Wikipedia among their favorites, as their main source for writing various reports. However, their efforts are not appreciated with high grades. Thus comes the frustration and blame on Wikipedia.

The verification of credentials should thus prove that, the Wikipedia is not written by a "bunch of 12-year-olds".

Certainly, Mr. Wales' idea will improve the quality of submitted content, but what about the line seen by every Internet user, when opening the Wikipedia site: "Wikipedia - the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit"?

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