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Anonymity

December 7, 2007

I am returning to the Wikipedia. In a previous post I expressed some concerns about vandalism and self promotion. I didn’t express this directly at the time, but underlying my concern was a feeling that the methods and management practices that work during a period of rapid initial growth, may not work during a period of stabilisation. Now that the Wikipedia is so useful, it can too easily be used and its serious editors abused. One of the simplest changes would be to remove the right for complete anonymity. In my experience to date nearly all the malicious, or infantile vandalism comes from editors who are only identified by their IP addresses. Not only that I am pretty sure that some anonymous postings to the KM article have been disguised self-promotion.

A recent bit of idiocy on the KM article will illustrate this. 69.19.14.44 decided that complexity had nothing to do with knowledge management, and deleted the reference (as well as related narrative work) from the article. No reason was given other than a rather nonsensical assertion. The entry was reversed by another editor and I made a note on the talk page to say (fairly) politely, you speak of that of which you know little. I also added in a statement that You would be more credible if you did not hide behind an IP address. Another user picked this up and told me off saying:

Anyone is free to contribute to Wikipedia either anonymously or not. Please see Wikipedia:Please do not bite the newcomers. You can’t judge one’s input based on the simple fact that the person who contributed has an account or not. I am a great believer in fairness

I responded along the lines argued above. In the mean time 69.19.14.44 decided to blank the whole KM article which was at best petty, at worst vandalism. I then check and discover that s/he has blanked two other pages the same day. Now there is a pattern here and one would hope that someone would catchup with this person (and all those who keep altering the page on Wales to make statements about sexual practices with sheep) and remove their editorial rights, along with any parts of their anatomy that would allow them to indulge in sexual practices with sheep.

A requirement to declare who you were, to state an interest in any article and a simple rule on malicious vandalism would not be difficult to put in place. A three strikes and out rule would then reduce the burden on those of us who have to invest time in reversing and unstiching the petty minded actions of people who do not understand the importance of the Wikipedia to knowledge creation and dissemination. Just as one can nominate a page for deletion, so, given criteria could you nominate 69.19.14.44 and his/her fellows to be suspended (from any remaining parts). One can be tolerant of a degree of high spirits, but hiding behind the shield of anonymity encourages vandalism and self-promotion. Transparency is, I think, called for.

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