Friday, November 24, 2006

Lots of stuff, all mixed together!

I recently commented on the idea of automated page expirations. Someone mentioned the oft-promised dewiki stable versions proposal in respect to this. Almost immediately after hearing about stable versions I realized how powerful and useful they would be for Wikipedia. They were promised for delivery "soon"; the timetable was presented as sometime in October, maybe even earlier, right after single-user login, which was supposed to be available "very soon" in August. Well, it's November, almost December, and single-user login isn't here yet, and neither are stable versions. My patience is starting to wear thin....

Another commenter suggested that Wikipedia has too few editors to have "content administrators". Wikipedia has thousands of editors. I find it hard to believe that there aren't enough people in those thousands who would be willing to do that sort of work if asked. Wikipedia does a poor job of managing its volunteers, and especially of advertising ways that volunteers can help the project. There is some sort of weird belief that it's wrong to ask people to do things for the project, or expect people to hold to their promises to do things, once made. Are Wikipedians afraid of commitment? (Is this a consequence of the relatively young age of most Wikipedians?)

The discussion of this brough to mind another idea, one Greg Maxwell had: have a bot go through the database, marking (at a relatively slow rate) pages which lack sourcing with a tag that declares that the article is not sourced and will be deleted if not sourced within one month. Any page which, after that month, is still unsourced is then deleted. The tagging rate has to selected to balance the desire to get all articles sourced in a reasonable time (there are something like 250,000 articles which lack sourcing on the English Wikipedia) while at the same time not putting too much demand on the editors who know how to properly source material. Pretty much everyone I've talked to about this thinks it's a good idea. I believe the only reason Wikipedia is not currently doing this is the lack of a working enwiki replica on the toolserver (another issue the developers seem not to care about very much).

The Esperanza dispute that I wrote about was deftly deconflagrated by Kim Bruning, who quite wisely recognized that no consensus could possible arise from that train wreck of an MfD and closed it early. I understand that he was criticized for doing so by a few sore losers. Kim's a tough cookie, though; he can take the heat. I can only hope that in the long run some good comes out of the secondary discussion.

I've had several people ask me recently if they should run for ArbCom. Why are people asking me this? Maybe they should listen to what I had to say in Episode Five of Wikipedia Weekly about the elections and people who think they might want to run for Arbitrator. Still, I'm not happy about the current slate of candidates: of the thirty-one candidates who have declared so far, I really think that only two or three are qualified and suitable. There's maybe a half dozen more who I don't know well enough to know whether they're suitable or not; the rest are, in my eyes, unsuitable in some way or another, some very much so. There's five seats open, which means that the chances of electing an unqualified candidate are quite good. And while frankly I think the ArbCom is losing relevance, it still remains an important entity; it would certainly not be a good thing for the ArbCom to become home to one, or worse yet, several, people who have no business sitting in judgment on their fellow editors. (By the way, the people who've asked me have generally gotten back a generalized "meh". Nobody who I really think belongs on ArbCom has asked me if they should run. Fortunately, nobody who I really think shouldn't be on ArbCom has either: I haven't had the displeasure of telling someone that they really shouldn't run.)

In a related topic, Werdna mentioned to me that he's working on an essay on how to improve Wikipedia. He's pretty much spot on on a lot of the issues. I'm looking forward to seeing what his solutions are, beyond exhorting readers to behave differently.

Onto another topic entirely: in last week's Wikipedia Weekly we briefly talked about universal wiki markup languages. Some listener mentioned Wiki Creole to Andrew, who shared the link with me. This project is working on developing a subset wiki markup that would be supported across multiple platforms and allow editors moving from wiki to wiki to use the same basic markup set no matter where they are. A MediaWiki implementation is promised. I noticed they've not made the MediaWiki mistake of using quotes for both bold and italics, but they still have the equals problem (both of which introduce unlimited lookahead, although in the equals case it's at least bounded to end of line instead of end of document, and the equals problem can be avoided if you have reasonable error recovery semantics, which MediaWiki doesn't).

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone (in the US, at least). Don't forget to check out next week's Wikipedia Weekly on Monday!