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Knol, the Wikipedia Maybe-Fork? 102

Posted by timothy
from the hey-baby-just-say-maybe dept.
Bennett Haselton contributes the following essay on the consequences of license choice as it applies to sites based on user contributions; read on below for more of his big idea for making Knol a more useful resource. "Google Knol should allow its writers to publish under a Creative Commons Share Alike license. The preceding sentence may not mean much to you, but if you've ever wanted to cite a Wikipedia article as a source, or simply read a Wikipedia article with some assurance that someone wasn't pulling your leg with some creative editing, or if you've wanted to contribute to Wikipedia but couldn't afford the time unless you received some modest compensation for it, then the addition of this one simple feature to Knol might make all the difference." (More below.)

I've been suggesting for some time that Wikipedia, or some fork of Wikipedia, should allow users to "sign off" on a version of an article, and then lock that article against future edits until the signer had approved them. The signing off would allow people to cite a Wikipedia article as a source that had been vetted by at least one person (with confidence in the source depending on that person's credentials). The signer's identity (and sometimes, their credentials) could be confirmed using several methods, such as verifying an .edu e-mail address. Users could still submit edits, but they would have to be approved by the article verifier. Different users could sign off on different versions of the same article, and readers would still have the option of viewing the latest version of an article, with all of its unmoderated edits (which is what you're looking at on Wikipedia most of the time).

Knol, which allows users to submit articles on any topic they want, has incorporated all of the above features (adding, for example, the ability to verify authors' real names using credit cards), and gone one step further by allowing users to place AdSense ads in their articles. However, there's one stumbling block to Knol incorporating all of Wikipedia's content and blessing it with the verification of credentialed experts: Currently, although you have to dig a bit deep to find this out, Knol's Terms of Service do not allow content to be copied from Wikipedia.

Content on Wikipedia is published under the GNU Free Documentation License -- when you click any of the "edit" links in a Wikipedia article and begin typing in new content, you're agreeing to submit your content under the terms of the GFDL. When you publish on Knol, on the other hand, your options are to publish under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (CC-BY), a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License (CC-BY-NC), or a traditional "All Rights Reserved" copyright model. Both the GFDL and the Creative Commons Attribution licenses are popular with content creators who want to give content altruistically "to the world" -- these licenses all allow content to be redistributed freely without modification. The main difference is in the rights that they grant to people who want to create derivative works (modifying or expanding on the original work).

The GFDL is intended as a "viral" license -- if you take a work that is published under the GFDL, and publish a derivative work created from that, your derivative work must also be published under the terms of the GFDL -- that is, also allowing other users to redistribute your work freely and create derivative works from it as well. If a site mirrors Wikipedia articles without including the terms of the GFDL, Wikipedia encourages users to send notifications to those sites pointing out that they're violating Wikipedia's copyright, and if necessary to escalate the matter to their Web hosting provider for noncompliance. You can mirror Wikipedia all you want, and even put put ads all over your mirror site, but you cannot change the terms.

Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licenses, on the other hand, allow users to create derivative works and publish them under almost any terms they want, including an "All rights reserved" model, provided that they give attribution to the author of the original work. If Susan publishes an article under CC-BY, you can create a derivative work by expanding on her article, and -- assuming your contributions are substantial enough to be copyrightable in themselves -- you can prohibit other users from redistributing your article or creating derivative works from it, something that would not be possible if Susan had published her article under the GFDL. (Obviously, you cannot prohibit others from redistributing Susan's article or creating their own derivative works from it, but you can restrict these rights as applied to your own derivative work.)

Russell Potter, a Professor of English at Rhode Island College and a Citizendium contributor who explained this difference to me, points out that CC-BY licenses are more friendly to academics who want to reuse content in a published book or in a conference presentation. "Say an academic (me) contributes a long article on London's Crystal Palace," he wrote. "Others edit it in modest ways, but the article is still about 90% my own work. Perhaps I want to give a paper at a conference based on this entry, or use large bits of it in a book I'm writing. GFDL would have made either impossible." (Impossible, that is, unless the book publisher released the book under the GFDL, but most book publishing companies are reluctant to do that.)

And therein lies the logical incompatibility between the GFDL and the CC-BY publishing options currently allowed by Knol. If you copy GFDL-licensed content from Wikipedia, you are agreeing that for any copies or derivative works that you create, you will not only permit other users to remix them, but that you will require those other users to agree to the same terms for the remixed works that they publish. If you published such content on Knol under the CC-BY option, you would be granting the reader permission to incorporate the work into their own derivative work which they could then publish under an All Rights Reserved license. And the GFDL doesn't allow you to grant that permission to the reader. Section 5.5 of Knol's Terms of Service explicitly states that GFDL content cannot be re-published under a CC-BY license, and Mike Linksvayer makes this point on the Creative Commons blog as well. Some authors have begun copying Wikipedia content to Knol anyway, and even though that particular article included a link to the GFDL, users have pointed out in the comments that it's still a TOS violation anyway. Google appears to be lax about policing these violations for now, but in the right-hand column, the links to "Similar Content on the Web" show that Google can trivially detect if content is copied from other sites, and may be planning to remove such content or demote it in search results if it's copied from a site like Wikipedia that doesn't allow copying under Knol's terms.

However, the Creative Commons family of licenses also includes the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License (CC-BY-SA), which is written in the same spirit as the GFDL -- if a work is released under CC-BY-SA, any published derivative works created from that work must also be released under the same license. In fact the Free Software Foundation, which writes new versions of the GFDL, announced in December 2007 their intention to make the next version of the GFDL explicitly compatible with CC-BY-SA, so that any work published under the GFDL can be incorporated into a work published under CC-BY-SA, and vice versa. This new version of the GFDL has not been released yet, but the FSF replied by e-mail to say they're working on it.

(Perhaps you might be wondering, as I did, how already-existing content on Wikipedia can be said to be "licensed" under a new version of the GFDL when it comes out. How can past Wikipedia contributors have agreed to a future version of the license that didn't exist yet? The answer is that when you submit edits on Wikipedia, you're agreeing to submit your edits under the "GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version", and it's the "or any later version" that means contributors are deemed to have agreed to the next version of the GFDL, which will presumably be CC-BY-SA-compatible.)

If Google Knol adds the ability to publish under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license, and the FSF releases a new version of the GFDL that is compatible with this license, then I think we will finally see what I hoped for in February 2008 -- a "gold rush" of users copying content from Wikipedia to Knol, where it can be verified by credentialed users and protected against vandalism. Some users' verifications will be more valuable than others -- a physics article verified by a physics professor is more trustworthy than the same article verified by an anonymous user, and even an article about The X-Files may be more trustworthy when it's verified by a physics professor, not because it's the professor's area of expertise, but because a professor with a valued reputation would be less likely to sign their name to unverified garbage.

Will Knol add the Share Alike option? Perhaps they may be nervous about what would happen if they allowed unlimited copying from Wikipedia, especially with financial incentives. At the moment, Knol seems to be downplaying the fact that you can make money from writing articles, even as everyone else buzzes about it. On their front page, under "Learn More", Knol lists the reasons you should contribute: "Visibility - We value and promote authorship. Great content will be visible on any search engine. Community - You can connect with other experts in your area of interest to share and grow knowledge," etc. Really? That's all? AdSense isn't mentioned in the FAQ, and only briefly at the end of a posting about "Knol bugs and workarounds". And officially the site never mentions Wikipedia at all, except in the knols about it.

But many of the articles on Wikipedia -- especially the kind of articles that academics would be willing to sign their names to -- would probably enhance the Knol site, not drag it down. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales correctly predicted that Knol would generate a lot of articles about Viagra. If Knol can tolerate that garbage (and under their own policies, there is little grounds for removing those articles, unless the authors lifted the content from some other site), they should welcome the addition of articles about stochiometry, Shakespeare, and Serbia, even if they were copied from Wikipedia and then vetted by a university professor or journalist. (None of those topics have their own Knol yet, although there was room for Knols about Simon Cowell, Superman, and sex addiction.)

After all, the incentives that AdSense creates for Knol writers are roughly the same as the incentives for Web publishers in general -- you can try to turn a quick buck, or you can invest in your site's reputation for the long run -- and while there is a new "made-for-AdSense" site born every minute, few would disagree that the rise of AdSense has been good for content on the Web in general.

While copying from Wikipedia to Knol is against the rules right now, there's no reason in principle to be against creating a Wikipedia sub-fork on Knol, if Google allows Knol writers to select the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike publishing option. One user, responding to the unauthorized use of Wikipedia articles, posted in the Knol users' group on Google Groups: "What I REALLY want to see Google do is crack down on these clowns who are copying and pasting articles from Wikipedia." I say, just change the rules and send in the clowns.

Slashdot welcomes original submissions; many thanks to Bennett for this one.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Knol, the Wikipedia Maybe-Fork?

Comments Filter:
  • Politics (Score:-1, Offtopic)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2008 @10:31AM (#25070989)
    Fuck McCain.

    Fuck Christ.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:23AM (#25071733)

      I fucked your daddy in the arse with my 6 inch strap on.

      He liked it.

      (Obain, McCama, both the same, both want to screw you* over! Don't vote for them at all, instead shoot them! Shoot the local cops, shoot the politicians, shoot the corporate scum. Revolution baby!)

      * screw you... Assuming that you are not a rich person or a corporation. If you are, don't worry, they both love you.

  • Wall-o-text (Score:-1, Redundant)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2008 @10:31AM (#25070991)
    TL;DR
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2008 @10:31AM (#25071001)
    It took me forever to scroll to the bottom and claim first post.
  • Fork? (Score:2, Redundant)

    by thermian (1267986) on Friday September 19, 2008 @10:36AM (#25071043)

    Its barely gotton started, I don't see any fork succeeding for long.

    Besides, Google have mainly done it to generate more content for their searches. Not that I think its a bad thing. I like knol, a lot. I find it much easier to use then Wikipedia, and the fact that I can be sure some prat won't re-write my article with dubious info, or vandalise it, is a big reassurance.

    Sure, some articles are shit, but so what? Don't read them. Some are extremely interesting, and there's none of that 'not notable' crap.

    • Re:Fork? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by klenwell (960296) <klenwell@@@gmail...com> on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:02AM (#25071435) Homepage Journal

      I like knol, a lot. I find it much easier to use then Wikipedia, and the fact that I can be sure some prat won't re-write my article with dubious info, or vandalise it, is a big reassurance.

      I like Knol, too.

      While in school I wrote a few essays in my field (Elizabethan literature) which I always wanted to do something with. Because I didn't pursue a career in academics, I could never trouble myself to try to get them published in academic journals.

      I recently published them on Knol which, unlike Wikipedia, accepts original research. The process was quite easy -- little more than cut-and-paste with footnotes being properly hyperlinked.

      Will they ever be noticed? We'll see. But Knol strikes me as a good venue for this sort of thing. Perhaps it could end up as a kind of arXiv for the humanities and other disciplines that, to my knowledge, don't have that kind of archive set up yet.

      • by Lincolnshire Poacher (1205798) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:18AM (#25071655)

        > I could never trouble myself to try to get them published in academic journals.

        Couldn't you have posted them on your personal site for the World to see?

        After all the Web is intended to be an everyman publishing system and there is a lot of content out there less meritorious than your essays.

        Get them out there, get them indexed and share with the World.

        • by klenwell (960296) <klenwell@@@gmail...com> on Friday September 19, 2008 @03:54PM (#25076589) Homepage Journal

          Couldn't you have posted them on your personal site for the World to see?

          After all the Web is intended to be an everyman publishing system and there is a lot of content out there less meritorious than your essays.

          Get them out there, get them indexed and share with the World.

          That's what I was planning to do. Whenever I got around to it.

          Knol made it easy enough that I just did it.

          It did a good job with the formatting and footnotes and all. It offers versioning and collaboration. And I'm sure it will get indexed more quickly and highly than if I did it on my own site.

          So that's what I see as its strength. The fact that it just works and serves a purpose that Wikipedia rightly eschews.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2008 @08:54PM (#25080913)

          Can't you say that about everything?
          Why use YouTube if you can use your own site.
          Why use Facebook or MySpace if you can use your own site.
          Why use XYZ Blogger if you can use your own site.
          etc.

          • by Rastloser (1364593) on Friday September 19, 2008 @09:47PM (#25081299)
            Why indeed. I always feel that publishing content on those mass-audience sites with bad signal-to-noise ratios was not adequate for "better" articles / videos / soundbites that took a lot of work. It's the same with Knol, somehow: If I invest the time and effort that is needed for a good article, why shouldn't I put it on my own website where it's more obviously linked to my person? Wikipedia allows anonymous edits, so you could at least do something for your ego and say "ok, I'm feeling generous today, I'll give those 14 pages to the community and won't take credit for it". I still wonder where Knol fits in...
      • by kabocox (199019) on Friday September 19, 2008 @04:42PM (#25077475)

        While in school I wrote a few essays in my field (Elizabethan literature) which I always wanted to do something with. Because I didn't pursue a career in academics, I could never trouble myself to try to get them published in academic journals.

        I recently published them on Knol which, unlike Wikipedia, accepts original research. The process was quite easy -- little more than cut-and-paste with footnotes being properly hyperlinked.

        I think overtime, something like Knol will win out over wikipedia. Why? School assigned papers & reports from K-post grad that folks will want to make use off/preserve just incase they ever need them again for anything. Previously, this stuff would never be "published in any form. Only us pack rats would have "everything" from K-12 in a couple of boxes that we never really go through. Well, if knol or something like it becomes the places student packrats decide to keep their digtal assignments, well they could in theory build off each other and do their own original research that previously only 1 teacher and 1 class may have seen it now any teacher or class could see it. O.k. like most things internet 98% of it will be utter crap, but 2% will become goggle gold. ;)

    • by somersault (912633) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:10AM (#25071535) Homepage Journal

      Just out of interest, do you really think that 'then' means 'than', or was that a typo? I see this a lot online and it worries me.

      I'm not going to start pointing out all the other language mistakes or you'll probably not even bother replying, but just to let you know that I find it hard to take articles as authoritative if they can't even get spelling and punctuation usage correct. I know that written language ability doesn't necessarily reflect a person's intelligence, but given two articles by people I'd never heard of on the same subject, I'd probably choose to read the one that didn't have me cringing/infuriated.

      • Re:Fork? (Score:0, Offtopic)

        by achenaar (934663) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:22AM (#25071715)
        You see it all the time.
        Makes me cringe too.
        It's on a par (regarding how much it makes me twitch) with saying "nucular".
        I saw a documentary about the main areas of Science that the next US President ought to know something about and the presenter couldn't say "nuclear".
        I very nearly turned it off, but it was interesting aside from that and I'm glad I didn't.
      • Re:Fork? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by thermian (1267986) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:25AM (#25071779)

        I wouldn't normally respond to grammar correctors online, but I will this time.

        My spelling is crap, I realise this, I'm dyspraxic. I also hold a Ph.D in Computer Science, do you?

        My examiners didn't give a rats arse about my inability to spell when they examined my Thesis. I got a list of words to re-type, and they left it at that.

        I find that its quite common for spelling to be really low on the list of priorities in academia. The simple fact is that a lot of highly intelligent people are also dyslexic. No-one is going to reject original and useful research because you can't get round this whole vowel usage thing.

        Of course if you're not sufficiently educated or scientifically minded, decent spelling ability won't help either, perfect grammar will not save an otherwise poor paper, just as bad spelling won't kill a good one.

        You wouldn't get anywhere in academia if you went round criticizing spelling all the time, unless you're an English professor that is.

        • by somersault (912633) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:50AM (#25072185) Homepage Journal

          I know those things, I was just curious as to whether you genuinely didn't know the meaning as you seemed to be pretty switched on otherwise. I have on rare occasion made mistakes with the typing of then/than myself, but that's because my fingers often try to be too clever and finish words before I've fully thought them!

          No, I don't have a doctorate. I have no doubt I could if I were motivated and actually had a reason to have one, but as it was I didn't even bother to finish my honours year properly because I was depressed (as in taking prescribed medication rather than just couldn't be bothered, though that probably played a part too) and already had a job lined up anyway. I know I'm good with academic stuff and don't feel much need to prove that to myself any more, I know that I can learn almost anything I want from books if necessary. My company offered a couple of years ago to sponsor me for getting a Masters degree but I wasn't interested at the time. Maybe someday.

        • by Korgan (101803) on Friday September 19, 2008 @06:59PM (#25079697) Homepage

          I also hold a Ph.D in Computer Science, do you?

          No, but then, I found that real life was a far better teacher than living in the bubble of a university.

          The great thing about the internet, no body knows if you're a dog.

          Certificates and diplomas and little letters after your name mean nothing online. Its what you do with all that education that matters. And living in a University doesn't really do anything with it except prove you can study. Whip-di-do. I can study too. I have quite a few professional trade certificates in ICT that prove I know those companies products. Red Hat, Microsoft, Cisco, among others. I have an income generating job (rather than relying on tuition fees and donations) that is actually using those trade certificates. I keep networks, servers and more running every single day, and I write software and fix bugs when those networks and hosts don't need any work.

          What have you done with your Ph.D that makes it better than anyone elses real-life knowledge of computer sciences? An education just proves you can learn. Even monkeys can learn. The trick is taking what you've learned and using it in the real world.

          Sorry, but with that single sentence you completely lost any of my respect your post might have earned.

      • by Cocoa Radix (983980) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:33AM (#25071889) Homepage

        I agree entirely. And I'd also like to point out that attention to written language seems to be rapidly disappearing, especially on the Internet. Sure, typos happen -- whatever. That's fine. But for American-raised people, I DO use both written and spoken English skills as a reflection of intelligence. I firmly uphold the belief that if you were raised speaking and reading a language your entire life and you went through twelve or more years of school (where you were required to study/read/write the language consistently throughout each of those years), there is absolutely no excuse for the piss-poor grammar that I see just about everywhere.

        I have a friend who teaches seventh grade social studies, and he doesn't know the difference between "your" and "you're." It's sickening. And he's not one of the worse people I've come across. For whatever reason, people don't care about language anymore, especially when it comes to written language on the Internet. For me, the excuse, "it's the Internet; who cares about spelling and grammar?" just doesn't cut it. The state of what I would guess to be a majority of this generation's intellect (at least in America), when measured by language skills, is downright fucking sad.

        • by somersault (912633) on Friday September 19, 2008 @12:00PM (#25072337) Homepage Journal

          Slashdot is actually pretty good compared to places like Bebo, where people often say 'dat' instead of that and use other text speak, despite writing on a keyboard. I mean I sometimes use abbreviations if I'm typing one handed on messenger while the other is busy (cue jokes, but generally this will be due to holding a phone or eating :p ), but often there is no good reason to do so.

          The thing is that the more people use poor grammar online, the more people that will read it. The internet is going to be the place where most people do their reading as time goes on, instead of reading books like I did when I was a kid. I mean I'm only 24 but these days kids will grow up with nonsensical creatures who don't even speak english blurbling at them from the TV, and they will spend their time playing handheld consoles (which were around in my day, but rather expensive and short on battery life) and on social networking sites rather than actually doing any reading (hey, I don't read that much these days either, but I already know how to spell words 99.99% of the time). Everyone will just grow up even more confused, and eventually it may be common English usage to use than and then, effect and affect, etc, interchangeably? I hope not..

          • by Cocoa Radix (983980) on Friday September 19, 2008 @12:21PM (#25072649) Homepage

            Luckily, Slashdot's news and user base (minus the "frist psot" crew) are sophisticated enough that the site maintains, as a whole, a fairly high intellectual level. But Bebo and MySpace and Facebook and any social networking site make me cringe. And, sadly, that's the kind of thing with which people in my age range (I'm 21, so let's say 16-26, though, obviously, these networks have a plethora of users outside of that range) are becoming obsessed.

            I think you might be right. With the Earth at one's fingertips via the Internet, the next step for the English language may be a breaking down of these increasingly fuzzy barriers between words like "then" and "than," or "there" and "their" and "they're." Hopefully I'll be dead before that happens. =)

        • by FLEB (312391) on Friday September 19, 2008 @01:55PM (#25074265) Homepage Journal

          For me, the excuse, "it's the Internet; who cares about spelling and grammar?" just doesn't cut it.

          Here's what I've always said:

          For hundreds... thousands of years, people have suffered undue inequality from prejudices based upon immutable and often arbitrary personal features. Things such as race, sex, beauty, appearance, accent, upbringing, heritage, location... things that are no direct indicator of a person's qualities or abilities. Now, the Internet-- especially the medium of pre-meditated text message boards-- gives a place where everyone can be judged entirely upon their actions, thoughts, insights, and accomplishments. Although prejudice based upon irrelevant details may still exist, there is (usually) no requirement whatsoever that a person disclose such details.

          When a person is offhand derided, flamed, or ignored for exceptionally poor grammar, idea formation, or inability to research or ask a question correctly (among other things), oftentimes others will cry "censorship" or "prejudice", and claim that any idea should be heard, even if the idea is advanced by a person whose mental capacity looks to be exhausted merely keeping a heartbeat and steady breath, much less posting on the Internet. When a person given all these advantages-- a place free of most prejudices, where even poor writers can be mull and hone before posting-- still cannot produce a simple question or position that does not take two aspirins and a lobotomy to comprehend, then they deserve to be flamed, derided, or ignored.

          If they are well-meaning newbies who don't understand, then a good flaming should set them right. If they are insistent upon being whiny and ignorant, we can only hope that a good flaming will drive them elsewhere. (If they are English-second-language... well, that's understandable.) Those who use all the tools given them just to look like an idiot have no inherent right to be seen or regarded as anything more.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:54AM (#25072239)

        There must be a name for it, but I don't know what it is. I've been typing for 30+ years. When I get typing fast and don't pay attention I find that I often type a sound-alike word for some of the words that have homophones.

        I certainly know the difference, but I think the word, my fingers move, and voila, the wrong one is on the screen.

        Long ago I learned the importance of going back over what I've written on-line and in email, but I still miss them on occasion.

        Apropos of nothing, do you know the difference between a Principal Engineer and a Principle Engineer? You wouldn't believe (or maybe you would) how many résumés I've seen that use the wrong one.

        And I really would like to know the name for what happens when my brain thinks 'hear' or 'knight' and my fingers type 'here' or 'night.'

        • by somersault (912633) on Friday September 19, 2008 @12:07PM (#25072439) Homepage Journal

          Often my fingers type a word that starts the same but ends differently (sometimes quite long words too, must* be something to do with 'muscle memory'), but I think I've done the homophone thing too.

          I presume that a Principal Engineer is head engineer, and a Principle Engineer is a Scientologist!

          *I actually typed much instead of must there!

    • by owlnation (858981) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:55AM (#25072253)
      There problem is search. Ironically that's Google.

      Any search usually generates a wikipedia result in the top 10. This is, of course, because wikipedia has an inflated pagerank for the site as a whole. In fact many individual pages are very, very poor quality, and if were considered out of context would merit a page rank lower by several orders of magnitude.

      Succinctly, wikipedia's search results are effectively no more than pagerank spam, just as much as any SEO black hat attempt to skew search results.

      This makes it very difficult for sites like Knol or Citizendium, which in all probability have much more authoritative, or qualitatively better pages than their wikipedia equivalent. However, wikipedia results will come much higher in search results due to their skewed pagerank.

      This is a serious problem that Google should address. It also shows how urgent the need for competition in search really is. Search has much, much room for improvement, and Google does not seem to be leading the charge towards improvements.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2008 @04:28PM (#25077251)

        Succinctly, wikipedia's search results are effectively no more than pagerank spam

        Except Wikipedia's external links are all nofollow, so they don't do anything for pagerank.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2008 @10:43AM (#25071159)

    Let others work for you and don't pay them. It's not slavery because you're not forcing them to work for you.

  • by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Friday September 19, 2008 @10:48AM (#25071221) Homepage

    The current model of Wikipedia is a simple monotonically increasing version. You can commit changes, diff between versions and even revert changes, but you can't make separate branches or merge changes from one branch to another.

    I've been suggesting for some time that Wikipedia, or some fork of Wikipedia, should allow users to "sign off" on a version of an article, and then lock that article against future edits until the signer had approved them. The signing off would allow people to cite a Wikipedia article as a source that had been vetted by at least one person (with confidence in the source depending on that person's credentials). The signer's identity (and sometimes, their credentials) could be confirmed using several methods, such as verifying an .edu e-mail address. Users could still submit edits, but they would have to be approved by the article verifier. Different users could sign off on different versions of the same article,

    Isn't this the same as the distributed version control model used by the Linux kernel and many other software projects? Put all of Wikipedia into a DVCS, and anyone can clone it and publish their own changes; someone who maintains a 'signed-off' copy of an article can choose whether or not to pull changes from someone else's repository.

    • by Anpheus (908711) on Friday September 19, 2008 @10:58AM (#25071369)

      People make branches all the time, they just aren't branches of all of wikipedia (eegad, who wants to host that on their own?) but rather individual articles. It's not uncommon for someone to copy an article into a user space page to perform edits and refinements, get the page looking how they want it, and then push it back into the 'trunk' or main wikipedia space.

      There is, unfortunately, no automated way for users to do this. "Copy page to ____ space," be that user space, wikipedia's main, or any other.

  • Citing it? (Score:-1, Redundant)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2008 @10:53AM (#25071297)

    With the mandated minimum of one accredited review, would that be widening the Knol ledge your writing stands on?

  • by Chineseyes (691744) on Friday September 19, 2008 @10:54AM (#25071303)
    I'm sure google has plenty of extra resources to throw at this but it is a huge waste. With google it seems as if you can tell if something is going to be a success right away by the immediate response it gets. Most people haven't even heard of Knol and while I have read multiple articles about Knol nothing compelled me to actually go take a look at it. Why do we need another source of "might be true" information?
  • Is a copy needed? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Friday September 19, 2008 @10:55AM (#25071325)

    users copying content from Wikipedia to Knol, where it can be verified by credentialed users and protected against vandalism.

    But why is copying the content to another site even needed? Wikipedia maintains an edit history, and you can link specifically to previous versions of an article. So, you just have a third-party site that maintains a database of "trusted people" and "wikipedia entries" and "trust relations" between those two sets.

    The third-party site doesn't need to host any Wikipedia content at all. It just does the work of vetting people and maintaining the database. You then search on this site for some content, and it gives you a link to the version of the Wikipedia article that was vetted and signed as being trustworthy.

    If the expert needs to fix the article before vetting it, he can make those changes to the Wikipedia version, and then sign-off on that version. Basically, I don't see the need to create a Wikipedia fork in order to get the advantages of "expert vetting." Keep everything combined on Wikipedia, rather than duplicating effort.

  • by Foofoobar (318279) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:01AM (#25071429)
    Some editors of Wikipedia have taken to removing open source project listings from Wikipedia as a result overzealous practices and begun a basic cleansing of open source projects on the basis that they do not have reference materials in books or magazines. I had an argument with several editors when my project in the Sourceforge top 2000 got removed and they claimed they were doing it to all open source projects that didn't have magazine or book publishings by people OTHER than project maintainers.
  • by Electrawn (321224) <{electrawn} {at} {yahoo.com}> on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:04AM (#25071467) Homepage

    Larry Sanger's Citizendium project still kicks, still gaining momentum without the association from Google.

    http://www.citizendium.org/ [citizendium.org]

  • no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:07AM (#25071503) Homepage

    This is wrong for so many reasons that it's hard to know where to begin.

    Okay, let's start with this quote:

    "Say an academic (me) contributes a long article on London's Crystal Palace," [Russell Potter] wrote. "Others edit it in modest ways, but the article is still about 90% my own work. Perhaps I want to give a paper at a conference based on this entry, or use large bits of it in a book I'm writing. GFDL would have made either impossible."

    This makes absolutely no sense. First off, if you're planning on publishing something as a book, the last thing on earth you want to do is put it on wikipedia, get it mixed promiscuously with writing by a hundred other people, and then cut and paste the result and send it to a publisher under your own name. That would be stupid -- so stupid that I assume it's not what Potter had in mind. I can only imagine that what he really had in mind was something more like this. He writes version A. He posts it on WP. On WP, it morphs into version B via other people's edits. Meanwhile, he decides he wants to write a book on it. He takes version A, edits it into a form that will work in the book, making version C. Now he's talking as if there's a licensing issue, but there's no licensing issue. He's the sole author and copyright holder of versions A and C. Licensing version B to WP under the GFDL doesn't even put him as the author under any obligations; licenses like the GPL and GFDL only impose obligations on other people, if they want to redistribute the material.

    The idea about signing WP articles is pointless. First off, the whole culture of WP has always been based on the adrenaline rush of knowing that whatever edits you did, they'd immediately be visible to the whole world. That's why WP succeeded where Nupedia failed: instant gratification. Second, there is absolutely nothing stopping people from endorsing WP articles right now. Here you go, I, Ben Crowell, hereby endorse this [wikipedia.org] version of the WP article on Robert Heinlein. (I think the current version is worse than that one.) What's that, you say? You say nobody cares that I endorsed that particular version, and the whole idea is boring and pointless? Well, yeah, I agree.

    He hopes for "a 'gold rush' of users copying content from Wikipedia to Knol, where it can be verified by credentialed users and protected against vandalism." If he wants an encyclopedia where articles can be verified by credentialed users and protected against vandalism, it already exists: Citizendium. Citizendium's license is compatible with Wikipedia's. Why Knol? The only difference I can see is that Knol lets authors make money from ads placed next to their articles. But anyone who wants to make money from placing ads next to cut-and-pasted WP articles can already do that. It's perfectly legal, as long as they show the license.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:36AM (#25071937)

      Nobody should use Wikipedia as a reference.

      And there is no chance that Google now favorise duplicate content. They have a search engine, do you know?

      But the author is right on a point: it is a shame that a good article on Wikipedia can not be locked, as it is sure with time it will degrade as I have often found.

      • by Explodicle (818405) on Friday September 19, 2008 @01:27PM (#25073717) Homepage

        But the author is right on a point: it is a shame that a good article on Wikipedia can not be locked, as it is sure with time it will degrade as I have often found.

        Actually, in a way it is locked. Wikipedia has a set of standards for what is a "Good" article and a "Featured" article, with Featured articles being regarded as the best the encyclopedia has to offer. When an article meets one of these milestones, the version is recorded on the talk page [wikipedia.org]. For the Robert A. Heinlein example, you can see that it was reviewed and listed as a featured article based on its state on June 11th, 2005. If you click on that date, it will bring you to a version of the article worthy of being used as a reference [wikipedia.org].

        • by bcrowell (177657) on Friday September 19, 2008 @01:57PM (#25074313) Homepage

          But the author is right on a point: it is a shame that a good article on Wikipedia can not be locked, as it is sure with time it will degrade as I have often found.

          For the Robert A. Heinlein example, you can see that it was reviewed and listed as a featured article based on its state on June 11th, 2005. If you click on that date, it will bring you to a version of the article worthy of being used as a reference.

          Three issues: (1) in academia, it's generally not appropriate to use any version of any encyclopedia article as a reference; (2) the vast majority of readers will only ever see the current version (and IMO the current version of the Heinlein example is much worse than the FA versions, especially in the lead); (3) the constant battle against entropy uses up a huge amount of energy from wikipedians, is no fun, and drives away people like me who used to enjoy editing on WP. I don't see #1 as a problem. If #2 and #3 are problems, then one solution is Citizendium.

    • Re:no (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:36AM (#25071945) Homepage

      Licensing version B to WP under the GFDL doesn't even put him as the author under any obligations; licenses like the GPL and GFDL only impose obligations on other people, if they want to redistribute the material.

      Right. People misunderstand the "viral" nature of the GPL. If you're really still the sole author of a work, you can release it under the GPL, and still retain the rights to license it under a non-GPL license. The GPL does not revoke your copyright to the work, but on the contrary relies on you retaining the copyright of your work. As the copyright owner, you can license your work under any number of non-exclusive licenses. (IANAL, so if I'm at all wrong here, correct me. But I'm pretty sure I'm right.)

      Further, this idea of "if you've ever wanted to cite a Wikipedia article as a source". No. No one should be citing the Wikipedia as a primary source, unless people start posting original work there, in which case it could become a valid primary source. But even if an "expert" were doing fact-checking on the Wikipedia, you still shouldn't cite it any more than you should cite text books or encyclopedias.

    • by GalacticCmdr (944723) on Friday September 19, 2008 @12:52PM (#25073131)
      My reading of that is that he wants to use the material in version B in his book/lecture. The original author wrote A. It has be changed in minor ways (less that 10%) by other people which is now called version B. He then wants to use this new version B because it has some information he must deem useful. He may be the sole author of version A and C (from your example), but if it is under the GFDL he cannot claim full rights to version B. If I understand the original premise and your counter-example.
      • by Fred Ferrigno (122319) on Friday September 19, 2008 @01:34PM (#25073881)

        He has no rights to the 10% of version B he didn't write beyond what the GFDL gives him. That is to say, he could still use it so long as he included the revision history and licensed the derivative work under the GFDL. If he doesn't like that, he can go back to version A which is entirely his.

      • by bcrowell (177657) on Friday September 19, 2008 @01:48PM (#25074131) Homepage

        My reading of that is that he wants to use the material in version B in his book/lecture. The original author wrote A. It has be changed in minor ways (less that 10%) by other people which is now called version B. He then wants to use this new version B because it has some information he must deem useful. He may be the sole author of version A and C (from your example), but if it is under the GFDL he cannot claim full rights to version B. If I understand the original premise and your counter-example.

        I guess I can imagine three interpretations:

        1. He wants to publish B in a book without even crediting the WP editors for their 10% contribution.
        2. He wants to publish B in a book, with credit to the WP editors for their 10% contribution.
        3. He wants to publish C in a book.

        If it's 1, then he's a plagiarist.

        If it's 2, then he's insane. That's just not going to fly in the academic world. I can just imagine this. He sends a cover letter, outline, and three sample chapters to an acquisitions editor at the University of Chicago Press. "Oh, by the way, I have 87 co-authors, known only by their fanciful pseudonyms on the Wikipedia web site. But their contributions were minor -- probably only 10% of the whole thing." No way. That type of academic publishing house is looking for original work from people who are leaders in their fields. They'd probably pass his letter around at their next meeting for laughs.

        If it's 3, then there are no legal issues at all.

    • by Zadaz (950521) on Friday September 19, 2008 @03:48PM (#25076443)

      What's that, you say? You say nobody cares that I endorsed that particular version, and the whole idea is boring and pointless? Well, yeah, I agree.

      Me too.

      Let me look through my browser history here. What have I looked up on Wikipedia recently?
      - Blade Element Theory
      - Selvage
      - Epidural
      - Playing card
      - Thrust vectoring
      - Japanese phonology

      Who here would recognize an expert on any of these topics if they signed their name? Sure I might know some people who know a bit about some of these things, but knowing what bullshitters my friends are I'm more likely to trust Random Internet Contributors.

      It sounds like what they want is a resource for 'definitive' new research and content. Well, good for them, but it's stupid to fork Wikipedia as a starting point since all original research is actively discouraged and removed.

  • by Bryan3000000 (1356999) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:10AM (#25071545)
    Honestly, while vanalism and such can be a nuissance, academics and other experts who would verify and credential an article would stifle the best qualities of Wikipedia. We'd be back to the days when out of date information was on the shelves for far too long and where one-sided analysis would reign because a "less impressive" person with better information couldn't make much headway in getting that infomation out. Yes, the way Wikipedia is done requires doing your own homework before you rely on it - getting real evidence to cite. But going back to the verified encyclopedia method is just silly. It encourages laziness (not thoroughly researching to verify), and is just as much (I believe actually more) prone to produce serious long-term errors that become embedded in public consciousness. There are major academics in several fields that have dominated their fields for long periods of time. Their theories have now grown or been overhauled to deal with new findings, but simply patched or even been dismissive of contradictory evidence in order to preserve the reputation of the supposed genius. Linuistic theory is one such field. While Noam Chomsky's theories did contribute, they don't really go deep enough and don't deal at all with the exceptions. Dealing with the exceptions successfully would provide a far more profound understanding of linguistics. Unfortunately, some of the really bright people challenging those theories (with great evidence) don't measure up to the great Noam Chomsky, and they have been largely ignored. It's sad, and has made most linguists nothing more than wannabe followers, making no real contribution to understanding the fundamental neuropsychological origins and development of language. Or, more simply, putting this proposal into practice might make some lazy people feel better, but it would once again enshrine a serious logical fallacy - experts aren't right just because they are experts.
  • by project-nova (930308) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:17AM (#25071645)
    Wikipedia (MediaWiki) has a comparable feature already built in: http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Extension:FlaggedRevs [mediawiki.org] .
    It is entirely possible to link to a specific flagged and confirmed version of your favorite page by selecting the current version in the version history, then using that link instead of the more generic wikipedia.org/wiki/Bla.

    This doesn't prevent further editing of your uploaded content, but you will be able to quote the article you want, not the article it might have become.
  • by kiehlster (844523) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:22AM (#25071717) Homepage

    No. Maybe-fork not. Fork or fork-not. There is no maybe-fork.

    Looks like Howstuffworks Knol does. Wikipedia it does not.

  • by br00tus (528477) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:24AM (#25071759)

    I respect experts in the physical sciences like physics, chemistry, mathematics and so forth. Especially since most of them are ready to drop everything they know if a better theory comes along (relativity, natural selection and common descent etc.)

    However, the social scientists are filled with people who are often just part of a propaganda system. Would you trust an Iranian college professor who taught the modern history of the United States and Europe? Then why would you trust an American college professor teaching the modern history of Iran? The experts on God and Jesus are priests and theologians - do you trust their expertise on Jesus's supposed miraculous powers? Who is an expert on abortion?

    One of the big problems with Wikipedia as I see it is there is a portion of Wikipedia that expertise works (natural sciences - with the exception of people like Gene "TimeCube guy" Ray and other cranks). Then there is a portion where expertise does not work (articles about the West Bank, Sarah Palin, abortion etc.) Magazines doing a retrospective on something sometimes have a left-wing and right-wing person write a page on the topic. With Wikipedia, and Knol, you have one source, an "expert". Bakunin said it best over a century ago -

    "Does it follow that I reject all authority? Far from me such a thought. In the matter of boots, I refer to the authority of the bootmaker; concerning houses, canals, or railroads, I consult that of the architect or the engineer. For such or such special knowledge I apply to such or such a savant. But I allow neither the bootmaker nor the architect nor savant to impose his authority upon me. I listen to them freely and with all the respect merited by their intelligence, their character, their knowledge, reserving always my incontestable right of criticism and censure. I do not content myself with consulting a single authority in any special branch; I consult several; I compare their opinions, and choose that which seems to me the soundest. But I recognise no infallible authority, even in special questions; consequently, whatever respect I may have for the honesty and the sincerity of such or such individual, I have no absolute faith in any person. Such a faith would be fatal to my reason, to my liberty, and even to the success of my undertakings; it would immediately transform me into a stupid slave, an instrument of the will and interests of others."

  • Summary?!? (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by supernova_hq (1014429) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:29AM (#25071829)

    Summary:

    1: performed speedily and without formality; "a summary execution"; "summary justice"
    2: briefly giving the gist of something; "a short and compendious book"; "a compact style is brief and pithy"; "succinct comparisons"; "a summary formulation of a wide-ranging subject" n : a brief statement that presents the main points in a concise form; "he gave a summary of the conclusions"

    You guys really don't know the definition of a summary do you?...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:33AM (#25071901)

    Wikipedia editors are self righteous, trumped up neophytes who think they know more about subjects that those of us who built the actual things. Having content actually based on facts would be novel.

  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:47AM (#25072117)

    Interesting enough, Wikipedia changing to a later license would still leave everything published prior to that still licensed under the old license as well. Knol could chose to use it under the updated license and others under the old one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:51AM (#25072191)

    What really gets me about wikipedia is stuff like I Am Rich [wikipedia.org]. Nominated for deletion, the consensus wound up being to keep it. Not to redirect it but to keep it. Then, the nominator, having failed in his attempt to delete it, merges it, despite consensus to the contrary, into App Store [wikipedia.org]. Later, another user comes along and deletes it, saying it's "not important [wikipedia.org]".

    But wait - it gets better! The same guy nominates Heavy Metal (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) [wikipedia.org] for deletion and fails in his attempt. So what does he do? Merges every episode, save that one, into List of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles episodes [wikipedia.org]. You see - this user knows he couldn't get consensus by an AfD so he engages in backroom deals to gain support.

    Of course, none of this tops Torchic [wikipedia.org]. A front page featured article with 20 paragraphs and 46 citations now reduced to redirecting to a list of pokemon, with 2-3 paragraphs (depending on whether or not a one sentence paragraph counts) and no citations. Amazing stuff.

    • by dedazo (737510) on Friday September 19, 2008 @12:46PM (#25073009) Journal

      For many people WP has become a fun little fiefdom and constant power trip. Not unlike many other online communities. While some editors/admins are truly helpful and dedicated, there are way too many of them who are in it for the dubious pleasure of making sure everyone conforms to their worldview. One of them doesn't watch TV, so pages about TV shows are annoying and should be fought tooth and nail, etc. Eventually it becomes a matter of self-pride and things tend to get ugly. It's happened thousands of times. The victims are usually people who become disillusioned with WP, and the elimination or watering down of potentially valuable content.

      You have to experience something like seeing four people go into arbitration over the inclusion of a single paragraph in an entry about a single Simpsons episode to appreciate how broken the whole thing is.

      WP's official policy on these issues is to ignore them, unless they overflow to the real world and actually get reported somewhere.

      • by coryking (104614) * on Friday September 19, 2008 @07:14PM (#25079881) Homepage Journal

        Now they get to live with it. They killed trivia (I mean, seriously, what a perfect fit wikipedia is for trivia) and in killing it, created a flamewar that is still heating homes in Alaska. They wanted everything to be referenced, so a new class of witch-hunters tag up every damn article, no matter how well written and factual with bullshit "references needed" and "citation needed".

        Seriously, it is like they took every single step possible to a) suck all the fun out of wikipedia and b) ensure it attracted nothing but anal retentive assholes with overinflated egos.

    • by mdwh2 (535323) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @07:19PM (#25088577) Journal

      Then, the nominator, having failed in his attempt to delete it, merges it, despite consensus to the contrary, into App Store.

      That's not how I see it. Yes, most people said keep, but this does not necessarily entail they disagree with a redirect (unless they specifically say that, which they don't), but rather to not delete the article. Yes, sometimes people vote "redirect", which means that they only think it should be kept in this form, but not as its own article. But the reverse is not true - this doesn't mean that an article can never be merged, just because it survives an AfD.

      The talk page that you linked to showed that there was a consensus to merge.

      Moreover, it's not a problem as redirects can always be done. As can deletions of a section, that you refer to later. And at the current time, I Am Rich is still in the article. So what's the problem? If you think it deserves its own article, say so in the talk page, pointing out the AfD result, maybe be bold and undo the merge. The reason why AfDs require more consideration is that deletes can't easily be undone. But if someone redirects or deletes content - big deal, undo it if you disagree.

      As for the Sarah Connor episode, the article is right now not redirected. In fact, the redirection was undone by someone just an hour later.

      Yes, some people on the Internet are a pain, and some of them edit on Wikipedia. I have plenty of my own stories of people being a pain :) But at the end of the day, the system is working, in my opinion.

      Torchic is interesting, but I don't see where there is a problem - someone decided it was better as a redirect. If you disagree, why not revert it? No one has contested it, and I'm sure if there was a dispute, given the FA status you would be supported by other editors. I don't see that the editor did anything wrong - if you disagree, that's up to you, but I'm sure it was done in good faith. Sometimes articles are better off being merged together. Other times they aren't. But why should more weight be given to someone picking about it on Slashdot, compared with someone who's actually doing the work of editing Wikipedia?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 21, 2008 @01:35PM (#25094367)

        You don't have to vote to keep or delete an article in an AfD - you can also vote to merge. Happens all the time.

        If the participants of that AfD had wanted to merge, they could have voted to do so, but they didn't.

        As for the particular Sarah Conner episode I mentioned being linked to... of course it is. That's why I said Merges every episode, save that one. Go take a look at Talk:List of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles episodes [wikipedia.org]. Per that discussion, that and the Pilot are the only episodes that are not being redirected. The problem I have with it is as I stated - that "this user knows he couldn't get consensus by an AfD so he engages in backroom deals to gain support". The thing is... AfD's are harder to miss. People who wouldn't normally visit an articles Talk page visit AfD's because they place a big message on the article. By discussing it on the Talk page, you effectively bypass this.

        As for Torchic... believe me, it has been contested, alright. If you look at the Talk pages for various Pokemon articles and the WikiProject Pokemon, you'll see that Torchic was another backroom deal like all the others I've mentioned. You, individually, can't undo it, either. These backroom deals aren't just made by one person - they're usually made by four or five. So if you try to undo it, you're going up against four or five people. You undo something 3+ times and you'll get be violating WP:3RR. They, however, can just spread the work among them such that no one of them violates WP:3RR. And if you try to discuss it, you'll be beaten over the head with wikipedia policy. WP:N, WP:FICT, WP:SPINOUT, or whatever. You could try to change policy, but, in the end, it's still you against 4-5 people, and in that scenario, you'll always lose. And you can't expect anyone to come to your defense, either, because wikipedia's already driven all those people away, already, by pissing on their hard work and contributions. And who could blame them? Why contribute to a project that is so openly hostile to you?

        • by mdwh2 (535323) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @04:42PM (#25096405) Journal

          At a brief glance, I agree that they should probably be separate articles, and not redirected - when I have a moment, I'll go and join in the discussion and see what I think.

          I still don't think there's anything wrong with Wikipedia here - people are just disagreeing how best to represent the information, and unlike deletion, no information is lost.

          People who wouldn't normally visit an articles Talk page visit AfD's because they place a big message on the article. By discussing it on the Talk page, you effectively bypass this.

          But that's how it should be - a deleted article means the information is lost, so it's good to advertise it more widely. If someone makes a change or redirects it, you can undo it anytime in the future. So yes, it's easier for him to redirect "in backroom deals", but it's equally easier for people to undo that.

          These backroom deals aren't just made by one person - they're usually made by four or five. So if you try to undo it, you're going up against four or five people.

          If this happens, there are other ways on Wikipedia to raise the issue, to get more editors to look at it. These methods are probably more effective on the whole then mentioning it on Slashdot :)

          And if the people still disagree with you - perhaps it's time to admit you're in the wrong. Wikipedia is a group effort, and you can't complain if sometimes not everyone agrees with you. Wikipedia is about achieiving a consensus, not about having your own way everytime.

          3RR is there for a reason - it's there to encourage discussion, and not allow a single person to just rv every change he doesn't like, even if there's a consensus against him.

  • by camperdave (969942) on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:58AM (#25072307) Journal
    For the most part, people don't care about information licences (copyrights, EULA's, etc.). They click through EULAs without reading them. The only time they look at the copyright page in a book is when they want to know when it was printed. They see the FBI/Interpol warning when playing a DVD, but they'll skip past it if they can. People will merrily copy CDs and DVDs, cut and paste from websites, use software on more than one computer at a time, etc. blissfully unaware if they are violating the terms of the information licence or not. At most the information licence is a minor inconvenience. Thus having a Wiki with a "proper licence" will mean nothing to most people. The only thing that matters is that Wikipedia has the information. If Knowl wishes to succeed, they will have to put out better information that Wikipedia (eg, more expanitory diagrams, better cross linking). The fact that it is licenced for use won't matter.
  • '"Say an academic (me) contributes a long article on London's Crystal Palace," he wrote. "Others edit it in modest ways, but the article is still about 90% my own work. Perhaps I want to give a paper at a conference based on this entry, or use large bits of it in a book I'm writing. GFDL would have made either impossible."(Impossible, that is, unless the book publisher released the book under the GFDL, but most book publishing companies are reluctant to do that.) '

    This is not correct AFAIK - the original author of something, no matter whether it is published under some license somewhere, can re-publish the same content under a different license unless some contract (say with the book publisher) prohibits this for contractual reasons.

    I write in by blog under CC Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike - but I can re-publish my own works somewhere else under a completely different license or none at all, simply relying upon the Copyright Act for my protection.

    The same goes for something written in Wikipedia no matter what license it is in. It is the inclusion of that writing by someone else (other than the author) that will trigger the viral nature of its license.

    So... IMHO anyone who has contributed anything to Wikipedia may copy their own works (and nothing else) to Knol without any fear of triggering the viral license. They may also re-publish their own work anywhere else they want too.

  • by Akoman (559057) <medwards@walledcity.ca> on Friday September 19, 2008 @12:01PM (#25072351) Homepage

    It's encouraging to see that the author chose to educate themselves on GPL style licenses and not fall into mindlessly spouting the same corporate FUD about them.

    Oh wait. I'm expecting academics to be be smart enough to double check their sources. My bad. Might I recommend http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20031214210634851 [groklaw.net] ?

  • by saibot834 (1061528) on Friday September 19, 2008 @12:09PM (#25072483) Homepage

    The signing off would allow people to cite a Wikipedia article as a source that had been vetted by at least one person (with confidence in the source depending on that person's credentials). The signer's identity (and sometimes, their credentials) could be confirmed using several methods, such as verifying an .edu e-mail address. Users could still submit edits, but they would have to be approved by the article verifier. Different users could sign off on different versions of the same article, and readers would still have the option of viewing the latest version of an article, with all of its unmoderated edits (which is what you're looking at on Wikipedia most of the time).

    I'm a sysop in the German Wikipedia and I'm telling you: It won't work.
    The German Wikipedia was the first Wikimedia Wiki to test an Extension called "Flagged Revisions". We first activated Sigthed version [wikipedia.org], where every user with >200 edits can validate a version as vandalism-free. Other users can still edit, but their edits must be reviewed first. Now, look at the statistics [toolserver.org], the last image. Note that this kind of quality control only covers checks of obvious vandalism, the actual information is not verified. (Note that I am a supporter of Sighted versions. But even though they are great, they do not solve every problem Wikipedia has)

    Regarding the other statements in your quote: If you want to have a permalink, you can click on "Permanent link", if you want to cite it, click on "Cite this page". Note however, that citing Wikipedia is not always appropriate [wikipedia.org].

    • by Celarnor (835542) on Friday September 19, 2008 @12:25PM (#25072711)
      en-wiki editor here. While we haven't enabled the extension on the english wikipedia yet, there have been some discussions about using sighted revisions for purposes other than vandalism. Some people don't like the idea of credentialism, but some other people have been considering changing the requirements of the surveyor group and only give it to people who can prove their expertise in some field to the foundation. It isn't perfect, but it would be a step in the general direction that the OP seems to want to go.
  • I don't really see in the Google TOS where it says other licenses are unacceptable. It seems to me that if you simply picked "All Rights Reserved" and then stated in the article that it was under the GFDL, you would be in full compliance of the GFDL certainly.

    It might be in violation of Knol's TOS, but it isn't really that clear. The author makes the assumption that whatever license you tag an article with is the last word and that google won't allow other licenses. But given that Google very explicitly makes no claim on the work you post, it would seem impossible for them to block you from using whatever license you want.

    (Putting up GFDL work as CC-BY is a clear violation of the copyleft of the GFDL, and I hope Google is vigilant in taking such pages down.)

  • by Celarnor (835542) on Friday September 19, 2008 @12:12PM (#25072537)
    Actually, this is all pretty much doable within the mediawiki environment at this point. It's been enabled in the german wikipedia, but not the english one; the Flagged revisions [wikipedia.org] extension allows a specific version of an article to be flagged, and the approved versions as 'sighted'; there can be more than one of them in the history, but non-logged in users will always see the recent one.

    This was developed after part of a big discussion at Wikimania 2006; basically, the idea was that sighted revisions would mark something as free from vandalism/of relatively good quality, but it could conceivably be used for something like this, as well.
  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Friday September 19, 2008 @12:24PM (#25072703) Homepage Journal

    if you've wanted to contribute to Wikipedia but couldn't afford the time unless you received some modest compensation for it, then the addition of this one simple feature to Knol might make all the difference.

    For those unfamiliar with Wikipedia, it's that site run by that foundation that exists solely to create, encourage, and maintain free libraries of free content. If you're looking to get paid for what you write, Wikipedia is really not the place you want to be.

    • by owlnation (858981) on Friday September 19, 2008 @12:44PM (#25072951)

      For those unfamiliar with Wikipedia, it's that site run by that foundation that exists solely to create, encourage, and maintain free libraries of free content. If you're looking to get paid for what you write, Wikipedia is really not the place you want to be.

      What a naive and idealistic view of Wikipedia. (Yes, I know that is what they claim). Truth is, lots of people are making money out of wikipedia. And it's a great place to do it. Of course, you just don't do it DIRECTLY. However, indirectly...

      Firstly, there's answers.com and Jimmy Wales' expense accounts.

      Secondly, wikipedia is a fantastic place to promote your product -- especially if you are a large company and can afford plenty of viral marketeers to form a cabal and protect your brand.

      Thirdly, a variation on promotion, if you are a band you can have your unwitting sockpuppets, sorry I mean fans, post links to your wikipedia entry on every single tenuous page they can. If you wrote a song about pasta, then make sure there's a mention of it on all the pasta pages for example. Of course your own wikipedia must use your own website, or myspace page, or allmusic page as a primary source, so that you can guarantee that your amazon affiliation links to your cds are only a few clicks away. Easy money my friends. Sure, music is a product just like soap powder, and one promoted by one of the most evil industries on earth, but few people realize that for some strange reason -- honestly, you can make loads of money this way, it's like shooting fish.

      Fourthly, make sure your own webpage is linked through as many wikipedia pages as possible - this will help your page rank if nothing else.

      etc, etc...

      Wikipedia is nothing like as altruistic or idealistic as the foundation would have you believe.

      • by Phurge (1112105) on Friday September 19, 2008 @02:01PM (#25074369)

        Fourthly, make sure your own webpage is linked through as many wikipedia pages as possible - this will help your page rank if nothing else.

        wikipedia's no-follow links means you don't get google juice.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2008 @11:11PM (#25081917)

          As other people have noted, scraper sites that copy Wikipedia's content don't always follow suit on the no-follow policy, allowing you to get "google juice" from Wikipedia articles indirectly.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2008 @02:04PM (#25074445)
        I'm not sure what your first point is referring to, but your other points all involve efforts by third parties, not the Wikimedia foundation, to make money off of certain Wikipedia entries. Such activity goes against Wikipedia's established source-citation policies, and is ostensibly corrected whenever the next responsible editor happens upon the entry in question.
  • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot AT keirstead DOT org> on Friday September 19, 2008 @12:25PM (#25072723) Homepage

    Whenever you link to a Wikipedia page as a referenced source you should link to the specific revision number, not the genral page. This protects you from any and all rogue edits.

    I don't see any problem here.

  • by David Gerard (12369) <slashdot@@@davidgerard...co...uk> on Friday September 19, 2008 @12:38PM (#25072893) Homepage

    http://davidgerard.co.uk/notes/2008/08/27/forget-the-writers/ [davidgerard.co.uk]

    There's hardly a "Wikipedia replacement" that hasn't started from trying to make a welcoming environment for authors. Wikipedia, however, is popular because it's what readers want. Writers are important, but way less so than the readers.

    If readers wanted ten articles on one topic, they'd just click the first ten Google hits. It's like meta-search engines in the 1990s that gave you results from ten bad pre-Google search engines in the hope you might find a damn thing, when the real answer was one search engine that didn't suck.

    Many people bitch and moan about Wikipedia, usually those who couldn't work well enough with others. But it's a top 10 site not because it lifted a finger to be, but because it actually works well enough to produce a good-enough first port of call.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2008 @12:42PM (#25072943)

    "if you've ever wanted to cite a Wikipedia article as a source"

    NO!

    how many times... just... NO.

  • by dogdick (1290032) on Friday September 19, 2008 @01:17PM (#25073547)
    Fuck google. SOmeone needed to say it. I figured Id tail it on this troll. Seriously though. Fuck Google. Stop doing everything. Its great that you are good at it, but other people want to do shit and everytime someone want to do anything you douchebags go and do it and back it with your fuckton resources so no one else has a chance. I seriously hate your 'do no evil' asses. And I want to punch the asshole that decided to developer Chrome so web developers have to support 'another fuck-ass browser.' I know Im trolling, but I can't stand to hear about these douchebags everyday.
  • by Phurge (1112105) on Friday September 19, 2008 @01:57PM (#25074305)
    modus operandi on Knol: 1. cut & paste wikipedia article 2. ??? 3. profit! - 1 cent per month!!!
  • by Carbon016 (1129067) on Friday September 19, 2008 @02:34PM (#25075025)

    but if you've ever wanted to cite a Wikipedia article as a source

    I've always wanted to cite a tertiary source in my papers! The licensing system is truly all that stood between me and improper usage of a collective summary, rather than following the Wikipedia summary to articles it references! Thank you!

    Bennett, please remove head from ass. When you're discussing endlessly complex open licensing, the least you could do is understand the basics of how encyclopedias are designed to work.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2008 @05:40PM (#25078563)

    a professor with a valued reputation would be less likely to sign their name to unverified garbage.

    Whoever has written this, has probably never read a newspaper or turned on a TV in their entire life. Out there there are a whole lot of academic whores who are eager to sign (and even write) whatever bullshit you want, with articulate, sophisticated and completely misleading explanations - provided there's an appropriate return.

    Economics and law professors are a great example of this, but I also happen to have heard massive BS from physicists with religious beliefs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 21, 2008 @12:46AM (#25090375)
    Perhaps not many people will realize this, but putting Wikipedia content on Knol would still be a copyright violation even if Knol allowed direct and official use of the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL). The main issue is that when one publishes a Knol, according to Google's Terms of Service, one grants a license to Google to use the content however they wish. As you can't do this if you're not the (sole) copyright holder, uploading Wikipedia content to Knol would be violation of copyright and/or their Terms of Service even if Knol offered a shiny little GFDL icon for use in the copyright box. I quote Google's Terms of Service, from Knol's knol containing it [google.com]:

    By submitting, posting or displaying content as an Author, Co-Author, Collaborator, Commenter, Reviewer, or User on or through the Service, you grant to Google a nonâ'exclusive, perpetual, worldwide and royalty-free right and license to (i) use, copy, distribute, transmit, modify, create derivative works based on, publicly perform (including but not limited to by digital audio transmission), and publicly display the content through Google services; (ii) allow other users to access and use the content through Google services; and (iii) permit Google to display advertisements on the Google sites containing the content.

    Disclaimers: I am not a lawyer, and I am an administrator on the English Wikipedia.

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