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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.

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Knol, the Wikipedia Maybe-Fork?

Comments Filter:
  • Fork? (Score:2, Redundant)

    by thermian (1267986)

    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.

      • > 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)

          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 kabocox (199019)

        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

    • 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

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by thermian (1267986)

        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-o

        • 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

        • by Korgan (101803)

          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

          • by Musc (10581)

            You do realize that a PhD has very little to do with studying, and more to do with learning how to be creative and doing original research, right?

      • 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 la

        • 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 p

          • 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 fingert

        • by FLEB (312391)

          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

    • by owlnation (858981)
      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
  • 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)

      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.

      • There are other kinds of wikipedia branches. At DocForge [docforge.com] we've branched many programming related wikipedia articles and made revisions. But they're not required to stand up to wikipedia's rules of being encyclopedic, fully referenced, or being neutral point of view. So it wouldn't be appropriate for most edits to also go back into wikipedia.

  • 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?
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by Jack9 (11421)

      Wikipedia is knowledge done wrong. People have short memories (or no memory) of how much press (see original /. articles espousing it over and over) it took for Wikipedia to gain momentum.

  • 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.
    • That's not overzealous practices - that's one of the most basic rules of writing for Wikipedia.

      • by Foofoobar (318279)
        Read again. Listings are allowed with self references as long as they are well documented. Else many scientific journals, mathematic journals or more would never get a listing. When you consider how many software listings also have publications written by the author of the software or a contributor (COI), that fails their litmus test too. That precludes just about all open source software out there. The wikipedia system allows for scientific exceptions which most wikipedia authors neglect to take into consi
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by DerekLyons (302214)

          Listing without significant third party references live on the edge - period, as they come too close to original research. And while scientific exemptions are sometimes allowed, software isn't science.

          Frankly, I have no problem with excluding 'just about all the open source software out there', as pretty much all the excluded software will also fail the notability test.

          • by Foofoobar (318279)
            Ah... software isn't science... hmmm, must explain the name 'computer science' huh? But I'll bet you must know better than academia though.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by scientus (1357317)
        whats wrong with having pages on small topics as long as the information is good, well written, and the page has a well posted data so people know its out of date. seriously how much does it take to keep a few bytes around?
        • by Foofoobar (318279)
          Exactly but where they allow it for scientific data, they don't allow it for open source projects. As one ignorant user stated 'programming isn't the same thing as science' to which I pointed out 'that must be why they call it computer science huh?'. It's all a hypocritical power play by wikipedia editors.
    • Opposite problem (Score:5, Informative)

      by Martin Spamer (244245) on Friday September 19, 2008 @12:07PM (#25072449) Homepage Journal

      I've suffered from the opposite problem, having content removed from Wikipeda because the reference cites were to a physical books so could not be readily verified and not an online source.

      The real problem is the Wikipedia cabal's Groupthink; Cite your source or not, if you're not part of that cabal you may as well give up.

      • by Foofoobar (318279)
        Heh... they do tend to be an inbred lot. Maybe this can be cited as a source in their retardation :)
    • It has to do with an increased enforcement of the "verifiability" policy over there-- only 3rd-party sources. They were fairly lax about it until a year or two ago, because they needed to encourage content growth, but IIRC Jimbo wanted to make it more, well, encyclopedic.

      That, and the whole "notability" guideline (I think it's policy now) really started a veritable witch-hunt of rogue content. In order for an article to remain, you had to be famous or well-known to a certain degree.

    • by mdwh2 (535323)

      Out of interest, what was the article of your project that got deleted? They're wrong to require print references - online is just as good. OTOH, I can imagine that many software projects (open source or otherwise) do not have the required 3rd party references. And did you write the article yourself, or did someone else?

      I've written several pieces of software that have been reviewed in print magazines (nothing recent - this was about 10 years ago). But I'm not convinced that makes any of them worthy of incl

  • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.
      • 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)

        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 gue

    • by Zadaz (950521)

      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 wh

  • 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 - ge
  • 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 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)

    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?...

  • 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

    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 wha

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by dedazo (737510)

      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 ti

      • 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

    • by mdwh2 (535323)

      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

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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

        • by mdwh2 (535323)

          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 effec

  • 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 o
  • '"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

    • by eean (177028)

      Well the author would need permission from the 10% of work thats done by other authors to publish it under a different license. Which is what one would've expected in pre-copyleft days as well.

      • by RpiMatty (834853)
        From the parent post:

        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.

        You could take a WP article that you wrote, without any edits that you didn't make, then post/publish it under any other license you want.

  • 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)
      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 wa
      • Yes, this is supposed to be the function of Quality versions [wikipedia.org], but I don't think it will work. There are simply not enough people who (a) meet the requirements as experts, (b) are able to validate a significant amount of articles, (c) keep up with validating all changes on validated articles (Inserting assertions is just so much easier and faster than finding citations for them) and (d) will work voluntary.

  • 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 mak

  • 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 woul
  • 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)

      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...

      Firs

      • by Phurge (1112105)

        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 brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@@@keirstead...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.

  • modus operandi on Knol: 1. cut & paste wikipedia article 2. ??? 3. profit! - 1 cent per month!!!
  • 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.

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