Wednesday, June 16, 2010
With pending changes, if an article is under pending changes protection, anybody, including unregistered users, can make changes to the article as usual, but the changes are not made public. That is, if an anonymous user comes in and edits the article, it will save, but the world will not yet be able to see it. In the next step, a reviewer (the new user right introduced by this software extension) comes along and accepts the pending change. Only then can the edit become public. It is essentially the exact same thing as protection except instead of totally rejecting anonymous edits, they just have to be reviewed before going live. This new feature is currently in a two-month trial, and is limited to 2000 articles in order to see how the feature plays out.
Up until now, I have portrayed this feature as a wonderful improvement to Wikipedia that everybody should be cheering about (or at least that's how it sounded like I portrayed it). It's actually quite the opposite. While in theory this seems like a great idea, allowing users to still edit articles while maintaining Wikipedia's integrity, an important question arises: who are these reviewers? As with any online communities, if you hand out power, such as reviewing rights, in the wrong way, cliques of editors develop, and it becomes impossible to introduce new points of view into an established article. Luckily, the feature is only in a trial phase, so worst comes to worst it will be disabled in two months. But if it becomes permanent, I would have serious concerns over the integrity of Wikipedia's articles, especially when it comes to the neutral point of view that is supposed to be expected from all of its articles.