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[Comments] (3) Finger Wikin' Good: Thanks to your PayPal generosity, we were able to raise approximately $0.00 for our WikiDay celebration. This was well short of the expectations I laid out at the beginning of the funding drive, but it turns out that no special funding is required to write weblog entries about Wikis, so the show can continue as planned.

Suppose you want the glory of Wiki contributorship, but you also crave the greater proportional glory that comes from contributing to a Wiki that lacks thousands of contributors. Check out the Wiki Cookbook, the most promising of the WikiBooks. It has few specific recipes, but as with Wikipedia the potential is there to focus our individual obsessions on a single semicanonical web site. Check out, for instance the Caesar salad recipe--they have the original recipe from Caesar's Bar along with a bastardized modern version. Completeness mania strikes again! Huzzah! A global namespace ensures that variants of recipes will be explored within the context of the larger dish rather than stuck somewhere else. I hope.

My only complaint: I can't find any way to get any of the special Wiki pages (random page, recent changes) for a particular book (ie. the cookbook). There's one big dataset of all the changes made to every WikiBook from which these pages take their orders.

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Posted by Kevan at Fri Apr 30 2004 04:20

This is a good example of the one thing I don't *quite* understand about Wiki - although they're good at self-repairing massive deletions and spam attacks, surely they aren't very good at recovering from subtle, prankish alterations? If I mess with the quantities for a recipe (and give a misleading summary of what the edit was), it seems unlikely that anyone will notice.

Posted by Leonard at Fri Apr 30 2004 12:32

Good point. Part of the solution is that doing a mass deletion or a spamming satisfies the pranking urge of most pranksters. They get to see real results quickly. They don't have to settle for imagining someone making the Swedish Lemon Angels at some point in the future.

It's a win-win situation. The prankster is not frustrated (frustration is what drives miscreants like trolls and spammers to more subtle attacks) and the Wiki doesn't get permanently damaged. Frustration sets in when they see their changes instantly reverted every time they delete everything, and I don't know how often they'd stick around for that.

I would certainly notice your change to a recipe if I tried to follow it. A bad recipe would eventually spawn a 'this recipe is crap' notice, unless no one ever used it, in which case it wouldn't matter. Such a notice would caution would-be followers and get someone to repair it. The speed at which it would be repaired would be proportional to the damage it caused--same mechanism by which a mass deletion gets repaired almost immediately.

A bad recipe's not as insidious as a bad piece of information; it won't lodge in your mind and embarrass you ten years later, and there's a foolproof procedure for verifying its correctness. The downside is that verifying its correctness takes time and effort (vs. triangulating a fact with Google), and a bad recipe could ruin someone's day.

Let's have a symposium on this topic. Wikipedia as a special case vs. a general pattern, different types of attacks against different types of knowledge, trolls vs. crackpots vs. pranksters vs. attackers... my mind is awhirl!


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