A week ago, I decided to test Wikipedia’s defenses, and vandalized several pages. At the time, I thought it was for the greater good. While the system could handle the small changes I made, I didn’t think of the larger social consequences.
Others have done the same, and articles on both Slashdot and Boing Boing mean that many may get the idea that they should also do the experiment themselves. If this happens, it could ruin a beautiful thing. At the very least, it will damage a beautiful thing. Please, do not make the mistake I made in thinking that one person’s changes might not hurt the resource. That may be true, but it is true only in the same way that one person’s vote doesn’t really make a difference. When thousands of people start to think that their changes are small enough that they don’t matter you start to have a significant negative effect on the resource.
When large groups of people come together to collaborate on a project, it can have multiplied effects. Wikipedia, Linux, and Slashdot are just three examples of this. If large groups decide to independently “test” Wikipedia, we could easily have another example, an example of just how destructive an online mob can be.
To correct an earlier statement: if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t. There are better, non-destructive ways to check Wikipedia’s accuracy. Please learn from my mistake and do not repeat it.
Better yet. Come to Wikipedia’s defense: get the RSS feed for Recent Changes, and watch for changes that may be fraudulent.