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A trend toward increasingly disruptive editing on the English Wikipedia, specifically in the area of Israel-Palestinian relations, has led to a discussion of measures to curb this trend. One of the suggestions is to create draft versions of articles, so that edit wars and content battles do not occur on the published version of an article.
When an article is the focus of intense controversy, two versions of the article would be maintained:
- a published version, that only an uninvolved admin could edit.
- a draft version, that anyone can edit.
Only when there is universal consensus on the wording of a section in the draft version would that section be promoted to the published version.
Confrontational editing on the Wikipedia does not happen because there are bad editors with evil motives. It happens because of the dynamics of collaborative editing as it is designed in the Wikipedia. An editor with an agenda has every motivation in the current environment to edit war: his edits are the version seen by the general readership, even if only for a few hours; his arguments on the talk page are readily accessible by everyone, and he is given a highly visible platform for his arguments.
Creating a draft version encourages the exact opposite dynamic: If an editor's version is to be seen, it must first earn consensus of all the editors working on the article. This forces editors to collaborate, to negotiate, and to reach agreement. It removes argument from the immediate eyes of the general reader - still available to the reader but not a tab click away - making the talk page a much less attractive platform for grandstanding.
This arrangement greatly reduces the burden on admins. There is no need to monitor the editing process and the discussion, and to discuss and impose sanctions. When consensus is reached, the editors involved notify the admin, who verifies the consensus and promotes the agreed section to the published version of the article.
It will increase the stability of controversial articles, and thus enhance the overall credibility of the Wikipedia. I believe that one of the main things damaging Wikipedia's credibility is that articles in entire topic areas are in constant flux.
This proposal does not require any change in infrastructure, nor does it require a major shift in Wikipedia policy. A similar mechanism is already being tried out at the English Wikipedia, where edits must first be a approved by an admin before being applied to the article. It can be tried out on a few contentious articles to see if it works, and, if so, can be adopted more widely.
- How do we pick the initial published version? In an article which is the subject of an edit war, simply freezing an article in its current state might mean certifying a POV version that happened to be current at the time.
- Will disruptive editors seek other paths to promote their POVs; for example, content forking?
- What happens when there is a stick-in-the-mud editor who refuses to play ball? That editor can, theoretically, block all changes to the article ever by refusing to join consensus. It is fair to assume that, at some point, there will be new material that the recalcitrant editor is interested in including in the article, and at that time he or she will be forced to negotiate over other changes in the article. However, it is not certain that this marketplace psychology will work in the supercharged atmosphere of some article talk pages.
This is a proposal that can be tried out at no cost. If the proposal is adopted universally for controversial articles, it could be supported by infrastructure changes, which might include:
- creating a /Draft article space.
- creating a survey tool for automatically polling consensus and notifying the shepherding admin.
- creating a chat tool for interactive discussions of content.
Do you have a thought about this proposal? A suggestion? Discuss this proposal by going to Proposal talk:Draft versions for controversial articles.
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