Thursday, May 02, 2013

Allowing wiki-style edits on every single web-page

As everyone knows, anybody can edit any page on Wikipedia.  What if anybody could also make edits on every single page on the internet?

I mean every - a corporate site's 'about' page, their CEO's bio page, the description of a book, a post on someone's personal blog, a news story.  Anything.

Sound crazy?  No doubt about it.  But here's a slightly less crazy way it could be handled:

  • Edits don't change the public version of the page.
    • All edits are publicly accessible via a standard [edits] link on each page, and the page owner gets to choose whether to accept, reject or ignore any of them.
  • You must log-in with a public identity (Facebook, Google+, etc) to make an edit.
    • To help deal with trolls.
Why let anyone edit any page?  For the same reasons Wikipedia does: to allow people to suggest corrections and enhancements.

People like feeling that they've made a contribution, and if their contributions are useful and get taken up that can add to their reputation.   Such a system would help better harness the talent out there.  Or such is the hope.

Some slightly more technical points:
  • The site owner could possibly even mark someone's edits as trolling, where both the edits and who marked them as trolling are public information, and if people's edits across the internet were aggregated it might further discourage trolling.
  • What if the changes a person suggests concern information that comes from a database rather than a static page?  If the page owner thinks it's a good contribution then they'd have to change the relevant data in the database.
Obviously there'd be various technical issues in implementing this.  Presumably these days storage space for the edits wouldn't be much of an issue.  Perhaps the ability for storing each person's edits for a page could be handled by a standard feature of the web-server.  Naturally there'd be issues with how the editing interface is provided, how the edits are described, etc.  This post is more just about the general idea rather than all of the hurdles it'd have to overcome to make it practical.


EDIT 5 May 2013: I originally used Wikipedia as a model for this idea.  Github is another model you could think of it in terms of.  On Github you can fork anyone's project to make improvements to it.  Doing so doesn't effect the original project.  You can send the owner of the project a pull-request suggesting for them to incorporate your changes.  They can ignore that if they wish, but if they decide they like your suggested changes they can make use of them.  What I'm suggesting is a standard, structured way for anyone to suggest changes to a web-pages.

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