Monthly Archives: December 2006

How to Break Wikipedia with a Spam Tsunami

Jimbo Wales, long annoyed at the massive success without corresponding economic renumeration of Wikipedia, has figured out a way to break it forever.

While Wikipedia is an amazing online resource, and an example of what the collaborative web can do at its best, it is beset with problems. Principal among these is the war waged between three parties: Wikipedians, Spammers, and Normal People. Each group wants something different for the Wikipedia. Spammers, believing that Wikipedia can either drive traffic or influence Google results, attempt to include their links in the index of pages which can assist that mission. Wikipedians want to control their little part of the web, be it a single article or a massive collection of articles, or the entire Wikipedia. Normal people just want to find good information, and occaisionally edit the articles which they have some understanding of, perhaps even adding links.

Because of Spammers, Wikipedians rarely allow normal people to edit articles. This is a failing of the Wikipedia as Wikipedians are not normal people, they are a specialized group which does not often see the value in the normal people’s links or contributions, and because of the prevelance of Spammers, are quick to delete such contrubtions.

Now Jimbo Wales has announced a new project which is a search engine to take on Google. An admirable project, as Search in the hands of one player is a very dangerous thing. However, there is a critcal flaw in one what know right now about the project (which isn’t very much)– the ranking of pages for this new project is to come frome existing Wikipedia external links.

This will create a tremendous burden on the Wikipedians, who, if this search engine is at all successful, will have to deal with an incoming spam tsunami. Everyone under the sun, spammer or non-spammer, will attempt to get his or her site listed in the external links index. In some cases, in articles that few people care about, you might find spammer-vs-spammer wars, but in most major articles you will find an incessant battle over external links, with everyone save the top Wikipedians being treated as foes. The pressure this will create on the community is easy to imagine for anyone who’s served time in the DMOZ or any other user-generated area of the web with potential revenue implications.

If Jimbo Wales is serious about this project, he needs to not build on the backs of already beleagured Wikipedians, and create a new branch which will be administered by a new community of his invention and curation. Otherwise, the stress on Wikipedia will be far too great, and the resource will be even more diminished then it is currenrtly.