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LA Times Pulls Wikitorial, Blames Slashdot 678

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the now-thats-a-little-below-the-belt dept.
ubermiester writes "The LA Times pulled down it's "beta" wikitorial after people began inserting obscene content faster than the editors could remove it. Though there is nothing on the LA Times editorial page or in the general coverage, the NY Times notes (free reg req) the fact that the bulk of the vandalism occurred after a posting about the wikitorial appeared on Slashdot and goes on to quote a member of the LA Times editorial staff as saying, "Slashdot has a tech-savvy audience that, to be kind, is mischievous and to be not so kind, is malicious". " Apparently Michael Newman thinks that all half a million daily Slashdot readers are malicious, although I personally would guess more like a 60:40 split myself *grin*.
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LA Times Pulls Wikitorial, Blames Slashdot

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  • by The Importance of (529734) * on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @12:37PM (#12873189) Homepage
    I've collected much more information and some critique of the LA Times' experiment here: Wikitorial Post Mortem [corante.com]
  • by Jakhel (808204) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @12:42PM (#12873266)
    or if you just don't use/know about bugmenot (w00t karma!)

    By ALICIA C. SHEPARD
    Published: June 21, 2005

    A Los Angeles Times experiment in opinion journalism lasted just two days before the paper was forced to shut it down Sunday morning after some readers repeatedly posted obscene photos.

    On Friday, the paper introduced an online feature it called a wikitorial, asking Web site readers to improve a 1,000-word editorial, "War and Consequences," on the Iraq war.

    Readers were invited to insert information, make changes or come to different conclusions. The model was based on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia where anyone can add facts or update information.

    "It sounds nutty," said an introduction to the wikitorial in Friday's paper. "Plenty of skeptics are predicting embarrassment; like an arthritic old lady who takes to the dance floor, they say, The Los Angeles Times is more likely to break a hip than be hip. Nevertheless, we proceed. We're calling this a 'public beta,' which is a fancy way of saying we're making something available even though we haven't completely figured it out."

    What they had not planned for was hard-core pornography, which the paper's software could not ward off. Its open-source wikitorial software allowed readers to post without vetting from editors, who could take down posts only after they appeared. Any contributor who persisted in bad behavior could be blocked.

    During most of Friday and Saturday, readers thoughtfully altered the editorial. By Friday afternoon, hundreds had weighed in. Some did add profanity but just as quickly a Web master from the paper took it down.

    "Nothing bad happened really until after midnight on Saturday," said Michael Newman, deputy editorial page editor. At 8:32 p.m. Saturday, a posting on www.Slashdot.org, which bills itself as "news for nerds," directed readers to the Times wikitorial.

    "Slashdot has a tech-savvy audience that, to be kind, is mischievous and to be not so kind, is malicious," Mr. Newman said. "We were taking stuff down as soon as it went up and staving them off. Finally we had to go to bed. Someone called the newsroom a little bit before 4 a.m. and said there's something bad on your Web site, and so we just took the whole site down."

    The paper put a note on the editorial page Web site explaining the disappearance and thanking the "thousands" of people who logged on.

    Andres Martinez, editorial page editor, said: "I was heartened by how seriously people took it. I was really impressed by the level of high-minded participation. It's not a total shock it ended up this way. Now we will evaluate what this means."
  • by Jason1729 (561790) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:04PM (#12873545)
    I wonder how wikipedia handles it...

    Wikipedia is self moderating. The end users restore defaced pages. There was even an article in Wired a couple of months ago about it. On average, defacements are cleaned within a few minutes by other users, and the repairs are so fast that vandals quickly get discouraged.

  • Personal Perspective (Score:3, Informative)

    by ilyah (50440) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:28PM (#12873824) Homepage

    I'm a Wikinews editor, and was kind of interested in the LA Times experiment: over at the English Wikinews, we've been avoiding editorials since they're so personal in nature, and not NPOV.

    I ended up on the Wikitorial wiki soon after it opened, and proceeded to help with the vandalism, and with providing some navigation, new user help, etc. Jimbo Wales (founder of Wikipedia) was also around from time to time, as were other Wikinews and Wikipedia people, trying to grow the wikitorial from a one page thing to something actually usable by a group of people.

    I've written up about my personal view on the wikitorial experiment [netapt.com]. Take a gander.

  • by himself (66589) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:33PM (#12873879)
    Some ACs are people who need _anonymity_. Perhaps their posts could be moderated (though it'd take quite a bit of work to separate the tiny kernels of wheat from the piles of chaff).
  • Re:LOL (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:42PM (#12873974)
    You misquoted 'mispelled' as "misspelled" to indicate that 'misspelled' was misspelled as 'mispelled'.

    Actually, no. When quoting somebody you should spell the word they were saying correctly.

    The parent post correctly spelled the word which the grandparent was trying to spell. If it was meant to be a direct quote, bad spelling and all, it would have been written like this:

    You misspelled "mispelled [sic]".


    Oh, and I have bad news for you both. "Mispell" is an acceptable alternative spelling. See for yourself. [reference.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:58PM (#12874138)
    What a weak troll.


    "If the last person to speak was a liar, or wanted to put up some p0rn, or even wanted to spam the page with viagra adverts, that's what you get."


    Only for a few seconds - if someone does any of those things, other people will fix the content with a speed proportional to the inappropriateness of what they posted. For an existance proof, just try posting nsome pr0n viagra ad to a wikipedia page and see how long it lasts. Then try posting some informative and factually correct content and notice that it survives much longer.

  • Re:What did they do? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Pinkfud (781828) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @02:04PM (#12874199) Homepage
    I saw this happen. There were repeated racial slurs, very obscene comments, and multiple postings of good old Goatse. Someone kept creating usernames that were racially offensive as well. I saw "Willy on Wheels" from Wiktionary et al in there. I'm not entirely sure it was Slashdotters doing it, but have to admit the coincidence of timing was suspicious. This incident was unfortunate. The basic idea here was probably workable, and could have started a new era of "letters to the editor" that actually stood a chance of changing things. Hopefully, the LAT will realize the Wiki software can be configured to help with this, and will put it back online. I have a Mediawiki site myself, so I know about the options.
  • Re:Great attitude (Score:3, Informative)

    by Cro Magnon (467622) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @02:33PM (#12874556) Homepage Journal
    I remember working on a project, where one of the specifications was that the rear stairwells of transit buses (in a large U.S. city) had to be urine-proof, because the drivers REGULARLY used the rear stairwell to relieve themselves. It's not entirely the drivers' fault -- they were afraid to leave their vehicles. But doesn't this just seem WRONG? And if it doesn't, if this just seems normal, doesn't that indicate something even worse about this society?


    Mental note: next time I take the bus, get off by the FRONT stairwell! Ewwww!

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