A wiki is an extremely open system; anyone can read it and anyone can edit it, all without logging in. Not all wikis are like this: some require a login to edit, but these are much less user-friendly, as the need to register discourages those who wander in from joining, and the need to log in discourages regulars from making quick contributions (which are the lifeblood of a wiki).
"Surely an open wiki will just be flattened by spammers, flamers and vandals?" i hear you cry. Yes, surely. But it isn't. Wards Wiki is a large, active and quite famous (it's been Slash Dotted) wiki, with no more security than OUSFG Wiki; it has not been destroyed, in fact it has never even been disrupted. There have been a tiny number of acts of vandalism, but the annoyance they caused was far less than is caused routinely by accidents or bugs in the code. And thus we can see that the more buggy and annoying the code, the less effective any given act of vandalism. Tom Anderson, you know what to do...
Why is this so? Two reasons are often cited. Firstly, the open editability actually turns the tables on the vandal: for every one vandal, there are ten, a hundred or a thousand Wiki Zen!s to repair the damage. Massive mechanised assaults can be repelled by simple protection software which blocks access to any client host which sends a dangerously high level of edits (although this does not protect against a DDOS attack). The existence of a history mechanism, even if it is quite simple, makes the job of repair much easier - the repairing Wiki Zen can just restore an old version. Secondly, the (apparent) ease of vandalising a wiki means that vandals aren't tempted to do it - it would be too easy. You may not find this reason convincing. A third reason, which it seems most people don't think about, is that most wikis are quite secluded; they don't have a lot of traffic, and certainly don't come into the crosshairs of vandals. For example, it would be difficult to find Wards Wiki if you weren't actively looking for stuff about software development methods, and people who are doing that are unlikely to be vandals. It would be interesting to see how a wiki dedicated to something more mainstream, such as, say, America Landian 'comedy' shows, would fare.
We don't currently (2002-08-23) have automatic blocking or a history mechanism. Hopefully, we will soon. Especially if you clamour for it on the Twic I Wishlist.
Did we just (the night of 20-21/01/2003) have our first bit of Wiki Vandalism? If anyone saw anything, do tell ...
The strategy of making a system totally open and hoping that this will make it an unattractive target is also used here <http://totl.net/HonourSystem/> (NB: this is a joke).
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