Gave Up On Recent Changes

I almost GaveUpOnWiki. I thought something would have to change if I could ever use the site again. WikiSpam and WikiVandalism were out of control.

I spent some effort discussing WikiSpamSolutions and WikiVandalismSolutions, and my favorite proposal was PersonalWatchList. It proposed to kill the concept of RecentChanges. The vandalism "machine" is uprooted completely if you take away RecentChanges. But Ward didn't seem to be in any hurry to implement PersonalWatchList or any other WikiChangeProposal.

So after some reflection, I decided that I could still do PersonalWatchList on my own. Not with an AntiVandalismBot? or an AntiSpamBot. I could just refuse to look at RecentChanges.

This "solution" isn't as complete as PersonalWatchList, but it is good enough for me. I'll happily continue to see the good parts of Wiki, and I'll have a statistically insignificant chance of ever encountering WikiSpam or WikiVandals. This is thanks to the WikiZens who still keep watch on RecentChanges and clean up the spam and vandalism before I ever have a chance to wander across it. (At least I think they still do that - can't really be sure, of course.)

I have tried a few websites for change tracking, but they all seem to be lacking in one way or another. I am playing with the idea of making my own.

-- MichaelSparks


Michael, David here. Let me try to understand a bit more about your solution. I think what you have is similar to AutoPcn? which I also use and it works as advertised. If it is, then it have these imperfections which NewRecentChanges address: Maybe a solution is to use NewRecentChanges every 2 days, then the edit war pages are grouped together and have less impact. If Ward would make NewRecentChanges for 4 days, or 1 week, then it would be still better at "containment" of "externalities".

-- dl

I really appreciate the interest - I'll try to address your points one by one.

I remember when I first found the wiki. I didn't know about RecentChanges. I think I had just hit some arbitrary page from a search engine link. I started following the links to more pages, and then the links on those pages, and then the links on those pages, and so on. It was completely overwhelming, but that is what made me stay. Such a huge amount of knowledge - and often high quality discussion. I had to read it all! Now, of course, I have been spoiled for some time. I know about RecentChanges, and I know that wiki contains approximately 30,000 pages. I think we naturally reject that overwhelming, out-of-control feeling that wiki gives you. RecentChanges makes you feel like you are in control, like you really know what happens on the wiki. The revelation for me recently has been that, although we feel in control, we are not. The wiki is just too big for anyone to know it all.

I think of it like the real world. In the real world, you can watch TV news and get a constant feed on the latest happenings around the globe. It's good for nothing but raising your stress level. In the real world, I GaveUpOnTelevision because I realized that the constant stream of information did me absolutely no good. I haven't watched TV news in years and somehow I have managed to avoid being personally attacked by terrorists. For the few things that interest me, I registered Google news alerts.

You raise the point that I will miss out on new people and the ideas they bring. But here we are having a conversation. It makes the conversations take longer, but that is probably a good thing for most people. I think wiki would be better off if things happened at a consistently slow pace. The feeling of community seems to require relatively short time-spans, however. If the longer time-spans caused by my plan actually do kill the sense of community, then I think it is an acceptable loss. The community feeling probably leads to more rudeness and power-trips anyway. I'll clarify this in another page at some point.

One more point about change notification. I have only put pages on my watch list when it is something I am passionate about. I have my home page, this page, and maybe 10 others right now. If I wander across the UniversityOfTennessee page at some point and absorb its content, then that should be enough for several years. If someone refactors that page a day later, I really don't need to know. AutoPcn? and PersonalWatchList both seem to support this way of thinking.

Using RecentChanges every two days might work for some, but for me, it would probably be like trying to have a cigarette just every two days. I don't think it would work like that. I'd be a RecentChangesJunkie again in no time.

-- MichaelSparks


The analogy to media (newspaper and TV) "information overload" is good. Whilst spending your time hypnotised by the CNN realtime news channel is no good, there are times I find it useful to keep closer watch (e.g. when the tsunami news broke, or when 9/11). I find it fascinating to try to understand perspective of a different individual, or an organization/establishment, etc. During the Iraqi war the "Minister of Information" provided lots of entertainment, provided relief from the human tragedies of warfare.

If the analogy of "coffee shop" is adopted, then a periodic visit to the "watering hole" will provide other side benefits (providing the edit wars and spams don't dominate the scene). If you are interested in computing algorithms, and if you notice a research person in that area has been active recently, then you may share in the "discoveries" that person has made. Or some activities may trigger analytical thinking in a different subject. So for these reasons I wish the edit wars and spams would JustLeave. -- dl

Your comment about the tsunami and 9/11 has some merit. With all of the activity (or should I say non-activity) on wiki right now (2005/03), I have started watching RecentChanges pretty closely again. -- MichaelSparks


As simple thing Ward could do to help is sort FindPage results by last edit date, and display the last edit date in the results. Then you could just sign your name to any page you want to keep tabs on, and use the backlinks as a PersonalWatchList. -- MichaelSparks

I would just like to remove pages from my watchlist. Anything dominated by top or RA, as well as the same dozen or so pages that keep coming up in the EditWar, and I'll still see plenty of interesting new material. I'm pondering writing some Proxomitron filters to do just that, basically removing these pages from my worldview dynamically. Still can't help but hit the occasional link to them, but it'll make this wiki a nice place to be on the whole. Because to look at quickchanges now makes this place look like a cesspit of bile and spite... And while I admit a great fascination with many of these pages, it's not a healthy one.

If you haven't already seen them, take a look at LetsWithdrawIntoSolipsism and FilteredRecentChanges.

Actually, I think I'm just going to withdraw from the community and maybe just try out some new IRC channels instead. There's no one there actively messing with the integrity of the actual data on the medium (and frankly little DOS action on freenode either). This place is going down *exactly* the same way LambdaMOO did -- taken over by TrollKings?, the founder and implementor refuses to be the "owner", and the remainder have no effective recourse. I don't care to see it again. I've mostly just lurked here all these years anyway ... I guess it's a shame I chose now to try being active. -- ChuckAdams (GaveUpOnWiki)

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