Personal Watch List

PersonalWatchList is an idea to combat WikiVandals. It is not currently implemented on this wiki - it is just one of the proposed WikiVandalismSolutions. PersonalWatchList is a replacement for RecentChanges that should curb some of the vandalism. In this page, "RecentChanges" refers to RecentChanges, QuickChanges, and NewRecentChanges.

There has been some discussion about RecentChangesConsideredHarmful, RecentChangesIsNotTheWiki, and TooManyRecentChanges.

WardCunningham wrote the following on AdvoGato:
"I recently wrote a history of wiki that got even me thinking of the good old days. I'm in the mood to do something new. Wiki traffic is about 3x now what it was when it was last judged noise free. I'd like to find something that will take it to 30x or 300x. I've received many suggestions of things to add. Instead I'm looking for something to take out."

It is clear to some that the "something to take out" is RecentChanges.

What does RecentChanges accomplish today? (see RoleOfRecentChanges for discussion)

Where does RecentChanges fail today?

See CompellingIrritant for discussion of why the vandals do what they do. For now, suffice it to say that the primary motivation is attention (wiki is an AttentionEconomy). In wiki, attention comes in the form of retaliatory edits.

Why is RecentChanges central to the vandals' ability to harass wiki? Because vandals are encouraged by immediate feedback. Without RecentChanges, the vandal has a very limited ability to do these two things: If you cut off the ability for vandals to bring others into the war, then presumably the vandal will eventually lose interest and go away. While he is still here figuring out that nobody is going to stoop to his level, we have cut off his ability to annoy the rest of us.

Naturally, we don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water. RecentChanges is central to the vandalism problem, but it also provides vital services.

How can we modify RecentChanges to fix these two problems?

Replace RecentChanges with PersonalWatchList. PersonalWatchList is intended to have features that are isomorphic to the accomplishments of RecentChanges, while also avoiding its failures.

As the name implies, the personal watch list is personalized for each user.

A user starts out with an empty watch list. Some users may choose to keep it that way, which is isomorphic to never visiting RecentChanges.

Upon visiting a page, the user may choose to add that page to his watch list. In the terminology of the accomplishments list, this is how a user indicates his interest in a page. If the page was already on his watch list, the user may choose to remove that page from his watch list.

There is a way for a user to view his complete watch list, and remove pages from it.

However, the user wouldn't normally view the complete list. Instead, he would view only the list of pages which have been modified.

"Modified" is determined separately for each user, based on the last edit date, and the last view date. The last view date is specific to each user.

The modified list is sorted so that the most recently modified pages are on top. After viewing the modified version of a page, that page is removed from the modified list (but it is still present on the user's watch list).

That's it. Suggestions for an implementation are given in PersonalWatchListImplementation.

Does this replace all of the functionality in RecentChanges?

Let's revisit the accomplishments list and see.

Additional comments

Instead of manually adding pages to the watch list, what if we manually add them to an un-watch list? That way you wouldn't miss out on stuff. But doesn't the new RandomPages provide just as many opportunities for spontaneous trolling? You mean I have to add thousands of pages to my watch list? That is a lot of work! But this requires user accounts! It destroys the wiki spirit of openness! AutoPcn? implements most of the PageChangeNotification features listed above. Without RecentChanges, I will feel claustrophobic or out of control. MediaWiki (i.e. WikiPedia) already has this, called by the same name. It would be worthwhile to study the effects and implemention there for inspiration.

It looks like this proposal, along with the others, will not be implemented any time soon. See GaveUpOnRecentChanges for a reasonable interim solution. -- MichaelSparks

I waffle back and forth on this proposal in my mind. I think it could help, but I'm not sure it would help enough. More and more, I fear that an authentication system will be needed at some point in order to tie responsibility to a recognizable (and, sadly, a bannable) entity. (Is there already a page that discusses this idea?) Wiki would lose something thereby, but it would also lose something if I give up the chance to see reasonable, mildly off-topic contributions in an unfiltered RecentChanges. -- DanMuller

There is some discussion of logins at PersonalIdentification. Briefly, the problem I see with logins is that unless you require people to travel to Portland to submit a DNA sample, the determined vandals will find ways to create multiple accounts. WikiNeedsTrustMetrics and EditsRequireKarma are both good ways to limit access on an individual basis, without the multiple-account vulnerability. -- MichaelSparks

I'm thinking more in terms of freely available and unverified login identities, but with a significant time delay between application and granting, and the usual tests against automated signups. Not something that would be perfect, nor even something that could shut out an individual for good, but something that is a somewhat limited resource that can be revoked when necessary. Even if someone stored up a bunch of login identities and used them all at once, authorized caretakers could shut them all down pretty quickly, limiting the size and duration of an attack. There are no perfect solutions, but this one would be more helpful than IP blocking, I think. -- DanMuller

I agree that logins would be a good stopgap, at least initially. Also, I agree that something would be lost if RecentChanges goes away. But, I think there is something better to be gained. This may not work on you since you have been around a long time, but here is an experiment to try. Pick any page from RecentChanges. Find a link on that page you have either never heard of, or never payed much attention to. Follow the link. Find the link on that page you know the least about. Repeat this process until you wander into completely unfamiliar territory. Whatever page you end up on, read it. Pretend it is on RecentChanges right now. Pretend that the last comment on the page was posted only moments ago. (Really do it! :-) Now, aside from immediate feedback from other users, what do we lose by doing this? The thing that is gained, is that you now know what is on that page. With normal RecentChangesJunkie browsing, you wouldn't. -- MichaelSparks

CategoryWikiMaintenance CategoryWikiProgress

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