Refactor While Respecting Signatures

Maintain an appropriate level of attribution when editing Wiki pages.

It is a fundamental quality of Wiki that anyone can edit any part of any page at any time. However, special care must be given to refactoring the signed works of others. Deliberately changing the meaning of a contribution, whether directly or through making changes to the context, while preserving the signature, is lying. Adding a signature to an unsigned work, deleting a signature, or changing the name in a signature are also unethical Wiki practices.

Some refactorings can be so drastic that keeping the signatures doesn't seem appropriate, as when replacing a long fact-finding conversation with its conclusions. At the other end of the spectrum, refactorings that simply correct spelling, punctuation or grammar, can improve the reputation of the signatory and benefit the whole WikiCommunity.

A signature attaches a name to a piece of writing. This associates opinions with people and gives credit where work has been done. When we edit other peoples work we are responsible for keeping associations correct and giving credit when it is due.

Therefore: Don't delete signatures from opinion pieces or original work and don't change the meaning of a signed work. Signed works can be moved, split up (if the meaning is not distorted), or deleted (if the author's view is accurately represented in some other way). Derivative works can be created using attributed quotes from the original.

Sometimes an editor will want to replace several signed contributions with a summary. There are two main approaches to this: The former is probably preferable to the latter since the "contributors" rarely feel as fully represented if their opinions are paraphrased rather than quoted. In either case you may want to RefactorAndArchive the section in case the original works are needed later.

Dialogs that are preserved generally look best if the authors are deliniated by signatures (even an empty signature: "--" will do). Sometimes italics are also used to show changes in authorship but that scheme can only serve a two author conversation.

There are other approaches. Some people believe that ThreadMode itself is bad (ThreadModeConsideredHarmful) and that it has lead us to a TragedyOfTheCommons. Others believe that there are cases of ThreadModeFalselyBlamed and that the deeper problem is that ThreadMode is not written well - a problem that is addressed in HowToWriteAndEditThreadMode. Of course DocumentMode contributions can also be signed but that brings up the sticky issue of WikiCopyRights, is generally against the Wiki spirit of collaborative authorship and should probably be avoided.

Is RefactorWhileRespectingSignatures the wrong approach?

RefactorWhileRespectingSignatures is wrong. A lot of pages would be better off if ThreadMode and all the signatures were eliminated. People are too hung up on signatures. This is a wiki, not a newsgroup. See TragedyOfTheCommons. -

I think that eliminating signatures entirely would make Wiki an oddity among publishing mediums. Most written materials have a recognized author. I agree that ThreadMode is not the most desirable form for most information but I also value the notion of authorship. -- PhilGoodwin Presumably that was written before WikiPedia became popular and respectable. -- JasonGrossman [WikiIsNotWikipedia]

I think of signatures like a Christmas tree: Wonderful at first, but you want to throw them out eventually.

Signatures are quite useful at first when you're in hot-and-heavy thread-mode and you may want to single out other conversants to ask them for specific clarifications. But ultimately we are writing to add knowledge, collectively, to the Wiki (see OurWordsNotMine).

Meanwhile we have the (following two phenomena CreativeCommmons? and WikiNomics? not yet reflected in WardsWiki): so a claim of some orignal "spirit of wiki" might not have the consensus of all engaged wikizens. To rip of Attribution i.e. AuthorCredit? could be seen as theft of AlternativeCommunityCurrency?. -- FridemarPache


CategoryWikiMaintenance CategoryWikiRefactoring

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