This page is for discussing the contents of anonymous.

  • I have a short threshold for frustration when it come to anonymous users and some of their misconceptions about wikis. Anonymous users, as of late, have been removing content without any reason. A few think they "own" a given page, and therefore have complete control over, due to it being their business page. I have received a few e-mails to that end — as if I have total control over a page and they demand I make something permanent.

    That said, with the increasing popularity of Chico Wiki I wonder if it is time to enforce a policy where only registered users can edit. This is the same policy as Davis Wiki. The registered user policy ensures people are tied to an identity and therefore greater community control over user actions can be achieved. While anonymous users have provided some very good edits in the past, a handful of anonymous users with the wrong idea make maintaining the wiki very time consuming and sometimes downright frustrating (such as emails where clearly the anonymous user is angry at me when I had absolutely nothing to do with their source of contempt!). I want users to realize that within the wiki there are mechanisms to discuss problems using subject pages or their user page, not my e-mail.

    So... should Chico Wiki ban anonymous users from making edits or is there a different approach?


  • I was hoping this day wouldn't come, since I do believe the anonymous editors contribute a lot. I know in my experience before I got involved in editing Davis Wiki I would see things that I wanted to add or correct on a page, but I didn't want to commit to creating a user account just to add one small piece of information. In fact, I was in Davis for almost a year and a half before I even set up an account to edit. I think we will lose a lot if we require accounts, since I cannot be the only one to have such reservations.

    However I do think things have gotten to the point where we do need to keep people accountable for their actions. Yeah, someone can create a pseudonym account and still wreak havoc, but I think these negative actions such as deleting others' comments will be reduced. It's also easier to address the accusations that Ryan has been receiving via email with "As you can see in the edit history JoeSmith actually deleted it" rather than "Some anonymous person at this IP address deleted it." People tend to be a little more careful with their actions when there is an actual user account connected to them.

    So, does the benefit of having accountability outweigh the negative that we will lose the good anonymous edits (which are probably 95% of them)? In my opinion, yes. Also, thankfully, I haven't been the target of the angry emails, but I can only imagine the frustration Ryan has been feeling. What does everyone else think? I am strongly leaning toward requiring an account for all edits.


Discuss the above Talk topic

2009-04-20 14:23:40   A lot of the reason that the Davis Wiki decided to require accounts from the beginning was to build the community. Chico, like Davis, is a real place with real people, but it's hard to relate to a list of 4 numbers. (Imagine what it will be like after IPv6!) Requiring usernames does have its downside — I've been known not to edit because I'm too lazy to register, too. But once people have a real name, or some kind of handle, then they can start to develop a persona and you can start to develop a relationship with them. But yeah, there's a secondary benefit to requiring logged in users. There's also a secondary cost too: sockpuppets. —BrentLaabs

  • That's a great point, Brent. I hope that if consensus is to remove anon editing that community will flourish. I wonder how long it'd take for sockpuppets to arrive? :-) Anyway, it's a risk I think most of us might be willing to take. Greg Bard, do you have any opinions on this? —RyanMikulovsky

2009-04-20 15:59:18   I know I don't really hang out here much, but for what it's worth I'd like to see registering become a requirement for editing. I think for every legitimate edit that is discouraged because of it, we'll have discouraged 10 or 100 superfluous anonymous edits that likely do more harm than good. Carry on! —DavidStillman

2009-04-20 19:42:14   No ban. I think there is too much to be gained from anonymous contributions. We just need to keep an eye on them. I think we have the resources to keep up just fine. — (it would help if I logged on myself—Gregbard)

  • One of the e-mails that I received was regarding the Ojiya page. He yelled at me for removing a comment (the one that showed disappointment in the chefs not being Japanese) when in fact I did not. Then this person went on to say how awful I was for writing "less confrontational" when removing his comment when in fact I was attempting to inform the anonymous person who deleted his comment to back off and read community guidelines. In addition, this anonymous user blasted me and the wiki by saying he would never recommend the site to another person since it seems to cater to businesses and not customers. It is unfortunate that other wiki users were not able to open up dialog with these two anonymous users since there were no usernames attached to them. Of course, if anonymous users had registered with the wiki then editors would have likely been very fast to revert the comment's deletion (a username carries some amount of instant credibility) or easily inquire about their intentions. Anyway, it is instances like that which may hurt the wiki more than helping it. Anonymous users have misconceptions that can be cleared up easily if they are registered through dialog on their userpage. Anonymous users that yell at me for actions following wiki norms or actions I did not do at all is absolutely counter-productive. —RyanMikulovsky

2009-04-20 21:38:06   I really appreciate most of the little anonymous edits that we get. Unfortunately, as so often happens with good things, a few bad anonymous editors have tainted the whole thing. While we have managed to keep an eye on the edits thus far, it does not sit well with me that editors who cannot stand behind their words and actions are giving the wiki a bad name. I've said it before, but there is a certain amount of accountability that goes with having a user name associated with your edits, and I think it would be beneficial to follow in the footsteps of large successful community wikis such as Davis Wiki in this regard. We will lose the occasional person anonymously updating the hours of a local business, but we will also eliminate the lack of accountability that seems to encourage people to not play by the rules.

I also agree with Brent's point about building community. In my opinion, there is a lot of benefit from being able to associate a name (real or otherwise) with someone who has edited the wiki. Also, being able to leave a comment for them on their page with an encouraging "Welcome to the Wiki! Thanks for the contributions!" or to help explain why they can't do something negative like erase comments can go a long way in making the wiki more of a community and less of a place where people just leave anonymous restaurant reviews. Although I've never met most of the editors on Chico Wiki (I've had a hand in converting at least a couple of occasional editors), I do feel like I know our regulars in some regard, since we are like a community. I'd like to see more of that by seeing more registered accounts. —StaceyEllis

Any anonymous comment may be deleted just on the grounds that it is anonymous as far as I am concerned. That means there is no real reason to ban anonymous users — its too easy to deal-with/clean-up to also ban them. Furthermore, there is a very small universe of wiki people who are actually going to edit this thing. Those anonymous editors often become non-anonymous, even if years later. We will find there is far far far too much to gain by these anonymous edits. For instance, how many one sentence articles did I create? hundreds? That's because that's about what I know about the particular topic. Then some anonymous person comes in there and contributes a meaningful paragraph! Multiply that effect by hundreds of seeds. —Greg Bard

  • Your assumption is that those meaningful paragraphs would not be written if we required user accounts. I think if you give someone the option of signing up and taking that extra step or not, they will probably opt for not. But if that option isn't there and they want to have their say, they will sign up for it. Davis Wiki has over 9500 registered users, many (most) of whom have only contributed one or two edits. People in Davis are willing to sign up for accounts, even if it is only because they want to add a useful paragraph or less to the mix. Davis Wiki has required accounts since day one, and they have had no problem with getting thousands of editors on their current 13000+ pages. It is true that many, myself included at one time, might be hesitant to sign up for an account for an edit that seems trivial, but people overcome that hesitancy everyday. I think it would discourage more of the bad edits since they would have to sign up for an account just to be obnoxious, whereas people who actually have something useful to say would opt to sign up to see what they have to contribute out there for everyone. No one is saying that we don't want people to contribute even small amounts of info, it's just a matter of accountability. The reason I am in favor of requiring accounts is because of the situations that Ryan describes in which anonymous edits have turned people away from the wiki. It would help immensely to be able to have a user account to point to when something like that happens, as it might spare us having someone run around spreading misinformation about this wiki to everyone they know. I realize that it is a relatively "small universe" of people who will edit Chico Wiki, but I do not think it will hinder its growth to require an account and will help us avoid situations like Ryan has been dealing with. Those hundreds of seeds will get filled in, just as they did in Davis, in my opinion. —StaceyEllis
    • The users who do register for an account may want to edit more, because they've already committed to having an account. (But don't count me as part of the community when you build your consensus, my whole interaction with Chico is visiting your NBC affiliate once. I'm just here because I don't have to register for another account.) —BrentLaabs

2009-04-21 17:08:33   Yes, people who really want to be heard on Davis Wiki do get an account. Whether or not they come back is another question — but it shows that it is a small barrier. In fact, I argue that because the web is plagued with sites requiring accounts that it is "just a fact of life." I reckon most use tried-and-true usernames and similar passwords. In any case, provided Chico Wiki or Wikispot properly stresses the utility of an account, I doubt potential users will be put off for long. So I do think that what can be gained from anonymous users will also be gained from registered 1-time users. Davis Wiki recently had a user who signed up for an account just to make a comment. So this does happen. —RyanMikulovsky

  • Fascinating fact to back up that point about people signing up just to make one comment or edit: I just looked at their User Statistics and more than 3300 of the user accounts were one-time editors. When you change that to up to three total edits, it's more than half of the registered accounts (5539 out of 9534 at the moment I am writing this). I would say requiring an account has not been a barrier to getting small contributions and one-time editors over at Davis Wiki, at least. —StaceyEllis

2009-04-22 21:40:36   I probably jumped the gun... sorry. But I figured it wouldn't hurt to see if people can be convinced to use accounts instead of banning anonymous users from writing pages. See how that goes, perhaps. Please note that 3/4 people on the wiki voted for removing anonymous edits and many points were made. I'd rather not all this talk go to waste so a real solution that everyone agrees to should be found. Our core editing group is small so consensus can be found. —RyanMikulovsky

2009-04-24 20:28:10   It really stinks when an anonymous user guesses right on a mystery picture. It's rather anticlimactic. —RyanMikulovsky

2009-04-27 18:52:31   How can we build community without mandating user accounts? —RyanMikulovsky

2009-04-27 20:45:04   * Time spent policing anonymous edits gone bad = time that could be spent adding new contributions & decreases gnome morale

  • In the end when you're trying to build community there needs to be accountability, a few reads on tragedy of the commons should suffice to make that clear
  • No one is stipulating that anyone has to use their RealName (although it's prefered) so anonymity can still be preserved in some sense.

The question really should be, how do we transition to no anonymous edits without alienating current contributors?


  • Outreach right smack in the middle of the front page
  • Warning for at least a week(maybe 2), maybe in something that shows up on every page in the corner "Anonymous edits will be turned off on date, sign up for an account now to keep your edits going"
  • Hard numbers on:
    • # of useful anonymous edits
    • # of unique ips these come from
    • # of new accounts after the transition
    • edits/time rate change
  • The change is not considered permanent until numbers are assessed after a reasonable time period of testing (2 weeks - 1 month) and results are discussed.
  • Does registering for an account need to be easier? Maybe a more obvious button? —AlexMandel

2009-04-27 21:01:38   Hi Alex. Thanks for your input. I agree with your main points and I certainly haven't been wanting to force people into using their RealName. It is almost a certain fact that most people will want to utilize whatever username that they utilize for accounts all over the web. Thanks for noting that a certain level of anonymity can be preserved.

I'm very interested in something that makes setting up an account more obvious. A 3D button might draw their trigger finger and suddenly they've an account. As an aside, I wish that "Remember me so I don't have to keep logging in" would be on by default — I don't think it is. Anyway, perhaps a transition/probationary period would be good. We could certainly then review how things went and make an informed decision on this matter. Any opinions on this from regular Chico Wiki editors? —RyanMikulovsky

2009-04-30 07:23:32   Since I can't do anything major until consensus is reached, I'm going to begin a campaign of removing comment boxes on pages that don't need them. That will help people to realize that they should edit the page and not tell the editors what to do. Businesses, apartments, restaurants, etc., will keep comments but general pages are going to be denuded of them. Feel free to help. There's a lot of pages with comment bars that really don't need them. —RyanMikulovsky

  • I agree that it's better to edit the page rather than just add a comment on a lot of things. Just be careful that you don't go overboard. I would rather Chico Wiki err on the side of a few too many comment boxes than getting rid of ones that actually make sense. For instance, I would say that someone could have a positive or negative experience at the Center for Academic Success that might warrant a comment (they do receive tutoring services there, and there isn't a tutoring page that I know of, so that would be the logical place to leave a comment about services received there), and you removed the bar from that page. Let's be careful in what gets removed, since I know the point is to get away from people leaving comments like "Hey, the information on this page is wrong" but it would equally frustrate us if someone wrote in the main text of a page "After going here, I've decided that the people who work here are horrible tutors and don't know anything about their given subject areas." That's comment material, and possibly relevant if based on someone's experience, but not really main entry stuff. —StaceyEllis
    • Yeah, I'm trying to keep that in mind. Services should keep comments (such as the CAS). The vast majority of pages that don't need them are category pages that list a bunch of topics or related content. —RyanMikulovsky

2009-05-03 15:19:02   This discussion has sort of taken a turn toward two things beyond just should we allow anonymous editing anymore. That is, how do we encourage new accounts (even if they are not required) and how do we get people to actually edit rather than simply leave comments? I had a thought this weekend that perhaps we could create an include that we could put on every page to tell people who may have stumbled on the page via Google or other search engine that the page is editable, since that may not be 100% evident to someone simply reading the page content. If we created a page consisting of one of the following ideas - or if someone else has a good idea for a page - we could include it at the top. This would involve manually putting it on all the pages, which will take time and effort, but it would be easy to add to any newly created page. And if anyone is more computer-savvy than me, perhaps there could be a way to even automate it? Anyhow, here are the two ideas I had:

Chico Wiki needs your help to make this page even better!Surely you know something about this topic that you can share with the community.Create an account and click on the "Edit" button at the top of the page to start sharing.
or to pare it down a bit:
Chico Wiki needs your help to make this page even better!Create an account and click on the "Edit" button at the top of the page to start sharing.
Thoughts? —StaceyEllis

2009-05-03 15:30:22   It would probably be better if 1) there is a CSS table class to make it integrate seamlessly with the powder-blue title bar and 2) if it took the width of the screen. Wiki admins don't have access to wikispot javascript files so allowing users to close the reminder for good can not happen without contributing patches to the Sycamore platform. Frankly, it'd be nice if a floating toolbar with edit icon could be pinned to the user's screen as the user scrolls. It could have a note like "Improve this page by clicking edit." —RyanMikulovsky

  • My CSS abilities are none and I don't anticipate that I'll be learning it anytime soon. But I will ask around my geeky circles and see what I can find out about getting some help to make something like that happen. If none of us can find a way to integrate something like Ryan recommends, my plan for an include is probably the next best thing. If I can't find anyone to help me with implementing the CSS idea and no one objects to my idea for the include, I will probably go ahead and add it to at least to a few test pages to see how it looks, and we can think about moving forward from there, depending on how it looks and whether we think it will be effective. —StaceyEllis

    Oh, also, Ryan's suggestion that it take up the entire width of the screen might result in something that looks like this, in case anyone was trying to picture it:

Chico Wiki needs your help to make this page even better! Create an account and click on the "Edit" button at the top of the page to start sharing.

Not too bad, actually. That might be the way to go. —StaceyEllis

  • Perhaps we'll see how long it might take to get an internal solution to our little problem. If it'll take too long (especially since neither of us probably have the time or knowledge to implement such changes) then perhaps we can put that notice on the _most_ popular pages as listed in Webalizer. The screen-width include looks good to me. Or perhaps implement now and wait for something better. I suggest not adding it to every page on the wiki. —RyanMikulovsky

2009-05-03 22:07:43   It might be possible, with much attention to aesthetics, to place a prominent "you can edit this!" notice area between the Chico Wiki logo and the Log-In box at the very top of the page. This could be done by 1) adding absolute positioning and style code to appropriate CSS files, 2) adding well designed HTML code into the footer and placing it using developed classes. Then we might be able to avoid adding a notice to 2500 or so real pages. It's an idea and I have no idea if it would actually work. But I do know that space up there hardly ever changes and if we use em positioning it should scale. —RyanMikulovsky

2009-05-03 23:00:07   It's starting to look like we need to develop tools that let you change information based on whether a user is logged in or not. I was just thinking about maybe adding something to the anonymous editing mode like: "You are editing anonymously from IP Join the community and create an account today!"

The only CSS that I know changes if a user logs in is user_area, which isn't particularly useful. And nope, we don't allow javascript in the CSS or footer buttons — too much potential for abuse. Maybe just add an empty div which changes based on login state?

I'll look at it once I get the new wiki map up and running (which will be awesome). —BrentLaabs

  • Yes, having a built-in and prominent notice area that is completely stylable with CSS would be nice. Even better if the string could be modified in Wiki Settings using wiki syntax and so could use macros such as one to display the user's IP address. An If-then macro concerning if a user is logged in would be icing. Such a macro would say something like, "If user is logged in then include this page. If not, then include this one." [[IfLoggedIn(PleaseRegister, ThanksForRegistering)]]. It could take 0 or Null in either argument to show nothing and add no HTML to the output. Such a macro would allow nested macros so macros on the called pages would work. If only we all had more time :-) Looking forward to seeing the new mapping feature!—RyanMikulovsky