Last week LA Times stopped an experiment that had only been running for a few days – a wiki driven online editorial page which was meant to give its readers a voice and allow the paper to have some real community driven content. But the site quickly got vandalised and the paper pulled it down before the community could correct itself, leaving this message up:
Unfortunately, we have had to remove this feature, at least temporarily, because a few readers were flooding the site with inappropriate material.
Thanks and apologies to the thousands of people who logged on in the right spirit.
In many places, the LA Times attempts have been greeted with open arms as the ‘right’ thing to do in opening up its pages to reader contributions but a little surprised that a wiki was chosen. Wikis are notorious for the freedom they have, the freedom that can lead to random vandalism which can only be kept in check by the development of a community that self polices. The Observer, a newspaper that runs its own blog for reader contributions was not all surprised at the outcome.
But could it have worked? Ross Mayfield has published an open letter to the paper that covers some of the steps that may have ensured the continued existence of the wiki. Could these stpes have prevented the vandalism – no, you are always going to have people who enjoy doing such things and whose sense of netiquette is so stunted that they do not care about the consequences. But they could allow the community to do something and manage such vandalism if the LA Times opens their virtual doors again.
Update: Rafael Behr, who authored the Observer blog piece referred to above has a longer piece in the online paper