Why Nobody Deletes Wiki

This misses the fundamental problem of:

See VersioningWouldHelpNewbies and WikiFailures for discussion of these features.

Over at http://fox.wikis.com, any user can delete any page and the community works very well. It makes sense that if users can refactor a topic, users should be able to delete topics. -- StevenBlack

Seems like somebody deleted the entire site. It ain't there no more

It's very interesting that nobody has ever tried to delete as many Wiki pages as he could.

A Poster answers:

Maybe that's because the sites are usually so crap that no one bothers looking at them, no?! If these sites took off or ever attracted any real traffic rates, they'd be trashed in minutes!

A WikiGnome replies:
Maybe the people who would take delight in trashing the work of others are not intelligent enough to be attracted to this wiki in the first place.

Some Other Guys bandies:
While I hardly believe that being attracted to such a site has anything to do with intelligence, I do believe that they would tend to attract a certain type of person - one who probably wouldn't care to undo other people's work when they have nothing to gain from it.

WhyTryToDeleteWiki? There's no obvious benefit to it; deleting 25,000+ pages is tedious and hard work, unless automated by a script.

It's not hard work. If your friends are your biggest threats, then I'm the biggest threat of all. I could do it. I have much of it already written and tested. A long time ago, I wrote CategoryFilteredRecentChanges for WikiWiki. A small mutation, that's how easy it is. Freedom? Danger? It's all the same. Instead, if you want to threaten us, FixYourWiki. I would be truly frightened if you did. -- SunirShah

That's right

There used to be a sentence above that instructed the person to delete that same sentence, and someone did. Said sentence used to be quoted here, too, but someone deleted that as well. But they didn't delete the first line (above), which proves that deletions sometimes have meaning, and leave behind a trace of what used to be. -- Elise from Cartesian France


It would be nice if this were true. But it isn't. I was attacked by an automated script that replaced the content of every page on my wiki with a porn link early in 2004. Of course I was able to roll back the wiki by editing the database, but for a short time all visitors were greeted by an obnoxious link, not the open and free workspace they were expecting. This can and will become more common. All it takes is one person out of a billion to ruin your day.

I briefly toyed with the idea of deleting and defacing a few pages, but didn't. Instead I wrote a page on ReligiousWar. Why?

I found it hard not to put a few odd words and dates into the front page in order to see how long it took for them to be corrected, but I can't be bothered to check back every five minutes. -- Nigel

Would you mind sharing why you toyed with the idea of deleting and defacing the pages?

Because I Can? The usual HackerAttitude. Of course, the fun is lost when you think about it, since apparently AnyoneCan?. The fun is instead there when you create. (probably not Nigel)

There is fun also in finding and exploiting a hole; however, it's less fun if it ends up being harmful.

That's it. It is important for script kiddies to feel that they have some experience to 'hack' something. In the case of Wiki, everyone can harm - and therefore this becomes boring. But I still wonder why there were no attempts to write a script that will basically go through wiki pages and delete them... It's too simple for some evil man not to write it...

Interestingly, MIT [http://web.mit.edu/acs/insider/summer95.html#comboeffectively] used the same policy with root passwords on public machines (or did at one time). At one point, they were taped right to the monitor of the node. No challenge = no incentive. Perhaps this comment belongs in BecauseEyeCan??

The world seen through news and all kinds of protections systems inserted in the software and other systems has gotten me rather disappointed over humankind, but seeing WikiWikiWeb gives me a warm feeling in my heart. -- TomiBgtMantyla

Changes show up in RecentChanges or RecentEdits, and there are lots of people checking those pages regularly. It won't take too long to notice FrontPage (or other) disses.

Suggestion: Back it all up occasionally just in case. Some people silently do this. Some of them provide WikiMirrors. Is the entire database ever backed up?

Yes... 7 days of daily backups are available at all times.

The "some" people only back up a small fragment of the site. The entire database is about 140MB. Don't expect Ward to restore the site from random social changes either, as it's all part of the show. If you want to do something productive, FixYourWiki.

Some people back up all wiki pages incrementally and constantly, and have a complete set of pages.

One of the MIT sites (on GreekTragedy) lost most of their site a while back, but they were able to recover it from the GoogleCache.

This doesn't serve as a justification for not having backups.

Normally, vandals are looking for things to vandalize against some law or other regulation. The fact that it is so easy to vandalize Wiki wouldn't make anybody proud of his attempt.

WhyNobodyDeletesWiki? For the same reason WhyNobodyGraffitiOnArt.

I believe the reason why people do not delete or erase postings is they have a belief (or better yet... an understanding) that the Internet can be something more than it is at the moment. True communication requires listening to and reflecting on another's comments... as long as the other person's input is reasonable. Yelling, screaming, kicking and punching are NOT part of a reasonable person's normal way of communicating. Nor are anonymous heckling or crank phone calls. With current forums and online communities, anyone can drop an anonymous post, rant, rave, curse, swear and even threaten without any consequences. The ultimate venting grounds for cowards and rednecks. Get emotional, compose a post and hit enter. Oh.....if only life were that easy. Good thing it isn't.

Basically, it comes down to this. Reasonable people who would like to exchange ideas and thoughts with others KNOW the Net can provide this and are willing to give it a try.

-- Ray M.

"Human thought is a virus" (so sayeth The Man). I despair of this wiki stuff. It just creates a greater mash of text that must have valuable life-hours thrown at it to find anything meaningful.

Someone just changed the word "sperm" to "thoughts" in the above sentence. I immediately started to undo the change, but then decided to comment on my impulse. I get a bigger thrill out of thwarting vandals than I do from vandalizing (and I get a pretty big thrill from vandalizing, even bigger than opening a fresh jar of herring.) Wiki works because it's fun to put the kibosh on miscreants. -- EricHodges ^_^

The fact that you get given the whole page in editable text makes you feel responsible.

"People appreciate the responsibility." Amen. Classic ReversePsychology? - forbid them to do it and they'll go out of their way; simply trust them to act as intelligent and reasonable beings, and the fun ("rush"?) goes right out of it. Besides which, most people, on some level, actually are intelligent and reasonable beings, however much all the pessimists find it hard to believe.

The wiki concept is very interesting. It appeals to the good in people because everybody has the chance to destroy or to add content. After a moment of thinking, most of us will find out that it is more fun sharing free thoughts with the rest of the world than deleting the work and thoughts of a lot of others. I'm thinking about starting a wiki site within the organization where I work so there is a forum for the creative and free mind. -- Erik [Erik who?]

Maybe these pages, and all pages in the wiki, are a reflection of the attitude of its members. It makes sense that comments will only survive if they are acceptable to all visitors. Any GOBBY comments can be removed, presumably as can any negative actions, (deletions). If wiki was a haven for gobshites, its nature would not be as friendly as it is now. Long may it remain a safe place to visit. Regards to all. -- Brian from Plymouth, UK.

The real reason that Wiki hasn't run into major script kiddies and defacement yet is deceptive: There're more interesting targets out there. But eventually, those days will end, and wikis that are not planning for it via revision history, disallowing fast changes from some IP's, etc. will be in trouble when it does come around.

At the moment, Wiki is small and likely to stay that way because it's not that handy in terms of "wiki only" type sites. The concept of multiple user collaboration on documents is picking up though. I've seen many wikis used as documentation efforts for, say, hardware hacking sites. Where you have lots of people working on the same type of thing and need a quick FAQ type of method that can be easily altered. These types of things do fall prey to defacement and deletion. Revision history keeps that from being fatal to the data contained therein, esp. as anyone can read the revisions and restore the data, along with then having someone in control ban the IP's causing the problems.

Some thoughts on the issue - http://blog.taragana.com/index.php?p=90

I think the key damage potential is from spammers who can use a script to regularly insert hyperlinks to phentermine & texas holdem type of sites. As the wiki is googled, it is a good way to increase google rank. Not to mention that there may be people actually looking for phentermine here ;) There is a strong business interest here in polluting such sites with link spam. Look at similar attempts to insert links (flood) in blog sites. And again CAPTCHA may ultimately have to be implemented here. And then something for visually impaired.

-- AngsumanChakraborty

I read this in an old book, and I think it accurately describes this issue.

When everyone else is cooperating, acting like a jerk gets real old real fast.

It doesn't work, not on this site anyway. WikiPedia has pages blanked all the time, but it's easy to revert"

No, the software here doesn't let you blank the page in the first place. Ok, I guess it is easy to delete, but would-be vandals would have to look up the instructions first.

It won't inconvenience anyone - most people will keep their own backups, and even if they don't, Wiki is meant to help people do what they want. If deleting is what they want, Wiki has been successful. There is enjoyment in the writing of the Wikipage, and no hacker can take that away. Indeed!

Why delete, if you can do?

I hope, that we do not have to add

For the list of reasons (see TragedyOfTheCommons).

A curious mind wants to know: What if you know of a Wiki page that was created that nobody uses and is no longer necessary? Is there a way to delete that page?

See HowToDeletePages.

I'd say the biggest reason you haven't seen massive trashings is because most folks haven't ever even heard of wikis. Heck, the first time I heard of them was last night and I've been in the IT field for over 10 years! As soon as they get popular, they'll be defaced. I'm sure it's already happening, the behind the scenes folks/scripts must be VERY busy doing frequent restores of actual data. I'd say at least once a day for non-popular sites, and upwards of several times per hour on well-known or "popular" wikis. Why deface when anyone can edit?

I don't think that deleting is the real problem here - it's easily seen and fixed. If I'd try to hit Wikipedia or any other open Wiki, I'd create a lot of UserLogins? distributed over the next months (about a few hundred, per script, at random intervals via different IP-adresses). Then I'd use a script to make random changes at random pages - also via script and also over a few months. So a few hundred user logins under my control do tiny changes (switch a word here or there, delete a sentence, make some spelling errors). This would raise the noise ratio in the wiki by a significant amount, especially if there is no easy way to decide which of the thousands of edits that occur regularly in a Wiki like Wikipedia are done by real users or my script-users. In the end, it's a wave of edits, by untiring computers against a community which must try to find the fake users. I don't know if this would work, but I guess it would have a chance of succeeding. I suppose given a motivated cracker and a few hundred slave-computers under his command and Wikipedia might get a serious blow.

What you're describing is a fundamental weakness of all open user-driven communities. The usual solution is to attempt to validate all users as human - but one cannot automate the TuringTest. Each layer of validation and captcha adds more frustration to the user. Open communities are beautiful but suicidal - whether by spam (for profit) or vandalism (for malicious fun) all of them eventually have to build walls and barbed wire, or be crushed. For example, witness the present slow death of WouterVanOortmerssen's Cube/Sauerbraten community - an opensource game in the grip of cheaters, with a forum being assaulted by SpamBots? and script kiddies. All just to ruin some coder's hobby. Humans Suck. -- MartinZarate

See also: WikiFilterist

Yes, many humans suck (greed, self-interest, war, criminality, etc.). But those few who live in Enlightenment, whether they got there through spiritual practice, religious grace, or just accidentally, demonstrate a depth of natural love and caring that must be witnessed to be believed. I believe there are more enlightened people alive now than at any other time in modern human history, and they have much to teach us. There is a real chance that we can have a sane world in just another few generations if we are open-minded enough to listen and decide for ourselves. -- David Spector

I believe it's the nature of evolution and human beings that a certain percent are going to be overly aggressive out of nature and this will never go away. We cannot pretend like they don't exist and must find civilized but firm ways to deal with them.

"It's almost always easier to destroy than it is to create. This is the reality of the world! We've probably all gone through phases in our lives when we like to destroy. Haven't you ever broken a window, or something, just for the fun of it? (Probably not when it was your window, or if you'd have to fix it.) But, as we get older it seems like a silly thing to do, and it becomes much more fun to create."


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