I picked this up via a news posting from Computing magazine: Wikipedia considers limiting user access. It seems that they are considering having trusted users that can edit Wikipedia pages straight away but other, newer users, will have to earn their trust as initially their edits will have to wait to be moderated.
It seems as though Wikipedia is caught between a rock and a hard place. One of the fundamental ideas of Wikipedia is that it is "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit..." and yet, thanks to the actions of a few numpties, they are having to re-consider this most basic of principles.
Perhaps Wikipedia are victims of their own success. They are so well known that they attract the numpties who are more interested in hindrance than help and they are so big, that there are quieter corners where acts of vandalism can sit unnoticed for a while.
Wikipedia's dilema led me to think again about the perenial debate on restricting access to the Internet in schools. Rather than just trying to block everyone from accessing sections of the Internet, would a trusted user system be a better way to go? Teachers would be trusted users and have (more or less) free access to all areas of the Internet. Pupils would earn increasingly trusted status as they get older and as they demonstrate a history of responsible behaviour. Would this satisfy schools' desire (need?) to protect the young people in their care while allowing appropriate use without overly restrictive blocking policies? To be honest, I'm not sure. I think we could end up with a system that is complex, clumsy and not much better than what we have just now. And of course, the untrustworthy will find ways round the system anyway (as they do at the moment!).
Final thoughts. I described the discussion of Internet restrictions in schools as a "perenial debate" but I wonder how wide this debate really is. For example, some recent discussions I've observed are Ewan McIntosh enlisting Barack Obama as an ally in the fight for openness, ("Yes we can!"), a consideration of whether the Internet should be instant or filtered, a fairy story and a wiki considering what education will look like in 2020. I suspect that it is a small minority of teachers, the already Internet/Web 2.0 savvy teachers, that are getting frustrated. Is it an issue that concerns the majority? How widely is it debated and discussed by people in a position to bring about changes to policy and practice at an authority or national level?
As usual, a blog post with more questions than answers.