The magic of Wikipedia works for just one reason: Care. Gobs and gobs of care. Hundreds of volunteers working tirelessly to fine-tune content and keep the garbage out. As long as there are more good guys than bad guys tending the garden, the system works. But the majority case, I’m finding, is that most wikis are not exactly self-healing. Most of the time, the original fear about wikis plays itself out, and a few bad apples spoil the bunch.
There are multiple wikis installed in Birdhouse customer accounts, and several others on the J-School server. As the admin of these two boxes, I’m the one who gets to hear about it when things go sour. And, sadly, over the past six months I’ve been asked to password-protect every single open wiki running on these two machines. The sad truth, as the LA Times discovered, is that once the spammers find you, it’s open season — a daily admin chore to weed out the crap. Only wikis with groups of good folks actively monitoring ultimately succeed. Wiki owners who think they can “set it and forget it” quickly learn otherwise.
It’s not a total wash though — much of the time, wiki owners care more about having a collaborative platform for a known group, rather than for the general public. And in those cases, password-protection or user registration is a fine solution.