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User:JWSchmidt/Blog/10 March 2007

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JWSchmidt's Wikiversity blog
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Verified credentials
Jimmy Wales again raised the issue of credentials verification for Wikipedians who wish to claim that they have credentials. The first thing to say about such a system is that it would be voluntary. Nobody is talking about making this a BIG DEAL for the Wikimedia Foundation. In fact, it is clear that the Wikimedia Foundation is not going to get involved with any credential verification process for typical Wikipedians (see). The Foundation does have a process for verification of the real world identity of those few members of the community who are given access to information covered by the Foundation's privacy policy. However, any credential verification process for typical Wikipedians will have to be run by the community.

The second thing to be said is that there are really two limited reasons for such a credential verification process. The first reason is to try to prevent future problems in which a Wikipedian falsely claims to have a set of credentials. It has been suggested that Wikipedia have a template saying "this claim of credentials has not been verified" that could be placed on any user page where a Wikipedian claims to have a set of credentials. The second reason to verify credentials is the original reason given by Jimmy two years ago; as a way to let the world know that there are experts who edit Wikipedia.

But how can a community of volunteer wiki editors verify the identities of their fellow wiki editors? I am most concerned with verification of the identities of wiki editors who have a professional website, particularly in the .edu domain. I wonder if it would be possible to make modifications to the "Email this user" system in order to create a semi-automated system for verifying that wiki users are the owners of .edu email address. I'm not sure how hard it is to fake access to a .edu email address (see), but in any case I'm not sure that verification of a .edu email address is itself very useful. What is really needed is a webpage at a .edu website that lists the credentials of a person. If that person wants to be identified as editing Wikipedia as user FooBar, they that fact could be included on their professional credentials webpage. Again, I'm not sure if it is possible to fake the control of a URL in the .edu domain.

Relevance to Wikiversity
If Wikiversity does develop a system that allows for some editing outside of NPOV, then there will be a need for participants who can help guide the community in making sure that good scholarship is used. Sometimes it takes an expert to spot spoofs and bogus research methodologies. Can most people have confidence in Wikiversity without some formal evidence that there are experts helping with the project?