The beginning of this week saw heated debates which have already been labelled a Wikipedia Edit war over the attempts to remove the terms ‘permissionless’ and ‘bitcoin’ from the blockchain entry on Wikipedia.
The revision history on the website shows two particular terms standing out - ‘bitcoin’ and ‘permissionless’.
Collaborative knowledge creation
Wikipedia is often the first site for getting quick information on various topics. As the interest in the term ‘blockchain’ has been quite vivid lately, it is of the highest importance to provide a clear explanation of the concept to all interested out there. Wikipedia provides information on what the blockchain actually is.
The community nature of the platform means that all of the information that is stored there is contributed by volunteers, who have the rights to add and edit articles.
When editors disagree about the content of a page repeatedly, they can override each other’s contributions, sometimes making dubious and often constant additions and edits.
Permissionless vs. permissioned
The disagreement between editors this time concerned the use of terms ‘permissioned’ and ‘permissionless’ and their application to the concept of blockchain.
The incident caught the attention of Jon Matonis, one of the most prominent members of the Bitcoin and blockchain community.
Matonis expresses his concern on Twitter:
“There’s a Wikipedia edit war now going on to remove terms ‘permissionless’ and ‘bitcoin’ from the blockchain entry.”
Permissionless, or public accessibility, stands at the core of blockchain technology and is used to power the Bitcoin network, and most digital currency enthusiasts seem to be aware of this fact, therefore they see little to no sense to remove this type of information from its Wikipedia entry.
Wikipedia editing policy
According to Wikipedia’s editing policy, any edit warring can lead to certain sanctions.
The platform uses a bright-line rule called the three-revert rule (3RR). It states that an editor cannot perform more than three reverts on a single page within a 24-hour period, whether it involves adding the same or different material.
An edit or a series of edits that undo other editors’ actions wholly or partially is considered a revert, which is often followed by a block of an edit warrior.
If the edit war develops, participants are invited to discuss the issue on the talk page and try to come to a consensus, which, however, did not happen in this particular case.
Sanctions were imposed against the user behind the incident, registered as Satoshilong. He was blocked from Wikipedia shortly after he started edit warring.
There is information that earlier this year he was trying to advertise his own products on the blockchain page on Wikipedia.
One drop creates a rainstorm
Several debates spurred over the issue whether permissioned designs can be classified as ‘blockchain designs’.
Bitcoin community member Dooglus says:
“Sorry to say it, but I tend to agree with the current version of the page. Blockchains can be permissioned or permissionless.”
Coinosphere expresses his concerns of whether those permissioned blockchain designs are commercially useful:
“Permissioned blockchains are all but worthless.... But they're blockchains. As long as each block has a hash of the block before it, that's literally a chain of blocks, no matter what the permission settings are.”
Various Bitcoin community members considered the incident an attempt to discredit the term blockchain in its relation to digital currency.
The whole dispute took a slightly different direction recalling an infinite argument of what came first - the chicken or egg.
John Whelan says on Twitter:
“So what? Before cars there were wagons and the first automobile was not the only one.”
Jon Matonis replies:
“Blockchains didn't exist until advent of Bitcoin. Shared ledgers (lacking immutable consensus) go much farther back w/Oracle.”
‘This is disturbing’, say Bitcoin enthusiasts
With blockchain technology being a rather new and still developing phenomenon, a lot of questions about its nature, logic and applicability are yet to be answered, and they will certainly cause even more active debates in the future.
However, this is a very worrying incident for all blockchain technology enthusiasts, demonstrating only that incidents like this might happen with people misinterpreting things or trying to push their own hidden agenda when adding information or making edits to the existing content.
Obviously nothing can prevent anyone from attempts to sabotage development of the blockchain concept.