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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 June, 2005, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
Paper's 'wikitorial' trial halted
Image of a hand on a mouse
Wikis encourage people to collaboratively create and re-create a webpage
US newspaper, The Los Angeles Times, has temporarily ended its short-lived trial which gave readers the chance to edit its editorials on its website.

The online version of the paper started its "wikitorial" experiment last week. It was meant to give readers a "voice".

It was suspended after it was bombarded with inappropriate material. But the paper said it might try the idea again.

Wikis, from the Hawaiian "wiki wiki" meaning "quick", let people collectively change or add to webpages.

They have spawned collectively written encyclopedias, cookbooks and other publications.

In a statement, The LA Times said the wikitorial would stay offline while it looked at what happened and how to prevent it from happening again.

It said: "We thank the thousands of people who logged onto the Wikitorial in the right spirit."

'Bold experiment'

The plan for its editorial wiki was to explore a new form of opinion journalism, but the editors admitted it could end up as "an embarrassment".

The idea, which commentators have called "bold", was the brainchild of Michael Newman, deputy editor of the editorial page.

Screengrab of Wikipedia
Wikipedia has been running since 2001 and is in several languages
In Friday's edition, the paper said, in theory, a wikitorial would be "a constantly evolving collaboration among readers in a communal search for truth."

The editors planned to have the original published piece sit alongside the finished, collectively re-edited version.

Almost 1,000 people registered to take part in re-writing the paper's editorial, War and Consequences, on Friday.

Participants added internet links to various words in the editorial, while others proposed alternative views on the subject.

One split the editorial in half, which was welcomed by the editors. But they decided to end the trial early on Sunday after explicit photos were posted to the page.

Monitoring editors struggled to keep up with the influx of material that overwhelmed the site.

The unusual experiment was overseen by editors, as well as Wikipedia founder Jim Wales.

Wikis could be brought back to the website with a limited group of contributors or with a Times employee reviewing changes before they could be displayed, said the paper.

Matter of trust

The BBC's H2G2 website - Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - was put together in a similar fashion to wikis. It is written, edited and checked by ordinary web users.

Another successful example of a wiki is Wikipedia, which was started in 2001. It is a multi-lingual encyclopedia to which anyone can edit or post entries.

It currently contains about 602,900 articles on anything from silicon chips to kittens.

Wikis use open source software to collaboratively write and re-write what others have published.

Much of the idea relies on trust and small groups of informal editors who oversee edited entries to ensure accuracy and relevance.

Like weblogs, wikis have started to become popular online as people find new ways to create and experiment with reader-generated content.

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