A community is better off if it can forgive and forget past issues.

To support this, some wikis will use an imperfect VersionHistory. Old versions will expire from the archive (see KeptPages for an example). If you wrote aggravating stuff in the past, community members cannot easily dig up your statements and remind everybody of your past sins.

There is no guarantee that issues will be forgiven and forgotten, and there is always the outside world to consider: You will leave traces outside the community. There will always be people saving copies of your half-assed remarks somewhere, and putting them on their blogs, and there is the Google cache, and the Internet Archive, just as there are Usenet archives, and log bots on IRC posting the logs on the web… So there is no guarantee that it won’t get distributed. On the Internet, everybody does know you are a dog. 😉

The key point is that a technology solution only supports the social convention of forgiving and forgetting. It cannot guarantee it.

See also: DontHateThePlayer


KeptPages hinders forgiveness, because it makes forgiveness irreversible, so people are less likely to practice it. The primary concern should be to get stuff out of the current version, and that seems hard enough already.

The purpose of a FullVersionHistory? is deterrence, not vindictiveness: it leads to a CommunityOfGlassHouses. ForgiveAndForgetInWetware, not ForgiveAndForgetInSoftware. Reliable software histories allow you to defend against ContextSwizzling by allowing you to provide the context in which a comment was made.

For the average reader, the history is worthless gook. However, the HumbleRefactorer is aided by access to the gook, so that she can fix the current version, so that later readers don’t need or want to access the gook. This is almost as effective as auto-deleting the history… perhaps more so, because the existence of the history discourages RecordKeepers.

As long as the PageChurn doesn’t turn up old issues, you can consider them “forgotten,” I think. It doesn’t matter if they are truly deleted or still exist on a page in oblivion. – AlexSchroeder

The social interaction of site archives (the tarball) with KeptPages and ForgiveAndForget is an interesting dynamic. You never know at what point someone has branched the history. It could be--and it seems highly probable that--it might be done in the middle of a FlameWar or a inappropriate personal revelation or some other strangeness that should best be forgotten. But that doesn’t mean KeptPages is useless. For a long period it may be that no one will copy the site, in which case the technological forgetting will happen. – SunirShah

I get the point, but isn’t it against GNU FDL? This is what I read from wikipedia page about GNU FDL:

  Material licensed under the current version of the license can be used for any purpose, as long as the use meets certain conditions.
  * All previous authors of the work must be attributed.
  * All changes to the work must be logged.

However, GNU FDL text is not so clear:

  In addition, you must do these things in the Modified Version:
  B. List on the Title Page, as authors, one or more persons or entities
     responsible for authorship of the modifications in the Modified
     Version, together with at least five of the principal authors of the
     Document (all of its principal authors, if it has fewer than five),
     unless they release you from this requirement.
  I. Preserve the section Entitled "History", Preserve its Title, and add
     to it an item stating at least the title, year, new authors, and
     publisher of the Modified Version as given on the Title Page.  If
     there is no section Entitled "History" in the Document, create one
     stating the title, year, authors, and publisher of the Document as
     given on its Title Page, then add an item describing the Modified
     Version as stated in the previous sentence.

I have no idea how does that apply to wikis. Either the summary on wikipedia is wrong, or it was absolutely a wrong decision to use such approach on several wikis like oddmuse website.

Interesting question. The way I handle it with Oddmuse is that I never get rid of the log files. Thus, you can always find the contributors. First, follow the link to View other revisions, then follow the link to View all changes (the change log) or View contributors (the named contributors to the page). I’d say that this servers the spirit of the license: You can get the authors, and you can find the history…

O-oh! Somehow I assumed that the history is removed along with old revisions. Indeed, this way GNU FDL requirements are probably satisfied. However, this problem is still worth noting. For example, if you want to make a copy of another wiki, you have to copy these history files as well, otherwise you are violating the license.


Define external redirect: FullVersionHistory

EditNearLinks: SunirShah ForgiveAndForgetInSoftware VersionHistory ContextSwizzling HumbleRefactorer CommunityOfGlassHouses FlameWar RecordKeeper


The same page elsewhere: