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The choice: Anonymous users or the Message Wall

User blog

TLDR summary: We need to make a decision about allowing people without accounts to edit here by September 18, 2021.



Fandom made a lot of changes across all wikis in the last year to fix problems and to get their wikis to line up with the current version of the MediaWiki software wikis run on. The side effect is that any wiki that has the Message Wall enabled, like this one, can no longer talk to people that don't have an account.

That means whenever there's a problem, there's no way to communicate with that person without an admin blocking them. First, that's not always appropriate. Admins should try to talk with a person first to make them aware of any policies or procedures that say they should do something different. Setting a block should only be done to curb poor behavior.

Second, even if the person without an account sees the reason why they were blocked, there's no way to respond. The only allowable option is to let the blocked person edit their User Talk page. Those are shut off when the Message Wall is on. It might roll over to the Message Wall, but only users with an account get a Message Wall. Again, no way for anonymous users to respond. They'd have to wait until the block expires before they can do anything.

Third, Fandom created a policy that requires wikis to list the reasons why they might have to block people so it's out in the open and is fair. Blocking someone just to say "look at this" probably violates that policy.

It's put us in a position where an admin may have to set unfair blocks on people.


After looking at this problem for a few months, there are only two choices:

  1. Shut off the Message Wall so anonymous users can keep editing and go back to having User Talk pages that you edit like a regular page.
  2. Keep the Message Wall but turn on the function that makes having an account required to edit here.

Option 1 has several drawbacks. If the wiki had User Talk pages before the Message Walls was enabled, it should get those User Talk pages back. I have no idea what will happen to anything that was on the Message Wall. Those may be gone forever. Plus, the Message Wall is designed to function closer to how other social media websites work, so a lot of people might be more used to leaving messages this way.

From an administrative standpoint, Message Walls aren't as good as a User Talk page because there's limited maintenance (editing) capabilities and once you delete a message or reply, it's gone forever. It can't be brought back, as far as I can see.

Option 2 means we'll lose a lot of editors unless they decide to create an account. I know there's reasons why people might not want to create one. But if the main reason is being anonymous makes you feel safer, it doesn't work that way. It's actually less safe because the IP address your computer, smartphone or tablet is always visible. With an account, the average person won't see it.


I'm the only administrator here. I could make the decision right now. If this was a wiki about a TV show for young kids, the decision would be easy because shutting off anonymous editing would make the wiki compliant with Fandom's policies to adhere to the COPPA law. Or I could take the view that it would probably reduce the amount of vandalism and false/made-up information, but if someone wants to cause problems, they won't let needing an account stop them.

What I'd like is to get input from the rest of the community about what they want to see happen: allow anonymous users to stay or require an account to edit. You can still read the wiki without an account.

You have until the evening of Saturday, September 18, 2021 to respond. I want everyone to consider this carefully. The way the Message Wall has changed this last year, if the vote is to shut if off so accounts aren't required, the Wall probably should stay off. Flipping back and forth could create a big mess. If we change our minds in the future and go back to the Message Wall, then requiring an account has to be turned on.


Just in case people with accounts might not be able to leave a comment here, I've created a duplicate of this message in the Forums area: Forum:The choice: Anonymous users or the Message Wall. Everyone will be able to edit it and I'll check both.

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