One of the biggest complaints on Helium – besides rating of course – is the leapfrog feature.  The common argument is that the articles are yours and you should be able to edit them as you see fit.  I’m going to state something that will likely be misinterpreted and unpopular – they are not.

First, yes, you own own rights to the article – we license it non-exclusively.  What I mean to say is that we license the first draft you give us – if you decide to change the article, it is necessary for us to make sure that it is deserving of the merits it has received to date.

Why? Simple – spam and vandalism. Because of the auto approve policy of items we have very little control over what goes on Helium.  Our rating and flagging systems are used to rank quality and to weed out any offensive articles that are submitted.

Now, we realized early on that we had a need for an edit feature – but we had the conundrum based on the fact that we had passed on certain status and recognition to an article based off it’s current version.  So allowing another version to simply assume that status and recognition without some sort or review process was a no go – the simple fact was it would make it too easy for someone to get a #1 article and then simply swap it out for something offensive, self-promoting, and/or spam.  Would it eventually be auto-corrected by the rating and flagging systems naturally – yes.  But until it was, it would look extremely bad for the site and the community.

We also realized that just as with submissions there would be a ton of revisions posted and we simply didn’t have the manpower to review each manually.  We are a very small shop and the community was growing exponentially in relation to our size – the problem would only get worse.

Hence, the birth of leapfrog.

We already had a system – rating – that sorted for quality.  We could use that as a peer review.  Originally, it was a very stringent process but has since been simplified to the point that it’s basically a check for abuse by a minimum number of the community.

So in answer to the question to “Why can’t I just edit my article as I see fit, it is my work after all!” the fact is, again, the copy on Helium is not – we licensed that copy.  And by putting our name and reputation on it along with the status we’ve conveyed via rating and ranking we have to maintain that quality level by peer review – leapfrog.

Can it be a pain sometime? Yes.  Does it fail when it shouldn’t sometimes?  Yes.  Is it perfect?  No.  But nothing is.  We’ve seen – the last numbers I’ve seen at least – that something like 90% of leapfrogs pass.

Might it be replaced someday by a real peer review if we had members of the community willing to do that?  Sure.  But that’s not something we can count on just yet.  It would be a huge workload.

I hope that helps.