Jimmy Wales Summons Librarians to Helps Improve Wikipedia

"Librarians are not engaging with the academies," said Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. "If libraries throughout the world formed regional groups and made an effort, they would be playing a positive role within Wikipedia. The job of the librarian is about highlighting the weaknesses and strengths of information." Read Mark Chillingworth's Information World Review article for more and check out Phil Bradley's thoughts. [JH]

February 4, 2008 in Wikipedia | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Just Released Wikipedia: The Missing Manual

Wikipedia: The Missing Manual
by John Broughton

List Price: $29.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Pogue Press (January 25, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0596515162
ISBN-13: 978-0596515164

Book Description: Want to be part of the largest group-writing project in human history? Learn how to contribute to Wikipedia, the user-generated online reference for the 21st century. Considered more popular than eBay, Microsoft.com, and Amazon.com, Wikipedia generates approximately 30,000 requests per second, or about 2.5 billion per day. It's become the first point of reference for people the world over who need a fact fast.

If you want to jump on board and add to the content, Wikipedia: The Missing Manual is your first-class ticket. Wikipedia has more than 6 million entries in 250 languages, over 2 million articles in the English language alone. Each one is written and edited by an ever-changing cast of volunteer editors. You can be one of them. With the tips in this book, you'll quickly learn how to get more out of -- and put more into -- this valuable online resource.

Wikipedia: The Missing Manual gives you practical advice on creating articles and collaborating with fellow editors, improving existing articles, and working with the Wikipedia community to review new articles, mediate disputes, and maintain the site. Up to the challenge? This one-of-a-kind book includes:

You also learn about other Wikimedia services, such as Wikinews, Wikiquote, and Wikibooks. Wikipedia depends on people just like you to help the site grow and maintain the highest quality. With Wikipedia: The Missing Manual, you get all the tools you need to be part of the crew.

January 24, 2008 in Wikipedia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Belated Happy Birthday Wikipedia

Wikipedia turned 7 years old on January 15th. Hat tip to LISNews. [JH]

January 22, 2008 in Wikipedia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

University of Minnesota Report on Wikipedia Authorship and Vandalism

From the press release:

"An ongoing study by University of Minnesota researchers has revealed that only one-tenth of 1 percent of Wikipedia editors account for nearly half the content value of the free online encyclopedia, as measured by readership. In addition, the computer science and engineering faculty and students have discovered that few edits inflict damage on the content and damage is typically fixed quickly.

The results of their study are reported in the academic research paper titled Creating, Destroying and Restoring Value in Wikipedia."


December 3, 2007 in Wikipedia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wikipedia Authorship and Vandalism

From the press release:

"An ongoing study by University of Minnesota researchers has revealed that only one-tenth of 1 percent of Wikipedia editors account for nearly half the content value of the free online encyclopedia, as measured by readership. In addition, the computer science and engineering faculty and students have discovered that few edits inflict damage on the content and damage is typically fixed quickly.

The results of their study are reported in the academic research paper titled Creating, Destroying and Restoring Value in Wikipedia."   [RJ]

November 16, 2007 in Wikipedia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Wikirage lists the pages in Wikipedia which are receiving the most edits per unique editor over various periods of time. Popular people in the news, the latest fads, and the hottest video games can be quickly identified by monitor this social phenomenon. [JH]

September 18, 2007 in Wikipedia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What's the buzz on ... corporate Wikipedia editing?

Each week, CNN.com takes a look at trends in the blogosphere by tracking one topic. Recently, the focus was on the editing of Wikipedia articles by corporations and other entities. See our earlier posts See Who's Editing Wikipedia (Diebold, CIA) Using Wikipedia Scanner, Law Firms One-Up Each Other Behind the Scenes Through Wikipedia Edits, and Federal Agencies Modify Wikipedia Entries for Dubious Purposes.

From the article:

Bloggers engaged in mostly negative conversations about Wikipedia editing by corporations and other organizations, accounting for fully two-thirds of all comments. Only 4 percent had positive opinions, and 29 percent maintained a neutral stance. Many said corporate editing is morally questionable and a form of propaganda despite Wikipedia's open-source spirit. Overall, bloggers seemed to be unclear about whether or not the editing was done by public-relations staff or others within organizations, but said employees within corporations have tainted viewpoints. Those with negative viewpoints were split between blaming the open format and the entities responsible for the editing. Some went so far as to say that news of corporate editing isn't very surprising and that the controversy has finally provided "proof" that Wikipedia is not a fully credible information source. Others congratulated Griffith for his invention. Some bloggers also highlighted that corporations aren't the only organizations who have been accused of being involved in Wikipedia edits; government, religious, nonprofit, news and political organizations were also mentioned.

September 6, 2007 in Wikipedia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Federal Agencies Modify Wikipedia Entries for Dubious Purposes

Ralph Smith at fedsmith.com writes about federal agencies modifying Wikipedia entries:

Searching through the changes made on equipment within several agencies, it is obvious that public affairs offices or agency experts are working to keep name changes, organizational changes or descriptions of agency programs and projects up to date. That, presumably, is part of their job and useful to the public. But what other changes, if any, are being made through the use of government computers?

Read Using Federal Government Equipment to Modify Wikipedia for the "other changes" he uncovered.

Hat tip to Dru Stevenson, editor of Administrative Law Prof Blog. [JH]

September 5, 2007 in Wikipedia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

See Who's Editing Wikipedia (Diebold, CIA) Using Wikipedia Scanner

Interesting article from Wired: 

"On November 17th, 2005, an anonymous Wikipedia user deleted 15 paragraphs from an article on e-voting machine-vendor Diebold, excising an entire section critical of the company's machines. While anonymous, such changes typically leave behind digital fingerprints offering hints about the contributor, such as the location of the computer used to make the edits.

In this case, the changes came from an IP address reserved for the corporate offices of Diebold itself. And it is far from an isolated case. A new data-mining service launched Monday traces millions of Wikipedia entries to their corporate sources, and for the first time puts comprehensive data behind longstanding suspicions of manipulation, which until now have surfaced only piecemeal in investigations of specific allegations.

Wikipedia Scanner -- the brainchild of Cal Tech computation and neural-systems graduate student Virgil Griffith -- offers users a searchable database that ties millions of anonymous Wikipedia edits to organizations where those edits apparently originated, by cross-referencing the edits with data on who owns the associated block of internet IP addresses."  [RJ]

"Inspired by news last year that Congress members' offices had been editing their own entries, Griffith says he got curious, and wanted to know whether big companies and other organizations were doing things in a similarly self-interested vein.

"Everything's better if you do it on a huge scale, and automate it," he says with a grin.

This database is possible thanks to a combination of Wikipedia policies and (mostly) publicly available information.

The online encyclopedia allows anyone to make edits, but keeps detailed logs of all these changes. Users who are logged in are tracked only by their user name, but anonymous changes leave a public record of their IP address.

Share Your Sleuthing!

Cornered any companies polishing up their Wikipedia entries? Spotted any government spooks rewriting history? Try Virgil Griffith's Wikipedia Scanner yourself, then submit your finds and vote on other readers' discoveries here.
The organization also allows downloads of the complete Wikipedia, including records of all these changes.

Griffith thus downloaded the entire encyclopedia, isolating the XML-based records of anonymous changes and IP addresses. He then correlated those IP addresses with public net-address lookup services such as ARIN, as well as private domain-name data provided by IP2Location.com.

The result: A database of 34.4 million edits, performed by 2.6 million organizations or individuals ranging from the CIA to Microsoft to Congressional offices, now linked to the edits they or someone at their organization's net address has made.

Some of this appears to be transparently self-interested, either adding positive, press release-like material to entries, or deleting whole swaths of critical material."

August 28, 2007 in Wikipedia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wikipedia, Best Free Online Encyclopedia

Pandia Search Engine News reviews Wikipedia and the following competing free online encyclopedias:

The article concludes that "Wikipedia has no serious competitor on the net as regards free encyclopedia. MSN’s Encarta is worth a try, also in its free version, but all the other online encyclopedias we have tested are not useful for serious analytical work." [JH]

August 20, 2007 in Wikipedia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

New Program Color-codes Text in Wikipedia Entries for Trustworthiness

From the press release:

"The online reference site Wikipedia enjoys immense popularity despite nagging doubts about the reliability of entries written by its all-volunteer team. A new program developed at the University of California, Santa Cruz, aims to help with the problem by color-coding an entry's individual phrases based on contributors' past performance.

The program analyzes Wikipedia's entire editing history--nearly two million pages and some 40 million edits for the English-language site alone--to estimate the trustworthiness of each page. It then shades the text in deepening hues of orange to signal dubious content. A 1,000-page demonstration version is already available on a web page operated by the program's creator, Luca de Alfaro, associate professor of computer engineering at UCSC."  [RJ]

"Other sites already employ user ratings as a measure of reliability, but they typically depend on users' feedback about each other. This method makes the ratings vulnerable to grudges and subjectivity. The new program takes a radically different approach, using the longevity of the content itself to learn what information is useful and which contributors are the most reliable.

"The idea is very simple," de Alfaro said. "If your contribution lasts, you gain reputation. If your contribution is reverted [to the previous version], your reputation falls." De Alfaro will speak about his new program this Saturday, August 4, at the Wikimania conference in Taipei, Taiwan.

The program works from a user's history of edits to calculate his or her reputation score. The trustworthiness of newly inserted text is computed as a function of the reputation of its author. As subsequent contributors vet the text, their own reputations contribute to the text's trustworthiness score. So an entry created by an unknown author can quickly gain (or lose) trust after a few known users have reviewed the pages.

A benefit of calculating author reputation in this way is that de Alfaro can test how well his reliability scores work. He does so by comparing users' reliability scores with how long their subsequent edits last on the site. So far, the program flags as suspect more than 80 percent of edits that turn out to be poor. It's not overly accusatory, either: 60 to 70 percent of the edits it flags do end up being quickly corrected by the Wikipedia community.

The exhaustive analysis of Wikipedia's seven-year edit history takes de Alfaro's desktop PC about a week to complete. At present he is working from copies of the site that Wikipedia periodically distributes. Once the initial backlog of edits is calculated, however, de Alfaro said that updating reliability scores in real time should be fairly simple.

While the program prominently displays text trustworthiness, de Alfaro favors keeping hidden the reputation ratings of individual users. Displaying reputations could lead to competitiveness that would detract from Wikipedia's collaborative culture, he said, and could demoralize knowledgeable contributors whose scores remain low simply because they post infrequently and on few topics.

"We didn't want to modify the experience of a user going in to Wikipedia," de Alfaro said. "It is very relaxing right now and we didn't want to modify what has worked so well and is so welcoming to the new user."

De Alfaro's color-coded Wikipedia pages can be found on his demonstration site."

August 16, 2007 in Wikipedia | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Top 7 Alternatives to Wikipedia

Jimmy Atkinson has posted a feature article at OEDb titled Top 7 Alternatives to Wikipedia. In it, he profiles the following:

  1. Scholarpedia
  2. Citizendium
  3. Encyclopedia Britannica Online
  4. MSN Encarta
  5. Infoplease
  6. Conservapedia
  7. Uncyclopedia

Check it out! [JH]

June 13, 2007 in Wikipedia | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pew Study Finds that 36% of American Adult Internet Users Consult Wikipedia

New Report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project:

"More than a third of American adult internet users (36%) consult the citizen-generated online encyclopedia Wikipedia, according to a new nationwide survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. And on a typical day in the winter of 2007, 8% of online Americans consulted Wikipedia. There has been ongoing controversy about the reliability of articles on Wikipedia. Still, the Pew Internet Project survey shows that Wikipedia is far more popular among the well-educated than it is among those with lower levels of education. For instance, 50% of those with at least a college degree consult the site, compared with 22% of those with a high school diploma. And 46% of those age 18 and older who are current full- or part-time students have used Wikipedia, compared with 36% of the overall internet population."  [RJ]

May 25, 2007 in Wikipedia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Citing to Wikipedia

Check out what one practicing attorney has to say about this issue. See Tami D. Cowden's Citations to Wikipedia May be Hip, But Are They Reliable?

Today's quiz question: Has the US Supreme Court ever cited to a web publication in one of the Court's opinions? [JH]

May 14, 2007 in Wikipedia | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What open access research can do for Wikipedia

John Willinsky's study, What open access research can do for Wikipedia, examines the degree to which Wikipedia entries cite or reference research and scholarship, and whether that research and scholarship is generally available to readers. Working on the assumption that where Wikipedia provides links to research and scholarship that readers can readily consult, it increases the authority, reliability, and educational quality of this popular encyclopedia, this study examines Wikipedia's use of open access research and scholarship, that is, peer-reviewed journal articles that have been made freely available online. [JH]

April 6, 2007 in Wikipedia | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wikipedia and the Future of the Past

In Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past, Roy Rosenzweig notes the following about the professional practice of history:

These characteristics lead to the following observation:

"A historical work without owners and with multiple, anonymous authors is thus almost unimaginable in our professional culture. Yet, quite remarkably, that describes ... Wikipedia. ... History is probably the category encompassing the largest number of articles."

Can History be Open Source? Are Wikipedians good historians?
Rosenzweig's article seeks to answer some basic questions about history on Wikipedia. How did it develop? How does it work? How good is the historical writing? What are the potential implications for our practice as scholars, teachers, and purveyors of the past to the general public? Can history be open source? Are Wikipedians good historians?

Rosenzweig's evaluation of the athority of Wikipedia is one of the very best I've read. Strongly recommended.

Cross-posted on Law Librarian Blog. Hat tip to Ron Jones. [JH]

March 21, 2007 in Wikipedia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wikipedia Credibility and the Courts

Check out Mark Giangrande's post, Wikipedia Credibility and the Courts, on Tech Law Prof Blog. He reports that 45 federal courts have cited the Wikipedia, most as a passing reference to a factual point, rather than as a final authority.  28 state courts have also cited the web site. [JH]

March 12, 2007 in Wikipedia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lots of Edits by Lots of People Improves Quality of Wikipedia Entries

In The More, the Wikier, Philip Ball reports on three groups of researchers who claim to have untangled the process by which many Wikipedia entries achieve their impressive accuracy. They say that the best articles are those that are highly edited by many different contributors. [JH]

March 6, 2007 in Wikipedia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Who's Citing Wikipedia?

Courts. The New York Times reports that beginning in 2004, more than 100 opinion have cited Wikipedia, including 13 from federal appeals courts but not SCOTUS. But should they? Here's the roll call: Yea: Posner; Nay: Sunstein. More on Law Blog.

Law Reviews. Using Westlaw's JLR database, TaxProf Blog reports that 545 articles cited Wikipedia. An additional 125 articles mentioned Wikipedia but do not cite it as authority.

[JH & RJ]

February 6, 2007 in Wikipedia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack