Thursday, August 16, 2007

Who is Editing Wikipedia?

In a short span of time Wikipedia has become the primary source of information for lot of people including me. Nowadays, I first visit wikipedia to find information on almost anything from Tamil to Madras bashai, everything seems to be profiled here.

One of the primary reasons for its stupendous growth and acceptance is that is all user generated content in a generally accepted framework. So users around the globe use and provide enriched content which otherwise would have been difficult and expensive to generate.

But then allowing the users to edit the content also has a downside and that has to do the the quality and authenticity of the content. Wikipedia has put in place some governance mechanisms while preserving the overall collaborative concept. One of the recent innovative additions is a tool called wikipedia scanner.
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
While the scanner cannot identify the individuals who edited, it can zoom in on the network used to make the changes. Look at what the scanner unearthed:
  1. CIA network used to edit the profile of Iranian President
  2. US Democratic party network used to edit the profile of Rush Limbaugh (popular right wing radio talk show host)
  3. Vatican network used to edit the profile of Jerry Adams (Sinn Fenn leader)
  4. Diebold network used to delete information from the company's own profile.
While this kind of scanning will check people editing content with malicious intent to a some extent. What is really the mainstay of wikipedia is the self regulation and community policing. Like when someone using Diebold network deleted passages they thought embarrassing to the company, it was quickly restored back by another contributor who rebuked the previous editor with a pointed warning "Please stop removing content from Wikipedia. It is considered vandalism".

update # 1 - Rush Limbaugh spelling corrected..