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Who (Really) Writes Wikipedia 175

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the wisdom-of-wikis dept.
Nico ? La ! writes "Aaron Swartz questions Jimbo Wales' (Wikimedia's founder) belief and evangelized truth that only around 500 people are the most important contributors to Wikipedia. Whereas the truth is that they probably are the people who do the most editing. From the post: 'For example, the largest portion of the Anaconda article was written by a user who only made 2 edits to it (and only 100 on the entire site). By contrast, the largest number of edits were made by a user who appears to have contributed no text to the final article (the edits were all deleting things and moving things around).'" Which ultimately means that Wikipedia in some ways much more closely mimics a real encyclopedia, with many contributors writing the bulk of the content, but a small group massaging that text to insure standards compliance with the overall work. Interesting thing there and worth your time, although the super-computer thing doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
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Who (Really) Writes Wikipedia

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  • Anaconda (Score:5, Funny)

    by webrunner (108849) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @07:32AM (#16043653) Homepage Journal
    I hear the number of anacondas has tripled in the last six months. Maybe that should be in the article?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Molochi (555357)
      It's true. I read that somewhere.
    • hear the number of anacondas has tripled in the last six months. Maybe that should be in the article?

      get those mother-f*ck*ng anacondas off my mother-f*ck*ng wikipedia!

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @07:33AM (#16043656) Journal
    But when you count letters, the picture dramatically changes: few of the contributors (2 out of the top 10) are even registered and most (6 out of the top 10) have made less than 25 edits to the entire site. In fact, #9 has made exactly one edit -- this one! With the more reasonable metric -- indeed, the one Wales himself said he planned to use in the next revision of his study -- the result completely reverses.
    With the shear mass of people writing on Wikipedia, I think you'd be able to find examples of the articles that were heavily contributed to by a large group of people (say things like Fermat's Theorem) and also things that are primarily the work of one person. Frankly, that's what I expected of Wikipedia.

    What about these statistics [wikimedia.org]? Could Wales perhaps post average number of edits per page with a standard distribution? What about the same for average number of users contributing to page? What about statistics for average number of characters changed per edit?

    Things that have many books written about them are going to be edited by a lot of people that read those books (like The Beatles [wikipedia.org]). But if I want to read up on Procul Harum [wikipedia.org] (A not-so-well-known rock band), I'm assuming that there is some die hard nutjob out there with two children named Procul and Harum that filled in most of the information in that page.

    Is this a good thing? Well, yes and no. I think The Beatles' entry holds to more rigorous standards than Procul Harum's on account of the possibility of one person unintentionally inserting their personal views into Wikipedia. For instance, "Known as the World's Greatest Rock Band" may be appropriate for The Beatles' page but not for Procul Harum's. Yet, we all know how insane fans treat their favorite bands. Passion and emotion are not useful tools when authoring Wikipedia or history in general. And that, in my opinion, is Wikipedia's greatest hinderance.
    • by qazsedcft (911254) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @07:45AM (#16043712)
      Is this a good thing? Well, yes and no. I think The Beatles' entry holds to more rigorous standards than Procul Harum's on account of the possibility of one person unintentionally inserting their personal views into Wikipedia. For instance, "Known as the World's Greatest Rock Band" may be appropriate for The Beatles' page but not for Procul Harum's. Yet, we all know how insane fans treat their favorite bands. Passion and emotion are not useful tools when authoring Wikipedia or history in general. And that, in my opinion, is Wikipedia's greatest hinderance.

      But on the other hand, the more people view an article the more it is likely to be corrected and balanced for NPOV. This is a little-bit like free market price-correcting mechanisms - it isn't perfect, but in the opinion of many the results are fairly acceptable.
      • by dfghjk (711126) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @10:22AM (#16044824)
        "But on the other hand, the more people view an article the more it is likely to be corrected and balanced for NPOV."

        The more people that view an article the more likely the article is to reflect the views of more people. Sometimes that will tend towards a NPOV and sometimes not. The article will increasingly reflect popular opinion (which may not be neutral at all).

        "it isn't perfect, but in the opinion of many the results are fairly acceptable."

        Perhaps, but not definitive. How do you justify that claim?

        When an article can be objective without threatening the views of people it stands a decent chance of being so. Wikipedia is, by its nature, not an objective resource. It is a useful one, though.
      • Or ... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Martin Spamer (244245)
        ... more likely to suffer from Group-Think [wikipedia.org].
        • by rtb61 (674572)
          The one funny thing about group think is, the opinion of the minority is always that the opinion of the majority sucks. Group think might sometimes produce bad results, but my word is law, has beem proven by histroy to be far worse.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Did you know that John Lennon said that "Whiter Shade of Pale" (by Procol Harum for those who don't know) was the greatest song of 1967 ... the same year that Sgt. Pepper came out?

      Just thought it was an interesting tidbit given the two bands you used for your example ;)
      • Lies! (Score:3, Funny)

        by littleghoti (637230)
        That's not on the procul harum wikipedia page! it must be lies! Bear in mind: 1) I'm not serious 2) It will be edited otherwise within 30 secs of me posting this. 3) The whole parent post could be oblique wikipedia vandalism.
    • Then what you end up with is:
      1. The items which would normally be included in a normal encyclopedia get a decent number of eyes, enough to correct glaring errors/vandalism
      2. Popular phenomena and current events get an exceptionally large number of eyes, resulting in a more comprehensive article than you'd find in a normal encyclopedia, though subject to the occasional temporary vanadlism
      3. Small cult subjects that wouldn't normally find their way into an encylopedia get few eyes, enough to provide information, b
  • Define: Important (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sub Zero 992 (947972) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @07:35AM (#16043673) Homepage
    Well, maybe both Mr. Swartz and Mr. Wales are correct.

    Encyclopedias are measured by the number of articles they have, the average size of those articles and the "Quality" of the articles [here see other disputes :P]. Wikipedia is trying hard for quality, hence the importance of copy editors - those quick edit users who do a lot of banging articles into shape. They do an important job. These are the general-purpose-but-shallow editors.

    Of course, without the initial contribution of a large number of specialists, the working draft of many articles would never get done. These are the specialist-article-experts who know what they know, and leave the rest to others.

    So, this is likely to be another case of everyone having some of the truth and only a more enlightened, liberal view of the situation can lead to insights which can be used to improve the entire content creation process.
    • Re:Define: Important (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pmc (40532) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @08:03AM (#16043822) Homepage
      Wikipedia is trying hard for quality, hence the importance of copy editors - those quick edit users who do a lot of banging articles into shape.

      Depends what you mean by quality - grammatically correct and logically ordered is one thing. Actual content - possibly in rough and ready form - is another.

      What JW is (apparently) arguing is that what he considers the contributions to wikipedia is best measured by "edits", and that by this metric there is a hardcore of 500 users that do most of the work.

      What the article argues is that the a better measure of of contribution to wiki is raw material, and that far from 500 people doing it, it is actually orders of magnitude more than this.

      My opinion is that anyone treating all edits are equal and using that to derive a metric for measuring user contributions to the site is using a seriously flawed method. Selling the output of this method as "The Truth about who Created Wikipeida (or the Tale of the Noble 500") is just trying to invent history to fit their preconceived notions.
      • it's ironic that they would even emerge with this argument, whether it's true or not. the two facets of wikipedia that have always been put forward as their basis for superiority over traditional encyclopedias is that they're constantly updated and that the democratic, de-centralized mode of contribution leads to better, broader, and more-balanced content. they consistently criticize the culture of elitism that is a result of the closed process of creating traditional encyclopedias. now JW comes out to s
      • My opinion is that anyone treating all edits are equal and using that to derive a metric for measuring user contributions to the site is using a seriously flawed method. Selling the output of this method as "The Truth about who Created Wikipeida (or the Tale of the Noble 500") is just trying to invent history to fit their preconceived notions.

        Which is precisely the primary modus operandi of Jimbo Wales - he cares little for facts or truth, he cares much about his vision. When facts and truth don't

      • by fferreres (525414)
        Something similar happens with software developemnt. Sometimes they want to measure work productivity. So the count Lines of Code, other times they measure Function Points, some other they measure conformance to tests, and yet, some other, they see different roles, and try to balance the need to write code, the need of some guys dthat do slight corrects but cruacially important ones, and ones that do beautifing.

        Human work and value is not easily measured, and a balance must be made that REQUIRES judgment an
  • by Metasquares (555685) <slashdotNO@SPAMmetasquared.com> on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @07:39AM (#16043686) Homepage
    The number of edits you make means nothing because an edit can mean writing an entirely new article or a very small change (some articles, such as "peerage", have hundreds, if not thousands, of such edits).

    The obsession over edit count was the reason I stopped contributing to Wikipedia to begin with: My voice wasn't being heard because I did not have the time to make thousands of changes to the encyclopedia.

    The fact that we are still having this discussion indicates that little has changed.
    • by interiot (50685) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @07:46AM (#16043729) Homepage
      Um, doesn't this study tend to support your assertions? It says that people with high edit counts contribute little to nothing to articles, while newcommers are the ones who provide most of the meat...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Metasquares (555685)
        I agree with the article. I disagree with Wales. The author of the article does not run Wikipedia, however.

        Case in point, clicking on the "vote in the board of trustees election" link from the article says this:

        "Wikimedia Board of Trustees election
        From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
        Jump to: navigation, search

        Sorry, you are not qualified to vote in this election here on the English Wikipedia. You need to have made 400 edits here before 00:00, 1 August 2006; you have made 253. Also, your first edit on this
        • There needs to be a way of stopping people gaming the voting system. It would not be hard for someone to create multiple accounts and vote if it were not for these measures. How else would you stop abuse of the system?
          • The signup date requirement is sufficient to prevent sockpuppetry. There's no need to require a certain number of edits as well.

            Perhaps a paragraph stating the voter's views should also be required with the vote. Many people leave these anyway, and I bet that puppeteers would tire very quickly of writing multiple statements for sockpuppet accounts.
    • by ergo98 (9391) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @08:16AM (#16043889) Homepage Journal
      My voice wasn't being heard because I did not have the time to make thousands of changes to the encyclopedia.

      Aren't those edits how you're getting your voice heard? Or were you more concerned with gaining credibility among the Wikipedia inner cicle?
    • If you are no longer contributing, then your voice still won't be heard. Reputation on Wikipedia is immensley important. That makes sense: why would policy decisions be made by those who haven't proven they understand the goals of the project or those who don't have a track record of improving the site by contributing articles?
      • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater&gmail,com> on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @03:24PM (#16047263) Homepage
        If you are no longer contributing, then your voice still won't be heard. Reputation on Wikipedia is immensley important. That makes sense: why would policy decisions be made by those who haven't proven they understand the goals of the project or those who don't have a track record of improving the site by contributing articles?

        You miss the OP's point - reputation isn't made by proving an understanding of the goals, or by contributing articles - it's made by amassing a large number of edits. They key problem with this is that and edit can be anything - even a quick spelling correction earns you a line in your earns you a line in your 'user contributions' log, and creating a new article equally gains you single line...
    • Every time I hear someone like you complaining that his voice wasn't being heard, or that his edits have been reversed without valid reason, I ask him to show me the article(s) where this has happened, so I can check the history log myself and see what really happened. And you know what ? I never get an answer...

      This tends to make me think that such complains about wikipedia are generally exaggerated and/or groundless. In other words, the edits have probably been reversed for a valid reason.

      So, Metas

      • I'm not referring to a single edit, or even any group of edits. I don't get into disputes with other members; I help resolve them (thus the AMA membership). I'm referring to mailing list discussions, voting on policy change (when I left, lots of voting pages had "you must have made xxx edits to vote" - probably to discourage sockpuppets, but you could just as easily use signup date), IRC chat, and other things that should generally include the entire community.

        I did not join Wikipedia to "make my voice hear
    • I personally find that one cannot just go and pour in all the information in as much as 1000 of pages. Anywhere on the internet. Wikipedia is no exception. Any serious editor who wants to contribute positively knows that most of our knowledge is prejudiced (received-knowledge). Most of us when get down to write something which needs accountability, we just write what we are absolutely sure of. Of course there are different levels of how-much-surety-means-i-am-correct for every individual, but that is why on
  • Wiki Language Issue (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @07:40AM (#16043691) Journal
    They point out that it's only a 500 people editing most of Wikipedia. But are they talking only the English version. Something to note is that many of the Top Users [wikipedia.org] of Wikipedia are language bots concerned with propagating interwiki information accross languages. Number one is Hashar for the French language. I imagine the strategy is that getting a bad translation only requires someone fluent in French to correct for it to be a good article -- that person doesn't need to know the information because it's pretty much already there in broken French.

    Another large contributor by number of edits is GuanoBot who's only job is to bypass redirects.

    Are these bots that are helpful skewing the statistics because they are needed for maintenance?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hansamurai (907719)
      Bots have to be labeled as bots, one way or another, when created and editing articles. So bots are not included in top editors, etc. usually unless you want to see them specifically. I highly doubt Wales included bots in his top editor count.
  • by Lazy Jones (8403) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @07:41AM (#16043693) Homepage Journal
    ...but a small group massaging that text to insure standards compliance with the overall work.

    Nope, this small group is tweaking the text the way they see fit, basing their changes on their personal opinions and feelings and not on some god-given inspiration that leads to better quality or with standards compliance in mind. So the conclusion above is almost valid - it is like a real encyclopedia, but with an anarchic structure in the team of editors and no educated QA team. It's more like an encyclopedia reworked by a non-cooperating team of censors.

    • by interiot (50685) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @07:51AM (#16043756) Homepage
      Another way to look at it would be that Wikipedia has an enormous number of policies that newcommers shouldn't be expected to memorize before contributing. So newcommers contribute the meat of an article, and people who have been around for a while apply all the style rules, find a couple categories for it, make sure it has the backlinks it should, etc... Sure, there's room for editorializing there, but hopefully there's enough established people around that they can review each other's work and make sure they're sticking to policy...
    • by julesh (229690) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @08:27AM (#16043967)
      Actually, I think most of those people with the largest number of edits really are tweaking it towards complying with internal standards. Most of them are adding references to unsourced material, or adding {{fact}} tags to mark where unsourced material is so that someone with better knowledge of the subject can find a reference for it, or making stylistic changes towards standardised article structures, categorising information, fixing spelling or grammar errors, debating editorial decisions about what should and shouldn't be included, and things like that. These jobs aren't glamorous, but a lot of wikipedia's biggest contributors work on them.
      • by jacksonj04 (800021) <nick@nickjackson.me> on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @08:53AM (#16044156) Homepage
        I must say I've noticed {{fact}} springing up all over the damn place recently. It's hard [citation needed] to read most of an article [citation needed] without seeing them.
        • Sometimes large quantities of them seem to be used to cast doubt on a particualar statement for some political reason. Once I was reading an article about something to do with Islam. It had the [citation needed] tag everywhere, even directly after links to verses in the Qua'ran (i.e. the supreme citation in Islam). The article was well referenced, being only a few paragraphs long with over 20 citations, so it was clear that the editor wanted to make the article look badly researched. My opinion is one shoul
  • Editcountitis (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dan East (318230) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @07:43AM (#16043702) Homepage Journal
    As with anything that keeps stats or running totals, there are those that seek to achieve the highest count possible. Wikipedia is not immune to this. There are those that will make 50 small, distinct edits to an article (each comprising minor changes, like punctuation, formatting, spelling corrections, etc) to increase their edit count.

    It is my personal experience that those with the highest edit counts peruse any and all articles applying Style Guidelines. This results in changes like like correcting capitalization of headers ("External Links" -> "External links"), placing bullets in front of external links, formatting dates, wikifying appropriate words, updating links that redirect, etc. Once a person becomes familiar with the guidelines they can easily nitpick pretty much any article and find something to correct (or at least change to their personal preference).

    Also, don't forget those that run bots. That's a very easy method to rack up edit points.

    Dan East
    • Re:Editcountitis (Score:5, Insightful)

      by the-intersocialist (603547) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @07:54AM (#16043772) Homepage
      And this is a problem, how?

      Wikipedia is not a video game where you need to gain exp-points to level. It is an encyclopedia. People spending their days correcting punctuation are also contributing and if ranking higher in the statistics is their motivation, that is fine by me.

      Those who make great contributions in the form of content are recognized in another way then statistics: their articles become featured, and that is a far greater honor then beeing the top contributor by means of spellchecking.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Voting privileges and how much people listen to you in disputes is based on edit count. This creates definite problems.
      • Re:Editcountitis (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Chacham (981) * on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @09:13AM (#16044285) Homepage Journal
        It is an encyclopedia

        It *pretends* to be an encyclopedia. It is not, however. Due to its very nature it is a mixture of current thought and old grudges, with the latter being less influential. Calling it an encyclopedia is like mixing all Slashdot comments into one comment and modding it informative.
        • Re:Editcountitis (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Maru Dubshinki (804451) <marudubshinki@nOSpAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @09:40AM (#16044465) Homepage
          Please. An encyclopedia is a form and genre, not a classification of quality. Your post is as silly as claiming "The Phantom Menace" was not a real movie because it sucked so much.

          Encyclopedias are reference sources containing information on a variety of topics. (Don't believe me? Take a look at the many definitions Google pulls up for the query "Define:encyclopedia".) Wikipedia is a reference source which contains information on a variety of topics in an explicitly encyclopedic format. Case Closed. Issues of quality and reliability are entirely separate and unrelated.
          • Re:Editcountitis (Score:4, Informative)

            by Chacham (981) * on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @10:31AM (#16044916) Homepage Journal
            Please. An encyclopedia is a form and genre, not a classification of quality.

            This reply emphasizes my point. Instead of arguing the actual point, you degrade the general meaning of encyclopedia for a strict defintion, allowing even a cheap substitute that *techincally* fits the bill to be considered on par.

            Encyclopedias are reference sources containing information on a variety of topics.

            Well, i usually call those books. And, there's this amazing place called a "library" that is full of them. They sometimes have web pages, but even so, being actually in one--other than for the free internet access--is a breathtaking experience. Seriously, you should try it once. And remember "books". Say it a few times. When you get there, ask were are the "books". Do not ask where encyclopedias are, for they are a subclass of books and will lead you elsewhere. Just ask where the "books" are.

            (Don't believe me? Take a look at the many definitions Google pulls up for the query "Define:encyclopedia".)

            Amazing. You should be refering to a dictionary (site). (Yeah yeah, now tell me that according to google, google definitions are a dictionary.)

            Wikipedia is a reference source

            All sources are referential. By definition.

            which contains information on a variety of topics

            Oh, so a dictionary is also an encyclopedia? Or maybe the US Code? Or how about the Mac OS bible?

            in an explicitly encyclopedic format.

            In an "encyclopedic" format. Let's see, according to you, enclclopedias "are reference sources containing information on a variety of topics". So, to translate this last senctence of "Wikipedia is a reference source which contains information on a variety of topics in an explicitly encyclopedic format." you mean "Wikipedia is a reference source which contains information on a variety of topics in a referential way containing information on a variety of topics." That doesn't say anything. It also makes my bookmarks menu an encylopedia.

            Case Closed.

            Wow. Does that make you feel better?

            Issues of quality and reliability are entirely separate and unrelated.

            I'm sorry to hear you didn't like your teacher last year. Perhaps you will do well when school starts again this year.

            ===================

            As everyone knows, an encyclopedia is a defintive source of information, based on aggregated knowledge, compiled by a specific person or group of persons, being editted over time, and not changing much from year to year, with either sources given, or personal accounts listed (the latter explicity forbidden in wikpedia). Popularity of the information has no bearing on what is presented either, being it must come from trusted sources, or personal discovery.

            Further, any published information in an encyclopedia can be reference at any future time without regard to changes, all articles are numbered (by year and entry), and if there is a specific question on the validity of the information presented, the person or group of persons will stand behind it and say exactly why they published it (even if changed due to later discoveries).

            Wikipedia, however, cannot be cited. Since articles change, and there is no way to reference a specific version of it, and noone will stand behind iot if it changes. And, personal discovery being inadmissable, it can never be a first-hand source of information either.

            Also, people relying on the information are relying on the person or group of persons who published it. Wikipedia relies on noone, and thus does not put anyone's name behind it. While data might be data, without personal research (which would obviate the need for an encyclopedia) the presenter of the data is being relied on. Making the point of someone standing behind it to be very important.

            All in all, Wikipedia is not an encyclopedia. It is a wikipedia, and a good one at that.

            • by Pastis (145655)
              > Wikipedia, however, cannot be cited.
              > Since articles change,

              And real encyclopedia don't change ? That's an advantage of wikipedia actually. It gets updated faster than a real encyclopdia.

              > and there is no way to reference a specific version of it,

              Wrong. See this one http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedi a&oldid=13435822 [wikipedia.org].
              That's even better than a real encyclopedia because you have the full changelog.
              E.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedi a&dir=prev&action= [wikipedia.org]
              • by Chacham (981) *
                nd real encyclopedia don't change ? That's an advantage of wikipedia actually. It gets updated faster than a real encyclopdia.

                Faster != better. I can load the page the show someone what i just saw, and have to wade through the changelog to see what happened. When i open an encyclopedia, the text doesn't change.

                That's even better than a real encyclopedia because you have the full changelog.

                Encyclopedia companies keep full changelogs.

                > and noone will stand behind iot if it changes.

                There's a changelog for e
            • by No. 24601 (657888)
              You're probably a troll, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and treat you as if you are not :)

              I think neither of you realizes that depending on our chosen philosophy you both might be right or you both might be wrong. Generally speaking if you choose modern Western philosophy, you both are wrong in that you did not consult a reputable source on definitions like Merriam-Webster [m-w.com].

              Anyway, from ancient philosophy suggesting that you are both valid in creating your own definitions for words used in the E
              • by Chacham (981) *
                I just hope you don't seriously think that is a definition that explains it well. Even if that is what the word literally means, it's usage is much more specific.
            • by fferreres (525414)
              > As everyone knows, an encyclopedia is
              > a defintive source of information

              Wasn't is some specific kind of book? An encyclopedia cannot be a definitive source of information

              >based on aggregated knowledge

              Right!

              >compiled by a specific person or group of persons

              Specific group ranging from one person to "the human race". The human race is a VERY specific group of persons as of now. I am pretty sure you're the kind of person that'd say "Nobody ever got fired for buying Microsoft (or Insert your most t
      • I like Everything2 [everything2.com] for the reason that it has XP. People learn to trust certain authors and there are more privileges at higher level, offering incentives to write more, and a voting system to encourage writing well.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by interiot (50685)
      Even if edit counters didn't exist though, I think more established editors would still spend a lot of their time keeping things organized and consistent. Sure, the edits you mentioned are nitpicky things that aren't worth adding a line of history for, but there is non-nitpicky cleanup that needs to be done, and it'll be the experienced people that do those. Even just counting things like spelling checks, it's => its, fixing links to disambiguation pages.... those are relatively minor, but they still
  • Much like Digg (Score:5, Interesting)

    by otisg (92803) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @07:44AM (#16043709) Homepage Journal
    This is not a surprise. That is simply another example of nature's laws on the web. This is not much different from the now well known fact that most stories on Digg are submitted by a handful of people (see: Top 100 Digg Users Control 56% of Digg's HomePage Content [seomoz.org]).
    • Re:Much like Digg (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DingerX (847589) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @08:10AM (#16043851) Journal
      So explain to me, how does 56% of the content is submitted by the top 100 Digg users relate to the assertion here that the overwhelming majority of Wikipedia content is not controlled by the "Wiki-Elite."

      Personally, I think this policy of focusing on total edits for Wikiality is brilliant: it keeps the generalists/prestige mongers focusing on copy editing -- where they can help -- and away from content creation -- where they usually can't. Wikipedia is largely the creation of a bunch of specialist nuts. The "Wiki-Elite" are the nuts whose speciality is Wikipedia. Better to keep them away from the content; otherwise, it's akin to having someone with a degree in journalism reporting on a technical issue.
    • This is not a surprise. That is simply another example of nature's laws on the web. This is not much different from the now well known fact that most stories on Digg are submitted by a handful of people

      That's the exact opposite of what TFA states. It states that most actual content is submitted by tons of individuals. The usual editors, according to TFA, submit little to no content, and instead rely on experts in the field.

      For example, I have been considering releasing the background material from my d

  • Any article that sees heavy editing, or is in any way involved in a current event, gets immediately locked except for these privledged users. They even go against their own policy (lauded so forcefully at all other times) when it suits them regarding protecting the day's featured page or protecting articles indefinitely (for example, Jews).
    • by TheSeer2 (949925) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @07:55AM (#16043774) Homepage
      1. Jew's isn't protected. 2. Apart from a select few vulnerable pages [for example, the vandalism page] protection is usually dropped very rapidly. 3. I've seen many heavily edited articles that have never been protected... ever. 4. Profit!!! ... don't make unsubstaniated claims.
      • You're correct, I should've checked it out first. It was only unprotected yesterday, and had been uneditable since July 1st previously.

        As for the select few vulnerable pages, they're protected when it's most important -- when the event is current. After the news has moved on, you won't get the same number of people visiting the article that might decide to edit, and by that time it's already "consensus."

    • by geoffspear (692508) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @08:20AM (#16043919) Homepage
      There's a big difference between "heavily edited" and "often vandalized by anonymous users".
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        "The vandal hordes" knocking at the gates is a self-sustained myth. Take a look at the history for Steve Irwin's page and see how many of the good-natured edits revolving his death were reverted. First blatantly as "vandalism" then repeatedly as "unsourced" by every article provided until it showed up on an american news portal (cnn or abc). Even harmless edits like tributes ("you will be missed, steve"), while really not helpful, are classified as "vandalism" when people who don't understand Wikipedia keep
        • Even harmless edits like tributes ("you will be missed, steve"), while really not helpful, are classified as "vandalism" when people who don't understand Wikipedia keep putting them back in.

          But that is vandalism, as the word is used in this context. It harms the quality of the article. It is no more a "harmless" edit than someone adding "so-and-so wuz here" or "Bush sucks" or "your mom".

          Defacement by people unclear on the concept is not malicious, but there isn't a separate word for "inadvertent def

        • Nice how your earlier example of a "heavily edited" article was the one on Jews, and when it's pointed out that this "heavy editing" is often malicious vandalism you switch your example to "harmless, but not really helpful" edits to the article about a recently deceased celebrity. Why does that sort of rhetoric make me think your real problem is with the NPOV policy?
    • by julesh (229690) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @08:44AM (#16044085)
      Err... according to the list of protected pages [wikipedia.org], the longest any page has been protected is George W. Bush, which has now been protected against moving only for 13 months and against editing by recent or unregistered users for 2 months odd (although it was only unprotected for 7 hours before that, it was vandalised 10 times, compared to 3 edits that were actually kept in the period).

      Other than that, there's Gregory Lauder-Frost, which is protected apparently because he threatened to sue, and a couple of other extremely controversial topics that have been protected for over 2 months. Nothing has been protected "indefinitely" unless by that you mean "longer that you're willing to wait for unprotection".
      • That is the definition of indefinitely, sorta. There's no hard rule that "excessive vandalism means protection for X days". It's completely on the whim of an administrator to unprotect the page, which takes a non-definite length of time.
        • That is the definition of indefinitely, sorta. There's no hard rule that "excessive vandalism means protection for X days". It's completely on the whim of an administrator to unprotect the page, which takes a non-definite length of time.

          That's true, and you could make some sort of bureaucracy on admin protection to make it seem like everyone's getting a say or to give the pedantic editors a couple more rules to throw in your face at every possible moment, but let's face it, in the end it boils down to an
  • types of editors (Score:5, Informative)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @07:51AM (#16043759)
    I think the problem is arising because of lack of distinction between two different types of "editors." There are people who edit the content of an article (content editors), and there are people who edit the copy (copyeditors). One is concerned with altering the actual material that is being presented to present a different subset of information. The other is concerned with making edits for grammatical consistency, readability, and style.
  • by ettlz (639203) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @08:04AM (#16043825) Journal
    ...but a small group massaging that text to insure standards compliance with the overall work.

    Oh, t3h 1r0n4y! It's ensure. Unless standards compliance has some sort of liability associated with it these days.

    • by datafr0g (831498) *
      I assure you that insure can be used interchangeably with ensure. Of that, I'm pretty sure.
  • Ignore that man (Score:5, Insightful)

    by inviolet (797804) <slashdot@@@ideasmatter...org> on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @08:12AM (#16043866) Journal

    Jimmy Wales is wrong, and probably on purpose...

    There is no glory in being one of a million diffuse contributors.

    But there *is* glory in being one of a small elite group, the group that really matters, the group that the founder adores. Jimmy is baiting his contributors with this possibility, in order to motivate them.

    • by Intron (870560)
      Wikipedia needs both the small content contributors and the style editors. But it will get the gigabytes of content regardless of what Wales says. He is doing the right thing by showing appreciation of the editors, since they are what make it a real encyclopedia instead of, umm, slashdot.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by L33tminion (908158)
      Dont be silly. You make it sound like Wikipedia is being run by a cabal [wikipedia.org] or something.

      (Seriously, who says Wikipedia editors want "glory"?)
  • , to make wikipedia a closed system. They are trying SO hard to persuade people that it is worse to let everybody contribute, and better for a number of 'select' elite to do it.

    Typical elitist control frenzy. They couldnt handle people actually doing something as together as in 'the people'.
  • by Rachel Lucid (964267) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @08:20AM (#16043913) Homepage Journal
    It makes total sense.

    If you only know a few bits of information, you're not about to post to more articles than you can contribute to.

    If you know how things are supposed to look under wiki-formatting but not about its actual content, then you're just going to 'fairy' up the text with links and bolding and breaking chunks up into paragraphs, but you're going to do a lot MORE of it because while Wikipedia only needs a certain amount of information, it always needs wiki-fairies to make it all look coherent.

    Edit count, like post and reply counts on any forum (including Slashdot) is a great big joke, and anyone who doesn't get that hasn't been on long enough.
  • by wackymacs (865437) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @08:35AM (#16044022)
    I am a Wikipedia contributor, with around 5800 edits. I started editing in 2005. Most of my edits are minor ones, cleanup, etc. Although I have contributed a lot of text to many articles, I also enjoy contributing free-use images and providing references for articles in order to improve the reliability of an article; too many articles on Wikipedia do not cite their sources. Jimmy Wales should not state that only several hundred users are the most important editors on Wikipedia, because in reality everyone on Wikipedia who is contributing, whether by adding text or by cleaning up articles or doing maintenance, they're all helping out in one way or another. Most people all work on different stuff, so nobody can be called the "most important", its too broad a term.
  • by omeg (907329)
    Could very well be so. I registered at Wikipedia in order to write an article about speedrunning [wikipedia.org]. I have contributed to many other articles, but like stated, that's just copyediting and generally banging it into one cohesive shape that complies with the rest of the site. Frankly, I'm okay with that. If everybody were to sign up and write an article about the one thing they liked best, imagine how many good articles that would bring. Then all you need is a handful (a few million, perhaps) editors who are abl
  • Wikipedia could help crack this whole logjam with some simple user interface improvements. Each titled section should have a "trackback" link for linking to it in another page (eg. if I linked/quoted it in this post). They've already got the "id" HTML tag. In fact, each paragraph should have a "link/quote me" link, maybe even a link that adds an ID to a sentence, phrase or paragraph fragment upon linking to it.

    Wikipedia is an "open reference" site. It should include much more support for embedding its conte
  • by greenreaper (205818) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @09:25AM (#16044370) Homepage Journal
    We had a session about it [wikimedia.org] at Wikimania 2006. It confirmed my own experiences as founder of WikiFur [wikia.com]. I rarely get the time to make content edits, as "management" issues take priority.
  • by XchristX (839963) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @09:44AM (#16044499)
    The bottom line is that, while technical articles (on most disciplines and fields) on wikipedia are very good (better than anywhere else on the internet even), articles that are about history, religion, politics,movies, personalities, or recent events are hopelessly (though not always systemically) biased and full of unrepresentative crap. This is because wikipedia runs on de-facto consensus (though it's not supposed to) and only the most (and biggest) noisemakers get their edits on the article, and detractors cause endless revert-wars, edit-wars, vandalisms, admin intervention, article protection/semi-protection, insults in user talk pages (some nasty ones too), blocks, mediation cabals, RfC's, RfA's, secret edit-cabals, tag-warring, NPOV, TotallyDisputed etc. etc. and all sorts of things that are part of the dark and invisible underbelly of wikipedia that you DON'T see.

      An encyclopedia is not (IMHO) supposed to contain articles that are highly controversial and subject to different interpretations. It should be about objective and verifiable facts. 90% of the articles on wikipedia that are non-technical contain maybe 10% of verifiable facts, and 90% noise.

      The sad truth is that the high visibility of wikipedia (Google Searches usually point to wikipedia articles on the search subject first or second or third, if an article on the subject exists) means that people READ all this nonsense and, unaware of the many problems of wikipedia, assume it to be the truth based on a facade of legitimacy that wikipedia presents (at least, as far as the cats I listd above are concerned). These edits that are put there by cabals of editors, many of whom hold extremist views or represent organisations that have such extremist views are thus propagated into the masses of readers as facts, without the right balance to them, which is very damaging.

      That's what I think anyways, feel free to flame me down or whatever. Any replies and/or responses would be interesting to me as it would give me an idea as to how many people on slashdot regard wikipedia articles as canonically true and always NPOV.

    ~~~~
  • ... just the other day, which is: With all that history data available, why doesn't wikipedia have a "blame annotation" mode so I can see who last touched a given line of an article, and when?
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @11:09AM (#16045245) Homepage

    The "edit count" fanaticism is indeed a problem for Wikipedia. The edit histories of some of the editors with the highest edit counts are disappointing. Some of them never actually write anything; they just make administrative edits. Others make vast numbers of very minor edits.

    Better metrics are possible. A metric like "number of words added which stayed in an article for at least 30 days" would measure useful contributions.

    But this isn't the real problem with Wikipedia. The real problem is "churn". Articles do not steadily improve over time. They typically reach about 80% of the "good article" level, and then slowly change over time, with edits of varying quality.

    For a striking example of this, see Horse [wikipedia.org]. Take a look at the article at three month intervals. The article is so heavily edited that it changes almost completely every few months. Yet today's version is really no better than the versions from three and six months ago. That's churn.

  • This seems to me to support the recent article protection system that the German edition is working on: allow anyone to make changes, but (for protected articles) require a logged-in user to make the changes visible to non-logged-in users. If the statistics are that most of the content is written by infrequent and unregistered authors, but that a group of 500 people touches everything before it gets very far, primarily doing copyediting, the new protection idea should be very effective. The expected result
  • by AmiMoJo (196126) <[ten.3dlrow] [ta] [ojom]> on Tuesday September 05, 2006 @12:25PM (#16045959) Homepage
    Note to editors: in future, please in^H^Hensure standards of English remain high in submissions.

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