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.
Read more from WIRED, the BBC and the New York Times and see which government agencies and corporations are editing Wikipedia articles about themselves and what articles are currently undergoing intensive editing.
Previously from WNM: Wikis and Wikipedia: Who’s writing this stuff?, Look up ‘Payola’ in Wikipedia and Evaluating Wikipedia’s credibility
But I contribute to crowdsourced journalism because I want my work to yield a high “social good” return, and by that metric, overall, the experience has been frustrating. With some of these projects I ended up with nothing to show for the time I put in — either from being unable to get or enter the data, or from not following through where I probably would have, had there been support. (Support is crucial: if not for my editor’s encouragement at a bleak moment, you wouldn’t be reading this now.) And in the projects where I did contribute, my work had no visible effect — because of no follow-up or no publicity, or because what I provided just wasn’t very significant. All in all, I likely could have spent the time more productively at home on my own weblog.
Excerpt from WIRED’s Open-Source Journalism: It’s a Lot Tougher Than You Think
Wiki writers stand in stark contrast to the traditional image of the solitary, tortured artist. In crowdsourced fiction and nonfiction writing, the social narrative can trump a literary one. Still, from the complete expressive freedom of “A Million Penguins” to the careful scripting of “These Wicked Games”, each crowd created concrete works, though vastly different in length, content, salability, and final format. “What I have learned is that it would be possible to crowdsource a novel, but I think it would have to be done in a more controlled way than we did,” said Jeremy Ettinghausen, Digital Publisher for the U.K.’s Penguin Books. “What we decided with ‘A Million Penguins’ is that it was ‘all or nothing’ and that the experiment was about: there are no rules, there are no breaks, there’s no quota of people. We had a goal in mind that it was an experiment, and we were all in it together.”
Excerpt from WIRED’s Creative Crowdwriting: The Open Book
More from the Assignment Zero website and an introductory note from Jay Rosen, Executive Editor with Assignment Zero.
Previously from WNM: When we all write, does the reader lose? and Not ‘everyone’ can write a great novel
An anonymous edit to Wikipedia could provide a clue about the deaths of pro wrestler Chris Benoit, his wife and 7-year-old son. Or it could simply be random Wikipedia pranksterism by a University of Connecticut undergraduate. The changes were made to the Wikipedia article on Benoit, an internationally recognized athlete who participated in World Wrestling Entertainment, hours before police discovered the bodies in the family’s suburban Atlanta home. At 12:01 a.m. EDT Monday, the entry was changed to say he missed a championship match because of personal issues “stemming from the death of his wife Nancy.” After a Wikipedia editor rejected the change, saying a reliable source was needed to back up that claim, the entry was changed again to say Benoit’s absence “according to several pro wrestling Web sites is attributed to the passing of Benoit’s wife, Nancy.” Police found the bodies, in what they now say was a murder-suicide, around 2:30 p.m. EDT. That’s more than 14 hours after the mention of his wife’s death.
Read this item from C|Net
The trust gradient is all based on the probability of accuracy (PoA) of any given block of text. It is assumed that even with a 99% PoA the text can still be wrong, but is less likely to be wrong than something with 1% PoA. The PoA of a text block increases as users view the text without editing it. As every user has the chance to edit, a user who doesn’t edit gives implied accuracy to the unedited sections.
If a user edits something else on the page, every block that is not edited is considered of higher PoA. Registered users are even more likely to edit errors they find, and even more so with administrators. Each successive view and edit increases the likelihood that an unedited block of text is accurate.
If a page is edited frequently it will always have red (potentially inaccurate) items on it, but these items will improve quickly as other text blocks on the page are edited. Blocks of text that have been in place unchanged for months will be mostly white as hundreds of users will have read the content and approved it.
Explore the color grading concept from Prime Digit with commentary at MetaFilter. Previously from WNM: Evaluating Wikipedia’s credibility
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 withlower levels of education. For instance, 50% of those with at least a college degree consultthe 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.
More on Wikipedia’s usage from the Pew Internet & American Life Project
Following revelations that a high-ranking member of Wikipedia’s bureaucracy used his cloak of anonymity to lie about being a professor of religion, the free Internet encyclopedia plans to ask contributors who claim such credentials to identify themselves.
Read Wikipedia to Seek Credentials Proof from Time (similar one from the AP via Yahoo). On topic: Wikipedia ire turns against ex-editor and Wikipedia to Seek Proof of Credentials
Previously from WNM:
One of the most remarkable, unexpected developments of the Internet has been the explosive growth of Wikipedia. At first glance, the Wikipedia concept — that thousands upon thousands of volunteers working with little central supervision can create a huge databank of accurate information — seems untenable….Can progressives make this power of networked volunteers work for us? Some are already trying.
Read Armchair Activism That Works from Alternet. Previously from WNM: Online activism reaching its potential and Building the global village from the ground up