Wiki-based encyclopedia, created by volunteer anonymous contributors, has had a growing audience.
Principle of open source knowledge
The idea is to apply the principles of open source to an encyclopedia and therefore to knowledge. Namely, that is a free to use by all project, anyone can collaborate by providing a building block. The sum of the contributions, even modest, results in a comprehensive online encyclopedia.
Articles are freely licensed, they belong to everyone and can be placed on any website (however be careful though duplicate content towards search engines). The host Wikipedia is simply a server that provides the community documents written by the community.
Wikipedia has its laws, its citizens, readers and contributors, a kind of administration, police (against spam, do not worry) its judges ... All this has grown in three years, in response to problems that has encountered the encyclopedia.
This site looks rather nice, with its freedom, its openness to contributions and numerous articles sometimes complete, often informative. But it also has a dark side.
To analyze the contributions of editors to an article on Wikipedia, and reveal when the most contribution are made by a single editor who can thus influence its content, the researchers created a tool, the Wikidashboard.
It wants to compensate for the weaknesses of the system established by the organization, which simply mark a page as "subject to controversy," which does not necessarily generate the necessary corrections.
But knowing the anonymous Wikipedia editors, we can already guess how the results of the tools will also be biased with superficial editions in series on items ...
The WikiScanner is another tool, open source, and created in 2007 by Virgil Griffith, which analyzes informations on unregistered editors such as the IP and uses this data to confuse organizations that edit articles about themselves to give a more favorable picture. Among the list of these "manipulators" are: the FBI, the CIA, the Vatican, the Church of Scientology, the United Nations, Microsoft and Apple, and many political parties!
Even if this violates the terms of the site, the contributions may have to correct errors and not necessarily to hide embarrassing truths.
Wikidata is a database of knowledge and is of interest to web developers because it can be used by any website and provide continuously updated information such as the population of a city. In April 2013, there are 12 million items.
- Wikibasha. Translation assistance.
- Statistics. Statistical data of the number of pages per country.
- Traffic statistics. An independent site gives the number of views per day for a page on Wikipedia. Interesting if your site is competing with a wiki page.
The main flaw was announced by an expert (references below):
« Although experts on a subject may edit a page, they ultimately have no more control over the content of that page than anyone else. »
A specialist is placed on the same level as an ignorant or even mentally retarded one.
And the President of the Encyclopedia Britannica, Jorge Cauz:
« If I were to be the CEO of Google or the founders of Google I would be very [displeased] that the best search engine in the world continues to provide as a first link, Wikipedia, » he said. »Is this the best they can do? Is this the best that [their] algorithm can do? »
It was criticized to Wikipedia:
- Heterogeneity. Built overnight by different people, the items have often not well-defined plan, and can be built anyhow.
- Vandalism, pranksters are adding nonsense, deleting paragraphs, pages. The wiki is under constant maintenance by the contributors. Many software helps to detect vandalism. A RC (Recent Changes) patrol examines recent contributions at any time. It is possible to prohibit publishing to a contributor or an IP address.
- Spam. The ability to place links to complete articles encourages webmasters to put a link on their website, without benefit to the article, just to make themselves known. A charter defines the validity of external links.
- Grip on the articles by contributors networks.
- Some pages become catalogs of commercial products as contributors representing companies outnumber others and impose their opinion.
- The notion of completion is absent. The major problem is here: when a page is bad, it is edited until it will be good and when it's good edits continue until it becomes bad again. If an article, under the leadership of a specialist is very good, it will then fiddled with a plethora of contributors wishing everyone going his way, which will make the page unusable.
- Credibility. Some cases in recent news report using the encyclopedia to "bad-mouth" a competitor, a politician ...
- Many publishers open multiply accounts (called sockpuppet) and use techniques to hide their IP address, such as the Tor network.
Some enter into lively discussions with themselves under different nicknames and eventually to agree with themselves: subtle way to impose a point of view ;)
- Wikipedia by itself has its own criticism, but partial.
Manipulations and hoaxes
I am interested in letting many people know that Wikipedia is a flawed and irresponsible research tool.
So says John Seigenthaler after a Wikipedia article presented him as the instigator of the murder of J.F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby. It was actually a hoax, but stayed for 5 months in Wkipedia and was quoted by trusty sites!
Patterns of manipulation
If they bad things are written about a company, a person, rightly or wrongly, the applicant will have good reasons to see the text disappear.
A producer will show interest in giving a favorable view of its product.
External links can bring traffic through the over-representation of the wiki in search enginesresults.
Wikipedia is a great place to denigrate competitors who outweigh you in a market. And those who want to erase the wrong information may be viewed as vandals, especially if we identify their IP as that of the target company! This will tend to even confirm the impression that these data are true!
The links do not count for the search engines, but they can still benefit from the reputation of the wiki and be included in forums, blogs, etc.
Contributions to the wiki are a good way to give recognition. By having a common activity on the wiki, we get a strong profile and easily reaches the administrator status.
How are operated the manipulation?
Contributions may be made without registration. The IP address is recorded, but if it is dynamically assigned by the operator at each session, it is a guarantee of anonymity.
A proxy IP address may be used to and thus contribute in strict anymymat.
But the most invested wiki hackers use a user completely transparent account. They lots of editions every day gives them autority, it is unlikely that another publisher revert their contributions even when complaints are raised.
- Why Wikipedia is not so great. Auto-criticism.
- Sourcewatch. Criticism of the wiki.
- Corruption in Wikiland. When top editor get paid to change the articles.
- The Dark Side of Wikipedia. M. Randfish admits how he himself edited Wikipedia using multiple aliases with different IP through proxies.
The Wikimedia Foundation is responding to a study that shows a change in the way Wikipedia works, which is becoming more and more a restricted community hostile to occasional publishers. Researchers at Palo Alto Research Center in California warn that the evolution of wiki could jeopardize its future. The content creation is in regression, fewer and fewer articles are created and fewer edits are made.
One could explain this by the fact that many pages have been created (3 million for the English subdomain), so the need to complete the site becomes less obvious. But it seems that the problem comes from elsewhere.
Not only the number of items created per month is reduced but the number of monthly contributions (5.5 million) and publishers – registered or not – (750 000), is reduced too.
The occasional publishers are apparently object of ostracism. 25% of their contributions are deleted against 10% a few years ago. Thus, according to researchers, older publishers do act of resistance towards others, which tends to discourage them and leads to lower the quality of the content of the site.
This worries the Wikimedia Foundation and it has launched an operation to try to understand the phenomenon.
According to Google Trends for Website, Wikipedia.org’s traffic as a whole is declining slowly since 2007. This confirms the conclusions derived by the authors of this study.
The search engine Google, the source of most of the traffic of the site, always provided it with a preferential position in results pages. But it also tends to promote new content and related news. The stagnation of the renewal of the site content is consistent with the decline in its audience.
- The report of the team in Palo Alto.
It compares the activities of publishers to a culture of microbes whose number ceases to grow due to lack of nutrients.
- List of online collaborative encyclopedia. Other sites to contribute.
- Biggest edit wars.
- Wikipedia encourages suicide. According to this article by the renowned English site Ars Technica, the first three websites that promote suicide are websites dedicated to suicide. The fourth is Wikipedia.