Last Friday I was interviewed on the Midday Report with Chris Gibbons. This is a very fast paced show which addresses everything from business to politics and what lies in between. The topic was who’s editing Wikipedia which has been driving up a storm of online commentary. A Caltech graduate Virgin Griffith has developed an application Wikipedia scanner, which identifies the anonymous edits on Wikipedia pages.
Most of the articles on Wikipedia, which now has almost 2 million English language articles, are written by registered users. Yours truly included. It’s the old Pareto principle where 20% of the people produce 80% of the output. They way Wikipedia works is that even anonymous users can edit any page. That’s the classic definition of a Wiki. And so what Wikipedia does is record your IP address. There are databases on the Internet which record the distribution of IP address to large organisations, countries and ISPs. You can simply use the WHOIS function on such domain name lookup or IP address lookup databases.
As a standard practise Wikipedia records a history of edits. This becomes very useful when abuse takes place on a particular article and Wikipedia editors can roll back very within minutes of detecting the changes. Wikipedia also has a very detailed FAQ which explains it’s rules and regulations in detail. Now when you find that an article is biased in a particular direction this violates the Neutral Point of View clause.
So when you find large organisations like Diebold, Church of Scientology and the Catholic Church, removing negative comments on their entries it’s no surprise. The beauty of the Wikipedia scanner is that it reinforces the self-regulation that has made Wikipedia such a big hit. In the bigger context it’s a hark back to the Cluetrain Manifesto where conversations become smarter, the larger the network of participants.
I have for a long time been an advocate of more contribution to Wikipedia from African countries. This is one of the best ways to make our voices heard. So I encourage you to sign up as a registered user on Wikipedia and start editing and contributing more content in your language of choice.