Wikipedia:highly edited entries and who makes these edits
February 27th, 2007

This Nature article says “right now there are around 6.4 million articles on Wikipedia, generated by over 250 million edits from 5.8 million contributors. Wilkinson and Huberman have studied the editing statistics and found that they don’t simply follow the statistical pattern expected from a random process in which each edit is made independently of the others.Instead, there is an abnormally high number of very highly edited entries. The researchers say this is just what is expected if the number of new edits to an article is proportional to the number of previous edits. In other words, edits attract more edits. The disproportionately highly edited articles, the researchers say, are those that deal with very topical issues.And does this increased attention make them better? So it seems. Although the quality of an entry is not easy to assess automatically, Wilkinson and Huberman assume that those articles selected as the ‘best’ by the Wikipedia user community are indeed in some sense superior. These, they say, are more highly edited, and by a greater number of users, than the less visible entries.
Who is making these edits, though? Some have claimed that Wikipedia articles don’t truly draw on the collective wisdom of its users, but are put together mostly by a small, select élite, including the system’s administrators. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has admitted that he spends “a lot of time listening to four or five hundred” top users.Aniket Kittur of the University of California, Los Angeles, and co-workers have set out to discover who really does the editing2. They have looked at 4.7 million pages from the English-language Wikipedia, subjected to a total of about 58 million revisions, to see who was making the changes, and how.The results were striking. In effect, the Wiki community has mutated since 2001 from an oligarchy to a democracy. The percentage of edits made by the Wikipedia ‘élite’ of administrators increased steadily up to 2004, when it reached around 50%. But since then it has steadily declined, and is now just 10% (and falling).Even though the edits made by this élite are generally more substantial than those made by the masses, their overall influence has clearly waned.Wikipedia is now dominated by users who are much more numerous than the elite but individually less active”.

The more, the wikier


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