What makes a Wikipedia article good?

February 28th, 2007

Wikipedia It’s just like my high school English teacher said — the secret to writing well is to “rewrite, rewrite, rewrite”.

A note on news@nature.com, The more, the wikier, cites recent work on the Wikipedia process, starting with a preprint by Dennis Wilkinson and Bernardo A. Huberman and HP’s Information Dynamics Lab that concludes that the the more edits an article has received the higher is its quality.

Assessing the Value of Cooperation in Wikipedia. Since its inception six years ago, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia has accumulated 6.40 million articles and 250 million edits, contributed in a predominantly undirected and haphazard fashion by 5.77 million unvetted volunteers. Despite the apparent lack of order, the 50 million edits by 4.8 million contributors to the 1.5 million articles in the English-language Wikipedia follow strong certain overall regularities. We show that the accretion of edits to an article is described by a simple stochastic mechanism, resulting in a heavy tail of highly visible articles with a large number of edits. We also demonstrate a crucial correlation between article quality and number of edits, which validates Wikipedia as a successful collaborative effort.

Another article cited in the note is by Aniket Kittur, Bryan A. Pendleton, Bongwon Suh, and Todd Mytkowicz, Power of the Few vs. Wisdom of the Crowd: Wikipedia and the Rise of the Bourgeoisie, and submitted to alt.chi 2007.

Wikipedia has been a resounding success story as a collaborative system with a low cost of online participation. However, it is an open question whether the success of Wikipedia results from a “wisdom of crowds” type of effect in which a large number of people each make a small number of edits, or whether it is driven by a core group of “elite” users who do the lion’s share of the work. In this study we examined how the influence of “elite” vs. “common” users changed over time in Wikipedia. The results suggest that although Wikipedia was driven by the influence of “elite” users early on, more recently there has been a dramatic shift in workload to the “common” user. We also show the same shift in del.icio.us, a very different type of social collaborative knowledge system. We discuss how these results mirror the dynamics found in more traditional social collectives, and how they can influence the design of new collaborative knowledge systems.

(spotted on Smart Mobs)