Papal scoop

Wikipedia keeps on top of the news

Rapid updating noted

The media this week noted Wikipedia's capacity to remain extremely up to date with rapidly changing events. Discussing Encarta's new functionality, said that the capacity to create new entries on Wikipedia would probably keep it on top, and noted that there is an extensive article here on podcasting, for example, while Encarta still has nothing on the topic [1]

Demonstrating the point, news of the election of a new pope brought Wikipedians out in force to keep the article on Pope Benedict XVI up to date. The new pontiff's article was moved from 'Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger' to his papal title at 17:44 on 19 April, just 45 minutes after the white smoke had been sighted from the roof of the Sistine Chapel and just minutes after he was proclaimed as the new pope. Since then, the article has been subject to furious editing, accruing over 3,000 edits as of late evening on 24 April, 1,200 of which came in the first 12 hours of the article's life.

Server rush

As well as triggering rapid editing, the conclusion of the conclave also brought a flood of visitors to the site. Following the announcement of the election, a rush of traffic to Wikipedia saw up to 2100 hits per second registered, rising from the normal 1,500/s in just a few minutes [2]. Tim Starling temporarily disabled searches, due to the excessive load on the Apache servers, but the site was otherwise unaffected by the flood of traffic. discussed the media coverage of the papal conclave [3], and pointed out that the Wikipedia entry on the former Cardinal Ratzinger was almost instantly moved to reflect his new title as news of his election broke. The Houston Chronicle was also impressed by the article on the new pope, and invited its readers to edit the article if they saw anything they thought should be changed [4].

Continuing success at covering breaking events

Since the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake, the media has been consistently impressed by Wikipedia's updates to its articles as events happen. The favourable coverage of work on pope-related articles comes hot on the heels of last week's news that Wikipedia had scooped mainstream news sources by many hours in updating the article on Andrea Dworkin with news of her death (see archived story).

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