Wiredreports that the WikiTrust MediaWiki extension for evaluating the trustworthiness of text within Wikipedia articles may be deployed on English Wikipedia over the next few months. Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, led by Luca de Alfaro, have been developing the WikiTrust software since 2007; they created a WikiTrust demonstration in late 2007 (no longer available) based on a dump of English Wikipedia.
The extension works by determining the origin of each segment of text within an article and calculating a trust value based on the reputation of the editor who added it and the reputations of editors who subsequently edited the article without removing the text. Authors' reputations are based on how much stable content they have added and how rarely their contributions are reverted. The extension is deployed on the WikiTrust wiki; the trust features are accessible through the "check text" tab. The WikiTrust team has also developed an experimental Firefox add-on that adds a trust tab at the top of article pages.
On a mailing list discussion, Brion Vibber confirmed that plans to eventually deploy WikiTrust are in the works:
We've been planning to get a test setup together since conversations at the Berlin developer meetup in April, but actual implementation of it is pending coordination with Luca and his team.
My understanding is that work has proceeded pretty well on setting it up to be able to fetch page history data more cleanly internally, which was a prerequisite, so we're hoping to get that going this fall.
We're very interested in WikiTrust, primarily for two reasons:
- it allows us to create blamemaps for history pages, so that you can quickly see who added a specific piece of text. This is very interesting for anyone who's ever tried to navigate a long version history to find out who added something.
- it potentially allows us to come up with an algorithmic "best recent revision" guess. This is very useful for offline exports.
The trust coloring is clearly the most controversial part of the technology. However, it's also integral to it, and we think it could be valuable. If we do integrate it, it would likely be initially as a user preference. (And of course no view of the article would have it toggled on by default.) There may also be additional community consultation required.
Any integration is contingent on the readiness of the technology. It seems to have matured over the last couple of years, and we're planning to meet with Luca soon to review the current state of things. There's no fixed deployment roadmap yet, and the deployment of FlaggedRevs is our #1 priority.
War by any other means
Point of view disputes are not uncommon on Wikipedia, especially when tied in to emotive issues such as nationhood and identity. Wikipedia has seen a number of disputes on such subjects end up in arbitration, most recently regarding Macedonia. Recent opinion pieces in Azerbaijan and Armenian on-line newspapers indicate Wikipedia may be facing another such instance. On the 24 August, the Today.Az told its readers "Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, is very popular around the world. But the errors or deliberate distortions of many articles related to Azerbaijan, especially the Karabakh conflict, have become frequent."[war 1] The piece included a call to arms:
"We call on all Azerbaijani citizens and those who are aware of the truth to correct the mistakes related to Azerbaijan’s history, geography, Karabakh conflict and traditions."[war 1]
Reaction from The Armenian Weekly followed on the 31 August. Shahan Kandaharian characterised the Azerbaijan piece as an "information war", asserting that while "not officially announced, this incursion of misinformation carries all the convincing ingredients that it enjoys the auspices and support of the Turkish state." [war 2] Kandaharian went on to ask readers to
"take part in this information-misinformation war. Wikipedia, or any self-respecting open encyclopedia, must finally realize that there’s the need of maintaining a certain level of credibility. And no matter how active the Azeri information incursion is, information must not be replaced by mis-information."[war 2]
According to the two pieces, articles containing disputed information could include Artsakh, Nagorno-Karabakh, the featured article Nagorno-Karabakh War and Armenia. The editing history of these articles appears to indicate no outbreak of this war as yet, although the article on Armenia has been semi-protected since 19 May 2007.
After Brion Vibber's post on the Wikimedia Tech blog last week that alluded to plans to implement the FlaggedRevs extension on English Wikipedia, a story by Noam Cohen of the New York Times set off an intense cycle of coverage in English media across the globe. Despite reports that implied otherwise, Wikipedia:Flagged protection and patrolled revisions is still the current plan for a two-month trial, with the decision whether and how to continue using FlaggedRevs to be decided by the Wikipedia community at the end of the trial.
As in previous years, New York Times journalist Noam Cohen—who reports on Wikipedia frequently—attended Wikimania and dispatched a series of posts about the event to the Times' Bits Blog. Cohen covered Richard Stallman's thoughts on Wikipedia before the conference began, Stallman's controversial keynote speech on the first day, and the panel discussion about English Wikipedia's decline in editing activity and slowdown in article growth in recent years. (For more on Wikimania 2009, see Signpost coverage.)