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Automatic detection of "infiltrating" Wikipedia admins; Wiki, or 'pedia?

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By Brian Keegan, Piotr Konieczny, Aaron Halfaker, Jonathan Morgan and Tilman Bayer

A monthly overview of recent academic research about Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects, also published as the Wikimedia Research Newsletter.

Wiki, or 'pedia? The genre and values of Wikipedia compared with other encyclopedias

Wikipedia and Encyclopaedism: A Genre Analysis of Epistemological Values[1] is a new master's thesis that analyzes the values that influenced how knowledge is presented on Wikipedia, in comparison with other encyclopedias that have been created throughout history. The author uses genre analysis to compare the epistemological values that are represented in the kind of knowledge that different encyclopedias present and in the way they present that knowledge. The author first conducts a literature review to compare the epistemology of two genres: wikis and encyclopedias. The wiki epistemology is composed of six values: self-identification, collaboration, co-construction, cooperation, trust in the community, and constructionism. By contrast, the values of major current and historical encyclopedias—such as Diderot's Encyclopédie, Pliny's Natural History, and the Encyclopædia Britannica—prioritize trust in experts, authority, and consistency.

Despite being based on different, and even somewhat contradictory, value systems, the purpose of Wikipedia and the way it presents knowledge are shown to be similar to other works in the encyclopedia genre. The author analyzes the frequency of common words in section headings of 25 heavily edited English Wikipedia articles that had a corresponding article in Britannica. He compares the evolution of section headings within these Wikipedia articles and multiple editions of Britannica, and shows that the gradual process by which a Wikipedia article becomes more structured through the addition and alteration of headings is similar to the process for Britannica articles, which also tend to become longer and more formally structured over subsequent editions. This thesis presents some interesting parallels between the way articles are developed within Wikipedia and other encyclopedias, despite vastly different timescales and some differing underlying values. It also offers an engaging, in-depth discussion of the concept of genre, the purpose of the encyclopedia genre, and the history of several major historical encyclopedias.

In a paper titled "Temporal Wikipedia search by edits and linkage",[2] the authors develop a method to identify Wikipedia articles associated with topics around a date based on changes the length of the article as well as patterns of the other articles to which it links. This paper expands on prior work in temporal information retrieval and anomaly detection and uses modifications to the HITS and PageRank to return a list of the most relevant documents for a topic on a date. This work has implications for not only using Wikipedia data to identify trending topics, but also to retrospectively identify trending topics. A downloadable Java client allows test searches (for the months of September and October 2011) and the display of the resulting page networks.

Automatic detection of "infiltrating" Wikipedia admins

A paper titled "Manipulation Among the Arbiters of Collective Intelligence: How Wikipedia Administrators Mold Public Opinion",[3] to be presented at next month's ACM Conference on Information and Knowledge Management (CIKM), makes a rather serious claim: "We find a surprisingly large number of editors who change their behavior and begin focusing more on a particular controversial topic once they are promoted to administrator status." This reviewer does not find it shocking, as he has written about this problem years ago. The authors note that those editors are difficult to understand based on their pattern of edits, but are more easily spotted by analyzing the pattern of votes at Wikipedia:Requests for adminship, though they also suggest that a relatively simple fix may be helpful - simply increasing the threshold of success votes required for a successful RfA may increase the quality of the Wikipedia admin corps.

One may however quibble with "enforcement of neutrality is in the hands of comparatively few, powerful administrators", another attention-drawing claim in the abstract, that however finds little discussion or support in the body. Discussions about NPOV topics are hardly limited to mop'n'bucket wielders, and thus this claim, and the article abstract, may be exaggerating the importance of the findings. Some admins wait until getting the nearly-impossible-to-remove mop before becoming, well, regular editors. As long as they are not abusing their powers - this reviewer is not sure why we should care. What is more relevant, certainly, is how this entire process shows the inefficiency of RfA, which forces people to hide behind false "I am perfect" personas, as any sign of being a real person (i.e. making errors, being human, etc.) is often enough to threaten to derail that process. Still, this review is not a place for beating that nearly dead horse - but those interested in the RfA reform process should likely read this article in more detail.

Academic role models important for promoting the use of Wikipedia in higher education

"An Empirical Study on Faculty Perceptions and Teaching Practices of Wikipedia"[4] is a new paper in the emerging subfield of "academics and educators attitudes on Wikipedia", which we have covered before (links). This paper benefits from a respectable sample (about 800 respondents from the faculty body of the Open University of Catalonia). The paper confirms a number of previous findings, namely the importance of one's perception of Wikipedia's usefulness and quality, which is significantly and positively correlated to whether one will consider using it as a teaching resource. Correspondingly, poor knowledge about Wikipedia in particular, and about open access and collaborative knowledge creation models in general, are negatively correlated with views on Wikipedia. Having a respected figure (role model) using Wikipedia in teaching is also likely to influence others, through the usual informal peer networks. Individual characteristics (academic rank, teaching experience, age or gender) are not seen as significant. As the authors conclude, there is much work to be done in educating the worlds of education and academia about the basics of Wikipedia - something we should never take for granted.

Was Steve Jobs an inventor? WP:V as "delegated voice"

In a paper titled "Learning through Massively Co-Authored Biographies: Making Sense of Steve Jobs on Wikipedia through Delegated Voice",[5] the authors performed a qualitative analysis of discussions about whether or not to describe Steve Jobs as an "inventor" from the articles talk page. They use the discussion as an example of Wikipedians' use of WP:Verifiability to write articles from a "delegated voice". While mostly critical of the limitations and contradictions that this approach to encyclopedia construction entails, they admit that Wikipedia articles "do indeed illustrate a variety of voices and points of view." They draw a contrast with Encyclopedia Britannica's entry on Steve Jobs which does not contain any critical comments while Wikipedia's contains several nuanced discussions critical of Jobs' life and work.



  1. ^ Steven J. Jankowski: Wikipedia and Encyclopaedism: A Genre Analysis of Epistemological Values
  2. ^ Julianna Göbölös-Szabó, András A. Benczúr: Temporal Wikipedia search by edits and linkage. TAIA’13 August 1, 2013, Dublin, Ireland.
  3. ^ Sanmay Das, Allen Lavoie, Malik Magdon-Ismail: Manipulation Among the Arbiters of Collective Intelligence: How Wikipedia Administrators Mold Public Opinion. CIKM’13, Oct. 27–Nov. 1, 2013, San Francisco, CA, USA.
  4. ^ Josep Lladós; Eduard Aibar; Maura Lerga; Antoni Meseguer; Julià Minguillon: An Empirical Study on Faculty Perceptions and Teaching Practices of Wikipedia
  5. ^ Rughinis, C.; Matei, S.: Learning through Massively Co-Authored Biographies: Making Sense of Steve Jobs on Wikipedia through Delegated Voice. Control Systems and Computer Science (CSCS), 2013, 19th International Conference on 29-31 May 2013, Closed access icon
  6. ^ User:LA2:
  7. ^ Zahurul Islam and Alexander Mehler: Automatic Readability Classification of Crowd-Sourced Data based on Linguistic and Information-Theoretic Features
  8. ^ Annual survey by ARD and ZDF
  9. ^ Deepika Sethi: A Large Scale Study of Edit Patterns in Wikipedia and its Applications to Vandalism Detection
  10. ^ Johannes Daxenberger and Iryna Gurevych: Automatically Classifying Edit Categories in Wikipedia Revisions
  11. ^ Nicolas Sannier, Mathieu Acher, and Benoit Baudry: From Comparison Matrix to Variability Model: The Wikipedia Case Study. 8th IEEE/ACM International Conference on Automated Software Engineering (2013)
  12. ^ Shruti Bhosale, Heath Vinicombe, Raymond Mooney: "Detecting Promotional Content in Wikipedia"
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  • "delegated voice" is red, and I can envision several slightly different meanings. It's only mention anywhere on en.wp is this Signpost item. Could someone figure out what it means and make it blue? DMacks (talk) 17:17, 27 September 2013 (UTC)[reply]
    • @DMacks: I'm not seeing a redlink in the Signpost article, anywhere. More generally, I'd guess (without reading the referenced article) that "delegated voice" means that Wikipedia articles are supposed to reflect what is in reliable sources, and that originality of opinion, or synthesis by Wikipedia editors, is disallowed per WP:NOR. So a limited number of opinions (news articles, authoritative statements) are filtered through Wikipedia editors ("delegated") in the process of going into Wikipedia articles (being "voiced" there). -- John Broughton (♫♫) 19:44, 27 September 2013 (UTC)[reply]
      • It's red right there in my comment:) It's not linked or explained at all in the Signpost blurb, which is my main concern. In lay language, it could just as easily mean that wikipedia takes on (is delegated) the voice of the source, stating something "is" rather than that "[some source] says". And that's exactly why having it undefined and leaving us to speculate is a problem. DMacks (talk) 19:51, 27 September 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • "fixing of spelling mistaken"? That's cute, but isn't that more of a typo than a spelling mistake? – Jonesey95 (talk) 07:35, 28 September 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • Do we really need the editorialising second paragraph in the story about the research into Admins? It seems rather self-indulgent. Nick-D (talk) 23:58, 29 September 2013 (UTC)[reply]
    • It seems really out of place on a page that otherwise consists of summaries. Op eds are all well and good, but this piece seemed to just be taking isolated points from the paper as a springboard for unrelated RfA and administrator criticism that has no empirical support. The connection to the linked essay was unclear as well. Dcoetzee 19:10, 2 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
The format of this research report explicitly allows for reviews, which contain personal opinion almost by definition. That said, I understand the concerns raised in this specific case, and had suggested before publication (see my talk page) that those personal reviewer comments should be balanced by more detail about the paper's methodology and results, but in the end neither I nor other people got around to making such edits or additions to the draft; unfortunately my own available time for this issue was very limited.
FYI, one of the authors has reacted to the review here.
Regards, Tbayer (WMF) (talk) 20:55, 15 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Nick, in the end, as with everything else, we need more volunteers to help review papers, offer second opinion, and so on. If you would like to join, you are more then welcome! --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 03:34, 16 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]


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