on trusting wikipedia


Brian Lamb raves about the awesome Murder, Madness, Mayhem project that was run by Jon Beasley Murray - where students in his course worked to create and edit pages in Wikipedia to bring them up to "Featured Article" status. Brian talks about how wikis are powerful examples of collaborative editing, and that although the students' work is in the open, that any errors or omissions (or worse) would be fixed by the wikipedia community very quickly.

I finally decided to test this out. Not that I didn't believe Brian - I did - but I wanted to put it to the test. Does this REALLY happen? How quickly? Even on relatively obscure pages?

So, while watching Brian's awesome TTIX 2009 keynote, I pulled up the wikipedia page that he was talking about, and proceeded to make my own contribution to it.

elsenorpresidente_edit

Seems like a pretty good edit, to me. It looked official, and linked to 2 other (albeit nonexistent) pages on wikipedia. I know I enjoyed the performance of the Saskatoon Prairie Theatre.

Then, I monitored the page.

13 hours later, this happened:

elsenorundone

Some anonymous person in Brazil noticed the edit, correctly decided that it wasn't a valid contribution to the article, and yanked it from the published version of El Señor Presidente.

Is that something that can be generalized? Can all wikipedia pages be trusted? Probably not. But, knowing that a relatively obscure page was monitored and corrected in 13 hours gives me more confidence to trust the rest of the wikipedia collection of articles.

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