color coded douglas kastle reputation wikipedia

Wikipedia trust coloring demo

I love wikipedia, it is a comfortable hole that I fall into a lot and find it very hard to get back out of. In many way like 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon, I seem to inexorably coming back to pages dealing with Star Trek or Nazi Germany, maybe that says more about the user rather than wikipedia.

Most of the time when reading pages I don’t feel there is any reason to doubt what I am reading (I have proof-read some Star Trek articles for quality and have yet to find an error). However there are some pages, politicians, Scientology etc. that you just know you cannot believe by faith alone. It is a problem and I have covered the issue of wikipedia reputation before. It is good to know that other people are working on solving this problem.

The tack that they have taken is similar to the idea that I proposed (even though it is probably self evident) which is to give a user a rating based on the work contributed, but also what survives edits. As a result words on a specific page are color coded based on the user who added it and their reputation. I like their color coding, it is a lot more subtle than I thought could be done and I think it works. If nothing else it is a very good way of highlighting what is contention and bringing eyes to bare to at least help resolve it. I can’t wait to see this deployed.

computer generated universe theory dilbert douglas kastle Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy on the go s60 scott adams wikipedia

Wikipedia on the Go has arrived

Originally uploaded by bjortklingd

Just two weeks ago I was predicting the arrival of downloadable wikipedia for smart phones. Well it has arrived. The Series 60 Weblog has made available a downloadable wikipedia that can be installed to any S60 platform enabled smartphone.

This is happening to me a lot recently, ideas that I come up with are been invented or created not long after I utter it. Either I am hyper-intune with the current internet connected world or Dilbert writer Scott Adams is onto something when he suggests we are nothing more than badly programmed computer generated holograms. There was even an argument for the latter recently stating that it is statistically more likely that we are computer constructs than living beings.

“But my favorite theory is that I’m nothing but a hologram in a computer program built by my ancient self, before the planet was destroyed by some disaster. The reason I can glimpse my future is that I have all of the qualities of the real me who wrote my program. In other words, I can accurately imagine my future because it is playing out much like I would have authored it myself.”

It kinda reminds me of the type of logic used in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Specifically the case where the population of the universe is reasoned to be zero:

“It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.”
douglas kastle guinness book of records iphone mobile N95 on the go trivia wikipedia

Trivia night destroyer – wikipedia on the go

The crowd gatheres – North Bondi RSL
Originally uploaded by Charlie Brewer

In 1951, or so the story goes, the Guinness book of records was conceived when Sir Hugh Beaver realised that there was no reference book available to answer the question which is the fastest game bird in Europe, the golden plover or the grouse?

Nowadays the Guinness book of records has been superseded by wikipedia and the answer to all question current and arcane, “TO THE WIKIPEDIA!” is a cry heard all to often when a polite conversation degrades in to a slagging match. For the record glass is not a very slowly moving liquid and you can’t see the Coriolis effect in a toilet bowl flush (also dropping sugar into a draining sink does not help determine rotation).

However till now to answer a questions of this type required a computer and an internet link. Which meant that in the rarefied environment of Pub Trivia it has thus far been limited to what was been carried around solely in the competitors heads. This is slowly been eroded away, first mobile phones arrived, so you could ring a friend near a computer to get and answer. Then phones became GPRS enabled allowing internet access which will work, but is expensive. These are slowly been replaced by wifi enabled phones, but then this is currently limited as there may be no access point available (the rule rather than the exception in my experience). Thus far, even though the technology exists and has for a while it is patchy, cumbersome or expensive.

So the solution is simple, instead of trying to get to wikipedia over expensive or patchy infrastructure, why not just bring it with you? An enterprising gentlemen, ttsiod, has written a program that allows him to access a local copy of wikipedia on his laptop. No matter where he goes in the world he always has access, albeit to a static version of the people encyclopedia.

Not many people know that you can download the entire contents of wikipedia, it’s current compressed size is 2.9 GB. After hacking around with few open tools ttsiod is able to browse and keyword search his local wikipedia. Admittedly his current implementation isn’t for the faint hearted. However, how long will it take to port to an even more portable device, like the iPhone (with 8 GB of space) or other smart phone, the N95 for example has a microSD slot and disks sizes already up into the 4GB space.

It will only be a matter of time before all that knowledge can be bubbled down and people will be able to carry the font of human knowledge in their pocket. At that point in time any office argument will be solved in seconds and all trivia night questions are a predictive text search away. Can you smell the future? Are you excited? Are you scared?

Update : Imagine no longer, 2 weeks later, the future is here.

douglas kastle John Seigenthaler puppy reputation wiki wikipedia

Wikipedia Reputation

It seems like every month there is a slashdot article on the validity and trustability of wikipedia

Wikipedia and the Politics of Verification
Is Wikipedia Failing?
A Wikipedia Without Graffiti
Long-Term Wikipedia Vandalism Exposed

It took me a while to find it again but way back in september 2006 Tom Cross posted a very interesting article, in First Monday, on a possible reputation systems to limit the effects of vandalism on public wikis. It was very informative then and I think that something like this is even more relevant now :

Puppy smoothies: Improving the reliability of open, collaborative wikis

The slashdot post is here :

Could a Reputation System Improve Wikipedia?

The gist of the research is that on each wiki page the content of the page is colored coded to mark the freshness (or age) of the all the text on the page. The older the text the longer it has survived unedited and the greater likelihood that it has survived many eyes looking at it.

If I could add at all to this excellent piece of research it would be that there may be a way to color code relative to the user that edited the text. Imagine a rating system that measures every edit a user makes versus the number of corrections made to that user’s edits. This is somewhat similar to the ebay model of buyer and seller feedback. However instead of trying to get a edit positively feedback (Fast payment, super customer. Thank you.) it is just the survivability of an edit that is positive feedback and should someone change your edit, even for spelling, then you rating should go down by the proportion of changes to the original edit size. So if some one correct 20% of the original edit the postive effect of the original edit is only 80% the effect of an uncorrected edit.

This mechanism, I believe, should flag trolls and vandals a lot easier as if they do nothing but contribute negative content then they will have a negative rating, which if color coded corrected will come scream of the scream in red.

This might have had a little effect on the John Seigenthaler case :

Wikipedia Hoax Author Confesses

as I’m guessing the hoax author wasn’t very prolific in valid unedited articles elsewhere in wikipedia, should some one have gotten to this page what turned out to be questionable content on this page could have been flagged with a color to indicate content from an immature (in terms of contributing to wikipedia) user as they have yet to get a high rating in wikipedia.

Any way it’s just a thought.

Please Do Not be alarmed., originally uploaded by Thorin.