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.