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How to Judge the Quality of a WIkipedia Page


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A how-to to guide a skeptical reader of Wikipedia in assessing the relative quality of a randomly selected Wikipedia page. This includes using the tools built into Wikipedia as well as external tools like WikiTrust.

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How to Judge the Quality of a WIkipedia Page

  1. 1. How to Judge the Quality of a Wikipedia Page by Tim Farley & Granite State Skeptics in the Pub September 13, 2010
  2. 2. Introduction & Agenda •Why is Wikipedia important? •Using article ratings •Features of good articles •Warning signs of bad articles •Using the talk & history pages •Using WikiTrust
  3. 3. Skeptical of Wikipedia? •Editing is open to anyone • Includes anonymous editing •No significant central editing authority •Yes, there is much junk •Quality & editing is uneven due to reliance on volunteers
  4. 4. Some of Wikipedia is high quality •Nature study in 2005 showed science articles are comparable between Wikipedia & Britannica 1 •Other studies also found much to praise 2 •Studies not without their detractors • 1“Internet encyclopaedias go head to head”, Nature 438 (7070) p900-901; 2Also see:
  5. 5. Some articles can be quite bad •Lots of crap articles (“stubs”) •Lots of vandalism (often corrected quickly) •People have been libeled • John Siegenthaler incident • Wikipedia has been sued on more than one occasion
  6. 6. Why should we care? •Is very well known •Content is freely licensable, and thus appears elsewhere as well •Ranks very highly in Google
  7. 7. Search engine results are crucial •Users rely on search engines 1 • 88% will start with a search engine when asked to do a random online task •“Google Gullibility” - Users use only the top results2 •Therefore search engine results are important - hence the emergence of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) • 1Jacob Neilsen’s Alertbox, 2Jacob Neilsen’s Alertbox,
  8. 8. #1 hits in Google • acupuncture, Adam Savage, AIDS denial, alien abduction, Andrew Wakefield, astral projection, attachment therapy, ayurveda, Ben Radford, bigfoot, Breatharian, Carl Sagan, Charles Darwin, chiropractic, Christian Science, clairvoyance, colloidal silver, craniosacral, creationism, critical thinking, cryptid, cupping, debunking, Derek Colanduno, detoxification, double blind, dowsing, Edzard Ernst, evolution, EVP, exorcism, facilitated communication, faith healer, feng shui, ganzfeld, ghosts, Harry Houdini, holistic health, Holocaust denial, homeopathy, hypnosis, Illuminati, intelligent design, iridology, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jenny McCarthy, Kevin Trudeau, Loch Ness monster, Martin Gardner, Matthias Rath, mediums, MMR, moxibustion, naturopathy, new world order, numerology, ozone therapy, parapsychology, Paul Kurtz, Peter Popoff, poltergeist, pseudoscience, psychic, psychic surgery, quackery, Ray Hyman, Rebecca Watson, reiki, reparative therapy, Sai Baba, Scientology, skepticism, Steven Novella, thimerosal, Uri Geller, witchcraft
  9. 9. Wikipedia article grades • FA - Featured Article A - Class A GA - Good Article B - Class B C - Class C Start - Good start but incomplete Stub - Very basic Unassessed - Nobody has given it a rating yet FL - Featured list List - An article that is only a list • See:
  10. 10. So where are these grades?
  11. 11. An easier way - gadgets
  12. 12. Article assessment with gadget
  13. 13. Other things on Talk Pages •Discussion pages contain many other things... • Further warnings about editing the article • Discussions between editors, particularly when edits are controversial • Whether or not the article was proposed to be deleted in the past • Other notes & links to related administration pages
  14. 14. No assessment? Look for references •References should be a variety of reliable sources •Inline footnotes for each fact in article
  15. 15. Red flag: [citation needed]
  16. 16. Red flag: warning boxes
  17. 17. Who are the volunteers that do this? •All content comes from volunteer editors •This includes assessments, warning boxes, etc. •Who vets individual editor actions? Other editors. •That other editor might be you. •Wikipedia keeps an extensive edit history - use it.
  18. 18. Revision history
  19. 19. Manual history review •Tools are not very sophisticated - one edit at a time •Majority of edits on most articles are simple copy editing (punctuation and so on) •Finding when a given piece of text was added can involve a very tedious search •How do you know if the editor involved has any credibility?
  20. 20. New Tool: WikiTrust •Analyzes the edit history of an article for you •Shows you the result right inside the article •New, untrusted text is highlighted in orange •Older, trusted text appears normal
  21. 21. WikiTrust
  22. 22. WikiTrust pros and cons •Advantages • Requires no special knowledge • Doesn’t require you to log in to Wikipedia • One click takes you to the associated history •Disadvantages • Requires Firefox browser
  23. 23. Thank you! •Follow me on Twitter, Facebook or FriendFeed: I post skeptic news & a Skeptic History item every day. •What’s The Harm is •Skeptical Software Tools blog is