Wikiality and Wikimania

In case you missed it, Stephen Colbert is walking in my footsteps and replicating the Isuzu Experiement on Wikipedia. Obviously, he didn’t read my follow-up, suggesting that this was a bad thing to do.

He also says: “I love Wikipedia. Any site that has a longer entry on ‘truthiness’ than on Lutherans has its priorities straight.” Well, not sure I entirely agree, but it gets at something Derek Lackaff and I have been looking at: the “lumpiness” of topical coverage on Wikipedia. We’ll be presenting the first part of that research at Wikimania on Friday. Here’s the abstract:

Sins of Omission? An Exploratory Evaluation of Wikipedia’s Topical Coverage

The “reliability” and “credibility” of the freely-editable Wikipedia are issues of popular interest and concern. Much of Wikipedia’s recent media attention has been the result of errors of commission, where factually inaccurate information has been deliberately placed in articles, or relevant information was deleted from articles. Wikipedia’s open and distributed editorial structure may serve to ameliorate this type of error, but introduces the potential for a second type or error: errors of omission. While some topics, such as the fictional Harry Potter universe, may be covered in extraordinary detail (over 300 articles), other topics, such as geriatrics, are addressed by only a handful of entries (14 articles). As an exploratory effort, we compare three topical knowledge domains on Wikipedia – poetry, physics, and linguistics – with published encyclopedic treatments. While these fields are chosen for convenience, and may not represent a true sample, they should indicate similar relationships in other scholarly fields. We do not compare the content of these articles, but rather the degree of coincidental topical coverage between traditional academic encyclopedias and Wikipedia.

I’m only going to be able to attend Friday and (most of Saturday). If you are in Cambridge, Mass this weekend, drop me a line (06(at) if you want to get together.

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  1. Dragonfly
    Posted 8/2/2006 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    You’re aware that not all articles pertaining to geriatrics are tagged as being in the category “geriatrics”, yes?

  2. alex
    Posted 8/2/2006 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Yup. In fact, one of the difficult issues is that the category system is not particularly helpful. We end up using it to get at least a glance at some areas (in fact, we end up not looking at geriatrics), but we are aware that the categories are “messy.”

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