Temporary exile

A Paper on Self Organization in Wikipedia

I just finished reading a fascinating paper on the topic of self organization in Wikipedia. These Dutch researchers put together a very entertaining read for the 2006 WikiSym workshop on Research in Wikipedia where they analyzed the Dutch Wikipedia, as it was in 2005, looking for signs of self organization. One of the most interesting things that the researchers measured was the degree of article connectedness. They modeled the entire Dutch Wikipedia as a giant graph) with each article being a node while measuring the number of articles linking to it (indegree) and a the number of articles it links to (outdegree). The indegree and the outdegree are combined to give you the article’s total degree. In order to classify articles based on degree, the research team coined terminology to describe connectedness. Articles were designated as a guru authority, all-around authority, referring authority or a regular node. For details on the results, you  really must see the paper. It’s really fascinating to realize that a lack of top-down control can lead to an effective working team. Even more impressive is the sheer scale of Wikipedia’s accomplishments. With 2.3+ million articles in the English Wikipedia, it’s become quite apparent that the community at large is most certainly capable of producing effectively. The specifics of this are made clear by the paper’s discussion of author expertise. Most informative are the histogram plots detailing authoring and edit patterns. Of course now, after reading this paper, I have a strong desire to download a text dump of the English Wikipedia and crawl it to determine connectedness. Granted I could certainly find a computer capable of holding the the full dump (\~3.8 Gb compressed XML) but it would most likely take an eternity to crawl the document Moreover, the resulting data would be particularly unwieldy even if stored in a decent database. Perhaps someday…

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