A recent study published in First Monday analyzed how quickly some minor errors (“fibs”) introduced into Wikipedia by the author were corrected by the community. The author limited his fibs to biographies of famous and semi-famous philosophers.

Overall, 1/3 to 1/2 of the fibs were corrected within 48 hours, and additional entries were flagged with “need citation,” indicating that they had been caught and the time to correction was near. In fact, the median response time was 2 hours 15 minutes (it took about twice as long to correct a subset of articles that were not high-profile).

Because Wikipedia editors can track down changes using “assocation effects” (looking for changes by one user during a session), also known as “vandal patrol,” the author tried to insert fibs in a way that would minimize the association trail. However, 20-25% of his fibs were fixed by an editor on vandal patrol, nonetheless.

This is a brief, clever, and interesting little study. As the author notes, more widespread study would likely lead to major association effects, leading to harsher reactions from the Wikipedia community (and an even swifter response).

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Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson is the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. He has worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are his own.


4 Thoughts on "48 Hours on Wikipedia"

Thanks for blogging about this study. Recently I have been discussing the validity of information on wikipedia as compared to some of the other resources available, so it came at a good time.

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