Saturday, August 18, 2007

Wikipedia Scanner - a cool research tool

I've been playing with Wikipedia Scanner. It's been all over the news: Changing Reality With A Mouse Click. It is a data-mining tool written by Cal Tech graduate student Virgil Griffith. It allows you to see who is behind Wikipedia anonymous edits. The whole idea is to expose organizations that are working in Wikipedia to edit articles to portray themselves in a more favorable manner.

I kicked the tires on Wiki Scanner for a goodly amount of time. It is interesting to look at the salicious edits. In several instances the edits are completely confined to articles about an organization's own self-interests. Other than edits about themselves they don't contribute to Wikipedia in any other way. It makes you wonder about the culture of organizations where the focus is entirely internal.

Where looking at salacious edits was interesting, what I found even more interesting was to look at the edits of organizations who were actively involved in Wikipedia across a number of subject areas. When looking through the lists of edits I was reminded of the value I derive from del.icio.us, and realized that Wiki Scanner could be used in much the same way. By looking at the Wikipedia edits you can see what's got someone's attention. The tool allows you to sort by date so you can see what's got their attention most recently. This is a very del.icio.us like characteristic. (I note that Virgil thanks Joshua Schachter the creator of del.icio.us for his contributions.)

I'm thinking Wiki Scanner could become a tool used for trend spotting, and maybe even ideation. It would be especially nice if it had more up-to-the minute Wikipedia data. In its current form the data being mined by Wiki Scanner only goes through August 4. Regardless, you have to love the transparency that this tool affords. I'm not a big fan of anonymous editing, and believe that if you have something to say you should be willing to put your name on it. Nuff said!

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