Nature has published an article on studies on Wikipedia editing patterns.
I have added some highlights of the article:
Instead, there is an abnormally high number of very highly edited entries.
The researchers say this is just what is expected if the number of new edits
to an article is proportional to the number of previous edits. In other
words, edits attract more edits. The disproportionately highly edited
articles, the researchers say, are those that deal with very topical issues.
And does this increased attention make them better? So it seems. Although
the quality of an entry is not easy to assess automatically, Wilkinson and
Huberman assume that those articles selected as the 'best' by the Wikipedia
user community are indeed in some sense superior. These, they say, are more
highly edited, and by a greater number of users, than the less visible
Who is making these edits, though? Some have claimed that Wikipedia articles
don't truly draw on the collective wisdom of its users, but are put together
mostly by a small, select élite, including the system's administrators.
Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has admitted that he spends "a lot of time
listening to four or five hundred" top users.
Aniket Kittur of the University of California, Los Angeles, and co-workers
have set out to discover who really does the
They have looked at 4.7 million pages from the English-language Wikipedia,
subjected to a total of about 58 million revisions, to see who was making
the changes, and how.
The results were striking. In effect, the Wiki community has mutated since
2001 from an oligarchy to a democracy. The percentage of edits made by the
Wikipedia 'élite' of administrators increased steadily up to 2004, when it
reached around 50%. But since then it has steadily declined, and is now just
10% (and falling).
*Weight of numbers*
Even though the edits made by this élite are generally more substantial than
those made by the masses, their overall influence has clearly waned.
Wikipedia is now dominated by users who are much more numerous than the
elite but individually less active. Kittur and colleagues compare this to
the rise of a powerful bourgeoisie within an oligarchic society.
This diversification of contributors is beneficial, Ofer Arazy and
colleagues at the University of Alberta in Canada have
In 2005, when *Nature*'s news team arranged for expert comparisons between
articles in Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica online, the experts found
only a moderate excess of errors in the Wikipedia
(The idea that the two sources were broadly similar was vigorously
challenged by the Encyclopaedia Britannica; see
.) Arazy's team says
that of the 42 Wikipedia entries assessed in the article, the number of
errors decreased as the number of different editors increased.
The main lesson for tapping effectively into the 'wisdom of crowds', then,
is that the crowd should be diverse. In fact, in 2004 Lu Hong and Scott Page
of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor showed that a problem-solving
team selected at random from a diverse collection of individuals will
usually perform better than a team made up of those who individually perform
best — because the latter tend to be too similar, and so draw on too narrow
a range of options5<http://www.nature.com/news/2007/070226/full/070226-6.html#B5>
For crowds, wisdom depends on variety.