George W Bush heads Wikipedia edit war list

  • Getty Images

Although it has become a valued resource for the less-meticulous journalist, Wikipedia is only as reliable as its latest edit. With this in mind researchers have investigated the online encyclopaedia to find the most controversial topics. Their top ten list is headed by former US president George W Bush, where opposed political perspectives have created a continuous squabble, and anarchism, where the contributions are suitably anarchic.

The research, conducted by Oxford University and other academic institutions, focused on the phenomenon of "edit wars". This remit goes beyond entries that are constantly changing and updating because of new developments or revelations, concentrating instead on those pages where there is a discernible power struggle to control the content.

There are obvious areas of contention that have a global reach, notably Israel, Adolf Hitler, the Holocaust and God. There are fascinating local obsessions though. In France the politician Segolene Royal creates the most controversy, while the topic of World Wrestlng Entertainment employees is fourth in the English language list, sandwiched between the Prophet Mohammed and global warming.

Wikipedia would seem to be one of the conspicuous success stories of "crowd-sourcing", the internet phenomenon where the expertise of a small, professional elite is challenged by the online masses. It has become a valuable shortcut reference tool in its own right, but the latest research shows its shortcomings.

The authors acknowledge that a constant debate can help improve the accuracy of entries where the arguments work towards a general consensus. The "edit wars" though are less helpful. "There are examples where no consensus seems in sight," their report asserts, "where the struggle strongly limits efficiency."

In short the wisdom of the crowd can easily be undermined by the stubborn idiot who carries on shouting long after the patience of more balanced and restrained voices has expired.

United Kingdom - Excite Network Copyright ©1995 - 2022