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Who's editing Wikipedia

You just gotta love this stuff. Of course, we all know that Wikipedia is the online encyclopedia that anybody can edit. But who are the editors?

Well, a genius Cal Tech computation and neural systems graduate student, Virgil Griffith, has come up with an application called the Wikipedia Scanner that lets you easily find out who has been making edits to those Wikipedia articles. In some cases, it won't really surprise you all that much.

Here is a story from Wired.com:

On November 17th, 2005, an anonymous Wikipedia user deleted 15 paragraphs from an article on e-voting machine-vendor Diebold, excising an entire section critical of the company's machines. While anonymous, such changes typically leave behind digital fingerprints offering hints about the contributor, such as the location of the computer used to make the edits.

In this case, the changes came from an IP address reserved for the corporate offices of Diebold itself. And it is far from an isolated case. A new data-mining service launched Monday traces millions of Wikipedia entries to their corporate sources, and for the first time puts comprehensive data behind longstanding suspicions of manipulation, which until now have surfaced only piecemeal in investigations of specific allegations.

Wikipedia Scanner -- the brainchild of Cal Tech computation and neural-systems graduate student Virgil Griffith -- offers users a searchable database that ties millions of anonymous Wikipedia edits to organizations where those edits apparently originated, by cross-referencing the edits with data on who owns the associated block of IP addresses.

Inspired by news last year that Congress members' offices had been editing their own entries, Griffith says he got curious and wanted to know whether big companies and other organizations were doing things in a similarly self-interested vein.

"Everything's better if you do it on a huge scale and automate it," he says with a grin.

Wired mentions the changes that Diebold made. But there have also been changes by people at government agencies. As Griffith mentioned, the genesis of the idea came from lawmakers who were changing items about themselves. (See changes coming from the House here.) But there are interesting changes that... well, we are making to Wikipedia. The site itself highlights a few agencies, such as EPA, and NIH.

Wired.com's blog is busy collecting interesting changes.

If you find interesting ones from our world, let me know and we'll post them.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Aug 15, 2007 at 12:17 PM


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