A new tool might help fight malicious editing that introduces incorrect or misleading information in online sites such as Wikipedia, UPI reports. University of Iowa researchers are developing a software tool that can detect potential vandalism and improve the accuracy of Wikipedia entries, a university release says. The tool is an algorithm that looks at new edits to a page and compares them to existing words in the rest of the entry, then alerts an editor or page manager if it senses a problem. There are existing tools that spot obscenities or vulgarities, or major edits, such as deletions of entire sections, or significant edits throughout a document. But those tools are built manually, with prohibited words and phrases entered by hand, so they’re time-consuming and easy to evade, the UI researchers say. Their automatic statistical language model algorithm works by finding words or vocabulary patterns that it can’t find elsewhere in the entry at any time since it was first written. For instance, when someone wrote “Pete loves PANCAKES” into the Wikipedia entry for Abraham Lincoln, the algorithm recognized the graffiti as potential vandalism after scanning the rest of the entry and not seeing any mention of pancakes……Read More
Not too long ago, the golden rules for high school and college students turning to the web as a research tool were simple: Treat digital content that’s never been in print with suspicion. Be careful what you Google. And thou shalt not touch Wikipedia. But the web has grown up a bit in the past few years, and the presence of digital research journals, fact-finding social media tools, textbook exchanges, and eReaders have made it a much more complicated landscape for students, CNET reports. When things have shaken out, it might be a world where free-for-all online information hubs are accepted—or, if proponents of “collaborative knowledge” have their way, even embraced. “With more and more people using (Wikipedia), it has done a better job of being able to self-correct than in the Wild West days of when it first started up and you had no idea who was vouching for any of this stuff,” said Chad O’Connor, a consultant and adjunct professor of communications at Emerson College. Wikipedia should not be used as a primary source, Wikimedia Foundation spokesman Jay Walsh acknowledged. But he added that the foundation has started an experimental outreach with some U.S. universities to bring faculty and students into the corps of Wikipedia contributors, specifically with regard to articles about public policy—one of the site’s more contentious areas. Meanwhile, just as the academic community has started to accept the inevitability of sites like Wikipedia, the web is also about to foist what might be the biggest complexity it has encountered since the advent of the free-for-all encyclopedia: As the school year starts, the recent proliferation of question-and-answer sites—like the brainy Quora and the soon-to-be-everywhere Facebook Questions—might prove to be students’ next last-ditch time-saver and teachers’ next digital bogeyman……Read More
Wikipedia enthusiasts may have a new way to argue their case to professors skeptical of the online encyclopedia: Cancer researchers said in June that Wikipedia was nearly as accurate as a well-respected, peer-reviewed database, although the wiki entries were a bit more boring.
Yaacov Lawrence, an assistant professor in Thomas Jefferson University’s Department of Radiation Oncology in Philadelphia, examined 10 types of cancer and compared Wikipedia’s information to statistics in the National Cancer Institute’s Physician Data Query, a peer-reviewed oncology database.
About 2 percent of the information from both web-based resources differed from textbook sources, Lawrence found. Lawrence used algorithms to judge the readability of each cancer entry, and based on word length and sentence length, the Wikipedia entries were much more difficult to comprehend.…Read More
The latest procrastination-tool-of-choice on college campuses is called “Wikiracing,” reports the Philadelphia Inquirer–and like the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game, albeit modified for the internet age, it challenges players to connect the dots. The rules are simple: Pick a starting page–“Helen Keller,” for example. Then pick a second target page, the more disparate, the better–“lucky bamboo,” say–and see who can get from the first to the final page fastest, solely by clicking on links embedded within the pages. It turns out, you can get from the deaf and blind author to the popular houseplant in six clicks: According to Keller’s Wikipedia page, the Japanese were especially fond of Keller. The “Japanese people” page leads to the “Japan” page, which contains a reference to the oldest known Japanese folktale, “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter.” And from there it’s quick clicking to “bamboo” and finally “Dracaena sanderiana“–the “lucky” variety. Winners are determined by the number of pages visited on the way to the final destination (fewest clicks wins), or players can race against the clock. Other variations require players to begin on different, randomly selected pages and race toward the “Jesus” page……Read More
College students know the online resource of which they dare not speak: Wikipedia, the voluminous internet encyclopedia demonized by many in higher education—and a resource that two University of Denver instructors use as a centerpiece of their curriculum.
Denver journalism students are writing Wikipedia entries as part of a curriculum that stresses online writing and content creation as readers move to the web en masse.
Journalism instructors Lynn Schofield Clark and Christof Demont-Heinrich said students are told to check their sourcing carefully, just as they would for an assignment at a local newspaper.…Read More
The Daily Princetonian reports that a majority of college students use Wikipedia.org for course-related research, and students majoring in architecture, engineering, and science are more likely to do so, according to a study published earlier this month in the journal First Monday. More than 2,000 students from six colleges and universities in the United States, including both public and private universities and two- and four-year colleges, were surveyed. Eighty-two percent of respondents reported using Wikipedia to obtain background information on a topic. While 52 percent said they were frequent users, only 22 percent said they rarely, if ever, used the web site. Students in four-year colleges were more likely than those in two-year colleges to use Wikipedia for research. Princeton students, librarians, and faculty alike agreed that Wikipedia serves as a good starting point for research, but it shouldn’t be used as a cited source. The study’s findings that more science than humanities majors, and more students at four-year colleges than two-year colleges, use Wikipedia surprised some members of the campus community……Read More
In a kind of Wikipedia of textbooks, Macmillan, one of the five largest publishers of trade books and textbooks, is introducing software called DynamicBooks, which will allow college instructors to edit digital editions of textbooks and customize them for their individual classes, reports the New York Times. Professors will be able to reorganize or delete chapters; upload course syllabuses, notes, videos, pictures, and graphs; and perhaps most notably, rewrite or delete individual paragraphs, equations, or illustrations. While many publishers have offered customized print textbooks for years—allowing instructors to reorder chapters or insert third-party content from other publications or their own writing—DynamicBooks gives instructors the power to alter individual sentences and paragraphs without consulting the original authors or publisher. “Basically they will go online, log on to the authoring tool, have the content right there and make whatever changes they want,” said Brian Napack, president of Macmillan. “And we don’t even look at it.” In August, Macmillan plans to start selling 100 titles through DynamicBooks. Students will be able to buy the eBooks at dynamicbooks.com, in college bookstores, and through CourseSmart, a joint venture among five textbook publishers that sells electronic textbooks……Read More
Google Inc., the internet’s most profitable company, is giving $2 million to support Wikipedia, a volunteer-driven reference tool that has emerged as one of the web’s most-read sites, reports the Associated Press. The donation announced matches the largest grant made so far to Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit group that oversees the 7-year-old Wikipedia. Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar also donated $2 million to Wikimedia six months ago through one of his investment arms. The latest largesse has catapulted Wikimedia beyond its $10.6 million revenue target for its fiscal year ending in June. That goal had looked ambitious, given that it represented an increase of more than 20 percent from $8.7 million a year earlier. But the worst recession since World War II evidently didn’t dampen support for the internet’s most popular encyclopedia, which has more than 14 million entries written and edited by some 100,000 unpaid contributors in about 270 languages. Wikimedia, which gets most of its revenue from donations, has collected contributions from more than 240,000 individuals so far this fiscal year, mostly in small sums. The outpouring has allowed Wikipedia to expand while keeping its web site commercial free, spokesman Jay Walsh said. “We intend to keep it that way, too…”…Read More