Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

Courting controversy: WikiDashboard gathers information about the social interactions underlying Wikipedia entries and displays it to a user. The entry for former U.S. president George W. Bush, shown above, stood out as the most controversial. The researchers discovered that certain statistics, such as the number of total revisions made to an article, could accurately predict controversy.

The page on Hillary Clinton, for example, shows that the main contributor has put in about 20 percent of the edits. Chi says this suggests that this individual has guided a lot of the article’s direction. In contrast, an entry on windburn shows a much less heated scene: more even collaboration among the contributors.

The researchers released an early version of the tool in 2007 using data released a few times a year by Wikipedia. But Chi says that this version of WikiDashboard was limited, since it didn’t show the speed of change online. His team spent much of 2008 getting access to live data, which Chi says was difficult because of Wikipedia’s limited resources.

Daniel Tunkelang, chief scientist at Endeca, an information analysis firm based in Cambridge, MA, says that the tool is a step toward exploring the social context of Wikipedia entries, but he adds, “There’s some room for compressing this into something more consumable.” By this, Tunkelang means that the software could be more useful to the casual user if it summarized data more effectively. For example, he says that the list of articles that each editor has worked on could be shown as just a handful of easy-to-read tags.

At a talk given by Chi this week, Rob Miller, an associate professor at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, noted that some Wikipedia editors try to rank up a high number of edits just to gain more kudos. He wondered how that tendency might affect WikiDashboard’s measurements should the tool catch on.

Chi’s group is still working on the WikiDashboard, and on Wikipedia data more generally. He says that he’d like to see a system that measures not just simple statistics such as the number of edits made, but also the quality of those contributions.

29 comments. Share your thoughts »

Credits: Technology Review, WikiDashboard/PARC

Tagged: Communications, Web, social media, visualization, Wikipedia, wiki, PARC, online collaboration

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me