Wikipedia colour-codes for credibility

Daniel Ionescu, Macworld
1 September, 2009
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In a bid to become a more trustworthy source, Wikipedia will use color codes to indicate the reliability of an article’s author. Called “WikiTrust,” the optional feature will assign a colour code to newly-edited text, based on the author’s reputation.

Famous for its vast number of articles, but not for its reliability, Wikipedia is looking to rehabilitate itself. Starting this fall, text from new or questionable sources will be signaled with a bright orange background, while trusted authors will get a lighter shade.

More than 60 million people visit Wikipedia every month, but because anyone can edit information on the site, credible information is hard to separate from edits by unreliable sources. Wikipedia is so big that Microsoft nearly admitted this was the reason it killed the Encarta encyclopedia.

However, with the new colour-coding system in place, the more people view and edit new text on Wikipedia, the more “trust” the initial edits get, turning from orange to white. This way, things that people agree with more often will stick around as reliable information.

The new Wikipedia colour-coding feature is built around the WikiTrust tool, which can measure an author’s trustworthiness. This is accomplished by looking at how long an author’s edit persists over time without objections from other editors. Authors also must build a reputation score between zero and nine, based on their past contributions.

The new colour-coding system will be first put in place for articles about living people, as these pages are the most prone to malicious edits. Popular or controversial pages such as the ones for Barack Obama or Britney Spears are already restricted as to who can edit them, so the new colour system will be applied to the rest of personality pages.

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