Last month saw the development of Wikiscanner, an independent project, which allowed readers to view metadata about entries that would allow them to draw their own judgments about who was editing them and why. Now, Wikimedia is set to premeire two new trust systems as part of Wikipedia itself.
The first system, which ranks users and introduces an editorial approval path for some entries seems riskier. The article correctly identifies the risk of chilling participation even if it might, might, improve the quality of entries.
The second system seems to be safer and achieve a similar end. It uses statistics about a contributors edits to determine a trust score. The described algorithm makes sense for the purpose. Combined with being able to associate those derived trust ratings with different users’ edits on the same entry to surface an alternate, “higher trust” version, seems like a better compromise.
It re-uses data already present rather than imposing any additional burdens. It pushes the choices about trust and quality back to the reader rather than altering the editing and entries themselves.
Regardless, Wikipedia is at best a tertiary source. There was actually a pretty good opinion in a recent CACM by the college professor who banned Wikipedia from his classroom. Trust and reliability aren’t factors, really, when citing it as a source. And even more broadly I know from talking to friends at Wikimedia that citations within entries is a nagging problem that is as important, if not more important, relating to the accuracy of content.