Improving Wikipedia's accuracy: Is edit age a solution?
Wikipedia is fast becoming a key information source for many despite criticism that it is unreliable and inaccurate. A number of recommendations have been made to sort the chaff from the wheat in Wikipedia, among which is the idea of color-coding article segment edits according to age (Cross, 2006). Using data collected as part of a wider study published in Nature, this article examines the distribution of errors throughout the life of a select group of Wikipedia articles. The survival time of each “error edit” in terms of the edit counts and days was calculated and the hypothesis that surviving material added by older edits is more trustworthy was tested. Surprisingly, we find that roughly 20% of errors can be attributed to surviving text added by the first edit, which confirmed the existence of a “first-mover” effect (Viegas, Wattenberg, & Kushal, 2004) whereby material added by early edits are less likely to be removed. We suggest that the sizable number of errors added by early edits is simply a result of more material being added near the beginning of the life of the article. Overall, the results do not provide support for the idea of trusting surviving segments attributed to older edits because such edits tend to add more material and hence contain more errors which do not seem to be offset by greater opportunities for error correction by later edits.