Wikipedia: The Source of Data
Authors: Ozan Kaya, Inti Mendoza Estrada, Ana Paz Hernandez, Rodrigo Saavedra Sotelo
Wikipedia, founded by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, is an online “open-sourced” encyclopedia launched in January 15, 2001. It is now one of the top 10 most visited websites with over 500 million unique visitors per month. Owned by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, the name Wikipedia is a combination of “wiki” and “encyclopedia”. All its articles are written and edited by users with different degrees of status.
A study found that the correctness level of Wikipedia was similar to the prestigious Encyclopædia Britannica. It is common to think of Wikipedia as having low reliability in its articles in terms of correctness. To keep correctness at the highest level as well as preventing biased articles over controversial topics, the user status determines what a user can and cannot change or add in an article or create an article about a specific topic. Certain topics may be only accessible to admins or highly influencing users to guarantee vandalism-free/proof articles. A review system is also in place. When a user tries to change an article, the article is then reviewed by other users and after not being discarded, they pass on to become part of the article. A history of the article’s previous form, however, still remains.
Since Wikipedia is owned by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, it does not rely on memberships or such business strategies, nor does it allow ads to be presented to visitors to let the image of this website be the one where knowledge is found, not where profit is the main concern. To cover server and databases costs, however, Wikipedia does remind users that they accept donations to cover the website maintenance costs.
In 2011, Wikipedia was proposed to be the first digital World Heritage site. It was described as “a masterpiece of the human genius”, providing information of any kind to its visitors. In that same year Wikipedia consisted of 19 million entries in 282 languages. Connecting to millions of cultures and people, Wikipedia has already had a greater social impact than most of the sites on the World Heritage List. Interestingly, Wikipedia has reached such level of importance that it terms of relevance to the world heritage, it has been compared by Keats, to the Pyramids of Giza and even said that Wikipedia is more important. Whilst just an opinion, this comparison shows how important big data is for our daily lives by confirming that intangible heritage is as important as physical ones.
Old school encyclopedias are set in stone once they are published. But this is not the case with Wikipedia. It can be consistently updated, as well as storing the previous versions, spawning a large database of information throughout time. A database of information that is so easy and quick to access and in which we can find any topic we are looking for has changed the way of education and self-informing forever.
It is possible to gather information from Wikipedia without reading the articles. User specs and page histories reveal so much about the stance of society worldwide. Whether this is useful for the society to progress or harmful for privacy is up to discussion.
Opportunities and Threads
Given the vast amount of information that is readily available to any Wikipedia users become a great example for crowdsourcing, where also the easy and quick delivery of information has the capacity of molding ideas in its users. In an example study performed by Kalev Leetaru from the University of Illinois it was found that Wikipedia writers have an overall positive outlook towards a place at a specific point of time (in terms of decades). When looking at the negative responses towards a place it was found that most of the sense of negativity came from the time period of WW2 in Europe and the USA. This is an article with relevance in both social and historical trends.
There are many more subjects of interest in Wikipedia such as the lately booming presidential campaign, the Zika virus, or upcoming series, telenovelas, and books. In this case study, the goal is to be able to understand and track several search topics on Wikipedia that will point out possible sociological and big data trends.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia Retrieved October 5th, 2016
https://www.wired.com/2011/11/st_essay_wikipediawonders/ Retrieved October 5th, 2016
http://fusion.net/story/256371/wikipedia-15-years-old/ Retrieved October 5th, 2016
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/14/how-big-data-sees-wikipedia/?_r=1 Retrieved October 5th, 2016
http://bds.sagepub.com/content/2/2/2053951715614332 Retrieved October 5th, 2016