Wikipedia is one of the most sought after treasure trove of information with the ability that allows anyone to edit an entry. This certainly makes a lot of people uncomfortable which leads to ‘edit wars’. According to Wikipedia, some 77,000 editors try to outdo each other so that their edits are at the top.
Currently, there are more than 22 million articles in 285 languages with English alone having some 4 million articles according to Wikipedia. When so many contributors work on articles, differences are bound to arise. Taking advantage of these ‘edit wars’ bunch of Oxford University professors have come out with a research report listing the most controversial topics on Wikipedia. As reported first by MIT Technology Review, Taha Yasseri, Anselm Spoerri, Mark Graham and Janos Kertesz have put together a detailed study based on these edit wars of the most controversial topics.
In the draft report, Yasseri mention why they are undertaking this research. He said, “We hope to gain information not only about conflicts and their resolution under collaborative task solving circumstances but also about the general nature of controversies. In addition, the presence of different editions of Wikipedia for different languages, allows us to investigate all the mentioned research questions on a global scale and cross-lingually, aiming at understanding universal and local features of the conflicts”.
The researchers used data not from the amount of edits but from mutual reverts. It happens when one author undoes the changes made by another author by reverting to the older version of the article and vice versa.
The method was applied to ten languages which were distributed in three sets: West European, East European, and Middle Eastern. The three sets are comprise of: English, German, French and Spanish; Czech, Romanian and Hungarian; and Arabic, Persian and Hebrew. They used these sets to see what topic overlapped in which language.
The report says that by looking at the titles, it is easy to get a rough sense of what are the controversial topics across different regions. “For example, Jesus appears in among the top-10 in English, German, French, and Czech Wikipedias. Religion, Politics and Geographical places seem to be the common fields of editorial wars in all editions,” the report said.
The list is as follows:
1.George W. Bush
4.List of WWE personnel
9.Race and intelligence
They said in the conclusion that major religions and religious as well as articles related to Anti-Semitism andIsrael are highly contested in multiple languages and cultures. “The Israel, Adolf Hitler, The Holocaust, God, Atheism, Europe, Evolution pages are contained in all three language sets,” the report said.
It is very likely to happen that some topics might be controversial in one language but not in other. For instance the Islas Malvinas/Falkland islands article in the Spanish Wikipedia.
Some results infact might amuse people like what controversy has to do with Romania’s Disney Channel or the list of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.
Yasseri and team believes that this could work as a useful base for more grounded and qualitative inquiry into the interests and controversies among different groups that happens on Wikipedia.