- Gynecologist explains why garlic shouldn’t go in vaginas Wednesday 7:08 PM
- People on Twitter are posting the 5 weirdest jobs they’ve had for this meme Wednesday 6:48 PM
- Mortal Kombat 11’s Jax ends slavery—and gamers are pissed Wednesday 5:46 PM
- GPS app gave hacker ability to remotely shut off car engines Wednesday 3:58 PM
- Scott Walker wore jeans for sexual assault awareness, and Twitter is reminding him of his misogynist past Wednesday 3:24 PM
- Hacked Lime scooters make sexual comments to riders Wednesday 3:03 PM
- ‘Bonding’ squanders its potential with weak jokes and limp structure Wednesday 2:49 PM
- The safest place for ‘Game of Thrones’ memes is in the crypts Wednesday 2:23 PM
- Report: Fortnite developer Epic Games is working employees into the ground Wednesday 1:57 PM
- Damian Lillard’s game-winning 3-pointer inspired a plethora of memes Wednesday 12:17 PM
- Gamers are blaming socialism for making the women in Mortal Kombat ‘ugly’ Wednesday 11:36 AM
- Nickelodeon is selling SpongeBob toys based on popular memes Wednesday 11:25 AM
- Alex Jones protests outside the White House by shouting the name of his website Wednesday 11:13 AM
- ‘I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson’ has an absurd conclusion for every scenario Wednesday 10:52 AM
- Twitch star TF Blade banned for racial slur—but he swears he didn’t say it Wednesday 10:43 AM
A European research team has released a quantitative model that describes how edit wars on Wikipedia heat up, flame out, and eventually form consensus.
A European research team has released a quantitative model that describes how obsessive edit wars on Wikipedia heat up, flame out, and eventually form consensus.
Collaborative editing on Wikipedia resembles particle interaction in physics, the researchers say—like how motes of sand stirred up by wind chaotically spin and clash until finally resolving as sand dunes.
The team, which includes professors from Oxford University and others from across Europe, tracked the evolution of opinions over time on three articles: One on the Dresden Bombing, another on anarchism, and another on Japan. They found that eventually even ideological extremes converged into consensus.
The model accounts for some common-sense behaviors: The busier an article gets, the more heated debate becomes. The very existence of the article—as well as the shared, public collaboration tools—serves to bring divergent groups into consensus.
Gerardo Iñiguez, a doctoral student working on the project, told Oxford University Press:
The presence of the Wikipedia article itself brings the opinions of individuals together and helps the convergence process. Without an article on which to work collectively, groups with different opinions could stay separate and ignore each other.
You don’t need a degree in particle physics to conclude that you can’t come to consensus over a Wikipedia article until the Wikipedia article actually exists. And just because ideological extremes reach a compromise over what finally appears on the article doesn’t mean the debate has had any effect on their deep-held beliefs. A Wikipedia article requires consensus to function as a cohesive whole; over time, Wikipedians reach consensus.
But besides stating the obvious, the researchers did come up with some pretty cool graphics.
This one shows the divergence of opinion over time on the Wikipedia anarchism article. Dots are editors, and lines connect editors who disagree. The larger the dot, the more active the editor. Likewise, the thicker the line, the more intense the dispute.
One problem with looking at edit wars quantitatively is that it doesn’t account for the quality of the consensus. So while conflicting groups eventually agree—perhaps more out of sheer exhaustion than anything else—they don’t always come to the right conclusions. Take the case of the debate over the Star Trek Into Darkness film name: Wikipedians spent 40,000 words and many months arguing about a trivial capitalization issue—and still came to a very wrong conclusion.
Photo by V&A Steamworks/Flickr
Kevin Morris is a veteran web reporter and editor who specializes in longform journalism. He led the Daily Dot’s esports vertical and, following its acquisition by GAMURS in late 2016, launched Dot Esports, where he serves as the site’s editor-in-chief.