Starting this fall, you’ll have a new reason to trust the information you find on Wikipedia: An optional feature called “WikiTrust” will color code every word of the encyclopedia based on the reliability of its author and the length of time it has persisted on the page.
More than 60 million people visit the free, open-access encyclopedia each month, searching for knowledge on 12 million pages in 260 languages. But despite its popularity, Wikipedia has long suffered criticism from those who say it’s not reliable. Because anyone with an internet connection can contribute, the site is subject to vandalism, bias and misinformation. And edits are anonymous, so there’s no easy way to separate credible information from fake content created by vandals.
Now, researchers from the Wiki Lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz have created a system to help users know when to trust Wikipediaand when to reach for that dusty Encyclopedia Britannica on the shelf. Called WikiTrust, the program assigns a color code to newly edited text using an algorithm that calculates author reputation from the lifespan of their past contributions. It’s based on a simple concept: The longer information persists on the page, the more accurate it’s likely to be. More…