Wikipedia Adds Rating System, Tinkering With Its Incentives

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Wikipedia will roll out a rating system for article pages in the coming weeks that will present users with the option of assigning one to five stars on four key metrics: trustworthy, objective, complete, well-written.

The ratings data will be public and available for export, which seems like a great idea. In general, I'm sure readers of Wikipedia will appreciate the heuristic.

What I'm less sure about is what impact the ratings data will have on Wikipedia's edit culture. Before, there wasn't another way to interact with an article aside from adding a comment or editing the text directly. Negative feelings about an article could be channeled into its improvement. Based on my own experience, I've always thought that was the genius of Wikipedia. You could see something was wrong or missing and your impulse would be to fix it. Now, however, you have more options for converting that negative feeling into action. Will someone who previously would have added a key point instead simply rate the article lower on completeness and move on? Or will this be a way to expand the tiny community that actually works to improve Wikipedia by providing lower threshholds for action.

I can't wait to see someone start running the numbers on how lots of high or low ratings impact the edit behavior surrounding an article. Stay tuned.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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