Wikipedia Adds Rating System, Tinkering With Its Incentives

By Alexis C. Madrigal

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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/07/wikipedia-adds-rating-system-tinkering-with-its-incentives/242109/