On Tuesday when Stephen Colbert exhorted his Colbert Nation to edit the Wikipedia pages of Romney's potential vice presidential choices, Wikipedia locked those pages to all but veteran editors, making the trick of counting the edits to see who's the favorite a lot more accurate. Now that we can weed out the Colbert-inspired dilettantes, the edits that actually do show up on these pages are a lot more likely to count.
If you haven't been following this little political side-story this week, let's get up to speed: On Monday, the blog Tech President pointed out that Sarah Palin's Wikipedia page got edited 68 times the day before John McCain announced her as his running mate, and suggested that keeping an eye out for editing spikes at the pages of Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Kelly Ayotte or Tim Pawlenty could be a good clue to who's got the nod. Everyone from NPR to Fox News picked up the story, and by Tuesday night, Colbert had turned it into one of his bits of crowd-sourced humor, encouraging people to edit the page of their favorite as much as possible. In response, Wikipedia made it impossible for people who joined less than four days ago, or who have done 10 or fewer edits in total, to edit those pages.
But if you seriously wanted to use Wikipedia edits as some kind of crystal ball to predict the VP pick, Wikipedia's shutting down the editing capability of first-timers means that method will be less susceptible to Colbert-inspired disruption. As Daily Intel's Dan Amira points out, people whose job it is to fix up the pages almost certainly already qualify under Wikipedia's new restrictions. On the flip-side, however, it's worth noting that just because someone's a veteran Wikipedia editor doesn't mean his or her edits are worth anything. After Tech President's post on Monday, Politico's Dylan Byers on Tuesday tried to track what edits were getting made, and found they were largely quite trivial. The bulk of the edits on Rubio's page, for example, coming from one user who kept taking out a sentence referring to Rubio as the "crown prince" of the Tea Party. The Wikipedia vice-president-predicting game is still on after Wikipedia's clampdown, but it's also still very much a game, not a serious prediction device.
Gotta love Colbert's pranks, though:
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