Wiki-Watch: watching the watchers


The last weeks, ‘Wiki-Watch’ caused some trouble in German language Wikipedia.  That ‘Arbeitsstelle’ (department?) of the university in Frankfurt (Oder) is determined to tell the world the truth about Wikipedia.

According to the website, Wikipedia has a ‘global monopoly over knowledge’, while ‘we users’ (readers) ‘know practically nothing’ about Wikipedia. A bunch of ‘admins’, an ‘elite of leaders’, is cutting itself off. So here comes the hero, Wiki-Watch, to make Wikipedia ‘more transparent’.

Wiki-Watch operates usually under that very name. The ‘Impressum’ explains that professors Wolfgang Stock and Johannes Weberling lead the ‘Arbeitsstelle’; probably the main work is done by their assistent Maximilian Kall. Stock belongs to a right wing Christian organisation (Christlicher Medienverband) and to the advisory board of ‘German Institute for Youth and Society‘ that helps people to overcome their homosexuality.

Hostility met by hostility

Among Wikipedians, the self-declared heroes met a certain degree of resistance. Of course, the name ‘Wiki-Watch’ sounds similar to ‘Human Rights Watch’ or ‘watch list’, and the whole attitude gives the impression that Wikipedia is something very negative. When Wiki-Watch wrote e-mails to German language admins for a survey, some reactions were quite hostile. The questions were actually harmless, but made it easy to reveal the identity of the single respondent.

News sites today came with results of the survey. 56 (out of 281) admins answered; the average admin is for about 40 years old and most commonly left liberal with a green touch. 38 % are unhappy with the rude manners in Wikipedia.

Can Wiki-Watch judge the reliability of articles?

Now Wiki-Watch, the website, entered a ‘beta status’ and presented its tool that evaluates the ‘reliability’ of Wikipedia articles. The whole thing is suspiciously similar to Wikibu.ch, a Swiss tool from 2009. You can enter an article’s name and Wiki-Watch tells you whether it has a feature status, how many ‘authors’ contributed etc.

The main difference to Wikibu.ch: The Swiss (among them Nando Stöcklin, a well-known Wikipedian) explain you that the tool can only give a hint about reliability. A road sign ‘deer crossing’, they say, does not mean that there actually will be a deer crossing, and the lack of such a sign does not mean that there certainly will be no deer crossing.

On the contrary, Wiki-Watch very bluntly judges: ‘reliable source!’ or ‘no reliable source!’ or something in between (five stars maximum). For example, [[:de:Gaius Cornelius Minicianus]] is ‘no reliable source’ because there were only few authors, few edits, few links to that article, and no footnotes. But: This very short article has no controversial content, and under ‘Literatur’ a renown work of reference is mentioned.

The article [[:de:Konrad Adenauer]] is very dangerous, because during last month there have been 4 reverts! But if you do check these reverts you see that they have been simply the deletion of vandalism. There is no reason to detest the reliability of the article due to this. By the way, the makers of Wiki-Watch did not notice that it is quite a difference whether an article has become a ‘Good article’ in 2006 or 2010.

Useful background information?

Wiki-Watch makes Wikipedia ‘more transparent’ also by providing background information. By now, this information is rather short, dull and strange. It lists up the Wikipedia article of internet jargon words, but forgets the much more useful [[:de:Hilfe:Glossar]].

Under ‘exclusive insight’, there are some interesting statistics, still, obviously the data comes from Wikimedia and other sources already known to Wiki researchers. Any reference about where the data come from – nope.

We Wikipedians love Wiki research, we do. But it should be executed with more care, and without such an attitude.

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