Researchers used Wikipedia to examine the nature of all-digital collaboration.
A new analysis of the most controversial topics on Wikipedia shows that, among other things, the legacy of President George W. Bush is far from settled. A team of researchers from Hungary, Oxford and Rutgers found that the most controversial topics in the English language version of Wikipedia include hot button topics like Bush, Circumcision, Global warming, Jesus and Muhammad.
Also, wrestlers. Turns out a list of WWE wrestlers is a hotbed of conflict too...
The research team identified the topics by diving into Wikipedia’s so-called “edit wars,” those articles with to the most back and forth revisions. Derrick Harris of Gigaom explains that the researchers “identified the articles by creating a formula based upon the number of mutual reversions each article receives (essentially when Editor X reverts Editor Y’s edit back to the original form, and then Editor Y returns the favor).”
Here are the 10 most controversial English language topics:
- George W. Bush
- List of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. employees
- Global Warming
- United States
- Race and intelligence
Beyond an interesting examination of the machinations of the open source and decentralized control of Wikipedia’s content, the researchers write that their study was really an exercise in understanding the all digital era of collaboration, one characterized by conflict and conflict resolution—sans face-to-face interaction.
“This provides a unique opportunity to study the laws of peer production, the process of self-organization of hierarchical structures needed to make such a system efficient and the occurring regional and cultural differences,” the researchers wrote. “One of the challenges is to understand the emergence and resolution of conflicts in peer production. While the common aim in the collaboration is clear, unavoidable differences in opinions and views occur, leading to controversies. Clearly, there is a positive role of the conflicts: if they can be resolved in a consensus, the resulting product will better reflect the state of the art then without fighting them out.”
The researchers also did some fascinating visualizations of their findings, including this word cloud of the 1000 most controversial articles across all ten language editions:
Across languages, here are the 10 most controversial articles for each edition of Wikipedia:
Read the full study here.