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by Archives March 1, 2006

Imagine an encyclopaedia in which anyone can edit an entry. Seems like it would be horribly inaccurate, disorganised and incomplete doesn’t it? Well.you’ve just imagined Wikipedia.

According to Alexa Traffic Rankings, Wikipedia.com is the 22nd most visited page on the internet, getting between 2 and 3 billion page views a day. Wikipedia has over 100 servers running in 4 locations around the world. That makes it far and away the most popular online reference site.

While Wikipedia’s critics see the fact that anyone can edit Wikipedia as an inherent flaw, its proponents advertise it as Wikipedia’s greatest strength. The hypothesis is that collaboration among users will improve articles over time. This idea can be traced back to open-source software developement.

Every edit can be easily scrutinized by the Wikipedia users (Wikipedians) and near-instantaneously reverted. There are groups of Wikipedians, and even programs, that scan recent changes in Wikipedia for mistakes. All previous versions of every article are stored, publicly available, and can easily replace the current version. A 2002 study by IBM found that vandalism, in this case the deletion of sections of text, was reverted by users in an average of five minutes.

The problem is that it is much more difficult to correct inaccuracies. A limited study published last December by scientific review Nature compared science articles found in the online version of Encyclop

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