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Wikipedia power law

I just heard Jimmy “Wikipedia” Wales give a terrific talk at Nature magazine. (I was his opening act, and couldn’t grab back my computer to take notes.) Wikipedia is just such an amazing story. One for the books, so to speak. In fact, on the drive over, it occurred to me that there’s another amazing phenomenon that, like Wikipedia, seems completely implausible: Cities. If you had the idea that cities might be an interesting addition to human culture, people would have come up with a thousand reasons why they wouldn’t work. Yet, somehow, they do.

Jimmy talked about the fact that two percent of people who make changes at Wikipedia account for nearly 75% of the changes. (As always, I’m more likely to get facts wrong than right.) That flies in the face of the common wisdom that Wikipedia is the work of many equally distributed hands. But it’d be interesting to know how many people create articles, for the changes made by the 2% of dedicated Wikipedians may be quite small. Just curious…

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3 Responses to “Wikipedia power law”

  1. You know what they say Dave… Hindsight is 80/20.

  2. Interesting, but we should make a difference between modification of spelling mistakes and broken links and modification of editorial content. The nature and quantity of modifications are not the same.

    Of course some are more involved than others, it takes time to contribute actively. But I think also a question of interface, it is quite easy to read wikipedia, it is more difficult to compose under the wiki interface.

  3. This kind of highly skewed distribution of contributions is found thru-out the world of social systems; open and closed. Thinking thru what that really means is one of the central questions in understanding these systems. More so because it has tremdous emotional power for those who have invested their loyalities with either the closed or open model. That makes the conversation about it incredibly difficult.

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