Wikipedia is slow to innovate. The giant encyclopedia site announced this weekend that it will now roll-out site-wide an article rating system that allows page visitors to rate an entry on a scale of 1 to 5 on trustworthiness, objectivity, completeness and quality of writing. Article raters have the option of self-identifying as a subject matter expert for whatever article they rate.
Wikipedia says that after limited testing of the feature, user response has been overwhelmingly positive; readers have said they found the rating system useful, that they felt compelled to give feedback and have been shown increasingly likely to begin editing articles for the first time after using the rating tool. Data about article ratings is also made available for export and outside analysis under a Creative Commons license. The feature is limited to English Wikipedia for now.
Late last month, Wikipedia introduced a Love Button - a simple way for site users to give each other feedback on contributions to the site. The organization said that positive feedback was a key factor in new Editors coming back to continue improving the site. Making that feedback as easy as possible to give and receive is an important part of the site's strategy to keep new editors engaged.
Rating articles looks like an even easier way for people to give feedback - and once you've started contributing that much, why not go a step further and improve the article you just rated?
That's the funny thing about Wikipedia. More than six years ago, Wikipedia famously went head to head with the Encyclopedia Britannica in a study published in Nature magazine. The scientists who published the study found that in most, though not all, matters of fact and science - Wikipedia entries were superior to Britannica entries. That only begged the question: when they found areas the Wikipedia articles could be improved upon - did they hit the Edit button and do it?
That was six years ago; the site has grown and improved substantially since then. It's grown more trusted and more used. Not everyone likes it, of course. See the comments on my post about the Love button, for example: some commenters called Wikipedia elitist, agenda-driven, filled with convenient untruths and they called me naive for calling the site an incredible asset to humanity.
We are, of course, all still figuring this internet thing out. Some of those critiques I would rate as low on objectivity but high on quality of writing, others as trustworthy but not terribly complete!
On balance I'll call Wikipedia a big democratic net positive, with regular flashes of brilliance. I look forward to expressing that opinion in one through five start, article by article, along with the millions of other opinionated people who regularly visit the site that strives for a neutral point of view.
Wikipedia says that after an initial test on 100,000 articles, the rating feature will now be rolled out in 370,000 page increments until it is live across the 3.6 million articles written in English.