Starting this fall, you'll have a new reason to trust the information you find on Wikipedia: An optional feature called "WikiTrust" will color code every word of the encyclopedia based on the reliability of its author and the length of time it has persisted on the page.
Called WikiTrust, the program assigns a color code to newly edited text using an algorithm that calculates author reputation from the lifespan of their past contributions. It's based on a simple concept: The longer information persists on the page, the more accurate it's likely to be.
"They've hit on the fundamentally Darwinian nature of Wikipedia," said Wikipedia software developer and neuroscientist Virgil Griffith of the California Institute of Technology, who was not involved in the project.
It's pretty egregious that neither Wired nor the WikiTrust folks bothered to mention the Puppy Smoothies paper, which was published in 2006, a year before the earliest citations on the WikiTrust site. (Why didn't Virgil mention this?)
The reliability of information collected from at large Internet users by open collaborative wikis such as Wikipedia has been a subject of widespread debate. This paper provides a practical proposal for improving user confidence in wiki information by coloring the text of a wiki article based on the venerability of the text. This proposal relies on the philosophy that bad information is less likely to survive a collaborative editing process over large numbers of edits. Colorization would provide users with a clear visual cue as to the level of confidence that they can place in particular assertions made within a wiki article.
The omission is baffling, considering that the First Monday article was Slashdotted after its initial publication. (In fairness to the authors, it's perhaps worth noting that Puppy Smoothies is one of the primary citations in their first paper on the work that has become WikiTrust.)