The most exciting, intriguing read this week has undoubtably been the confession piece “The Shadow Scholar” from the Chronicle of Higher Education. The article is a tell-all confessional from the point of view of a writer for these term paper mills and the details are eerily familiar. Poor writing skills, pressure, and easy access to funds all appear as trademark components for keeping this industry quite alive, including a better than average salary for this individual. For anyone working with writing students, I recommend this article as a Must Read.
For those who don’t despise Wikipedia, you’ll be gaining more ground in the credibility department as UC Berkeley has started gearing assignments, students, and professors to improving the accuracy of the site’s contents, at least in regards to public policy. You can read more about this collaboration and the lasting impact on students from the UC Berkeley PR article, “UC Berkeley students help improve Wikipedia’s credibility.”
Given some other fun events going on in my life (yeah for upcoming holidays!), I have a few more backlogged items I’ll have to get to later, such as McKinsey Consulting’s report “Winning by Degrees: The Strategies of Highly-Productive Higher-Education Institutions.”
From a Twitter message on my TweetDeck to an eContent blog to CNet, I stumbled across an article debating the current state of Wikipedia. At the community college level, Wikipedia has been the bane of many librarians’ existences. While I think Wikipedia is a useful tool for students to get familiar with a topic or argument, develop a vocabulary for searching other resources like databases and library catalogs, and often provide links to credible resources, the general teaching philosophy remains to ignore and/or preach against Wikipedia as a research tool for students since “everyone” can edit an entry. Or so we think…
According to Augmented Cognition Research Group at the Palo Alto Research Center, a hierarchy of editors seems to be developing amongst Wikipedia editors while a plateau also seems to be occurring among the number of editors participating in the site. For the frequent contributors (1,000+/month group), new entries seem to be accepted willingly while occasional users face significantly higher reversion rates for content they’ve provided. While the information provided thus far appears to be creating a stratified structure between groups, I have to still wonder who are these frequent providers and should we be trusting their judgment. Unlike in other open source communities, Wikipedia’s filter appears to be based on frequency of postings, not any educational or professional background or skills.
Moving away from the open source concept, what will the future of Wikipedia have if an active group controls the participation of others? Who are these people? How are the edits affecting the quality of postings? With more questions than answers at this point, I’ll be curious to see what other research the group can provide on the topic at their presentation at WikiSym2009.