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Arkansas State University

Wikipedia: Wikipedia Pages (Articles)

Learn about why Wikipedia is good and why it is bad.

Viewing an Page's History

Wikipedia has a bad reputation because anyone can edit Wikipedia. And if you look at the "Wikipedia Gone Bad" box to the right, it looks pretty bad. However, Wikipedia is mostly edited by very dedicated people, many of which are actual scholars in related fields.

Let's look at the page for Plato: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plato

This page has extensive notes and resources: 14 notes, 184 references, 13 primary sources cited, 81 secondary sources cited, and 64 sources listed as further reading. This page may be more heavily researched than your textbook. In addition to the resources listed, this page has very interactive and lively discussions and revisions on the back end.

 

To see the revision history on any entry, click on the "View history" tab.

"View history" tab in Wikipedia

This will take you to a page where you can see every single edit that has been done on the page. The page for Plato has been edited thousands of times even though he's been dead for centuries.

Revision History

After you click on "View history" in any Wikipedia article, you will be taken to the Revision History page. Here, you can see the date and time for each revision along with who made the change, what was changed, as well as a side-by-side comparison of the change before and after:

Revision history for Plato article
 

To compare any revision to the version immediate before it, click the (cur | prev) links:

Cur | Prev Links in Wikipedia Revision History

 
Now you can see what's been changed! But be warned, Wikipedia articles are subject to vandalism. Some can be minor, like below, whereas others can be very offensive.

Revision Comparison for Plato Article

Protected Pages

As shown above and to the right, Wikipedia pages can be subject to vandalism, including purposeful misinformation, deletion, and inappropriate content. Some pages, like Plato, attract vandalism for unknown reasons. For other pages, like the Harlem Shake (Dance), an act of vandalism goes viral on social media, sparking additional vandalism, but is quickly forgotten about. Vandalism also tends to follow patterns, particularly when people are involved. If someone is in the news, their Wikipedia page may be see an increase in vandalism. As people become more famous, the more their page is vandalized. Politics also affects vandalism. 

To help protect pages from being vandalized, pages may be put under protection.  There are three main types of protections:

Semi-Protection   Semi-Protection: In this type of protection, only established users can make edits. This prevents anonymous users and very new accounts from making edits, thus decreasing the amount of vandalism by anonymous accounts.
Extended Protection   Extended Protection: This limits revisions to extended confirmed users only, that is, to only users with accounts older than 30 days and who have made at least 500 edits can make edits. This protection is to help resolve disputes, usually between editors.
Full Protection   Full Protection: This is the strictest protection which disables editing for everyone but administrators. This is often used for serious disputes, heavily used templates, and the main page.

Pages are only protected as long as they need to be and the level of protection may vary. For example, Barack Obama's page was full protection during his presidential campaign and early presidency, extended protection while he was president, and semi-protected as of March 2020.

Wikipedia Gone Bad

Real life examples of Wikipedia gone bad.  (Links to news stories and Wikipedia articles.)

Hoaxes

Tim Verfaillie
(Hoax articles that took over 13 years to be discovered)

The War that Never Was
(Took 5 years to be discovered)

Full list of Wikipedia Hoaxes

 

Fake Death Reports

Rush Limbaugh

Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd

 

Edit Your Own Entry

Adam Curry

Diebold and more

- Changed Diebold entry

- Second changed Diebold entry

Phorm

 

Edit Someone Else's

Plato

Tom Coburn