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Wikipedia Introduces Article Feedback Tool

Wikipedia, the massively collaborative online encyclopedia, has started testing an article feedback tool that allows Wikipedia users to rate articles on four primary characteristics.

The tool allows users to rate articles on sourcing, completeness, neutrality and readability, on a five-point system. A test run of the tool began yesterday and will run through December on a small number of articles.

You’re not likely to run into the feedback tool randomly on Wikipedia as it will only run on articles in the WikiProject United States Public Policy to “avoid overtaxing the servers”.

Moka Pantages, communications officer of the Wikimedia Foundation, says that “what’s really exciting about this tool is that it’s a way to increase reader engagement at a very basic level by gathering feedback from readers on what they think […] and at the same time, it provides Wikipedia editors another easy way to see which articles might need improvement.”

Putting article assessment directly in the hands of the readers can also have a downside, of course, as noted in the blog post announcing the pilot program. “The potential downside is also clear,” notes Wikipedian Sage Ross in the introduction entry, saying that “non-experts may submit low-quality ratings, or there may be attempts to game the system.”

Could Wikipedia fall victim to the same alleged fates as social bookmarking sites like Reddit or Digg, where groups of users with common interests band together to highlight or bury certain topics? Somehow we doubt it, but for now the site will test out the tool on a select 400 articles before letting it run free.

While Wikipedia is often touted as the online encyclopedia that anyone can make changes to, the reality is that there is a solid core of members and editors that do a lot of work on the site. An article feedback tool could bring a level of quick, surface-level interaction with the Wikipedian readership that has not been previously possible.

What do you think – will this inherently change the workings of Wikipedia? Or will Wikipedia march on, resilient as usual?

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