When news breaks, Wikipedians all over the world–in scores of languages– help news followers understand and filter the news by curating and summarizing it as quickly and as accurately as possible. Editors essentially distill the universe of news down so that readers can quickly understand the bigger picture without having to navigate through a cyclone of articles and headlines. Due to the quick and careful work of Wikipedia’s volunteer editors, readers have an in-depth and comprehensive understanding of breaking news, informed by aggregated information from various trustworthy, international scholarly and media organizations. The end result is dynamic, contextual information in the form of an encyclopedic article. But researchers at the Wikimedia Foundation and Ushahidi wonder: How does an editor decide which sources to include or reject? How do they keep track of rapidly-changing topics happening in other parts of the world, reported in foreign languages? How do editors verify information in crisis scenarios like earthquakes and political unrest situated outside their frame of reference?
As Wikipedia volunteers maintain the integrity of article information during high-pressure situations like breaking news cycles, they do so manually using their personal spheres of reference and Ushahidi has kicked off a new research project to study how this happens. They’re looking at how Wikipedia editors track, evaluate and verify sources on rapidly evolving pages of Wikipedia, the results of which will inform the development of Ushahidi’s Sweeper tool. It’s Ushahidi’s hope that Sweeper could potentially be used by Wikipedia editors to collaboratively make sense of sources rather using separate tracking and verification strategies.
We’re excited to support this research with Ushahidi and look forward to defining new tools and resources to help Wikipedians incorporate the best information possible into the encyclopedias. If you’re interested in learning more, see the WikiSweeper project page for more information or sign up for project updates.