Thursday, September 17, 2009

When taxonomists wage war in Wikipedia

Stumbled across Alex Wild's post Pyramica vs Strumigenys: why does it matter?, which takes as it's starting point a minor edit war on the Wikipedia page for Pyramica .

Alex gives the background to the argument about whether Pyramica is a synonym of Strumigenys, and investigates the issue using the surprisingly small about of data available in GenBank. The tree he found (shown below) suggests this issue will require some work to resolve:


For fun I constructed a history flow diagram for the edits to the Pyramica page in Wikipedia:


The diagram shows the two occasions when the page has been striped of content (and subsequently restored) as contributors dispute whether Pyramica is a synonym of Strumigenys. It would be useful to have one or more metrics of how controversial a page (and/or a contributor) was, to both identify controversial pages, and to see how controversial taxonomic pages were compared to other Wikipedia topics. The paper On Ranking Controversies in Wikipedia: Models and Evaluation by Ba-Quy Vuong et al. (doi:10.1145/1341531.1341556) would be a good place to start (a video of the presentation of this paper is available here).