Inside the Wikipedia edit wars

Whether an article gets a dozen or a thousand edits in a month, they tend to be “bursty” — that is, many edits tend to cluster together as editors add, revise, correct and, if necessary, remove new information. Both “homosexuality” and “Lady Gaga” follow this trend (below), though due to the huge amounts of updates the performer has every month, it’s a bit harder to tell. Edits don’t happen like drips of water from a cave ceiling, gradually forming a stalagmite. Rather, they come on like flash floods and leave new landscapes in their wake.

Edit wars are frequently conducted between a few extremely vociferous individuals. While dozens of editors may contribute to an article over any given period of time, it is often a much smaller number of highly opinionated editors who contribute the bulk of the edits, often redoing or removing each other’s work. Below, you can see many lines representing interactions between editors in a discussion section; thicker lines represent more interactions, and red indicates negative opinions. Clearly the individuals at 11 and 3 o’ clock have contributed more than their fair share to the discussion, and appear to be mostly yammering at each other.

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