Wikipedia Sees a Drop in Contributions

August 6, 2009

Wikipedia has become one of the biggest sites in the world and many users rely on it almost everyday either for school and even research, but also other less educational purposes. It’s hard to imagine how the web looked like before Wikipedia, but a new study revealed some troubling statistics showing that the site had mostly stagnated in recent years, with contributions dropping about a third since 2006 when their numbers peaked.

“It’s easy to say that Wikipedia will always be here,” Ed Chi, a computer scientist at the Palo Alto Research Center, told New Scientist. “This research shows that is not a given.” Eight years after it launched, the web resource houses some three million user-contributed articles. But the growth in the number of new articles reached its peak three years ago, when 60,000 new pieces were submitted per month, and the trend has since turned negative, with about 40,000 new articles being added today.

The number of edits to current entries flattened out in 2007, when they reached their maximum, and have since stayed at about 5.5 million per month. The number of active editors also peaked that year and has since stayed at about 750,000 per month.

The research also provided a possible explanation for the waning interest, as regular contributors have become more important both in the number of contributions, but also in exercising their powers. The data showed that “occasional” contributors, those with just one edit per month, had their changes reverted or deleted 25 percent of the time, and the number has risen for the more frequent contributors as well, with those making less than ten changes per month having their edits reverted 15 percent of the time.

However, while the data may be accurate, the interpretation may not be the only one, with others attributing the high number of deleted or reverted edits to the increasing level of spam on the site. The decreasing number of new articles may also be a natural effect of the size of Wikipedia, as new content is becoming increasingly scarce, while also increasing the importance of edits versus new entries.

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Text Messaging And Driving Are Hazardous To Your Health

July 29, 2009

A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study called for a law prohibiting text messaging while driving, concluding that doing both at the same time can increase the risk of a crash by 23 times.

The VTTIs study, which surveyed drivers over six million miles of road, found that manual manipulation of cell phones, such as dialing and text messaging, produced the highest risk for drivers of all vehicle types. Text messaging, however, was deemed the most dangerous of all cell phone-related activity, leading to a 23-fold risk of a crash for drivers of heavy vehicles or trucks.

VTTI’s research concluded that text messaging resulted in the longest duration of time that eyes were off the road, averaging more than 4.6 seconds over a 6-second interval, which is equal to a driver traveling the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour without looking at the roadway.

The study also found that listening or talking on a cell phone while behind the wheel increased a driver’s risk only slightly in light vehicles and not at all for trucks, largely due to the fact that talking or listening allowed drivers to maintain eye contact with the road.

The study, which noted that several recent high visibility trucking and transit crashes have been directly linked to texting from a cell phone, aimed to clear up misconceptions about cell phone use and driving under real world circumstances, researchers said.

“Given recent catastrophic crash events and disturbing trends, there is an alarming amount of misinformation and confusion regarding cell phone and texting use while behind the wheel of a vehicle. The findings from our research at VTTI can help begin to clear up these misconceptions as it is based on real world driving data,” said Tom Dingus, VTTI director, in a statement. “We conduct transportation safety research in an effort to equip the public with information that can save lives.”

In light of the study’s findings, researchers called for a ban on text messaging while driving, and a ban on all cell phone activity for teen drivers.

“This cell phone task has the potential to create a true crash epidemic if texting type tasks continue to grow in popularity and the generation of frequent text message senders reach driving age in large numbers,” the VTTI researchers wrote.