Short subject on featured articles
Thu 15 Apr 2010 10:38 AM
In my little study of Wikipedia, I initially stumbled on the difference between featured and regular articles. If I had thought about it in advance, I would not have tested any featured articles at all. I had included them, however, so I reported the results and suggested that the data about featured articles be set aside.
This was not an admission that featured articles were especially reliable, but just that they were different. They needed to be thought of as a separate population.
Now somebody has taken a look at them. In this week's First Monday, David Lindsey directly evaluates the quality of featured articles; Evaluating quality control of Wikipedia's feature articles. The upshot is that many featured articles are good but that some are terrible. They are, despite the 'feature' glitter, much like the rest of Wikipedia. He concludes with the suggestion that, "[t]o put it simply, being a featured article may not mean much at all."
As a methodological aside, Lindsey evaluated the current version of specific articles rather than the development of those articles across time. I still suspect that Wikipedians do pay more attention on average to featured articles than they do other articles. If that's true, then random vandalism is probably caught more quickly and reliably on featured pages. That is compatible with Lindsey's conclusion that the articles can still be poorly written, misleading, or just downright bad.