Give a bunch of scientists a dataset like Wikipedia to play with, and it will keep ’em amused for a long old time. Now, a team of researchers from Oxford University have mined the rich seam to work out the 10 most internationally controversial topics on the online encyclopaedia.
By analysing edit wars — where one editor changes a section, only for another to instantly change it again — across Wikipedia in 10 different languages, Taha Yasseri and his team were able to work out the top 10 most controversial topics across the globe.
Clearly defining edit wars is a little tricky, but Yasseri settled on using “mutual reverts” — where one editor completely undoes changes made by another, and then vice versa. The overall effect is that both editors are consistently undoing each other’s changes. That provides a definition of controversiality, as the team explains:
“The controversiality of an article is defined by summing the weights of all mutually reverting editor pairs, excluding the topmost pair, and multiplying this number by the total number of editors involved in the article.”
But anyway, let’s get to the part you’re waiting for. The top 10. According to Yasseri, the most controversial topics are:
1. George W. Bush
4. List of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. employees
5. Global Warming
7. United States
9. Race and intelligence