Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Q&A on wiki day

Today is the 14th anniversary of the very first wiki. To celebrate I've invited Sarah Rudolph, an editor at Marketswiki - an open source for financial market information - for a brief Q&A. Sarah will give us some insight into the process of creating and editing Marketwiki articles, as well as some of the challenges they face. I know she has been super busy and her responses couldn't have come at a better time. Sarah - thanks for taking the time!

Q: How did the idea of creating a Marketswiki develop?

SR: My boss, John Lothian, felt there was a need for one large knowledge base for information about the financial industry--focusing on exchange trading, derivatives, over-the-counter markets and environmental markets. There is a lot of information out there, but he felt it would be useful to aggregate it all in one place. He wanted it to be open source, like Wikipedia, but more closely monitored, with contributing and editing restricted to people who are experts on the markets. So besides a staff of paid editors who are all long-time financial journalists, only those who subscribe to The John Lothian Newsletter can actually get in and edit pages on Marketswiki. Anyone can access the information, however.

Q. Can you explain your role at Marketswiki and the process of editing article entries? For example, how quickly does the community's self-correction process kick-in when a problem is identified?

SR: Along with the other 4-6 editors working at Marketswiki (the number has varied since we began the project), I am responsible for putting information into the wiki, fact checking, and editing my own and other people's entries. It is a very collaborative effort. We are always looking at each others' work and that of other contributors. (The editing process is transparent--all the editorial changes are recorded, so everyone knows what changes have been made and who made them.) Also, we are always talking to people in the industry--exchange leaders, heads of technology and software companies, traders, etc. Most of them have seen Marketswiki and often have information to add or change. If we hear of something that needs fixing, we almost always fix it immediately.

Q. How does an article page start on Marketswiki? Do editors create entries or do they only edit articles that have been created by others? If editors also create articles, how do they go about selecting a topic?

SR: From the beginning, the Marketswiki team (which includes John Lothian, who has been in the financial industry for many years) have created all the article pages. The editors who first seeded the wiki had spent years working at and/or reporting on the exchanges, in particular the Chicago futures and options exchanges. They put a lot of work into initial articles on those exchanges, and many of the important companies and people in the industry. There are a great many ways we select topics--at first the editors tried to lay down a base of crucial industry players, terms, and we can get inspiration from the news, from finding gaps (red links) in other articles and filling them in, from talking to industry people, and just from noticing what's missing.

Q. What are some of the challenges of having an open, collaborative format like Marketswiki?

SR: It is challenging getting people to contribute. However, we try to make it as easy as possible: we go to company offices and demonstrate how it works, from the technical aspects to our editorial policies (we use AP style, for example). Of course it's challenging to find the best and most up-to-date information and make sure it's correct.

Q. I recently interviewed law professor Eric Goldman who said that Wikipedia cannot be both high-quality and freely editable - it has to choose one or the other. What is your take on this?

SR: I won't say anything about Wikipedia--for all I know, it can be both--but our model is to aim for the high quality and not make it freely editable. We do want people in the industry to participate--the more the better--but we feel our model is much less susceptible to vandalism, slanted articles, and dandelions.

Q. Despite the fact that Marketswiki is different from Wikipedia in that it [Marketwikis] is powered by paying subscribers, do you sometimes come across some dandelions? Can you share one?

SR: Not too many real dandelions come to mind. I guess the worst one we had was when an intern who apparently didn't really understand the process copied and pasted an entire Wikipedia entry in as an article on MW. AND it was one that had been designated as suspect because it had no references in it. The article was immediately deleted and replaced, and my boss explained to the intern that we don't use Wikipedia as a reference. We do try to use a number of different references for each article.

Q. What are your three FAVORITE dandelions?'s hard to think of them! How about the last three things Bill O'Reilly said?

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