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WikiWatcher FAQ

If you a media person who wants the full scoop reading the original WikiScanner FAQ would be a good idea. The Wikipedia entry on WikiScanner is a worth while read too.

How should I link to your homepage?

I am still on my quest to be the #1 hit for ' virgil ' on Google. To best aid me in this quest, or you just want to be a nice person, please link to me with <a href="">Virgil</a> . Thanks!

Do you have press photos?
No, I don't. However, I do have some photos that I like. Choose whichever.

From WikiCommons
From WikiCommons (large)

What is WikiWatcher?

Wikiwatcher is a suite of Wikipedia-related tools. It will consist of at least six different tools entitled WikiScanner 2.0, Wikiganda, Poor Man's Check User, Sockpuppetry, Beaver Scope, and Vote Early Vote Often. It is being developed by myself as well as three Caltech undergraduates: Rishi Chandy, Daniel Erenrich, and Sonal Gupta as part of Caltech's SURF summer program.

Any details on those tools?


  1. Wikiganda - Searches for sustained edit wars between ideologically opposed groups. Does their struggles spill over onto Wikipedia? Hopefully we'll find out.

  2. Poor Man's Check User (PMCU) - Exploits human slip-ups and errors which reveal the IP# of a registered Wikipedia account. The Wikipedia overlords have a power called 'Check User', which allows them to reveal the IP# for any account, not just those who have made slip-ups.

  3. Potential Sockpuppetry - People often try, with widely varying success, to game Wikipedia by using multiple user accounts. In Wikipedia jargon these extra accounts are called sockpuppets. If Poor Man's Check User shows that several wikipedia accounts originate from a small IP range, there's a decent chance that some or all of those accounts belong to one person. Sockpuppetry analyzes user IP#'s revealed by PMCU to catch sockpuppets.

  4. Beaver Scope - Pranking MIT one lulz inducing edit at a time.

  5. WikiScanner2 - more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

How is WikiScanner2 different from WikiScanner1 (aka WikiScanner Classic)?

WikiScanner Classic was a quick personal project. It would cut corners and is easy to hide from either by creating a Wikipedia account or editing from home. WikiScanner2 uses a more sophisticated IP-tracking database as well as more extensive from Wikipedia. It attempts to automatically discover salacious edits as well as provide a better tools for humans to prowl through the data manually.

Is something like WikiScanner required to keep people honest? Is anonymous editing bad for Wikipedia?

Some people are quoting an article in Forbes, which (somewhat) implies that I think anonymity in Wikipedia is harmful. My views aren't complex, but they are more nuanced than that. I think anonymity, on average, degrades the quality of the submissions, but allowing anonymous editing has the huge perk of a large number of submissions. Anonymity a trade off between accuracy and quantity, and it's a judgment call where to draw the line. For example, if Wikipedia required that that I attach my full name to every edit I made, I'd make darn sure that everything I contributed was accurate! However, I'd also contribute much less. If I'm mostly sure but not completely certain of a piece of trivia, if anonymous I'd gladly contribute without fear any foibles reflecting bad on me in the future. An 100% trustworthy encyclopedia that has none of the information I'm looking for is worth much less than an encyclopedia that has that information yet is sometimes wrong.

Wikipedia is the pragmatic business of creating a useful, free encyclopedia, and the Wikipedia overlords have made it clear that they believe allowing anonymous contributions is the best, most economical way to create it. You are welcome to disagree, and if so you can always start reading Scholarpedia or Citizendium.

Why are you creating WikiWatcher?
To do WikiScanner right.

Do you have an official title?
The Washington Post once called me a "disruptive technologist", which I thought was wonderful. Alternatively, I am also a second year graduate student in the Computation and Neural Systems department at Caltech under Christof Koch.

How old are you?

I am 25.

What does Wikipedia have to say about WikiWatcher?

They haven't sent me anything official, so I really don't know what they think. However, the Wikipedians are good people and have always welcomed extra transparency. Finally, they were quoted in the media as liking WikiScanner so I presume they'll like WikiWatcher as well.

Where do I send a donation?

Aw, thanks. But aside from increasing my google rank, all motives here are pure and 100% non-commercial. Glory be!

What about the Tor IP# anonymizing network (

Silly goose. Tor has been blocked from editing Wikipedia for a while now. Try it.

Any heart-warming personal-interest facts?

Oh I don't know. I once got sued for Economic Espionage? Just try my bio. Maybe you'll find something there. There's also that charming profile in the NY Times.

What's next for you?

I'm getting extremely interested in new scientific work on applying information theory to neural networks to create a measure for machine consciousness.

(last modified 2010-01-03)       [Login]
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