If you haven't been following the story, it's simple. His utility will reveal all of the edits to particular wikipedia pages including reporting who made those edits. I am not capable of analyzing his software and the accuracy of the results. Here is how Wired describes some of the voodoo behind what he has done:
"Griffith thus downloaded the entire encyclopedia, isolating the XML-based records of anonymous changes and IP addresses. He then correlated those IP addresses with public net-address lookup services such as ARIN, as well as private domain-name data provided by IP2Location.com.
The result: A database of 34.4 million edits, performed by 2.6 million organizations or individuals ranging from the CIA to Microsoft to Congressional offices, now linked to the edits they or someone at their organization's net address has made. "
Wiki scanner results pages like this one are showing up in search results. I am not sure that that is all that significant but it does make me wonder if there will be some unintended consequences of this tool (Virgil did intend to reveal controversies).
Taking the system at it's word, there will be a series of interesting reveals over the next few months. As Wiki Scanner is applied to corporate, government and hot topic issue entries, we will see how some organizations have been editing these entries to their advantage - beyond all reason. I am guessing that there will be lots of entries like this which may soften the blow for any one company.
It is already happening. The Australian Government is accused of making changes of critical content. From Yahoo News:
"A spokesman for the prime minister said Howard had never asked staff to remove unfavourable comments from the website, which allows anyone to make contributions.
But according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, scores of edits were made by employees at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet -- including the removal of a reference to Treasurer Peter Costello as "Captain Smirk"."
6 Suggestions for the best defense:
- Don't delete content in entries
- Don't add anything but facts and whenever possible make third-party reference links
- If you have found yourself caught up in this then stop immediately (I know - that's a lame way of saying that if your organization was malicisouly changing information - stop doing that.)
- Don't deny that your group did it
- Create a "Wikipedia Best-Practice Guidelines" and release it organization-wide like you did a few years ago with your blogging guidelines.
- If you add content, have an academic guide you - not to hide where the entry came from but to guide you to write for an encyclopedia.
Notice I did not say - "never contribute to your own Wikipedia entry". I believe that would be Jimmy Wales' suggestion. I think that's nuts. Who knows more about a subject than those who live and breathe it everyday. If you can just stick to the facts, shut off your 'spin' gene, allow for disagreement and dialogue, you will end up stronger for it.
My colleague, Michael Darragh, out of our Shanghai office has a very thoughtful post including 5 Tips.