[Vision2020] Wikipedia-Mining Algorithm Reveals World’s Most Influential Universities

Kenneth Marcy kmmos1 at frontier.com
Thu Dec 10 08:59:53 PST 2015

On 12/9/2015 11:47 AM, Robert Dickow wrote:
> Well, this was interesting, but the ranking result is suspect.

Of course it is suspect.  I suspect that it is new.

> I like the result because my alma mater is pretty high up (10^th) , 
> but apart from that, one should be quite wary of this list as a raking 
> that is at all accurate.

Well, there are sure to be some random leaves here and there, 
considering that some network connections can be intermittently, or 
purposefully, flaky.  When some reputed leaders of the world discover 
their public face may be improved as a result of better connections, I 
suspect the quality of the connections will improve straightforwardly.

> The algorithm itself is actually not new, but using Wikipedia as the 
> source is almost funny to me.

Titter and giggle funny, sure, as might accompany gossipy chatter about 
a new discussion topic with semi-serious content about who is seen with 

> Keep in mind how Wikipedia content is contributed.

Yes, there is a diversity of content-contribution attitudes, ranging 
from extremely introverted mathematical imagination applied to specific, 
technical articles to, at the other end of the spectrum, a wiseacre 
music fan adding his name to a musician's genealogy to fake-out a guard 
into allowing the fan a backstage pass and proximity to the performers.  
But then Wikipedia editorship, with many eyes widely dispersed, is 
likely, over the expanse of topics, to be no less effective an 
intellectual security mechanism than a smaller number of publishers' 
editors assigned to be academic virtue valiants protecting the portals 
of establishment education.  Linus Torvalds, founder of the Linux 
operating system, said of software errors that "Given enough eyeballs, 
all bugs are shallow," meaning that the more people are examining a 
subject, the less likely the subject matter contains errors.  While this 
idea may be more effectively implemented in science, technology, 
engineering, and mathematical disciplines as opposed to social science 
and humanities topics, it is still true that most Wikipedia topics have 
their subject matter guardians, and so most topics are relatively 
well-regulated, even in the face of semi-organized attacks against 
controversial subject matters.

> Do we normally rank colleges based on how many times they get 
> mentioned somewhere?

Yes.  Colleges are routinely ranked based on how many times their name 
is mentioned in the winners' columns of sporting statistics. College 
professors are ranked according to the number of references to their 
work other college professors make in their published works.  It even 
used to be the case that the party-school status of various institutions 
would be reported in such august publications as Playboy.

> I think the interest in the article is certainly there for the 
> contribution to computer science work, but not for college rankings.

There are other facets of the reported relationships that are of 
interest.  The relative strength and efficiency of northern European 
institutions, and the natural languages that are dominant within their 
spheres of interaction, are an interesting insight into 
inter-institutional interactions, and may indicate to some priorities in 
personal language study for professional and professorial growth.  Oh, 
and by the way, which local educational institution chose to get rid of 
its undergraduate major in German, and has threatened to do the same 
with French, rather than promote their growth?  An institution that can 
not bother itself to teach the major natural languages of the world has 
little excuse to wonder why it is nearly invisible from the 
international stage of academic interaction.  Sigh.


> Bob Dickow, troublemaker
> *From:*vision2020-bounces at moscow.com 
> [mailto:vision2020-bounces at moscow.com] *On Behalf Of *Kenneth Marcy
> *Sent:* Tuesday, December 08, 2015 8:47 PM
> *To:* vision2020 at moscow.com
> *Subject:* [Vision2020] Wikipedia-Mining Algorithm Reveals World’s 
> Most Influential Universities
> Wikipedia-Mining Algorithm Reveals World’s Most Influential Universities
> *http://tinyurl.com/na38zlz
> *
> *An algorithm’s list of the most influential universities contains 
> some surprising entries.
> *
> Where are the world’s most influential universities? That’s a question 
> that increasingly dominates the way the public, governments, and 
> funding agencies think about research and higher education.
> The problem, of course, is that it’s hard to produce an objective 
> ranking of almost anything, let alone universities. Cultural, 
> historical, and geographical factors can all influence these rankings 
> in ways that are hard to quantify.
> So an independent way of producing a ranking that avoids these 
> controversies would be widely welcomed.
> Today, we get such a ranking thanks to the work of Jose Lages at the 
> University of Franche-Comte in France and a few pals. They’ve used the 
> way universities are mentioned on Wikipedia to produce a world 
> ranking. Their results provide a new way to think about rankings that 
> may help to avoid some of the biases that can occur in other ranking 
> systems.
> <snip>
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