Update: As of 1:20PM ET, the well-cited “Controvercies” section has been restored to Sen. Portman’s page – see revision history.
There’s an interesting article on NPR.org today titled “One Clue To Romney’s Veep Pick: Whose Page Is Getting The Most Edits?”
In the article, NPR notes,
In 2008, as The Washington Post wrote at the time, “just hours before [Sen. John] McCain declared his veep choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, her Wiki page saw a flurry of activity, with editors adding details about her approval rating and husband’s employment. … Palin’s entry was updated at least 68 times, with at least an additional 54 changes made to her entry over the preceding five days.”
Meanwhile, the Post said, “on Aug. 22, the day before the Obama campaign officially named [then-Sen. Joe] Biden as the veep pick, Biden’s Wiki page garnered roughly 40 changes. Over the five days prior, users would make at least 111 other changes to his entry.”
As of 10 AM Eastern Time, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio was leading in Wikipedia edits. He has racked up 16 edits so far today, while the Wiki page of the next closest, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, has been edited nine times so far today.
It is also important to note that these revisions may not necessarily indicate that Senator Portman’s page is being cleaned up before the Romney team announces him as the VP pick. Politico notes that the number of edits may be misleading:
By 10:30 a.m., Rubio was tied with Portman at 16. And the edits were almost all driven by one user’s insistence that Rubio was not the “crown prince” of the Tea party. (See above).
The problem with Sifry’s model is that tallying revisions doesn’t account for the difference between serious, substantive edits and the persistence of one user who doesn’t get his way — much less minor spelling edits or slight augmentation of dates, etc.
Those of us taken with the Wikipedia-as-oracle idea would like to believe that those 68 revisions to Sarah Palin’s page provide some sort of precedent in the Internet age. But they don’t. The day before Sarah Palin’s selection was made public, very few people knew who she was. By contrast, everyone watching the 2012 election knows about Marco Rubio or Rob Portman, and more than a few take their own research and opinions to the pages of Wikipedia.
However, as noted by NPR, then-Senator Joe Biden’s Wikipedia page also racked up 40 edits the day before he was announced as then-Senator Obama’s running mate. Politico makes no mention of this.
In light of Politico’s analysis, it seems the most surefire way to determine if these edits are meaningful is to look at the substance of the edits. The NPR story has also been linked to on Reddit, where various Redditors have made note of the changes made to Portman’s page.
Redditor WattersonBill was quick to note that entire sections of Portman’s Wikipedia page including the entire “Controvercies” section (which contained many citations), as well as one discussing his support of NAFTA in 1993, have been removed. You can view the Wikipedia page before the revisions here, and compare the revisions made by user River8009 today (mentioned in the NPR article) to the July 30 version of the page here.
So far, the changes made to Senator Portman’s page appear much more substantive than those made to Senator Rubio’s page, which is highly suggestive.
Does this mean Senator Portman will be Governor Romney’s choice for his running mate? Maybe. At best, the changes that are being made to Senator Portman’s page are just another small (if suggestive) clue in the media’s constant search for “Veepstakes” tidbits. We’ll all have to wait for Romney to publicly announce his pick before we know for sure.