A new study from Hungarian researchers collected and analyzed information on the sometimes heated edit process of Wikipedia. Researchers found that edits come in bursts rather than a steady stream — one individual will make an edit, and then others will discuss and make changes based on the first person's contribution. Edit wars tend to slow down on a particular article as time passes, except when news occurs on the subject which then leads to a resurgence of frequent editing and discussion.
By examining the discussion pages of controversial articles, researchers also found that conversation tends to occur between a small number of predominant editors rather than a large group. The image above is a representation of interactions in the discussion page for the Safavid dynasty, where the red lines illustrate disagreement, yellow lines are neutral, and the green lines are consensus. The thickness of the line shows the number of interactions between the two individuals.
However, researchers found that less than one percent of Wikipedia pages are controversial — about 12,000 out of 3.2 million in the original data set — and that less than 100 of these articles, like anarchism, are so controversial that no consensus can be reached. You can take a look at the full study, Dynamics of Conflicts in Wikipedia, or investigate the issue yourself using the recently launched WikiStats.