July 9, 2005
Collaborative Authoring on the Web: A Genre Analysis of Online Encyclopedias
Emigh, William and Susan Herring. “Collaborative Authoring on the Web: A Genre Analysis of Online Encyclopedias.” Proceedings of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. http://csdl2.computer.org/comp/proceedings/hicss/2005/2268/04/22680099a.pdf. 8 July 2005.
In order to compare genre conventions of Wikipedia and Everything2, the authors analyzed 15 comparable texts using corpus linguistic methods and factor analysis of word counts for features of formality and informality. These two text sets were compared to related texts from the Wikipedia discussion forum and the Columbia Encyclopedia. The research sought to answer the following questions:
- How similar or different are entries produced in the two types of systems? (2) Wikipedia entries employ formal language and avoid colloquilalisms. They are stylistically homogenous, focus on core issues of a topic, and are presented in a standard format with section headings and a tale of contents. In contrast, Everything2 writers make a point of using colloquialisms and humorous language. Individual styles are evident, and formatting is inconsistent (7).
- Which system gives rise to better quality entries? (2) The actual study does not investigate quality of content (9), but the authors suggest that the answer depends on user goals and preferences.
- What social processes underlie the production of “good” entries, and how do they shape the conventions of the online encyclopedia genre? (2) Open-editing policies and page-specific discussions (which feature informal language) seem to influence the Wikipedia entries (7). Only node owners can edit Everything2 content.
- Do sites such as Wikipedia and Everything2, which differ in their authoring and editorial mechanism, produce communicative content that can be characterized as belonging to a single genre? (2) Wikipedia entries are nearly indistinguishable from Columbia Encyclopedia entries in terms of language features. Everything2, with its policy of informality, is much different. Both are similar functionally and structurally: “they aim to be repositories of general knowledge, they are available online, their contents are searchable, their entries make use of hyperlinks, they are created by multiple non-expert authors who form a community around the practice of creating content for the site, and they are consulted (to varying degrees) by Internet users seeking information on a wide range of topics” (9). However, they differ in terms of editorial policies and content style. The authors propose that both online encyclopedias are “members of the ‘online knowledge repository’ genre, but that they represent different genres (or sub-types) of online collaborative authoring environments” (9).
Interestingly, Emigh and Herring suggest that Wikipedia’s consistent tone and format is not a positive feature. Instead, they claim that these elements destroy the diversity of the project and stall the development of alternative communication practices.
July 8, 2005
A small scale study of Wikipedia
Lawler, Cormac. “A small scale study of Wikipedia.” Wikisource. 24 Jan. 2005. http://wikisource.org/wiki/A_small_scale_study_of_Wikipedia. 8 July 2005.
This small, quantitative, grounded-theory study seeks to examine the motivations and community experiences of Wikipedians. While the study is not representative (11 questionnaires were analyzed; the Wikipedia community is thousands-strong), it does reveal interesting data. It does not provide any information about the demographic makeup of the community, since the author neglected to include questions concerning gender, age, nationality, or professions.
Participants tended to view Wikipedia as very much a community, reporting a sense of ‘welcome,’ consubstantiality, and mutual aid. Consensus and dissensus were reported as vital to the ‘joint end product,’ although consensus was not always seen as a positive attribute; once consensus has been reached, it may seem ‘impossible for an outsider to contribute.’ Still, users reported a general sense of individual satisfaction tied to their roles in the project.
Participants seem to often refer to the process in anarchic terms:
- (I like) the strange fact that anarchy can sometimes create beautiful results.
- It’s also a reasonably friendly community... despite the anarchy nature ofits setup.
Anonymous contributions were also discussed, and users have mixed opinions about it. A general desire for a way to determine identity was expressed (‘a better way of knowing who’s who’). They also remain concerned about authority and reliability.
Lawler echos boyd and Shirky in calling Wikipedia ‘both a process and a product,’ and concludes that the project is a success in terms of both production and community development.
July 7, 2005
Wikipedia as a learning community: content, conflict, and the ‘common good’
Lawler, Cormac. “Wikipedia as a learning community: content, conflict, and the ‘common good.’” Proceedings of Wikimania 2005. 4-8 Aug. 2005. http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikimania05/Paper-CL1#Conclusions. 8 July 2005.
Lawler examines Wikipedia’s potential as a learning community, arguing that the project’s “organization, structure, and modus operandi [are] a learning process.” Theory concerning learning communities and communities of practice provides the framework.
Wikipedia fits the criteria set forth in previous studies of learning communities:
- it sets its own agenda
- it is self-selective
- it is self-perpetuating
Wikipedia and the Semantic Web — The Missing Links
Krotzch, Markus, Denny Vrandecic, and Max Volkel. “Wikipedia and the Semantic Web — The Missing Links.” Proceedings of Wikimania 2005. 4-8 Aug., 2005. http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikimania05/Paper-MK2. 5 July 2005.
The authors suggest that, with proper semantic information, Wikipedia could be the foremost source of complex ontologies on the Web. As such, it would serve as a valuable site for studying how ontologies are formed in the real world and improve our understanding of ontologies as a whole.
In order to evolve into such a structure, Wikipedia will need to institute relational tagging for links. The development of tag categories would be overseen by the same team that currently administrates nominal categories. Polling for categories could be automated, but some human task work would still be required. Wikipedians would be able to include tags in their link text if they were so inclined, but, in order to maintain accessibility to lower-level users, it would not be mandated. These tags will appear in the OWL/RDF output for each page, thus rendering the entire structure more functionally searchable.
July 6, 2005
Chinese conversion the wiki way
Feng, Zhengzhu. “Chinese conversion the wiki way.” Proceedings of Wikimania 2005. 4-8 Aug. 2005. http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikimania05/Paper-ZZ1. 6 July 2005.
Creation of a unified Chinese-language Wikipedia has been problematic for numerous reasons. The primary one is the differences between Simplified and Traditional Chinese. Simplified Chinese is the official written language in China and Singapore, and is the official writing system taught in Malaysia. Traditional Chinese is also used in Malaysia, as well as Tawain, Hong Kong, and Macau. There are additional regional differences, as well as the problem of foreign words, which are often translated using characters that phonetically mimic the foreign pronounciation. Any arbitrary combination of characters can be combined to achieve this phonetic translation.
Current natural language processing techniques are not entirely accurate, and are too expensive to apply to large scale projects such as Wikipedia. Additionally, they do not work for regional idioms. The authors have developed a semi-automatic approach for wiki environments that facilitates conversion between Simplified and Traditional Chinese. The automatic portion relies on mapping tables. The wiki end includes end-user ability to alter mapping tables and manually correct conversions with project-specific markup. The process results deliver text tailored to the user’s language preferences.
The development team is currently working to modulize this system so it can be applied to other national languages with similar issues — for instance, Serbian, which can be written in both Latin and Cyrillic.
Wiki-mediated Collaborative/Distributed Narrative Construction of Game Communities
Ang, Chee Siang, Panayiotis Zaphiris, and Stephanie Wilson. “Wiki-mediated Collaborative/Distributed Narrative Construction of Game Communities.” Proceedings of Wikimania 2005. 4-8 Aug. 2005. http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikimania05/Paper-CS1. 6 July 2005.
This paper examines the possibilities of enhanced language learning through game playing and commons-based projects. Constructionist learning theory provides the theoretical structure. Game culture is a participatory culture with active audiences, which in turn encourages active, social learning. The authors argue that in games, use rather than meaning is emphasized, which leads to production activity that could bring users closer to second-language use. Visits to gaming websites revealed strong, varied production of related derivative works (fan fiction, comics, videos, poems, etc., as well as meta-game materials.)
They suggest that these materials could be productively shared in a wiki environment, and that this method would be particularly productive in elementary ESL classrooms. A scenario is posed wherein an assignment requires students to create videos of their Sims games, upload them to a wiki, and then collaboratively create a larger thematic production. All of the instructions and work (subtitles, et al) would be done in English, thus encouraging language acquisition.
The authors remain concerned about how traditional wiki aspects would affect this project: security, nonsubjective authorship, nontraditional interfaces, and community pressures. They also wonder if the non-standard language patterns of online life (leet-speak, icons) would adversely affect language acquisition goals.
July 5, 2005
Wikitorial: A Chronological Link List
On Friday, June 17, the Los Angeles Times announced that it would experiment with a “wikitorial.” The original, published piece entitled “War and Consequences” would be posted alongside the publicly edited wiki version. More than 1,000 users logged on to participate that day. Participation was high on Saturday, but by early Sunday too many vulgarities had been posted for the paper’s taste and the site was taken down. No links are available to the paper, since everything was pulled at the end of the experiment.
LA Times Gets Wiki with It (Blogging.LA)
Wikitorials (Many 2 Many)
And why not a wiki? Blogosphere lights up over ‘wikitorials’ (Online Journalism Review)
The Wikitorial era begins (LA Observed)
Wiki Era Dawns at LA Times: Chaotic, but Kinsley is ‘Loving It’ (Editor and Publisher)
Dogs and Cats, Living Together: Times Launches Wikitorials (LA Voice.org) (blow-by-blow account)
Wikitorial Fork (Many 2 Many)
Paper’s ‘wikitorial’ trial halted (BBC News)
Embrace the Wiki Way!
Barton, Matt. “Embrace the Wiki Way!” Matt Barton’s TikiWiki. 21 May 2004. http://www.mattbarton.net/tikiwiki/tiki-read_article.php?articleId=4. 5 July 2005.
Barton explains the utility of wikis in plain and humorous language, making this a perfect piece to use as a handout or required reading in a Wiki 101 presentation. All the basics are covered here in a very friendly fashion: mutual aid, SoftSecurity, anarchism, pedagogy, et al.
He begins by pointing to definitions of wikis and then defines them himself. Authority, security, and authorship are briefly covered. Most useful is his list of projects that are and are not appropriate for wikis, along with reasoning for each:
- A novel : No. A novel is not a collaborative work.
- A personal portfolio: No. This is information that needs to be presented in a secure format.
- A reference guide: Yes. This sort of project can only benefit from collaboration.
- A directory of helpful websites: Yes, for the same reason.
- An argumentative essay: No. Too susceptible to revert wars.
July 1, 2005
What’s So Special About Wikipedia?
Ma, Cathy. “What’s So Special About Wikipedia?” Computers and Writing Online 2005. June 5, 2005. http://kairosnews.org/node/4325. 1 July 2005.
Ma very briefly covers many aspects that separate wikis in general (and Wikipedia specifically) from static-page based communities such as Slashdot and Sourceforge. Primarily, Wikipedia allows any user to contribute, while the other sites impose an editorial filtering process. She suggests that Wikipedia encourages sociality and ‘social introspection’ by giving opportunities for mutual scrutiny and mutual aid. The distributed nature of authority, deliberative democracy, and meritocracy are all briefly touched, as is the role of anonymity in contributions. Ma points to the economic implications of the blurred delination between producer and consumer in wiki environments, and Benkler’s previous work on Commons-Based Peer Production. Finally, she lists several ‘threats’ facing Wikipedia: credibility, vandalism, and accessing restricted regimes (such as the recent incident of Wikipedia being banned in China).
June 30, 2005
Studying Cooperation and Conflict between Authors with history flow Visualizations
Viégas, Fernanda B., Martin Wattenberg, and Kushal Dave. “Studying Cooperation and Conflict between Authors with history flow Visualizations.” CHI 2004. 24-29 April 2004. http://web.media.mit.edu/~fviegas/papers/history_flow.pdf. 30 June 2005.
The authors developed a tool for creating a visual record of multiple document versions in wikis. The goal of this tool is “to make broad trends in revision histories immediately visible, while preserving details for closer examination” (577). Wikipedia served as their research site. The visual maps produced remarkable indications of cooperation and conflict as content was negotiated and vandalism occurred and was fixed.
Results were presented in two versions: with revisions equally spaced, and with revisions spaced according to date. When the space-by-date protocol was used, instances of vandalism virtually disappeared from the record because they were repaired so quickly (often within 2-3 minutes). Five common types of vandalism were identified:
- Mass deletion: deletion of all contents on a page
- Offensive copy: insertion of vulgarities or slurs
- Phony copy: insertion of text unrelated to the page topic
- Phony redirection: often pages contain only a redirect link to a more precise term (e.g. “IBM” redirects to “International Business Machines”), but redirects can also be malicious, linking to an unrelated to offensive term.
- Idiosyncratic copy: adding text that is related to the topic of the page but which is clearly one-sided, not of general interest or inflammatory; these may be long pieces of text (578-579).
The article also briefly discusses authorship within Wikipedia, noting the usual issues. They discuss familiarity among Wikipedians working on the same pages, and point to inconsistencies between pages regarding anonymous user contribution. (Some have heavy anonymous contribution, some not.) There seems to be no clear connection between anonymity and vandalism. Interestingly, the first version posted of a page seems to remain more intact than sequential edits, a phenomenon the authors term first-mover advantage (580).