Category "Community Rules"
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.
Category "Community Rules"
Category "Conference Proceedings"
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).
Problems were encountered in attempts to measure the stability of Wikipedia pages because of the amount of time needed to develop and run a fine-grained differencing algorithm on all page versions and the fact that, when the research was done in 2003, Wikipedia was very new (581). Researchers therefore “focused on size change as a simple measure of change in content.” Little evidence for stability existed, and many pages with more than 100 versions demonstrated steady growth.
Three possible reasons for Wikipedia’s success were posited as a result of the study:
- watchlists, which are unique to Wikipedia, “provide a mechanism for community surveillance,” and may be responsible for the rapid repair of vandlism.
- Backchannels (talk pages, list servs) remove meta conversations from the main content.
- The Neutral Point of View (NPOV) policy provides “both common ground and rough guidelines” for dispute resolution.
June 27, 2005
Wikipedia and the Disappearing “Author”
Miller, Nora. “Wikipedia and the Disappearing ‘Author.’” ETC: A Review of General Semantics. Jan. 2005. 37-40.
This brief piece reviews the development of the Web and the wide distribution possibilities it offers. The author also generally considers the workings of Wikipedia and its policy of radical collaboration, as well as the nebulous nature of authorship within it. No original research or insights are presented, nor are there any references.