[Air-l] wikipedia research?

Jill Walker jill.walker at uib.no
Sun Oct 8 03:17:54 PDT 2006

Barry Wellman asked:
> Having had several experiences with Wikipedia entries and edits  
> this week,
> I am curious if anyone is doing research on:
> the social structure and reward structure of Wikipedists -- item  
> enterers,
> editing others, administrators, etc. (I don't know the structure well
> enough to know the nomenclature).

I had a "let's edit and at least slightly improve some of these awful  
wikipedia entries" phase a few weeks back, and did some reading about  
the wikipedia in general as well. I haven't found "real research" but  
did find some very interesting popular articles about how the  
Wikipedia works. Here are a few links:

Aaron Swatz: Who Writes Wikipedia? Aaron Swartz's Raw Thought.  
"Wales has repeatedly stated that 1-2% of wikipedia users have  
contributed 50-75%. However analyzing articles by letter count (not  
edits) shows most top contributors unregistered with under 25 edits.  
Wikipedia is written by outsiders, policed by insiders."

Rough Type: Nicholas Carr's Blog: The amorality of Web 2.0
Criticism of the Wikipedia - offers articles on Bill Gates and Jane  
Fonda as examples of how the "collaborative editing" can generate a  
articles that are simply lists of trivia rather than coherently  
flowing descriptions of a topic. Interesting.

Rough Type: Nicholas Carr's Blog: The law of the wiki
""Output quality declines as the number of contributors increases.  
Making matters worse, the best contributors will tend to become more  
and more alienated as they watch their work get mucked up by the  
knuckleheads, and they'll eventually stop contributing"

The Atlantic Online | September 2006 | The Hive | Marshall Poe
Detailed article about the history of the Wikipedia by Marshall Poe.  
"Can thousands of Wikipedians be wrong? How an attempt to build an  
online encyclopedia touched off history’s biggest experiment in  
collaborative knowledge"

Oh, and here's one of my own blog posts that starts talking about  
Alan Liu's suggested student guidelines for use of the Wikipedia but  
ends up pointing out some of the problems with entries that I've been  
working on recently - related to some of the problems pointed out in  
the articles above.

I'd love to know of more research on these issues.


Jill Walker
Associate Professor, Dept of Humanistic Informatics, University of  
Bergen, Norway

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