Some thoughts and links about Wikipedia, to support the Professional Development Workshop led by Joe Cox at the 2016 Academy of Management annual meeting.
What is Wikipedia?
Wikipedia is the largest, and most widely read, publication in history; but perhaps more significantly, it has been built by hundreds of thousands of disparate volunteers, making it arguably the most extensive and impactful collaborative project in history.
It’s based on wiki software, invented in 1995. Wikipedia was launched in 2001, initially as an experiment. The policy framework and the social norms are as vital to Wikipedia’s identity as the software; basic principles were articulated early on, and each language edition’s volunteer community writes its own more specific policies.
Why do people contribute to Wikipedia?
Essentially: “I like the idea of sharing knowledge and want to contribute to it,” and “I saw an error I wanted to fix.”
- Forte, Andrea and Amy Bruckman. (2005). . Position Paper. GROUP 05 workshop: Sustaining community: The role and design of incentive mechanisms in online systems. Sanibel Island, FL. (“getting credit for one’s work”)
- Lavallee, Andrew (2009). Only 13% of Wikipedia Contributors Are Women, Study Says. Wall Street Journal.
- Editor Survey (2011), Wikimedia Foundation.
- Why do people edit Wikipedia? (2012). Wikimedia Foundation. (qualitative study based on open-ended interview questions)
My personal experience: Being part of a learning and teaching community, meeting smart, passionate, and knowledgeable people. This perspective is somewhat “taboo”; strong sense that “we are not Facebook.”
So, what does contributing look like?
- A blog post about the Proposed Columbia Gorge casino article
- Article about Lies and the Lying Liars…; archive of the talk page, continued onto current talk page
How do professionals work alongside volunteers?
- Cultural institutions (GLAM-Wiki): Wikipedians in Residence, content donations/uploads, edit-a-thons.
What has been tried to further engage volunteers?
Number of editors, diversity of editors, expertise of editors are all considered priorities. Here are a few things that have been successful, to some degree, at increasing participation:
- Informal/volunteer-initiated “Collaboration of the Week” programs: See Haiyi Zhu, Robert Kraut, Aniket Kittur (2012): Organizing without Formal Organization: Group Identification, Goal Setting and Social Modeling in Directing Online Production
- Wikimedia Education program: Supporting universities in engaging students as editors.
- Grant programs; the “Inspire” campaign.
- Wiki Loves Monuments, The Wikipedia photo contest around cultural heritage.
Software, policies, and cultural evolution: We have to make it easy.
- Software: Pete Forsyth, presentation at the Future of Text Symposium (2015): Seven principles that support effective collaboration
- Policies: Broad community input is necessary, and messy; process of developing/refining policy could use work.
- Cultural evolution: Focus has often been on remedial issues (dealing with harassment, vandalism, etc.); focus on promoting what works well is needed.