Session Preview: Sustaining Open Collaboration

The technical session Sustaining Open Collaboration will feature three presentations. See the schedule for details on when and where to go.

Don’t Bite the Newbies: How Reverts Affect the Quantity and Quality of Wikipedia Work

Aaron Halfaker, Aniket Kittur, John Riedl

Reverts are important to maintaining the quality of Wikipedia. They fix mistakes, repair vandalism, and help enforce policy. However, reverts can also be damaging, especially to the aspiring editor whose work they destroy. In this research we analyze 400,000 Wikipedia revisions to understand the effect that reverts had on editors. We seek to understand the extent to which they demotivate users, reducing the workforce of contributors, versus the extent to which they help users improve as encyclopedia editors. Overall we find that reverts are powerfully demotivating, but that their net influence is that more quality work is done in Wikipedia as a result of reverts than is lost by chasing editors away. However, we identify key conditions – most specifically new editors being reverted by much more experienced editors – under which reverts are particularly damaging. We propose that reducing the damage from reverts might be one effective path for Wikipedia to solve the newcomer retention problem.

Mentoring in Wikipedia: A Clash of Cultures

David R. Musicant, Yuqing Ren, James A. Johnson, John Riedl

The continuous success of Wikipedia depends upon its capability to recruit and engage new editors, especially those with new knowledge and perspectives. Yet Wikipedia over the years has become a complicated bureaucracy that may be difficult for newcomers to navigate. Mentoring is a practice that has been widely used in offline organizations to help new members adjust to their roles. In this paper, we draw insights from the offline mentoring literature to analyze mentoring practices in Wikipedia and how they influence editor behaviors. Our quantitative analysis of the Adopt-a-user program shows mixed success of the program. Communication between adopters and adoptees is correlated with the amount of article editing done by adoptees shortly after adoption. Our qualitative analysis of the communication between adopters and adoptees suggests that several key functions of mentoring are missing or not fulfilled consistently. Most adopters focus on establishing their legitimacy rather than acting proactively to guide, protect, and support the long-term growth of adoptees. We conclude with recommendations of how Wikipedia mentoring programs can evolve to take advantage of offline best practices.

“How Should I Go from __ to __ Without Getting Killed?” Motivation and Benefits in Open Collaboration

Katherine Panciera, Mikhil Masli, Loren Terveen

Many people rely on open collaboration projects to run their computer (Linux), browse the web (Mozilla Firefox), and get information (Wikipedia). While these projects are successful, many such efforts suffer from lack of participation. Understanding what motivates users to participate and the benefits they perceive from their participation can help address this problem. We examined these issues through a survey of contributors and information consumers in the Cyclopath geographic wiki. We analyzed subject responses to identify a number of key motives and perceived benefits. Based on these results, we articulate several general techniques to encourage more and new forms of participation in open collaboration communities. Some of these techniques have the potential to engage information consumers more deeply and productively in the life of open collaboration communities.

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