Jump to content

CivilServant's Wikimedia studies/Wiki Loves Africa Recruitment 2020

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki

This page documents a proposed research project.
Information may be incomplete and may change before the project starts.

Every year, the Wiki Loves Africa contest takes place and invite thousands of people across Africa to take photos and upload them to Wikimedia Commons. In this research project, students from a Princeton University class on Designing Field Experiments, guided by J. Nathan Matias (CS_natematias), will work with CivilServant and the organizers of Wiki Loves Africa to test ideas for (a) increasing the participation rate of previous contributors and (b) increasing the chance that contributors will add usable metadata to their photographs.

Update, February 2020: While Princeton students worked in the initial experimental plan, the research is currently being conducted solely by researchers CivilServant.

Research Partners[edit]

About Wiki Loves Africa[edit]

Wiki Loves Africa, which launched in 2014, is an annual photography competition that has contributed 48,466 images donated by 6213 submitters across 55 countries. These images are viewed 15,9 million times on Wikipedia each month (March/April 2019) and WLA viewed 225,7 million times altogether.

About SOC412: Designing Field Experiments at Scale[edit]

SOC412 is an undergraduate and graduate student class at Princeton University led by J. Nathan Matias where students learn the ethics and craft of of field experiments.[1][2] In the class, students work directly with an online community to co-develop an experiment that serves that community's needs and could also contribute to scientific knowledge. All studies undertaken in this class are submitted for review by the Princeton University ethics review board. In 2018, students from the class developed experiments with several large communities on the reddit platform.

About CivilServant[edit]

CivilServant, newly renamed CAT Lab, is a nonprofit that works together with online communities for a flourishing internet. CivilServant does this through Citizen Behavioral Science.[3] We use A/B testing software that can identify designs that serve the online community well, at the same time working with those communities to insure that the experimental process is open, transparent and driven by the insights and needs of that community. CivilServant is incubated by the citizen media organization Global Voices, which has a history of supporting people around the world to add indigenous language material to the web, including Wikipedia. CivilServant is funded through donations from individuals and foundations. It does not take funds from for-profit corporations.

CivilServant is currently undertaking a project to integrate our field experimentation infrastructure into Wikipedia in a way that can be directed in collaboration with Wikipedians, in a transparent, accountable, and ethical manner. This research project is part of that initiative.

Research Questions[edit]

This project is motivated by two pragmatic questions, each to be answered in a separate study:

  • How can Wiki Loves Africa increase the chance that a previous contributor will participate in the competition in 2020?
  • How can Wiki Loves Africa increase the chance that someone who contributes media will add enough metadata for the image to be usable on Wikipedia?

In an initial study, we will test the effectiveness of Wiki Loves Africa's recruitment letter to successfully re-engage past contestants to participate in the contest again. In later versions of this study, we may test variations on that letter to see if contestants are drawn to participate based on different motivations.

Research Timeline for Initial Study[edit]

This project has the following timeline:

  • December 2018:
    • refine the hypotheses, outcome variables, and plans for the intervention
    • submit rough study designs to the Princeton University ethics review board
  • January 2019:
    • update and finalize study designs to the Princeton University ethics review board
    • pre-register the full design of the first study on OSF for transparency purposes
    • prepare materials for class assignments
    • prepare materials for the experiment that recruits previous contributors to participate again

NOTE: We were not able to get IRB approval for the study in time to conduct the study in 2019 so this study was deferred for a year.

  • February 2020:
    • Feb 15: conduct the first study by sending recruitment messages to previous contributors
  • March 2020 (Wiki Loves Africa competition ends):
    • collect and analyze data
  • after March 2020
    • send debriefing materials to first study message recipients, informing them about the first study, and how public data from Wikipedia is being used
      • the debriefing will include a link to public, open access information with full study results, including anonymized data

Later versions of the recruitment study may be conducted in 2021. The study examining how to motivate users to add metadata is on indefinite hold.

Relevant links[edit]


  1. Matias, J. N. (September 28, 2018), Teaching Large-Scale Digital Experimentation to Undergraduates and Graduate Students, MIT Conference on Cultures of Digital Experimentation 
  2. Matias, J. N. (July 3, 2018), Teaching the Craft, Ethics, and Politics of Field Experiments, Freedom to Tinker 
  3. Matias, J. N., & Mou, M. (2018, April). CivilServant: Community-Led Experiments in Platform Governance. In Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (p. 9). ACM.