CivilServant's Wikimedia studies/Wiki Loves Africa Recruitment 2019

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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.

Research Partners[edit]

About Wiki Loves Africa[edit]

Wiki Loves Africa, which launched in 2014, is an annual photography competition that has contributed over 40,000 images from over 5,000 people across 55 countries. These images are viewed over 13 million times on Wikipedia each month.

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 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:

  • How can Wiki Loves Africa increase the chance that a previous contributor will participate in the competition in 2019?
  • 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?

Researchers and our Wiki Loves Africa liaison are currently having conversations and conducting a literature review to identify potential hypotheses for these studies. These initial hypotheses will be presented to students in a project briefing that gives them a starting point for their discussions with Wikipedians.

Research Timeline[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
  • February 2019 (class begins):
    • Feb 1: begin the first study by sending recruitment messages to previous contributors
    • connect a student team with this project
    • students work with Wiki Loves Africa and the CivilServant team to refine the metadata study design
  • March 2019 (Wiki Loves Africa competition ends):
    • 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
    • students finalize second study design and pre-register the full design of the study on OSF for transparency purposes
  • April 2019
    • messages for the second study are sent to competition participants
  • May 2019
    • collect early stage data from the second study for student analysis, if possible
  • July 2019
    • complete final data collection
    • send debriefing materials to second 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
  • November 2019
    • if possible, conduct a followup analysis to see if increases in the creation of metadata contributed to increases in image use across Wikipedia

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.