This project investigated IP editing, also referred to as “anonymous” editing, on multiple Wikipedias, with the broad goal of answering two questions:
(1) Who are the main populations of IP editors, and how are they distributed within the communities that Growth works with?
(2) Which populations of IP editors could be encouraged to create accounts, and which populations should be accommodated as IP or “anonymous” editors?
Research began by collecting and interpreting WMF metrics that describe different characteristics of IP editing in 13 candidate Wikipedias specified by the Growth team. After exploring this data, the pool of study communities was narrowed to four—Arabic, Spanish, Bengali, and Japanese—each of which present unique characteristics of IP editing. Arabic appears to be very skeptical of IP edits based on revert rates, for example, while Spanish and Japanese appear to treat IP edits similarly to those made by New Editors.
A survey was distributed in the study communities that aimed to explore community stance and editor beliefs regarding IP editing, including editors’ view of the risks posed by visible IP addresses, the relationship they see between IP editing and vandalism, and range of possible motivations for IP editors that might be observable in their communities. Finally, editors who indicated their interest during the survey were invited to participate in a 60-minute, semi-structured interview in which previously identified topics and themes were explored.
This research indicates that IP editing is a widespread phenomenon, and that the motivations for it are diverse. Furthermore, the nature of IP editing—and community reception of it—differ across Wikipedias.