What is the problem you're trying to solve?
It is general knowledge that inexperienced Wikipedians have a hard time getting their contributions sustainably published (see amongst others Suh et al. (2009)). Newcomers feel (and are) excluded despite efforts of the Wikimedia Foundation (and many Wikipedians) to keep the Wikipedia-community as open as possible. However, for the sustainability of self-organizing communities, openness and the continuous supply of "fresh blood" are essential.
What is your solution?
We do not directly foresee a solution. What we postulate is that exclusion mechanisms are not the work of Wikimedia/Wikimedia's policies or of an influential elite of strongly involved Wikipedians, but that these are the resultant of all kinds of individual and independent actions and decisions of autonomously functioning Wikipedians. In other words: exclusion is a product of self-organization – the outcome of numerous spontaneous, individually motivated and unsolicited bottom-up acts. Would this be the case than this might hold the key to adjust policies and behaviors in a way that better serves the welcoming of newcomers.
(A note on how we use of terms like Wikimedia/Wikimedians/Wikipedia/Wikipedians)
Despite efforts (of the Wikimedia Foundation, and of individual Wikipedians) to keep Wikipedia (the project) as open and inviting as possible, outsiders experience barriers to participate. What is interesting about this is that, despite the fact that the Wikimedia Foundation (the organization) based on its genuine concern actively develops plans and policies to counter this development, but that it is completely dependent on its self-organizing community members (Wikipedians - the community) how these are being dealt with in practice. So being open and inviting is not (only) a matter of policy and rules, but of (community) culture. To understand how mechanisms of bureaucratizatio and exclusion work, it is not only important to study rules and policies, but also to get an understanding of how exactly, at the micro level, is being dealt with these.
Our goal is to get a better, scientifically grounded understanding of the practices and motivations of Wikipedians to bureaucratize and to (unconsciously) counter Wikimedia’s efforts keep Wikipedia as open and self-organizing as possible. This would support
- Wikimedia in developing strategies to make/keep Wikipedia a vibrant, sustainable, lively open and self-organizing community.
- the scientific community and promoters of bottom-up initiatives in general in better understanding principles of self-organization.
In order to be able to find out if bureaucratization and exclusion work according to our hypothesis, and to understand how this exactly works this study of consists of 3 main parts:
Through literature review we want to find out what policies Wikimedia developed to guarantee the openness and self-organizing ability of Wikimedia. Through interviews with policy makers (Wikimedians) we want to find out:
- what the reasons for, the assumptions leading to and the expectations of (the development of) these policies are.
- what mechanisms are used to implement and to control the execution of these policies.
We would like to update the data we currently use to support our findings. This means updates of:
- The figure in which Kittur et al. (2007: 456, figure 4) show that the time Wikipedians spend on average writing articles decreases compared to the time they invest in writing and enforcing rules. Has that trend continued in recent years?
- The "holy shit graph" of Van Liere & Fung (2011) showing that the relative involvement of newbies has strongly decreased over the years (http://strategy.wikimedia.org/wiki/Editor_Trends_Study). Has that trend continued?
- The “Monthly ratio of reverted edits by editor class” which Bongwon Suh et al. (2009: 6, fig. 10) use to show that the probability that an edit of an experienced Wikipedian has a substantially greater chance to continue to persist than that of an inexperienced Wikipedians. Has that trend continued in recent years?
Based on interviews with and a survey among Wikipedians (both critics and supporters of Wikipedia / Wikimedia) we want to figure out what their findings concerning the functioning of self-organization and the associated Wikipedia policies are; and which exact exclusion mechanisms Wikipedians use and what motives they would have for that.
|Activity||Description||time (hours)||Costs (€ (ex. VAT))|
|1. General||a. Research Preparation (12 hours); Project management (8 hours)||20 hours||€1.000,-|
|2. Policy Research||a. Literature Review on exact content/discourse of the main policies concerning keeping Wikipedia an open and self-organizing community||40 hours||€2.000,-|
|b. Interviews with Wikimedians concerning reasons for, the assumptions leading to, the expectations and the implementation and control mechanisms of this policy? (6 respondents). General preparation (8 hours); Finding respondents (8 hours); 6 Interviews + full transcriptions (36 hours); Analysis (8 hours)||60 hours||€3.000,-|
|3. Data Analysis||a. Preparing data analysis: Engagement with experienced Wikipedia-researchers in order to learn about their research methods.||40 hours||€2.000,-|
|b. Update of outdated figures (estimated at 40 hours each); could possibly be performed/supported by community members as well||120 hours||€6.000,-|
|4. Field Research||a. Interviews concerning Wikepidians’ findings concerning Wikipedia’s self-organization policies and practices and concerning the exact exclusion mechanisms they use and what motives they would have for that (6 respondents). General preparation (8 hours); Finding respondents (8 hours); 6 Interviews + full transcriptions (36 hours); Analysis (8 hours)||60 hours||€3.000,-|
|b. Survey concerning Wikepidians’ findings concerning Wikipedia’s self-organization policies and practices and concerning the exact exclusion mechanisms they use and what motives they would have for that (250-500 respondents). General preparation (24 hours); Building + publishing online survey (32 hours); Analysis (64 hours)||120 hours||€6.000,-|
|c. Discourse Analysis: How are subjects of bureaucratization, rule enforcement and exclusion being discussed on Wikipedia's Facebook pages and IRC-channels?||40 hours||€2.000,-|
|5. Report||Analysis (24 hours); Writing (24 hours); Publishing and correspondence (16 hours)||60 hours||€3.000,-|
|Already covered for||1. General; 2. Policy Research; 5. Report||-€9.000,-|
|Requested Grant||3. Data Analysis; 4. Field Research||€19.000,- (ex. VAT)|
As one can read from the planning we expect we’ll €28.000,- to complete this research. We are employed as researchers (see Step 5). This means that the expenses for spending time on interviews and writing reports are covered (1. General, 2. Policy Research and 5. Report). However, the reason to apply for this grant is to be able to compensate for the time/help/support we need from (a) currently unfunded researcher(s) to collect and to analyze data (3) and to perform Field Research (4). We are looking for a grant to cover for the expenses to be made for 3. Data Analysis and for 4. Field Research - a total of €19.000,-
We have shared and discussed our current insights with Jan-Bart de Vreede and with the board of the Dutch Wikimedia Foundation at their annual meeting. Since we will be speakers at their annual conference at the 1st of November we plan to discuss ways and opportunities to broaden our insights (and this specific project) related to their experiences at that specific moment/platform.
We are aiming to publish our findings on Wikipedia, of course, in order to communicate these with Wikipedians and Wikimedians, and to be able to discuss these with the audience concerned. Besides that we aim to share and discuss our insights with the Wikimedians we know and the ones we'll hopefully get to know during this project in order to refine these. If applicable we would like to publish our findings in a scientific journal.
Measures of success
Our project would be successful if the insights on the mechanisms of bureaucratization and exclusion would be used (for example via references) in debates and policy reviews concerning the involvement of (new) Wikipedians (Increasing Participation).
We are 2 sociologists from the Netherlands, strongly interested in self-organization, both in online and offline communities. We try to find out what makes self-organization robust and vital, but also what makes it vulnerable and erratic. We recently wrote an article 'A self-organizing bureaucracy: Bureaucratization, power concentration, and community closure in the evolution of Wikipedia' – of which we hope it will be published shortly.
Justus is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Amsterdam and the Gradus Hendriks Professor in Community Development at Erasmus University Rotterdam. He examines, amongst others, social movements like Anonymous and Occupy, immigrant organizations in Amsterdam in Los Angeles and Paris, and gentrification practices, urban policies and state theory. Emiel studies mechanisms of exclusion, power concentration and bureaucratization in Wikipedia and other online communities. Currently he is researching comparable mechanisms at citizens’ initiatives in Amsterdam. As mentioned, the reason to apply for this grant is to be able to compensate for the time/help/support we need from (a) currently unfunded researcher(s) to collect and to analyze data (3) and to perform Field Research (4).
As mentioned above - we already shared our current insights with Dutch Wikimedians. Based upon the kind suggestion of PEarley (WMF) we asked for response upon this proposal at the Editor Retention Project and the Teahouse Project was designed to improve the experience for new users.
Do you think this project should be selected for an Individual Engagement Grant? Please add your name and rationale for endorsing this project in the list below. (Other constructive feedback is welcome on the talk page of this proposal).
- Community member: add your name and rationale here.