Grants talk:Project/nschwitter/The Role of Offline Ties of Wikipedians
Eligibility provisionally confirmed, Round 2 2021 - Research and Software proposal
We've provisionally confirmed your proposal is eligible for review in Round 2 2021 for Research and Software projects, contingent upon:
- confirmation that the project will not depend on staff from the Wikimedia Foundation for code review, integration or other technical support during or after the project, unless those staff are part of the Project Team.
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Marti (WMF) (talk) 05:37, 17 April 2021 (UTC)
Aggregated feedback from the committee for The Role of Offline Ties of Wikipedians
|(A) Impact potential
|(B) Community engagement
|(C) Ability to execute
|(D) Measures of success
|Additional comments from the Committee:
(* More information on the methodology is needed, as I would assume any inference would be dependent on the number of cases, and this might be a rather small n. How will you control for variations that are related to a possible small n?
This proposal has been recommended for due diligence review.
The Project Grants Committee has conducted a preliminary assessment of your proposal and recommended it for due diligence review. This means that a majority of the committee reviewers favorably assessed this proposal and have requested further investigation by Wikimedia Foundation staff.
- Aggregated committee comments from the committee are posted above. Note that these comments may vary, or even contradict each other, since they reflect the conclusions of multiple individual committee members who independently reviewed this proposal. We recommend that you review all the feedback and post any responses, clarifications or questions on this talk page.
- Following due diligence review, a final funding decision will be announced on Thursday, May 27, 2021.
Marti (WMF) (talk) 05:33, 5 May 2021 (UTC)
Response to the feedback
Dear Project Grants Committee,
I want to thank you all for your favourable feedback. I appreciate you taking the time to read my proposal and to comment on it. Many valuable points were raised in your comments. I want to make some responses and clarifications to the questions raised.
- Experience with Wikipedia: While I have to agree that I am not a highly experienced editor of Wikipedia, I would also not consider myself an outsider. After taking part myself in an offline editathon organised by my University’s library, I have finally registered an account (after making minor edits as an IP before) and started to also write some articles. I also think it might come as an advantage that I am not deeply embedded into the world of Wikipedians as it assures a neutral and objective point of view. In any case, I fully support the movement of open, free and accessible knowledge and collaboration. While I am not a heavy editor of Wikipedia, I have contributed to other open-source projects (e.g. written software packages for R).
- Not being affiliated with WMF/WMDE: I absolutely agree with the statement that conclusions should be implemented afterwards and that this is something I cannot provide. However, I think my project is a valuable first step. Before changes to e.g. the organisation of meetups are implemented, it is necessary to analysed whether meetups are a relevant factor in the first place. This is the gap my research project will address. At the end, I will be happy to work on and discuss concrete recommendations on the basis of my project and would be more than willing to collaborate with WMF/WMDE.
- Engagement with the community: As outlined in the proposal, I plan to publish the results in the Wikimedia community forum Der Kurier. I’d also be very happy to discuss the results at an actual offline meetup (once they resume) for a more local discussion. Besides this, I have attended the WikiWorkshops 2020 and 2021 as a participant and will aim to submit an article myself in future years. Besides directly connecting with the community, I also want to highlight that I have presented and will present my research in other contexts (at conferences, in seminars to students, in research seminars) to connect it to wider audiences.
- Budgeting: My budgeting is based on the ESRC studentship as I found it difficult to assign a clear workload in hours and calculate an hourly rate. I will work fulltime on this project for the next year. The ESRC studentships covers fees and living expenses as a PhD student at an English university while assuming fulltime dedication to the PhD. As the ESRC also assigns $1700 money to academic/personal development, I can agree with a reduction of the budget.
I have also received some more methodological questions which I would like to answer. Thanks for these!
- Network theory: I will combine different network theoretical approaches, and test the usefulness of different concepts. Fundamentally, I define the network as a social structure made up of nodes and being in relation with dyadic ties. In my view, e.g. Granovetter’s hypothesis on the strength of ties can be well expressed in terms of social capital, in that strong and weak ties hold different forms of social capital. This relates well to the distinction of bridging and bonding social capital. Overall, it will be an empirical question to test which hypotheses hold true.
- Control group: Making claims about the effects of meetups requires a comparison with users that have not attended any. I will work with the complete collection of all Wikipedians, so this includes both users that attended meetups and those that did not. I currently plan to work with the full list of users and to statistically control for tenure and activity in analyses (so that I can e.g. reliably say that it is the attendance at a meetup that makes people contribute more and not for example only the number of previous edits). Another option would be to use a matching approach. With a matching approach, one would match each user that attended a meetup with a user that did not attend one but is comparable in other regards. For example, imagine user A and B which registered on the same date and had a comparable level of activity in their first month. In their second month, user A attended a meetup while user B did not. User A and B could now be matched and compared. This is the very basic idea – in my case, it would be scaled up to all users that attended a meetup and not only one and I would also use a more advanced version than this 1:1-matching. At this moment in time, I do not yet know which strategy of analysis is ideal, but these are the ideas I am currently following up upon.
- Typology of meetups: I currently distinguish between “work meetings” and “social meetings” with work meetings covering any meetups which were clearly designed to explicitly work on Wikipedia (e.g. editing events). I also separate all meetups that have taken place or were organised by community spaces (which are “official” spaces and directly supported by the WMDE such as the WikiBär in Berlin). I have not yet thought of any further typology of meetups. However, this is an interesting point that I will keep in mind, thanks!
- “Small n”: With the German Wikipedia being one of the largest language versions and featuring a very rich meetup culture, I have never faced the problem of a small n in any of my preliminary analysis. I am able to analyse over 4000 meetups (with 1-300 attendees per meetup). Only if I focus on specific subgroups, for example specific regions, I might end up with a smaller number of observations where it is not possible to draw inferences. In these cases, I am still convinced something can be learnt from rich descriptive analysis which do not require large numbers to be insightful but can instead highlight local peculiarities.
I think this should cover all of the methodological remarks. If there are any more specific questions (methodological or otherwise), I am happy to answer and outline my thoughts.
I want to thank you again for considering my proposal and for your time. --ASociologist (talk) 09:11, 7 May 2021 (UTC)
Response to expert feedback
After a very helpful conversation with Mercedes Caso, I have made some changes to my proposal to address both the feedback of the grant committee and experts. In short:
- Budget: I have reduced the budget to $26000 and provided a more detailed timeline of my activities for the year which also makes the allocation of the money more transparent.
- Community engagement: I have extended the section and outlined some more ways to actively engage with the community.
- Scalability: I have extended my project goals to include the write-up and documentation of the data collection and the analyses conducted in the fashion of hands-on guidelines.
I want to add a few further remarks on the topic of scalability. It definitely is possible to extend the analysis beyond the German Wikipedia but it is out of scope for this project. Just the collection of all meetups in the German Wikipedia was a fulltime job for over 6 months and also required the language skills to read and understand the organisational pages. I absolutely agree that comparing the meetup culture of different language versions would be extremely valuable (and a potential follow-up project or I would need research assistance in the present project ). As a step in this direction, I now plan to write up the process of data collection and analysis to allow other researchers to apply and reproduce the analyses in other contexts. I have previous experience with writing guidelines for data collection and analysis projects as I have written a guideline on Twitter data collection for Oxfam which was received very well.
Other more methodological questions have also been raised which I want to reply to here. I have discussed how and that I plan to include all editors in the analysis to gain a full picture in the previous response. Another question was raised about the quality of the data. This is a good question. During data collection, I have aimed at collecting every offline meetup that has taken place in the German Wikipedia. To achieve that, I have checked all regional portals as they are listed on the German meetup page (the current version as well as different versions from the past that I accessed through the version history), I have covered all portals and “Redaktionen” to search for meetings, I checked the meeting calendar and any other sort of list that mentioned offline meetups. To the best of my knowledge, I have covered all documented German meetups.
Also, I have used the best available information, but I cannot fully guarantee its accuracy. However, as most meetups provide minutes about what was done/discussed at a meetup or provide pictures of the meeting, and considering the fact that Wikipedians tend to report back and stick to the facts, I think the data is reliable. Yet, when preprocessing the data, there is no way to assess whether I have missed any meetings or whether the information that was provided is inaccurate: Even if there were any peculiar patterns in the data (like a sudden stop of meetings, no meetings happening in a certain month, etc.), these peculiar patterns often just happened. As long as any missing data is missing at random and not in a systematic way, results will not be biased.
The project does not involve the collection of any socio-demographics, at least not on a large or quantitative scale. The reason is that these data are not available (e.g. not all users provide full names which would allow to create a gender variable); a survey would be needed to collect them reliably and this is beyond the scope of this project. However, during data collection, I have realised how exclusive meetups tend to be as the reluctance for certain groups to join is very clearly expressed on the organisational pages. A more in-depth analysis of those texts as well as the pictures from the meetups would allow an assessment of the skewed gender distribution at meetups (in the minutes of meetings, the skewed gender distribution is often mentioned directly). The quantitative research will be informative to assess the importance of offline meetups generally which will allow to draw conclusions on the consequences of those skewed meetups. Besides gender, the role of meetings for newcomers can be more directly assessed as the date of the first edit is more readily available than information on gender.
Once again, I want to thank you all for considering my proposal for funding and for your time and your valuable input, it is extremely interesting to see your points of view and I appreciate it greatly.
--ASociologist (talk) 10:01, 13 May 2021 (UTC)
Round 2 2021 decision
Congratulations! Your proposal has been selected for a Project Grant.
The committee has recommended this proposal and WMF has approved funding for the full amount of your request, $26,000
Comments regarding this decision:
The committee is pleased to support this research that promises to provide helpful insight into the efficacy of meetups, a standard offline organizing tool in the Wikimedia movement, including how important it is to editor retention and online engagement. They also found a value in the creation of a hands-on set of guidelines, as one of the project's deliverables, that will allow to transfer the learnings to movement organizers to help them focus on evidence-based strategies in how they design their meetups.
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Marti (WMF) (talk) 04:52, 28 May 2021 (UTC)
Access to the thesis
Hi @ASociologist. Thanks for doing this fantasting work. I'm Aafi, founder of the Deoband Community Wikimedia, a recognised user-group affiliate. We are determining methods for the strategic development of the affiliate. The proposal is available here. Since your thesis is relatable to the proposal and can help us learn from the learnings that you learnt throughout the course of this work, could you please share the thesis over? The best place to send the thesis would be
dcwwikimedia.org. Thanks, ─ The Aafī (talk) 09:06, 28 January 2023 (UTC)
- Hi @TheAafi, absolutely! I sent you the thesis. Feel free to get in touch if you have any further questions! ASociologist (talk) 10:05, 30 January 2023 (UTC)
- @ASociologist: Received. Thanks and regards. ─ The Aafī (talk) 12:07, 30 January 2023 (UTC)