Research:Anonymous editor acquisition

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Current event marker.svg This project page documents a research project currently planned.
Information may be incomplete and change before the project starts.
Research project
Anonymous editor acquisition
Main contact Growth team
WMF contact Steven Walling
Start 2013-09
Status planned Icon 33 percent.png
Open access This project has open access publications
WMF support
Wikimedia research projects Wikimedia research projects

This research page documents attempts to grow the Wikipedia community by encouraging current or potential anonymous editors to register accounts.


Previous research (circa 2011) has suggested that monthly anonymous editing is in greater decline than monthly edits by registered users, but that it still accounts for 20-30% of contributions to English Wikipedia.[1] This large group of editors is a cohort we know very little about. In fact, we don't even really know how many there are, their experience level, and so on. Some may be registered Wikipedians who choose log out, others may be first-time editors exploring things, and still more might be people who actively decline to sign up. We do know that many currently active community members began by editing anonymously,[2][3] which suggests it is a key method for attracting new Wikipedians. Our project will examine anonymous contributions with that goal in mind.

Research questions[edit]

In rough order of priority:

  • Volume. How many anonymous editors are there every month on Wikipedia, and how much do they contribute?
  • Impact. What is the quality of anonymous contributions? Are their revert rates higher or lower than newly-registered users?
  • Motivation. What keeps anonymous editors from registering? Some hypothesis to verify:
    • How aware are anonymous editors of the potential benefits to registering an account?
    • How aware are anonymous editors of the personal information required for creating an account?
    • How many actively choose to stay anonymous? How many have registered an account they choose not to use or cannot access?
  • Experience. Unlike registered users, where we can use edit counts as a proxy for experience, anonymous users (esp. those on shared IPs) may be of any experience level.
    • How many anonymous editors are first-time contributors?


We will use both quantitative and qualitative methods to answer the research questions above, including:

  • Measurement of anonymous contributions and contributors, such as the number of unique monthly IPs which edit, and so on. Currently neither the Wikimedia Report Card nor provide any information about anonymous editors over time.
  • Simple surveys and interviews of successful anonymous editors about their motivations and understanding of Wikipedia. Reaching the group of anonymous editors has some challenging aspects. Surveys need to be minimal in order not to be ignored (i.e. we are targeting users that skip the overhead of account creation or login forms). In addition, participating in the interview (or even providing the contact info to make it possible) can be perceived as a privacy concern for some anonymous users.

Answering some the basic research questions we've laid out here is necessary groundwork for further work aimed at effectively convincing more anonymous editors to become registered Wikipedians, though no doubt data from such interventions will help us answer some of the basic research questions along the way.


  1. Research:Anonymous edits, 2011
  2. 2011 Editor Survey results
  3. Research:Account creation campaigns/Anonymous editors