Jump to content

Research:Anonymous phenomena

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki

This page documents a planned research project.
Information may be incomplete and change before the project starts.

Anonymous editors are poorly understood. This page documents (will document) common hypotheses of anons as well as results challenging/supporting some theories.

Common theories

Stepping stone or "kicking the tires"
People sometimes edit anonymously before registering an account. This anonymous work can be seen as a step between reader and editor.
For many people, making a minor contribution to Wikipedia is not worth the time and energy of registering an account and developing an on-wiki persona.
Prefer no persistent identity
Many people would prefer not to have some or all of their contributions aggregated together and associated with their person. Sometimes registered editors will log out to edit topics they would not like to be associated with.
Cost-benefit ratio off
Many people know that they can register, but don't see any value in having a registered account that they'd need to log into and remember the password for. They don't know about or appreciate the extended functionality available to registered editors.



RQ 1: How good is an IP address as an identifier for an anonymously editing person?

RQ 1.1: How often do multiple editors edit from the same address?
RQ 1.2: How often do individual editors change IP address?

RQ 2: How often do editors with registered accounts edit anonymously? RQ 3: How much anonymous editing do people do before registering accounts?

RQ 3.1: How does editing anonymously before registering an account predict productivity?

Allowing and supporting anonymity

"IPs are human too"
A quantitative argument against prejudice against anonymous (IP) editors and a discussion of what anons can and cannot do.
"Welcome unregistered editing"
A brief argument for the term "unregistered editing" over "IPs" or "anonymous editing" that includes a discussion of editing sanctions (e.g. blocking). Specifically the author argues against IP bans going hand-in-hand with user account bans.
Even those who have transgressed should be welcome to edit as an unregistered user, so long as they are able to do so civilly.

Social costs of anonymity

"The overuse of anonymity at Wikipedia and a proposal"
An argument against anonymity in Wikipedia due to (hypothesized/experienced) social issues that are caused by a lack of accountability/reputation. The author proposes a Real Name identification system for Wikipedia.
"The Social Cost of Cheap Pseudonyms" [1]
A model/simulation based discussion of the value/consequences of allowing users to cheaply adopt new "psuedonyms" in a social community to avoid sanctions after deviant behavior.

Adopting a social persona vs remaining anonymous

"Luring the Lurkers" [2]
An experienced opinion about the fear of involving oneself socially in online communities related to the often anti-social behaviors of regulars. Katz summarizes emails that he has received from Slashdot readers/lurkers about why they don't involve themselves in discussions and criticizes the community for encouraging behavior that scares good would-be-commenters away.

On the anonymity of an IP

"IP edits are not anonymous"
A discussion of what information can be learned about a person via their IP address.
"Wikipedia is anonymous"
A discussion of simple strategies for preserving anonymity (or not) on Wikipedia. This essay is interesting because it discusses the possibility of divulging one's interests/ethnicity/location via edit patterns.

See also



  1. Resnick, P. (2001). The social cost of cheap pseudonyms. Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, 10(2), 173-199.
  2. Katz. Luring the lurkers. http://news.slashdot.org/story/98/12/28/1745252/luring-the-lurkers, Dec 1998.