Research:Characterizing Collaboration Models in the EN, FR and ES Language Editions of Wikipedia

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22:06, 12 November 2020 (UTC)
Duration:  2020-September – 2021-April

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

Introduction & Background[edit]

Is Wikipedia a standardized platform with a common model of collaboration or is it a set of 288 language editions with distinct collaborative models? In the last 20 years, researchers have analyzed group work that enables the creation of quality articles in the English Wikipedia, but these intellectual assumptions are based on solely this anglo-centric perspective. In this study, Our research aims to evaluate the collaborative practices of Wikipedia editors in the Spanish, French, and English language editions of Wikipedia. At a broader perspective, the implications of this study help uncover the differences between language communities and how they can be supported.

Research Questions and Scope[edit]

This work is part of a larger agenda trying to understand how collaboration models that exist in English (EN) generalize to the French (FR) and Spanish (ES) language editions of Wikipedia. In the first part of this research project, we leveraged collaboration models that already existed in EN. In the first study, I replicated a model by [1] based on editors' behaviors in the English Wikipedia. This model was used as a lens to consider collaborative activity in the Spanish and French language editions. I demonstrated that talk pages are used differently in these different language editions. In study two, I used a collaboration model by [2] that suggested editors used “power plays” to justify their edits made on articles. The qualitative coding of a dataset in EN, FR and ES show that these power plays still exist, and no new ones were discovered in any of these language platforms across all three languages.

These preliminary findings show that two English collaboration models exist uniquely in the French and Spanish language editions of Wikipedia. This interview study will be used to expand on these initial findings. In particular, I am asking three questions:

(1) What are the properties of a model synthesized from Study 1 and Study 2? (2) What similarities and differences exist across English, French, and Spanish language collaboration models? (3) How do these comparisons hinder or motivate collaboration on Wikipedia across different language editions?


 The anticipated participants in the study will be adult editors that have edited on at least one of the following platforms: French, Spanish or English Wikipedia edition. Any gender, race, or ethnicity; participants must be at least 18 years old. Furthermore, we will be recruiting editors from all three language editions that have previously edited Wikipedia talk pages. The editors that we will be recruiting were found in our data set from study 2. These editors contributed to 1 or more talk page conversations that were coded for various power plays.

Recruiting Activity
Editors Contacted 278
Editors Replied 36
Editors Interviewed 20


This evaluation will use semi-structured interviews to understand the collaborative practices of editors in each of these language editions. We will be able to understand the experiences and skills that Wikipedia editors have as they collaborate with other contributors to edit various articles. These results will help researchers and designers better support collaboration on different language peer production communities.


Participants will be recruited via Wikipedia. We are interested in participants that have actively participated in talk page discussions in the French, Spanish, and English Wikipedias. We will be selecting participants that we can find more recent public talk page posts. A member of our study team will recruit participants using two methods: (1) Editors will be contacted through the Wikipedia emailing system that sends a message through the platform. Messages sent will be directed to their personal email address box. (2) Users on Wikipedia can be contacted through their user talk pages.

After potential participants contact us to express their interest, we will screen their eligibility by examining their Wikipedia User Page, User Talk Page, and Wikipedia Edit History. We will identify individuals who we will contact directly by reviewing their publicly available edit history. We will review editors and curators editing history to make sure the participant meets our contribution threshold prior to individual contact. A member of our study team will send a personalized, direct email invite to those editors.


This study is divided into three parts as we will be interviewing editors from three different editions of Wikipedia: ES, EN, and FR.

Donation Choices
Language Edition Start Date End Date
EN 11/12/2020 -
ES 01/02/2021 -
FR 03/01/2021 -

Policy, Ethics and Human Subjects Research[edit]

This work has been reviewed by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the University of Washington. In July 2020, the University of Washington Human Subjects Division (HSD) determined that this study is human subjects research and that it qualifies for exempt status. This exempt determination is valid for the duration of the study.

Under the IRB proposal, we requested the ability to gain verbal consent from the interview participants. We will verbally inform individuals of the basics of the study, similar to the information provided in this research project description, and ask them whether they agree to participate, prior to asking any of our interview questions. During the interview, individuals may decline to answer questions, or they can stop their participation and ask to have the interview deleted.

It is our practice to make a good faith effort to maintain the confidentiality of the interviews. We will not tell outsiders which individuals were part of this research. We will do our best to anonymize the data. However, it is important for participants to know that Wikipedians are skilled at research and can sometimes figure out who and what is being described, even though the best effort has been made to anonymize the data. Wikipedia and Commons are public platforms where all edits are visible which makes a promise of anonymity very difficult to ensure. We feel we cannot make that promise. But we do promise to make our best effort.


This study will help contribute a deeper understanding of how collaboration occurs on three different language platforms. At a broader perspective, the implications of this study can lead to new technical development of each individual language platform and how each collaboration model can be supported. From a more intellectual standpoint, this work provides three things (1) there are few studies in the field of HCI that show a complete replication of a prior study (2) I demonstrate the synthesis of two models that already exist in EN (3) I can show the existence of collaboration models in three languages.


  1. Viegas et al. (2007)
  2. Kriplean et al. (2007)