Research:Dynamics of Online Interactions and Behavior

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This page documents a research project in progress.
Information may be incomplete and change as the project progresses.
Please contact the project lead before formally citing or reusing results from this page.

Project Summary[edit]

Hello! Welcome!

We bring together the forces of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and Sciences Po Paris to conduct a large-scale research project on the dynamics of interactions and behavior in online social spaces. Participation from Wikipedians is very welcome!

In this research project, we wish to recruit internet users with various profiles to fill out an interactive survey on LimeSurvey, an open source survey tool, which combines decision making involving money with substantive questions about attitudes and practices. The ultimate objective of the study is to contribute to the development of a field of human interactions systems design aimed to improve the design and organization of online social spaces. We will combine the behavioral outputs of the study with the rich data publicly available from the web on social interactions. We will then interpret this aggregate data in light of the work on social software design and the rich qualitative work that anthropologists and sociologists have done to study the dynamics of online interactions.

Methods and participants payment processing[edit]

The survey should only take 25 minutes to complete.

Participants in this study are compensated for their time (up to $50). All participants will be paid online via a PayPal account. It is not necessary to have a PayPal account prior to one’s participation to participate in the study.

Upon completion of the study, participants from Wikipedia have the opportunity to donate the money to the Wikimedia Foundation.

  • Required sample size: 1500-2000 participants.
  • Recruitment method: CentralNotice banner, displayed to a small sub-sample of logged in users on English Wikipedia.

Sharing our Findings[edit]

At the end of the study, research outcomes and data will be made available under an open access license (while preserving full anonymity of participants). Anyone will be able to use the data that we gather any way that they see fit. We also intend to share our findings at a Wikimania conference.

Ethics and Human Subjects Protection[edit]

The data gathered in this survey is subject to European privacy protection protocols, under the supervision of the European Research Council and the French ethics committee. We will use it for research purposes only.

More about us and this research project?[edit]

  • Visit the webpages dedicated to this research project at Berkman and Sciences Po.
  • If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at: berkman_harvard(_AT_)
  • This research project has the recognition of the Wikimedia Foundation and is referenced as such here.


Was there any community discussion about this study being advertised through a CentralNotice banner on en-wp?

Yes. This issue was first discussed on the Wikipedia Administrator's Noticeboard (AN). The research project then went through a thorough review led by the Wikimedia Research Committee. Finally, the contact protocol was implemented with the help of the Wikimedia Foundation, with constant feedback from the Community department, the Foundation's legal team, the tech department and the communication team (with the overall process running through 18 months).

Is the recruitment banner an ad for research Universities?

No it is not. The banner is an invitation to participate in a research project led by the Berkman Center and Sciences Po (two non-profit research institutions), with the help of the Wikimedia community and the Wikimedia Research Committee. The banner was initially featuring the logos of the research institutions running the project so that people don't misunderstand who is running this study.

Will this study have an effect on WMF's fundraiser?

Not at all. The banner is only displayed to a small subset of logged-in users, for whom the fundraiser campaign has been taken down already.

Will the researchers be exposed to my IP address or real identity if I decide to participate?

All the demographic questions that are asked in the end questionnaire of the survey are subject to the strict privacy policy explained above. It is a part of our research design not to record or use participants’ IP addresses. When participants click on the banner, they are directed towards a proxy that redirects them to the survey. Hence, each time a participant is loggin in, we are not exposed to his IP address but to the proxy’s one. Finally, we will never be exposed to participants' real identity through the PayPal payment process or through any other means. We do ask for a valid e-mail address to process the payment, but that's the only personal information that we require for this purpose.

What kind of informations will be transmitted to the researchers if I click on the banner?

Upon clicking on the banner, participants agree to share with the research team some (otherwise publicly available) informations, i.e. their Wikipedia username, edit count, account registration date and user privileges.

Hope you enjoy the survey! Thank you very much!

The research team.