Research:Means and methods of coordination in WikiProjects

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
Duration:  2014-November – 2015-February

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

Key Personnel[edit]

Project Summary[edit]

The purpose of this research is to determine the means by which editors in Wikipedia WikiProjects coordinate their activities. The primary contribution of this research will be a more clear understanding of the mechanisms of coordination in online groups, and will inform the design and development of future tools to facilitate that coordination.


Participants will be expected to answer a number of questions in a semi-structured interview format intended to allow the interviewer to construct a model of coordination activity of individual Wikipedia editors across all the projects those editors are active within. For either audio-based or text-based interviews, the subject will be asked to electronically sign an online consent form. Once consent is received, the subject will be asked a number of questions intended to better understand current coordination practices within Wikipedia WikiProjects and to explore means by which these coordination practices could be facilitated or improved through tool-mediated approaches. On completion of the interview, the subject will be thanked and given contact information of the researchers involved in the study to ensure that any future questions or concerns may be answered as adroitly as possible.

Semi-structured interview protocol[edit]

The basic interview structure will be intended to, first, identify general work practices of the interviewee, second, to identify specific means of coordination of that project member, and third, to identify means in which those coordination practices may be improved. The specific theoretical lens that will be used to interpret interview responses will be Coordination Theory, facilitating a more novel interpretation of coordination practices within WikiProjects.

General work practices[edit]

  • What WikiProjects are you active in? And for how long have you been active in each of them?
  • What do you feel is your primary contribution to these projects (ie, article editing, coordinating editors, updating project documentation, organizing categories, etc)?
  • Do you think you'll continue to be a member of this/these projects in the future? Do you feel that you're having a positive impact on project goals?
  • Do you think that these projects/this project has been effective in achieving its goals?

Current coordination practices[edit]


  • How many members does your WikiProject have? How well do you know them? (For example, do you know where they come from, their occupation, their hobbies, etc.)
  • Can you describe the organization of your WikiProject? (What is your team role in the WikiProject and how did you decide on it?)
  • How should WikiProject member roles be structured? Based on number of total edits? Based on length of member history? Why?


  • How do you find other project members that may be able to help you with work, or may be able to complete work that you want done? Task lists, Project Talk page posts, personal messages? How do you determine the person you find would be the best to work with? Ie, personal history, edit/transaction history, User Page.
  • How do you judge the quality of the interpersonal relationships you build within WikiProjects, such as editors you've had interactions with in other contexts?
  • Can you tell me about a WikiProject that you have worked on that was particularly well coordinated, in your opinion? What aspects of that project could you recommend or share with members of other WikiProjects?
  • Can you tell me about a WikiProject that you have worked on that needed better coordination? In hindsight, what would you have done differently on this WikiProject?
  • What collaborative features or functions do you consider to be the most important to working with a group on a project?
  • Identify a tool/application/service (can be outside of Wikipedia) that aids collaboration on Wikipedia and describe the best qualities of this tool/application/service.
  • Name some problems that you or your WikiProject encountered. How did you resolve these problems? What tools you think might have better helped you solve these problems?


  • How do you let other project members know what you're working on, and when it's complete?
  • Given that most projects have many competing demands that vary in levels of time required to complete and overall importance, how do members of projects you've participated in decide what to do next? Is there a codified rating system or are most decisions ad-hoc?


  • What other types of online communities do you participate in? Why? What aspects of those communities would you like to see brought into your WikiProjects?

Problems, pain points, or desired improvements[edit]

  • For each of the above, what are some things that work particularly well? Particularly poorly?
  • What types of systems can you envision would improve coordination and collaboration between project members?
  • At the project level, what types of overall activities may improve the health and functionality of the project? What type of problems do you think facilitated these solutions (ie, is this a global issue or project specific)?
  • At the project level, what types of overall activities may increase the project's ability to attract, onboard, and retain new members?

Analysis of data[edit]

Analsysis of data will take a grounded approach, whereby interview responses will be coded, categorized, and theorized to ensure the broadest interpretation of coordination practices within WikiProjects can be reached.


Findings will be reported via this project page, open access outlets, and appropriate academic venues.

Wikimedia Policies, Ethics, and Human Subjects Protection[edit]

This research has been approved by the University of Washington Human Subjects Division, IRB number 48287, valid from October, 2014 to October, 2015.

Benefits for the Wikimedia community[edit]

From a global perspective, we hope that the outcome of this study is a better understanding of current coordination activity within online groups as well as a better understanding of the desires of WikiProject members. We hope that this improved understanding may then inform the design and implementation of future tools to facilitate and improve those coordination practices. Further,


November to December, 2014[edit]

  • Recruit interview participants
  • Schedule and complete initial interviews

January to February, 2015[edit]

  • Continued recruitment and interviews
  • Begin grounded data analysis of interview transcripts

March, 2015[edit]

  • Complete data analysis
  • Prepare results for publication

November, 2014 to March, 2015[edit]

  • Utilize data collected to inform the design and deployment of coordination tools to be used within Wikipedia WikiProjects


This research is supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, Enhancing Social Translucence in Systems to Support Virtual Teaming (#1162114).


Michael Gilbert via or Md_gilbert