Research:Prototyping a Collaborative Wikipedia Training and Editing Tool

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

Wikipedia’s immense success is partially due to its support of liquid collaboration (Jemielniak and Raburski 2014), where the editing takes place without tangible evidence of interaction among collaborators as changes are integrated through a technical and bureaucratic system rather than direct human collaboration. It is our view that the advantageous aspects of liquid collaboration in Wikipedia should be preserved, though the existing model need not be the only one. We argue that new collaborative tools and practices in settings such as Wikipedia training events and WikiProjects should complement the current “liquid” model.

Wikimedia UK had to stop its face-to-face training model, in March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, they began working with experts and the wider community to find an online set of tools as an alternative for onboarding new Wikipedia editors. This research will look at opportunities to make training available, regardless of geographic location, for training groups of new Wikipedia editors who cannot take part in face-to-face meetings.

This research is about studying peoples' remote Wikipedia training and editing experience to prototype and evaluate a tool that can support Wikipedia trainers to train newcomers on collaboratively editing Wikipedia remotely. The training tool will introduce new ways of synchronous collaboration. The goal is to measure its effect on volunteer retention rate and systemic bias.

To develop the training tool, we are researching findings of how Wikipedia is being used in education for collaborative group work and combining this with recommendations from Wikipedia trainers, editors, and members from the public interested in becoming Wikipedia editors in an inclusive co-design process.


We will be using a Participatory Design(PD) research methodology. The choice of methods is guided by the need to achieve both breadth and depth in the participatory design exercise. On the one hand, it is essential to involve participants deeply in a co-design exercise to bring their significant expertise to bear. On the other hand, it is important to have broad participation to ensure a plurality of voices is getting heard and to provide more comprehensive community support for the system that is being developed.

Hagen et al. (2012) developed a framework for guiding researchers on using Participatory Design (PD) in research projects for developing online interventions that are "effective, relevant and appealing" (Hagen et al., 2012). Wadley et al. (2013) and Ospina-Pinillos et al. (2019) have developed online systems, such as e-clinics using Hagen et al.'s online participatory design approach. These independent studies have validated the six-stage approach, and the similarities between these studies and ours are strong. We plan to utilise this framework while focusing on having a distributed research approach as participants in our proposed solution for online training would be web-based and in more distributed locations.

Research methodology based on Hagen et al. (2012) framework for implementing Participatory Design research
Research methodology based on the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre framework for implementing Participatory Design research (Hagen et al. 2012)

The study has three parts:

  1. We will conduct online group discussion sessions where we will use Microsoft Teams, the Miro virtual collaboration boards tool and questionnaires. This part covers the first five stages of our framework and would result in the pilot version of the tool.
  2. We will use the online tool in online experiments
  3. We will engage the public in the Tricider voting tool to vote on the outcome of the group discussions.

The study will involve participants (18+) from the general public as well as expert Wikipedia editors and trainers from Wikimedia UK. The participants will be approached through relevant mailing lists and in the appropriate Wikipedia community communication channels. We will be recording the online group discussions session and collecting information through questionnaires, the Miro Online Whiteboard tool and the Tricider social voting tool.


  • Getting the approval for running PD sessions in September 2021
  • Running first round of PD sessions in October and November 2021
  • First analysis and planning for the second round December 2021
  • Second round of PD sessions January 2022
  • Analysis February 2022
  • Coding the tool March - April 2022
  • Running pilot training and improving the tool May -> July 2022
  • Data analysis July - August 2022
  • PhD research write up September -> December 2022

Policy, Ethics and Human Subjects Research[edit]

We have submitted our first ethical application for Studying Collaborative Wikipedia Editing Processes in Co-Located Settings. Its approval code is CS14484, issued by the University of St Andrews Teaching and Research Ethics Committee. After the Covid-19 pandemic, we stopped all co-located research activities and moved to research online Collaborative Wikipedia Editing.

On 26.10.2020, we received approval CS15105 for a study to observe online training events run by Wikimedia or recognised user groups in the UK, US, EU, or the Middle East. Data collection during the event only involves taking observational fieldnotes.

On 16.04.2021, we received approval on amending our first application for Studying Collaborative Online Wikipedia Editing Processes taking into consideration all the steps necessary to address ethical concerns of conduction our experiments online. CS14484

We are in the process of applying for ethics approval for running group discussions and Participatory design sessions for Prototyping a Collaborative Wikipedia Training and Editing Tool.


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  1. Jemielniak, Dariusz, and Tomasz Raburski. 2014. “Liquid Collaboration?” In , 85–103.
  2. Hagen, Penny, Philippa Collin, Atari Metcalf, Mariesa Nicholas, Kitty Rahilly, and Nathalie Swainston. 2012. Participatory Design of Evidence-Based Online Youth Mental Health Promotion, Intervention and Treatment.