Research:The effects of member turnovers in WikiProjects

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
18:31, 1 November 2016 (UTC)
Duration:  2016-09 – 2017-06
This page documents a completed research project.

The primary objective of this study is to understand the effects on online user turnovers to other group members in WikiProjects of Wikipedia. We will conduct both quantitate and qualitative analysis. By conducting semi structured interviews with Wikipedia users, we want to understand the following research questions:

RQ 1: How does member turnover effect group productivity and member interactions?
RQ 2: How different characteristics of members have different levels of impacts on the group turnovers?
RQ 3: How different it is for turnovers in online communities comparing to offline organizations?


In our research project, we will conduct both qualitative and quantitative analysis. For the quantitative analysis, we will use the Wikipedia XML data dumps.

For the qualitative analysis, we will conduct interviews with experienced Wikipedia editors to gain the editors' perceptions about the effects of turnover in WikiProjects, which will be our inspirations for our problem formulation, and may or may not be used in our final reports(research paper).

In order to recruit Wikipedia editors who are experienced in the operations of WikiProjects, i.e., editors who do administrative work, we first set a threshold to filter out WikiProjects whose project and project talk pages were edited by fewer than 100 editors since the project creation date. 100 turned out to be a reasonable number after we hand-checked the scope of our sampled projects. This resulted in 689 WikiProjects. We then randomly sampled 10 projects. Finally, we needed to identify one editor from each project to interview. We did this by sorting editors engaged in the project by the number of edits they had made to the project page and project talk page. We then selected three candidate editors from each project who were still active in Wikipedia (by manually checking their user page and user talk page). We will invite these editors to be interviewed by positing a message on their user talk pages, and we will interview the first editor from each project who responds. In total, we aim to interview 10 Wikipedia editors.


We are planning to finish interviews in November, while at the same time working on the quantitative analysis. We will target a conference submission in January.

Policy, Ethics and Human Subjects Research[edit]

Below is the response from IRB for our research project.

 The effects of member Turnovers in WikiProjects of Wikipedia 

The IRB determined your planned activities described in this application do not meet the regulatory definition of research with human subjects and do not fall under the IRB's purview for one or both of the following reasons:  1) The proposed activities are a) not a systematic investigation and/or b) not designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge [45CFR46.102(d)].

Quality assurance activities and evaluation projects designed for self-improvement or program evaluation, not meant to contribute to "generalizable" knowledge, do not meet the threshold of research with human subjects. 

Although IRB review may not be required for case studies, you still may have HIPAA obligations. Please contact the Privacy Office at 612-624-7447for their requirements. 


2) You will not obtain private identifiable information from living individuals [45 CFR 46.102(f)]. 

Interviews of individuals where questions focus on things not people (eg. questions about policies) do not require IRB review.  

You will be analyzing aggregate data that cannot be linked to a living individual.