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Research:Usage of talk pages

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Tracked in Phabricator:
Task T234893
Duration:  2019-September – 2020-January
This page documents a completed research project.

The aim of this project is to better understand the effect of interactions taking place on talk pages in order to improve the platform. Specific questions include (not exhaustive, needs refining):

  • Do interactions on talk pages increase or decrease contributions to edits on articles?
  • What actions do contributors take after interacting with talk pages?
  • Are interactions on user and article talk pages different? How are they connected?
  • For wikipedias with fewer contributors, is the interaction on talk pages higher?


  • 2019-11-04
    • Comparing the number of edits of users to article and article-talk pages. Do more edits to article-talk pages also mean more edits to the article page itself?
  • 2019-11-11
    • Refinement in terms of only looking at inexperienced editors (first 90 days of editing for all editors who registered in 2018). Addressing the following two questions:
      • More edits to talk-pages lead to disproportionally more edits to subject-pages (article namespace)
      • Looking at the number of edits (in each namespace) in the first 45 days, can we predict the number of edits in main namespace in the second 45 days?
  • 2020-01-03
      • Refinement in terms of looking at junior contributors (<100 edits in first 45 days after registration)


  • Geiger, R. S., Halfaker, A., Pinchuk, M., & Walling, S. (2012). Defense mechanism or socialization tactic? Improving Wikipedia’s notifications to rejected contributors. Sixth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media. paper
  • Investigate use of talk-pages (mostly User-talk) as a designated space for messages from users to users
  • Most notably, we found that vandal fighters and their tools have come to dominate not only editing, but also interpersonal communication [...] 44%, almost half of all activity on User talk: pages, originates from highly-automated human and bot users – and many but not all of whom are engaged in counter-vandalism activity.
  • Test different hypothesis how these interactions affect the number of edits to main namespace.
  • Panciera, K., Halfaker, A., & Terveen, L. (2009). Wikipedians Are Born, Not Made: A Study of Power Editors on Wikipedia. Proceedings of the ACM 2009 International Conference on Supporting Group Work, 51–60. New York, NY, USA: ACM. paper
  • We have found that the initial activity of Wikipedians set them apart from the majority of other editors. This result suggests that casual users are rarely recruited to be more frequent editors
  • Narayan, S., TeBlunthuis, N., Hale, W. S., Hill, B. M., & Shaw, A. (2019). All Talk: How Increasing Interpersonal Communication on Wikis May Not Enhance Productivity. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, 3(CSCW), 101. paper
  • This study tests these claims by examining the impact of a new communication feature called “message walls” that allows for faster and more intuitive interpersonal communication in wikis.
  • Although the adoption of message walls was associated with increased communication among all editors and newcomers, it had little effect on productivity, and was further associated with a decrease in article contributions from new editors.