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Research:Wikiproject Participation & Mentorship

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This page documents a completed research project.



Research from previous sprints shows that new users don't have a lot of opportunities to interact positively with veteran Wikipedians. However, Wikiproject participants form close-knit groups of people at all levels of editorship who have shared interests, so they should provide ideal sites for this kind of interaction. This sprint follows up on previous research on how participating in Wikiprojects helps new users learn the ropes of Wikipedia.

Specifically, this week we looked at the user pages and contribution histories of new users during the first 30 days after they added their names to the member lists of 12 highly active Wikiprojects. Our goal is to identify:

  • what % of these users continue to contribute to those Wikiprojects after adding their names to the member list
  • what kinds of contributions they make (e.g. task force sprints? planning discussions?), and
  • what kind of support/mentorship they receive from veteran editors during their first 30 days as project members

(RQ2.15) (RQ3.10)

Previous work




Wikiprojects offer one of the best opportunities for new users to log facetime on the front lines with veterans, and learn from them. Learning about the small minority of newbies who participate in Wikiprojects early on in their careers will give us important insights into not only what kind of mentorship is happening in these projects, but also what kind of work newbies do in these Wikiprojects. If wikiprojects offer newbies a better way of learning while contributing in a meaningful and enjoyable way without earning the ire of their peers, the community and the foundation should consider making it a priority to direct more new users towards Wikiprojects that may be relevant to their interests.





Our sample consists of the new user talk pages and contribution histories of editors which fit the following criteria:

  • the new user's first edit was after 2008
  • one of the new user's first 100 edits was to the member list page of one of a set of active Wikiprojects (see list below)

Since there is no one perfect metric for identifying how 'active' a Wikiproject is, these Wikiprojects were selected based the following proxy for activity: cumulative edits to the main project page (and highly active sub-pages). These data came from a January 2010 en-wiki data dump. The table below includes the revision counts for these project pages.

Wikiprojects our sample draws from: total # of revisions (as of Jan 2010)
WikiProject Football - all 41299
WikiProject Military history - all 31844
WikiProject Professional wrestling 28795
WikiProject Cricket - all 21505
WikiProject Biography - all 18696
WikiProject Mathematics 16607
WikiProject Comics 13980
WikiProject Ice Hockey 12718
WikiProject Birds 11346
WikiProject Films 10229
WikiProject_LGBT_studies not available

We examined these users' user talk page and user contribution histories 30 days after their first edit to one of the Wikiproject member list pages.



Coding categories


many of these categories proved hard to code during this week's sprint (mostly for mundane reasons) so I'm not presenting raw counts right now. Instead, I provide illustrative quotes and summarize the findings below.

  • Did new user engage in ANY subsequent Wikiproject-related activity? (y/n)
  • What kinds of WP-related edits did the new user subsequently make? (e.g. created new pages, added WP templates, minor content edits, major content edits)
  • Which WP-related pages did the new user subsequently edit? (e.g. WP_talk pages, sub pages, article pages)
  • What kind of interactions did the new users subsequently have with established Wikiproject members? (e.g. mentorship, criticism, task suggestions, requests for help)

Results and discussion


Summary of Findings


We coded a total of 133 newbies who edited added their names to the member rolls of these Wikiprojects during 2005-2011.

  • Of those who joined, 56% (74/133) made at least one edit to a Wikiproject-related page (Wikiproject main/sub/talk/template page or Wikiproject-claimed article/talk page) in the subsequent 30 days.
  • Although the total number of newbies who join these Wikiprojects is declining, newbies as a percentage of total editors joining these projects seems to be increasing overall.



We were unable to quantify the frequency of instances of mentorship in this week's sprint. However, the quotes below illustrate that interactions between new Wikiproject members and veterans were often (though not always!) positive, and that mentorship does occur. Mentorship took place in a variety of spaces, but like help requests, many mentor/mentee interactions took place on or across user talk pages, rather than on the Wikiproject pages themselves. When users edited the Wikiproject pages themselves, it was generally in less directly interactive ways like joining a task force or suggesting an article for improvement.


We also noted that newbies who contributed heavily to their new Wikiprojects often fell into one of several distinct paths:

  • contributing minor edits, such as adding WP templates to new pages, updating infoboxes, etc. These users were not very interactive early on: they did not often participate in topic-related discussions or ask a lot of questions.
  • creating stubs or full articles on Wikiproject-related topics. These users asked for feedback more, and interacted more on the Wikiproject talk page overall.
  • making substantial content contributions to existing Wikiproject articles. These users were the most interactive overall, often participating in editing discussions on article talk pages and in more general topical discussions on Wikiproject spaces.

Charts & Graphs


number of newbies who joined the listed Wikiprojects (added name to member list) over time

cumulative number of newbies vs. total editors (including non-newbies) who joined the listed Wikiprojects (added name to member list) by year

percentage of joiners to listed Wikiprojects (cumulative) who were newbies, by year

User Quotes


Below are some examples of the questions new users asked, and the kinds of interactions they had with established Wikiproject members:

Wikiproject LGBT Studies

New User: Is there already an article which sums up the books and movies of lesbian interest? If not,I would be interested to write it. Which title would you reckon useful and where would it be the best place I could put it? [1]

Wikiproject Video Games

Wikiproject vet: "It looks like you're new to the VG project. So welcome and if you have any questions about editing video game pages, feel free to ask another VG editor or post at WT:VG as you've been doing."

New user: "I thought that having an archive might make it easier for some people to find the older discussions. Also, yes, I am new to the VG Project. I'll go ahead and change that archive then."

Wikiproject Ice Hockey

Wikiproject vet: "Hi, welcome to Wikipedia and Wikiproject:Ice Hockey/College Hockey Task Force. I saw your comments on Grsz11's talk page. The task force's talk page hasn't much activity because that's usually where controversial issues get discussed and I guess we haven't had any in awhile, also some stuff goes right to the main Wikiproject ice hockey talk page because the issue effects more than just college hockey."

"It looks like NCAA Men's Division I Final Four appearances by school already exists but at quicky glance it needs some cleanup, making sure the info is correct, and needs more sources. Also with the 2010-11 season just ended many of the individual team pages need their stats updated. Some of the heavily visited pages like North Dakota Fighting Siou1 men's ice hockey have their stats updated regularly but generally stats for team pages and any coaches arcticles are updated per season. The other night I updated all of the team stats in the infoboxes of Atlantic Hockey members and I believe the stats of the men's WCHA teams are done, most others probably need updated. One of the larger issues is the amount of stubs within College Hockey. most of those pages include: a lead paragraph and infobox, small reference list, external link. (example: Mercyhurst Lakers men's ice hockey)"

"If you need any help or advice let us know. Thanks for your interest in Wikipedia and Ice Hockey." [2]

Wikiproject Biography

New user: "I joined the project when I went to the page on folk artist Edgar Tolson. I knew him slightly, and live in his home town. Given this, what can I contribute beyond basic facts? How much does one include personal contacts/recollections in such an article? How about other people's recollections? What if they are not flattering?"

"He is still listed as a living person, but died in 1984. How do I correct this? Any words of advice, stern warnings, non-sequiturs, or random thoughts much welcome here." [3]

Wikiproject Mathematics

New user: "Sorry, I'm new to this. I was told that my article is an orphan. I put links as I was told but It was not clear in what section and what type of articles that should be done. It is certainly not my intention to "spam". When I read something, I do want to see some specific use of it. If you originated the two articles on numerical analysis and geometry, I can understand your upset. Regarding geometry, I would say that somewhere at the beginning of the 20th century, Euclidean Geometry started to get the reputation of being useless. It is true that in a period of more than three decades, I have the opportunity to solve real problems with Euclidean Geometry only twice. I still think that there are real life cases where geometric reasoning gives a straight forward solution and avoids lengthy errors prone calculations." [4]

Wikiproject vet: "Please stop spamming your link to Computation of radiowave attenuation in the atmosphere all over other more general-interest articles in Wikipedia. It is far too specific to be a useful link in articles such as applied mathematics and geometry." [5]

Wikiproject Professional Wrestling

New user: "Hey. Okay I'm kinda really, really new to the whole Wikipedia thing, so I really hope I'm doing this right. Anyway, I saw on your user page that you're an active contributer to the pro wrestling Wikiproject, and while editing a wrestling page I noticed an issue. I was editing a section on Scott Hall's page and I checked out one of the references, and I noticed that a majority of the sections on Hall's page were lifted verbatim from the source. And for several sections there was little to no mention of the source. I don't know, but should the article be re-written? I mean isn't there a difference between incorperating the source and just copy/pasting into the article? "

Wikiproject Vet: "If that's the case, it should definitely be re-written so that it's not copying the source, since that's plagiarism. It can state what the source states, but not in those e1act words. And as far as unsourced sections go, if you are able to find a source, please add it. If you could point out what sections need rewriting in Hall's article, I could see what I can do about it later when I have time."

"Reliable sources can be found here. We're working on implementing a separate page to list them. But if sources can be found from those, that's great. Anything from WWE's website is also acceptable."

"Feel free to ask any other questions. And you can also ask at WT:PW as well. :)"

Future work