Wikimedia Fellowships/Project Ideas/Identifying barriers to participation from heavy internet users

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The main goal of this research it's identify the reasons why heavy internet users (people who spend much time in the Internet) in Chile don't edit in wikipedia. This will be a qualitative research, where we will compare different profiles of Internet users and their reasons for not editing. There will be a selection of different profiles according to gender, age and uses of Internet (people who mainly uses Internet to read the news, people that runs a blog or website, people who mainly uses social networks). If there is interest in the wikimedia research community this could turn into a global project, where we could compare results from different locations. My hipotesis is that in Chile there are specific reasons for not editing wikipedia, that might be related to the influence in people's life of the Neoliberal economy (competition over cooperation).

It's intended to be a qualitative research, based on focus groups and personal interviews with people that meets the profiles defined previously


This research goes in line with the strategic priority of wikimedia foundation of increasing participation on the global south. By understanding the reasons of why people doesn't get involved on editing the wikipedia it will be easier to develop strategies to increase participation on heavy Internet users.

One could think that the main target to become an editor of wikipedia has to be the people who spends a lot of time in the Internet (heavy internet users). But there are many who just feel like there is a barrier to edit or create articles (myself included). These barriers could be caused by usability issues, but also because there isn't an easy way to get "engaged" with wikipedia. This situation leads to the question: are these barriers common, differentiated?

The results of this research can lead to a strategic "marketing" plan to increase participation based on the main barriers to participate in wikimedia projects in different countries.

Targeted - addresses strategic theme(s) or goals
This research goes in line with the strategic priority of wikimedia foundation of increasing participation on the global south.

Actionable - has concrete deliverables and outcomes
The main outcome should be the creation of critical information to generate local campaigns to increase participation in wikipedia.

Impactful - can have impact on a large group of people, articles, projects
It can improve participation from heavy internet users on the wikipedia.

Sustainable - builds volunteer-driven continuity over time
This could turn into a global research, comparing "barriers to participation" from different countries

Measurable - can demonstrate impact
It will be a success if it's the core drive of a campaign to increase participation

Submitted by[edit]

Pablo Cárcamo

I came to this research project by noticing that I should be contributing to wikimedia projects as a heavy Internet user, but I wasn't. Then I tried to participate in wikipedia, but there wasn't an easy way to start doing something (the complexity of wikipedia far excedes an "easy way" to decide what to do to collaborate). This led to the idea of better understanding the reasons why heavy Internet users don't edit in wikipedia.

I would like to be considered for a fellowship to undertake this project.


This section is for endorsements by Wikimedia community volunteers. Please note that this is not a debate, vote, or poll, but is rather a space for volunteers to describe in detail why they think a project idea is of value. If you have concerns or questions rather than an endorsement to make, please use the idea Talk page. Endorsements by volunteers willing to work in collaboration with a fellowship recipient on a project are highly encouraged.

  1. Wikimedia Chile: As the local chapter where initially the study of this fellowship will be focused on, we think it is a very good opportunity to investigate how the communities work, not only in Chile but overall in Latin America and (probably) the so-called Global South. Most of the work for the development of Wikimedia projects on the GS has been focused in a few countries (especially India) and the problems about Internet connection and economy; but there have been no study of the attitudes of the people on developing countries, especially those with a good Internet connection, a large participation on different social networks (different studies show that Chile has more Facebook accounts than habitants, to make an example) and a growing economy. Why a country that is growing and is similar to some developed country still has a smaller number of participants on Wikimedia projects? The answer of this question I think it is fundamental to focus the work of the Foundation and the local chapters for the development of Wikimedia projects in Latin America.

Omone19: I like this a lot. I think I am in the same boat as Pablo Carcamo. I am a heavy internet user, heavy mobile internet user. I am also female and an avid wikipedia user. But based on my own experience it would seem particularly worthwhile to explore the attitudinal beliefs that allow a wikipedia user to transition to an editor. Fleshing this out, looking at how it could be added to what Pablo describes, here are my thoughts:

Actionable: I suggest a qualitative research design using questionnaires to explore the attitudinal beliefs and experiences of the following two groups: those who are heavy internet users and not editors(but wikipedia users) and those who are heavy internet users and editors. (It may be useful to separate editors into editors and regular editors, which would result in three groups). Researcher(s) would need to develop surveys, recruit participants, administer surveys, code and analyze data. Data could be used to inform the development of a matching tool that guides users to editing opportunities, projects and resources in the Wikipedia community. Overall the result would be an increase in active users converting to active editors, which addresses the fellowship theme. Depending on how the research study develops, it could end up supporting efforts to reach at least 3 of the 5 Wikipedia Foundation targets for 2015.

Impact: If the study is global and tracks other demographic factors such as sex and age, it could impact the entire community. As a global study it would be important to include countries in the Global North as well as the Global South. I would think no more than 6 countries. It would also be important to include a country in Africa.

Sustainable: Pablo mentioned the development of strategic marketing plans. I have suggested the creation of a matching tool. Both would allow the research to "live on" and have a tangible impact. Both suggestions also offer additional opportunities for volunteer involvement, whether it be in development, testing, roll out etc. I will note that since this is applied research I think it is very important that it leads to the development of something that can be implemented.

Scalable: Both the matching tool and marketing plans are highly scalable, and if this is conducted as a global study that would ensure scalability as well.

Measurable: This requires the development of an evaluation component. For example the matching tool, it would be judged according to usage, user experience, conversion rates and engagement levels. That is how many people use the tool, how many people have a favorable experience, how many people convert to editors/regular editors, also the types of projects they engage. The marketing plan, I think that the would be judged in terms of the increase in editor participation. How many new people become editors, do they remain editors, etc.

Pcarcamon: Thank you for the feedback. I think that if this project is embraced by the community as a global research there should be some level of coordination at the begining to stablish common goals and methodology. My idea in terms of methodology for this research is to start with 3 or 4 focus group on main subjects of wikipedia imaginaries and then conduct personal interviews differentiating the research subjects on age, sex and type of Internet user. I haven't considered the editors as a research category because it might make the project too complex to be undertaken at once. Maybe it could be separated into to two stages of a broader research project. Maybe a study on editors should have specific themes that might relate to other strategic areas of the foundation. But of course this (and the whole project) is open to discussion. When discussing this idea with people outside the wikimedia spectrum I have encountered some interesting responses on this "wikipedia imaginaries". For example, one niece (age 8) told me that at her school she is forbbiden to use wikipedia to do her homework, because "half of what's in it its false" (this situation has larger implications if we understand that childrens are being socialized into believing that wikipedia is unreliable). Another person (a heavy internet user) look surprised when I told her that anybody could edit, and said that she thought wikipedia was edited by a centralized institution.

Identifying and understanding this situations through scientific social research provides a starting point to develop local actions to increase participation. As an example, if some people said that they would be more willing to participate if there was some sort of "incentives structure", something like the "open badges project" might be of use. Or if professors don't trust wikipedia, an information program for schools could be implemented. Also, this is where the idea of a matching tool proposed by Omone19 could be of use.

To conclude, the structural hipothesis of this project is this: Even if the user interface is modified to be more amiable to the "non-techies", there might be social barriers that need to be identified and adressed to really increase participation of local communities