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Dynamics Of Wikipedia


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Wikipedia, the encylopedia that anyone can edit, “can never work in theory, only in practice.” Accounting for one in every 200 page views on the Internet, it has become a part of our everyday lives. Wikipedia is changing the way we think about the economics of the web, the potential and the pitfalls of engaging the masses, and the role of professional information architects in a world in which content arrives from literally every direction.

In this session, we’ll explore the nuts-and-bolts of how the Wikipedia project works. Who writes Wikipedia, and why? How does the English Wikipedia maintain quality, consistent tagging, and coherent organization across over two million articles? What happens when contributors disagree? We will take a tour behind the scenes at Wikipedia to learn what happens when users are encouraged to - as they say on Wikipedia… “be bold.”

Published in: Business, Technology
  • Controversial method reveals inner psychology of techniques you can use to get your Ex back! See it now! ♥♥♥
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  • Great Presentation Andrew!
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  • Thank you for sharing this presentation! I often use wikipedia, now I know exactly how it works. I'm sure it is useful for everyone, I don't understand why would anyone think that it is totally unreliable.<br /><br/>
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  • Great presentation, Su-Laine. I would (and will) recommend this to anyone who wants to know more about Wikipedia and how it works. The list of most-visited pages was a hoot!<br /><br/>
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  • Thanks for the kind comments. I prepared this presentation for the Vancouver User Experience Group, a community of design and usability professionals. I also gave a variation of it to a chapter of the Society for Technical Communication. The slides are designed for a 90-minute talk with a lot of switching out to demonstrate how to edit and how to monitor for vandalism.

    P.S. I forgot a couple of necessary attributions in the slides: Slide 8 is from
    The photo on slide 9 is by Gus Freedman.<br /><br/>
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Dynamics Of Wikipedia

  1. Su-Laine Yeo Vancouver User Experience Group November, 2007 Dynamics of Wikipedia This presentation is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0
  2. Overview <ul><li>How does it all work? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Who writes for Wikipedia, and why? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How does the site keep vandalism and spam away? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What happens when contributors disagree? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How does the site keep articles consistent and organized? </li></ul></ul>
  3. Agenda <ul><li>What is Wikipedia? </li></ul><ul><li>Contributing: Part I </li></ul><ul><li>Vandalism and spam </li></ul><ul><li>Conflict and culture </li></ul><ul><li>Contributing: Part II </li></ul><ul><li>Please ask questions along the way! </li></ul>
  4. What is Wikipedia?
  5. Vision <ul><li>A free, neutral encyclopedia that anyone can edit </li></ul>“ Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing.” – Wikipedia founder Jimbo Wales
  6. The global project <ul><li>253 languages </li></ul><ul><li>2 million+ articles in English </li></ul><ul><li>5 million articles in languages other than English, accounting for half of all traffic </li></ul><ul><li>Freely -licensed image, video, and sound files on Wikimedia Commons are used across languages </li></ul>
  7. Size of the English Wikipedia
  9. Who’s who <ul><li>MediaWiki software </li></ul><ul><li>Wikimedia Foundation </li></ul><ul><li>Jimmy (Jimbo) Wales, founder, leader, and benevolent dictator </li></ul><ul><li>5.8 million registered accounts for volunteer contributors </li></ul><ul><li>Lots of edits by unregistered users </li></ul>
  10. Wikimedia Foundation <ul><li>Runs the servers; hardware costs are 60% of its budget </li></ul><ul><li>No ads or paid subscribers </li></ul><ul><li>Annual revenues $1.5 million (June 2006) </li></ul><ul><li>Fewer than 10 full-time employees </li></ul><ul><li>Sister projects to Wikipedia: Wiktionary, Wikispecies, Wikiversity, Wikinews… </li></ul>
  11. Wikipedia statistics <ul><li>Among top 10 most visited websites </li></ul><ul><li>70% of traffic is from search engines </li></ul><ul><li>Cited in over 100 U.S. court rulings </li></ul>
  12. Key policies <ul><li>Wikipedia is an encyclopedia; its goals go no further </li></ul><ul><li>Free content </li></ul><ul><li>Neutral point of view </li></ul><ul><li>Attribution to reliable sources </li></ul>
  13. Most viewed articles Source: for Sept 07
  14. Most viewed articles (cont’d)
  15. Most viewed articles (cont’d)
  16. Unusual articles <ul><li>Exploding whale </li></ul><ul><li>Heavy metal umlaut </li></ul><ul><li>Cosmic latte </li></ul><ul><li>Anti-Barney humor </li></ul><ul><li>Five-second rule </li></ul><ul><li>Passenger train toilets </li></ul><ul><li>Society for the Prevention of Calling Sleeping Car Porters “George” </li></ul><ul><li>0.999... </li></ul>
  17. Contributing: Part I <ul><li>“ So fix it.” </li></ul><ul><li>- A Wikipedia saying </li></ul>
  18. Contributing: Overview <ul><li>Editing a sentence </li></ul><ul><li>Wikitext </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Headings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Links </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bulleted lists </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Templates </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Signatures </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Accounts and privacy </li></ul>
  19. Get an account <ul><li>Editing with an account is MORE private than editing without one </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t use your real name </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You can change your username later </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You can identify yourself in less permanent ways </li></ul></ul>
  20. User pages
  21. Wikiscanner
  22. Vandals and spammers
  23. Addressing vandalism <ul><li>Automated vandalism reversion (bots) </li></ul><ul><li>Recent Changes patrol </li></ul><ul><li>Watchlists </li></ul><ul><li>Semi-protect heavily-vandalised pages </li></ul><ul><li>Completely protect high-visibility pages </li></ul><ul><li>Warn vandals </li></ul><ul><li>Block repeat offenders </li></ul>
  24. Recent Changes patrol
  25. Reverting
  26. User contribution history
  27. Vandalism warnings
  28. Blocks
  29. Administrators <ul><li>~1400 administrators in English </li></ul><ul><li>Block and unblock users </li></ul><ul><li>Semi-protect pages (lock pages from being edited by unregistered and new users) </li></ul><ul><li>Protect pages (lock pages from being edited) </li></ul><ul><li>Edit protected pages </li></ul><ul><li>Delete and undelete page histories </li></ul>
  30. Addressing spam <ul><li>“ No-follow” on external links </li></ul><ul><li>Spam blacklist </li></ul><ul><li>As with vandalism: revert, warn user, block persistent offenders </li></ul>
  32. Other obviously-bad edits <ul><li>Blatant advertising </li></ul><ul><li>Copyright violation </li></ul><ul><li>Libel </li></ul><ul><li>Hoax </li></ul><ul><li>Complete bullocks </li></ul>
  33. Conflict and Culture <ul><li>“ When someone just writes 'f**k, f**k, f**k', we just fix it, laugh and move on. But the difficult social issues are the borderline cases — people who do some good work, but who are also a pain in the neck.” </li></ul><ul><li>– Jimbo Wales </li></ul>
  34. Conflict <ul><li>When contributors disagree in good faith, there are procedures for working through disputes. </li></ul><ul><li>The Wikipedia community has final say on most things </li></ul><ul><li>… The community is: people who have a history of good contributions and who show up for the debate </li></ul>
  35. What not to do
  36. Dispute resolution <ul><li>After being bold: </li></ul><ul><li>Discuss on the article Talk page and/or the other person’s Talk page </li></ul><ul><li>Third Opinion </li></ul><ul><li>Mediation </li></ul><ul><li>Request for Comment </li></ul><ul><li>Arbitration </li></ul><ul><li>Intervention by Jimbo </li></ul>
  37. Content policies and guidelines <ul><li>What are reliable sources? </li></ul><ul><li>What is an acceptable External Link? </li></ul><ul><li>Is company XYZ notable enough for an article? </li></ul><ul><li>Should the article title be “Giraffe” or “Giraffes”? </li></ul><ul><li>Is it “program” or “programme”? </li></ul>
  41. Conduct policies and guidelines <ul><li>Be civil </li></ul><ul><li>Assume good faith </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t edit war </li></ul><ul><li>Write for the enemy </li></ul><ul><li>Ignore all rules </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t use Wikipedia for self-promotion </li></ul>
  42. Corporate advocacy and self-promotion <ul><li>Includes adding excessive links to your own company’s website </li></ul><ul><li>If in doubt about possible conflict of interest, suggest changes on the article’s Talk page or on one of the noticeboards </li></ul>
  43. Talk pages
  45. Dispute resolution principles <ul><li>Focus on how to improve the articles </li></ul><ul><li>Widen the conflict; ask for third-party viewpoints </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t wikilawyer </li></ul><ul><li>Discuss rather than vote </li></ul>
  47. See also:
  50. Controversy is often good <ul><li>Motivates people to improve articles </li></ul><ul><li>Raises awareness of the need for quality sourcing </li></ul><ul><li>Leads to inclusion of multiple viewpoints and nuances in articles </li></ul><ul><li>Builds community </li></ul>
  51. Problem behaviour <ul><li>Point-of-view pushing; political and nationalist block voting </li></ul><ul><li>Edit warring </li></ul><ul><li>Persistent corporate advocacy </li></ul><ul><li>Fraudulent use of multiple accounts (sockpuppetry) </li></ul>
  52. Problem behaviour (cont’d) <ul><li>Problem users can be banned from a topic or from all of Wikipedia </li></ul><ul><li>Bans are difficult to enforce </li></ul><ul><li>Short supply of neutral people who are patient enough to deal with problematic behaviour </li></ul>“ The takeaway message I'm getting here is ‘only an admin with a hole in his head willingly gets involved in Israel-Palestine articles.’ ” - a Wikipedia administrator
  53. Controversial Issues <ul><li>Wikipedia’s list of controversial issues </li></ul><ul><li>Articles involving “biographies of living persons” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Children in the news </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Victims of crime </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>People notable for having medical conditions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Overwhelmingly negative biographies </li></ul></ul>
  54. Biographies of Living Persons rules <ul><li>Consider privacy </li></ul><ul><li>Negative material has more rigorous inclusion requirements </li></ul><ul><li>Immediately remove unsourced or poorly sourced negative or controversial material </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid discussion </li></ul>
  55. IA for two million articles <ul><li>Few information types : encyclopedia articles, lists, disambiguation pages </li></ul><ul><ul><li>No essays or how-to articles </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No point-of-view forking of articles </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Extensive guidelines on: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>naming conventions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>refactoring long articles, merging similar articles </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>use of categories </li></ul></ul>
  56. IA for two million articles (cont’d) <ul><li>Relatively simple markup </li></ul><ul><li>Extensive use of templates </li></ul><ul><li>Constant refactoring </li></ul>
  57. Templates
  58. Categories <ul><li>There are guidelines for creating categories </li></ul><ul><li>Be bold in creating categories </li></ul><ul><li>Categories are subject to refactoring </li></ul>
  59. Adding and using categories
  60. Summary: Conflict and culture <ul><li>Policies and guidelines </li></ul><ul><li>Culture is oriented towards trust, discussion, and generating consensus </li></ul><ul><li>Conflict can build community and often leads to better articles </li></ul><ul><li>Most articles are not controversial. Usually, good-faith edits stick </li></ul><ul><li>Decentralized management of information architecture </li></ul>
  61. Contributing: Part II <ul><li>“ I have found working with a bunch of like minded folks on an article or wikiproject when it kicks into top gear one of the most inspiring things, the rapid-fire editing of an article gunning toward FA status as writer's blocks are sequentially blasted out of the way is just amazing to witness via the diffs/hists.” </li></ul><ul><li>– Wikipedia editor “Casliber” </li></ul>
  62. Contribute by… <ul><li>Writing about what you’re interested in </li></ul><ul><li>Improving the writing of others </li></ul><ul><li>Citing sources </li></ul><ul><li>Categorizing and organizing articles </li></ul><ul><li>Translating articles </li></ul><ul><li>Contributing photographs and artwork </li></ul><ul><li>Reviewing and commenting on articles </li></ul><ul><li>Maintenance: removing vandalism, spam, and trivia </li></ul><ul><li>Helping to resolve disputes </li></ul>
  63. &quot;We can no longer feel satisfied and happy when we see these (article) numbers going up.... We should continue to turn our attention away from growth and towards quality.“ - Jimbo Wales
  66. Why contribute? <ul><li>Improve your skills in: </li></ul><ul><li>Writing </li></ul><ul><li>Editing </li></ul><ul><li>Having your work edited </li></ul><ul><li>Conflict resolution and group dynamics </li></ul><ul><li>Understanding copyright </li></ul><ul><li>Wiki technology </li></ul>
  67. Summary <ul><li>Free encyclopedia written by volunteers </li></ul><ul><li>Be bold </li></ul><ul><li>Get an account with a fake name; don’t promote commercial interests </li></ul><ul><li>Revert, warn, and block vandals and spammers </li></ul><ul><li>Policies, guidelines, and dispute resolution systems exist for controversial issues </li></ul><ul><li>Distributed decision-making scales well for information architecture </li></ul>
  68. The radical project <ul><li>Almost no co-ordination of effort </li></ul><ul><li>2% of users (1400 people) make 73.4% of edits </li></ul><ul><li>0.7% of users (524 people) make 50% of edits </li></ul><ul><li>But… people who make very, very few edits write most of Wikipedia’s content </li></ul><ul><li>… Your earliest edits will probably be your most valuable ones </li></ul>