Wikimedia Research Newsletter, October 2013

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Vol: 3 • Issue: 10 • October 2013 [contribute] [archives] Syndicate the Wikimedia Research Newsletter feed

User influence on site policies: Wikipedia vs. Facebook vs. YouTube

With contributions by: Han-Teng Liao, Piotr Konieczny, Taha Yasseri, and Tilman Bayer

User influence on site policies is highest on Wikipedia, compared to YouTube and Facebook

Laura Stein, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, has concluded[1] that, based on her comparison of user policy documents (including the Terms of Service) of YouTube, Facebook and Wikipedia, Wikipedia offers the highest level of participation power overall. Using Arnstein’s ladder of participation to begin a theoretical discussion on participation and power, Stein carefully proposed a typology of policy and participation (Table 1, p. 359), from the maximal power of “dominant control over site content and governance”, “shared control”, the minimal power of “consultation”, “choice”, and “informing”, to the no power of “deceptive or inadequate information” and “nonparticipation”. She applied this typology across the five policy areas: “permitted content and its use”, “content ownership/copyrights”, “user information/data”, “modifying software” and “user policy formation & consent”) for the three websites, and found that Wikipedia beats other websites in all areas. In the first and last policy areas of “permitted content and its use” and “user policy formation & consent”, Wikipedia gives users the “dominant control” of participation power; for the remaining areas, Wikipedia gives user “shared control over site content and governance”.

In contrast, YouTube and Facebook only provide the minimal power of “informing” in three policy areas: “permitted content and its use”, “content ownership/copyrights”, “modifying software” and provide slightly better minimal power of “choice” for the “user information/data area”. Although Wikipedia is not widely agreed on to be a “social media” website, Stein nevertheless presented a simple typology for evaluating the levels of participation power given to users by platforms. Also, it would be useful to apply this topology in other policy areas including fund dissemination and organizational governance in the near future.

Wikipedia’s coverage of academics

Histogram of h-indexes of scientists from four different disciplines featured in Wikipedia. The solid line shows the average considering all the researchers of the field.

Anna Samoilenko and Taha Yasseri from the Oxford Internet Institute released an arXiv preprint titled: “The distorted mirror of Wikipedia: a quantitative analysis of Wikipedia coverage of academics”.[2] In this study the notability of academics in the English Wikipedia is examined. The ground truth is taken to be the citation records of the scholars under study and the h-index in particular, although the authors admit that the quantity of publications and citations are not the best proxies for evaluating the quality and scientific impact of researchers. Based on the results of the paper, scientists covered in Wikipedia (which are taken from a sample of 400 scientists in 4 different fields of physics, computer science, biology and psychology) do not appear to statistically have a higher impact than the average scientists of their respective field, as long as the citation records are considered. Wikipedia article metrics (such as number of edits to the articles, unique editors, article length, number of wikilinks to the article) are only very weakly correlated with scientometrics such as number of publications, number of citations, citations per publication, h-index, number of co-authors.

In the second part of the article, the researchers investigate the Wikipedia coverage of “Highly Cited Researchers” based on the list published by Thomson Reuters in 2010. In all the four fields under study, the coverage of Wikipedia is well below 50%. This not only indicate that those scientists featured in Wikipedia are no more highly cited than the rest, but many scientists with a high citation-based impact are left out of Wikipedia. Finally, the authors compared the inclusiveness of each of the four categories by size in terms of number of articles; they reported that more populated categories do not necessarily have a better coverage. The authors submit that the growth of Wikipedia alone will not resolve the problem of its incompleteness at least in categories related to scientists bibliographies, and that new policies are required if Wikipedia is to be more balanced in featuring academics.


  • Wiki Research Hackathon: The Wikimedia Foundation’s Research and Data Team announced the inaugural “Wiki Research Hackathon” – a global event hosted by Wikimedia Foundation researchers, academic researchers and Wikipedians from around the world on Saturday, November 9, 2013. The hackathon will be held both as a series of local meetups (Perth, Mannheim, Oxford, Rio de Janeiro, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Seattle, etc.) and virtual meetups (Asia/Oceania, Europe/Africa & The Americas) for those who can’t make it to the local events. Wikipedia editors are explicitly welcome.
  • About half of medical editors are health professionals: A poster titled “Motivations for Contributing to Health-Related Articles on Wikipedia: An Interview Study”,[3] presented at last month’s “Medicine 2.0” conference in London, contains interesting findings: 47% of the 32 surveyed volunteers were currently working in a health-related field (mainly as clinicians); among the rest, students and individuals with health problems formed significant groups. Motivations were divided into helping, education, a sense of professional responsibility, fulfillment, and support for Wikipedia’s mission. Conflict with and hostility from other editors was identified as a factor that negatively affects motivations. 220 users were drawn from the revision history of a random sample of medical articles on the English Wikipedia, and invited on their talk page (example) to participate in an in-person interview. 31 of the 32 who responded were male.
  • Wikipedia perceived as “fairly credible, fast updated and neutral” among Swedish students: A master’s thesis[4] studied “the perceived credibility of Wikipedia” among Swedish university students, using a qualitative approach based on interviews with nine participants in their twenties. From the conclusions: “The assumption, that students are aware of being source criticizing and not directly citing Wikipedia in academic works, was confirmed by the participants in this study. The perceived credibility of the information on Wikipedia among the students was that it is fairly credible, fast updated and neutral.”
  • Analysis of cross-wiki discussion on embassy pages: A draft paper [5] contains a quantitative analysis of the exchanges on embassy pages on Wikimedia projects, where users from another project, who might not know the local languages, can ask questions and post requests. As the most frequent topics, the authors identify “requests for translations, change of user names, copyright violations, and vandalism”.
  • “Trust evaluation mechanisms for Wikipedia”: A conference paper with this title[6] consists of a short literature overview of methods to assess the quality of Wikipedia content.
  • Award for paper about the effect of talk page messages on participation: The US-based Human Factors and Ergonomics Society has awarded their 2013 Human Factors Prize (which includes a cash award of $10,000) to a 2012 paper titled “Effectiveness of shared leadership in online communities”[7] The three authors from Carnegie Mellon University analyzed 4 million user talk page messages on the English Wikipedia, classifying them into four different kinds of “leadership” behavior: “transactional leadership” (positive feedback), “aversive leadership” (negative feedback), “directive leadership” (providing instructions) and “person-focused leadership” (indicated by “greeting words and smiley emoticons”). They then assessed the effect that each kind of message had on the subsequent participation of the recipient. See the more detailed review in our February 2012 issue: “How different kinds of leadership messages increase or decrease participation
  • Reconstructing 3D models of tourist sites annotated with Wikipedia information: A paper[8] by five researchers from the University of Washington and Intel Labs, to be presented at the SIGGRAPH Asia Conference, describes a method to automatically generate annotated 3D models of popular tourist sites solely based on Wikipedia content combined with other online text and photos. A video demo shows how objects in the 3D model are linked to the correct object descriptions in the Wikipedia article, e.g. the words “Holy Child” in the sentence “On the altar is a statue of St Joseph and the Holy Child by Vincenzo de Rossi” in the article Pantheon, Rome. (See picture at bottom.)
  • What the Library of Congress can learn from Wikipedia: An article in “Library Philosophy and Practice”[9] argues that the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH, a controlled vocabulary of subject headings for use in bibliographic records, maintained by the United States Library of Congress) should start using the disambiguation style developed on Wikipedia (where terms in brackets are added to distinguish articles about different subjects with the same name).
  • VIAFbot tripled traffic of An article titled “VIAFbot and the Integration of Library Data on Wikipedia”[10] reports on the implementation and impact of VIAFbot, linking Wikipedia articles to the corresponding entry in the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF), an international authority file operated by the US-based Online Computer Library Center (OCLC). Started on the English Wikipedia, the project expanded later to other language Wikipedias and Wikidata. Coauthored by the Wikipedian-in-Residence at OCLC who implemented VIAFbot and a university librarian, the paper highlights the benefits to the visibility of the VIAF data “and by extension, libraries as an institution”: “Since VIAFbot launched on Wikipedia, has seen a threefold increase in traffic.”

Panorama of the Pantheon in Rome, with numerous art objects that the algorithm automatically assigns to their description on Wikipedia (see “Reconstructing 3D models of tourist sites annotated with Wikipedia information” above).


  1. Laura Stein: Policy and Participation on Social Media: The Cases of YouTube, Facebook, and Wikipedia. Communication, Culture & Critique, Volume 6, Issue 3, pages 353–371, September 2013 DOI:10.1111/cccr.12026
  2. A.Samoilenko, T. Yasseri (2013), The distorted mirror of Wikipedia: a quantitative analysis of Wikipedia coverage of academics. arXiv HTML Open access
  3. Nuša Farič, Henry W W Potts: Motivations for Contributing to Health-Related Articles on Wikipedia: An Interview Study. Medicine 2.0’13, London 23-24 September 2013 PDF
  4. Robin Mattebo: Citation needed – the perceived credibility of Wikipedia among high education students. Master’s Thesis, Uppsala University August 2013 PDF
  5. Pnina Fichman and Noriko Hara: Knowledge Sharing on Wikimedia Embassies PDF
  6. Imran Latif, Syed Waqar Jaffry: Trust Evaluation Mechanisms for Wikipedia. Proceedings of the IJCNLP 2013 Workshop on Natural Language Processing for Social Media (SocialNLP). PDF (p.48)
  7. Zhu, H., Kraut, R., & Kittur, A. (2012). Effectiveness of shared leadership in online communities. Proceedings of the ACM 2012 conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work – CSCW ’12 (p. 407). New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. PDFDOI Open access
  8. Bryan C. Russell, Ricardo Martin-Brualla, Daniel J. Butler, Steven M. Seitz, and Luke Zettlemoyer: 3D Wikipedia: Using Online Text to Automatically Label and Navigate Reconstructed Geometry, ACM Transactions on Graphics (SIGGRAPH Asia 2013), Vol. 32, No. 6. [1]
  9. CannCasciato, Daniel, “Wikipedia-type Disambiguation Functionality in LCSH: a Recommendation” (2013). Library Philosophy and Practice (e-journal). Paper 1022. HTML
  10. Maximilian Klein and Alex Kyrios: VIAFbot and the Integration of Library Data on Wikipedia. code4lib Issue 22, 2013-10-14 HTML

Wikimedia Research Newsletter
Vol: 3 • Issue: 10 • October 2013
This newletter is brought to you by the Wikimedia Research Committee and The Signpost
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