AAAI Publications, Sixth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media

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Defense Mechanism or Socialization Tactic? Improving Wikipedia’s Notifications to Rejected Contributors
R. Stuart Geiger, Aaron Halfaker, Maryana Pinchuk, Steven Walling

Last modified: 2012-05-20


Unlike traditional firms, open collaborative systems rely on volunteers to operate, and many communities struggle to maintain enough contributors to ensure the quality and quantity of content. However, Wikipedia has historically faced the exact opposite problem: too much participation, particularly from users who, knowingly or not, do not share the same norms as veteran Wikipedians. During its period of exponential growth, the Wikipedian community developed specialized socio-technical defense mechanisms to protect itself from the negatives of massive participation: spam, vandalism, falsehoods, and other damage. Yet recently, Wikipedia has faced a number of high-profile issues with recruiting and retaining new contributors. In this paper, we first illustrate and describe the various defense mechanisms at work in Wikipedia, which we hypothesize are inhibiting newcomer retention. Next, we present results from an experiment aimed at increasing both the quantity and quality of editors by altering various elements of these defense mechanisms, specifically pre-scripted warnings and notifications that are sent to new editors upon reverting or rejecting contributions. Using logistic regressions to model new user activity, we show which tactics work best for different populations of users based on their motivations when joining Wikipedia. In particular, we found that personalized messages in which Wikipedians identified themselves in active voice and took direct responsibility for rejecting an editor’s contributions were much more successful across a variety of outcome metrics than the current messages, which typically use an institutional and passive voice.


wikipedia; socialization; socialization tactics; peer production

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