Finding social roles in Wikipedia

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Finding social roles in Wikipedia
Authors: Howard T. Welser, Daniel Regis Cosley, Gueorgi Kossinets, Austin Lin, Fedor Dokshin, Gerri Gay, Marc A. Smith [edit item]
Citation: Proceedings of the 2011 iConference  : 122-129. 2011. ACM.
Publication type: Conference paper
Peer-reviewed: Yes
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Link(s): Paper link
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Finding social roles in Wikipedia is a publication by Howard T. Welser, Daniel Regis Cosley, Gueorgi Kossinets, Austin Lin, Fedor Dokshin, Gerri Gay, Marc A. Smith.


[edit] Abstract

This paper investigates some of the social roles people play in the online community of Wikipedia. We start from qualitative comments posted on community oriented pages, wiki project memberships, and user talk pages in order to identify a sample of editors who represent four key roles: substantive experts, technical editors, vandal fighters, and social networkers. Patterns in edit histories and egocentric network visualizations suggest potential "structural signatures" that could be used as quantitative indicators of role adoption. Using simple metrics based on edit histories we compare two samples of Wikipedians: a collection of long term dedicated editors, and a cohort of editors from a one month window of new arrivals. According to these metrics, we find that the proportions of editor types in the new cohort are similar those observed in the sample of dedicated contributors. The number of new editors playing helpful roles in a single month's cohort nearly equal the number found in the dedicated sample. This suggests that informal socialization has the potential provide sufficient role related labor despite growth and change in Wikipedia. These results are preliminary, and we describe several ways that the method can be improved, including the expansion and refinement of role signatures and identification of other important social roles.

[edit] Research questions

""This paper concentrates on problem of finding and defining roles in a large, distributed organization and looks to identify the informal roles roles that affect the quality and coordination of participants’ contributions" (p. 122)"

Research details

Topics: Social order [edit item]
Domains: Information systems [edit item]
Theory type: Analysis [edit item]
Wikipedia coverage: Main topic [edit item]
Theories: "(Social) role theory, citing "Gleave, E., H. T. Welser, T. M. Lento, and M. A. Smith, 2009. A Conceptual and Operational Definition of ‘Social Role’ in Online Community, Proc. of the 42nd Hawaii Int. Con. on Systems Sciences (HICSS)."" [edit item]
Research design: Statistical analysis [edit item]
Data source: Wikipedia pages [edit item]
Collected data time dimension: Longitudinal [edit item]
Unit of analysis: Edit [edit item]
Wikipedia data extraction: Dump [edit item]
Wikipedia page type: Article, Article:talk, User, User:talk, History, Policy, Policy:talk, Discussion and Q&A, Collaboration and coordination, Conflict resolution, Information categorization and navigation, Quality management [edit item]
Wikipedia language: English [edit item]

[edit] Conclusion

""Our research began by suggesting that a key to solving the coordination problem inherent in the large, complex task of Wikipedia authorship is provide by the solution to a prior problem, the challenge for each author to find their role(s) in Wikipedia. Through an exploratory analysis we took some steps towards recognizing some important roles in Wikipedia, and we identified potential structural signatures based on name space edit distributions and user talk network features. We tied these potential signatures to role behavior, and provided a preliminary illustration of how some of these features can help assess the role ecology of an online space. In particular we showed evidence that new cohorts of editors were exhibiting edit distributions consistent with role players, and that these new cohorts were generating new potential role players at rates that were probably high enough to meet the replacement demands of the system. Much room is left for improvement and development in new research. The potential structural signatures identified here need to be refined and tested for predictive accuracy. Wikipedia affords an ideal research site for improving the identification of structural signatures because of the high level of contextual detail that is associated with every edit. We showed how namespace level aggregations can be leveraged, but additional details can aid signature identification. For instance, substantive experts will make multiple edits to related sets of content pages, and will likely return to sets of pages repeatedly. These types of details would help refine role predictions. Similar advances are possible with network ties, where the content of a message could be used to code ties as positive, negative, or neutral, could reveal much more fine grained role signatures. The role status of alters could also greatly aid role prediction. Consider the fact that the edit distributions of vandal fighters and technical editors were very similar. Discerning vandal fighters from other technical editors becomes much easier if we can identify obvious vandals, and thus multiple ties to vandals would be a clear distinguishing factor. Wikipedia is a complex social system. Although our analysis identified a subset of roles, that short list is neither exhaustive nor are these roles mutually exclusive. Many editors are likely to remain generalists, who dabble in a range of role related tasks. Others, might concentrate on a couple roles, and thus exhibit contradictory patterns. As role signatures become more refined, we should aim for systems that can assess degree of role performance, and, ideally, to track assessment across time to monitor role change. Finally, we anticipate a moment where standard demographic methods can be applied to test higher level questions about the role ecology of Wikipedias, and ideally, a large scale comparative study across different Wiki systems could be performed." (p. 128)"

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Further notes[edit]