Collaboration in context: comparing article evolution among subject disciplines in Wikipedia
|Collaboration in context: comparing article evolution among subject disciplines in Wikipedia|
|Authors:||Katherine Ehmann, Andrew Large, Jamshid Beheshti|
|Citation:||First Monday 13 (10): 19. 2008 October.|
|Publication type:||Journal article|
|Google Scholar cites:||Citations|
|Added by Wikilit team:||Added on initial load|
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|Other scholarly wikis:||AcaWiki Brede Wiki WikiPapers|
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This exploratory study examines the relationships between article and talk page contributions and their effect on article quality in Wikipedia. The sample consisted of three articles each from the hard sciences, soft sciences, and humanities, whose talk page and article edit histories were observed over a five-month period and coded for contribution types. Richness and neutrality criteria were then used to assess article quality and results were compared within and among subject disciplines. This study reveals variability in article quality across subject disciplines and a relationship between talk page discussion and article editing activity. Overall, results indicate the initial article creator's critical role in providing a framework for future editing as well as a remarkable stability in article content over time.
"This current study focuses on the collaborative process behind the creation of Wikipedia articles and the relationship between article contributions and article quality. For the purposes of this study, collaboration is defined as “the process of shared creation: two or more individuals with complementary skills interacting to create a shared understanding that none had previously possessed or could have come to on their own.”  Collaboration includes the individual contributions, in the form of edits, made to each Wikipedia article and which comprise each article as a whole. Coordination is also considered an aspect of collaboration (Montiel–Overall, 2005), as Wikipedia users may coordinate editing activities that contribute to each article."
|Topics:||Antecedents of quality, Readability and style, Reliability, Other collaboration topics|
|Wikipedia coverage:||Main topic|
|Theories:||"It also builds upon the theory of disciplinary differences (Becher, 1987; Biglan, 1973), exploring if and how the collaborative processes for the hard sciences, soft sciences, and humanities articles differ from each other, what the effect on article quality is in each case, and how Wikipedia articles evolve over time."|
|Data source:||Experiment responses, Wikipedia pages|
|Collected data time dimension:||Longitudinal|
|Unit of analysis:||Article, Edit, Subject|
|Wikipedia data extraction:||Live Wikipedia|
|Wikipedia page type:||Article|
"Across the subject disciplines in this sample, Add link and Add information were the most common contribution types. Vandalism ranked eighth out of the 13 contribution types, suggesting its persistence as a quality issue on Wikipedia. For the accompanying article Talk pages, Requests/suggestions for editing coordination was the most common type of contribution, followed by Information boxes. Completeness was the most frequent article quality issue raised among these Talk page discussions, followed by Accessibility and Accuracy. Additionally, a relationship was observed between Talk page discussion and editing of the Talk page’s accompanying article; however, not all of the interactions between Talk pages and articles resulted in positive editing activity, as in several instances vandalism was an outcome. Several issues raised on the Talk pages remained unaddressed by Wikipedians, but nonetheless, it is evident that Talk pages have an integral role to play in the collaborative process, as Stvilia, et al. (2005b) and Viégas, et al. (2007) observed.
Across the articles in this sample the majority of Wikipedia editors only perform one type of editing activity per contribution, in contrast to initial article creators, who perform a range of contribution types over a series of edits. Isolating edits of two contribution types, Add information and Add link was the mode combination. A high percentage of repeat editors provided edits of three or more contribution types, suggesting a relationship between frequency of article editing and range in contribution types. The first–mover advantage, noted by Viégas, et al. (2004), was also observed among all articles in this sample, where a considerable amount of the original article text remained over time, and an inverse relationship was found between article age and the proportion of initial article text remaining.
Counter to previous findings (Brändle, 2005; Dondio, et al., 2006; Lih, 2004; Stvilia, et al., 2005a, 2008; Wilkinson and Huberman, 2007), the articles in this sample with the highest number of edits were not found to be of the highest quality. While the hard sciences articles had the highest level of article quality overall, they were still lacking in several key areas, such as successfully answering all w–questions. Similarly, while the hard sciences performed the best on both the Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level tests, affirming previous findings (Hartley, et al., 2004; Tibbo, 1992), none of the articles in this sample achieved a plain English level of readability. In contrast to traditional encyclopedias — and even Simple Wikipedia itself — Wikipedia proper lacks an explicitly stated purpose and, correspondingly, lacks guidelines for writing articles at a reading level appropriate for its intended audience. In turn, the high level of textual difficulty observed in the articles in this study undermines Wikipedia’s more general aim of being accessible to everyone.
Taken together, these results suggest considerable variability in the quality level of Wikipedia articles across subject disciplines, likely resulting from the fact that each article does not receive an equal amount of attention or scrutiny. How much confidence one should have in an article whose content is continually under discussion and revision remains an open question. However, while the constant flux of Wikipedia is often cited, the articles in this sample suggest a remarkable consistency in article content over time and the considerable influence that the initial creator has over the article by essentially providing a framework on which future editing is built. Additionally, as the observations between Talk page discussion and editing of a given article reveal, raising one’s concerns about an article is likely to result in change to that article. Therefore, contributions to Talk pages — in addition to article edits themselves — provide Wikipedians with a powerful means of shaping the presentation of knowledge."
"Wikipedia articles don't receive an equal amount of attention which leads to a considerable variability in the quality of these articles across subject disciplines. Contributions to Talk pages in addition to article edits themselves provide Wikipedians with a powerful means of shaping the presentation of knowledge. How much confidence one should have in an article whose content is continually under discussion and revision remains an open question."