Interactive Visualisation of Wikipedia Co-editing Patterns
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From its inception, Wikipedia has been an exercise in collaboration and governance among volunteers, who spend their time writing, editing, tweaking, discussing and arguing about content. Some editors are especially committed, organising projects to promote particular content and often guarding certain articles from unwanted edits and vandalism. Here we analyse the structure of editors who have contributed content about the Middle East and North and East Africa across several language versions of Wikipedia. We are interested in exploring the differences in editing patterns between languages and learning the identities of the key editorial players for any given language.

These network visualisations show individuals who have co-edited with each other using a weighted editing threshold. This approximately means people who have co-edited eight different articles, but it takes into account the fact that people might edit articles multiple times, and that articles vary in length (with the exception of Egyptian Arabic and Swahili, where we visualise everyone, since the networks are sufficiently small). What emerges is some stark differences in editing structure across the different Wikipedia language versions.

First, both English and French show a clear multi-core structure with editors grouped in different clusters. In English Wikipedia, the red cluster reveals core Wikipedians who have an interest in general topics, including such 'power editors' as "Dr Blofield" and "Rich Farmbrough" who are each responsible for hundreds of thousands of edits. The yellow cluster shows individuals who are interested mainly in North Africa, and the blue cluster shows individuals who are mainly interested in the Middle East (and especially Israel and Palestine; as the Gaza war has been characterised as the second most controversial article behind intelligent design < >. The French Wikipedia shows a similar pattern.

This multi-core structure is not seen in the Persian (Farsi), Arabic and especially Hebrew versions of Wikipedia. For example, the key editors in Hebrew are strongly cohesive and appear to co-edit across an array of articles. While our algorithm still finds and colour codes various different editing 'communities', these communities show a very high degree of overlap. In Persian there are a high degree of nodes in the large centre with several small subgroups of niche interests radiating out from this main core. Arabic Wikipedia shows this same pattern but the colours hint at subgroups of editors who are interested in specific countries, such as Egypt, Israel or the Gulf states.

These maps are not the final word on the Wikipedia's collaboration structure, but a starting point. They are an invitation to consider how Wikipedia exists as a network of real actors with their own interests, agendas and ideologies who still manage to come together to create the world's largest reference website.

Data collected by Mark Graham, Ahmed Medhat Mohammed and Bernie Hogan as part of the project "Who represents the Arab world online? Mapping and measuring local knowledge production and representation in the Middle East and North Africa", supported by the IDRC and John Fell Awards Scheme.

Author(s): Dr Bernie Hogan
Published: 15 May 2012
License: Creative Commons [CC BY-NC-SA]
Data Source: Wikipedia
Tools: Sigma.js, Gephi, Networkx
Tags: wikipedia, cross-language, network, interactive
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