As Wikipedia’s community of volunteer editors grew, the problems that the community needed to manage became an increasing burden. Wikipedians rose to the challenge and developed a suite of semi-automated tools and a set of practices that support distributed, weakly coordinated workers. While their efforts were very effective in reducing the time necessary to curate the wiki, there were a set of unforeseen consequences. In this presentation, I’ll quantify a robust — if not inherent — trade-off between the speed and efficiency of quality control in Wikipedia and the motivation of rejected contributors – especially new editors. I’ll show how Wikipedian’s shifting focus on quality control and formal process has led to a dramatic decline in the rate of retention of desirable new editors that threatens the long-term viability of the project. I’ll conclude with a discussion of the development of new technologies and community practices by the Wikimedia Foundation that are geared toward reversing the retention issue without sacrificing efficient quality control.
About the speakers
Aaron Halfaker works as a research scientist at the Wikimedia Foundation. His work explores the “moving parts” that make open production communities like Wikipedia work. Through building knowledge about system-level problems, opportunities and consequences, he works to develop principles for better community-support technologies.