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The practice of managing open production at scale

Date & Time:
12:30:00 - 14:00:00,
Tuesday 12 August, 2014


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.

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  • Name: Aaron Halfaker
  • Affiliation: Wikimedia
  • Role:
  • URL:
  • Bio: 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.