Interviews/Misiek Piskorski

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Interview with Misiek Piskorski (HBS professor)

September 21, 2009

  • People who are deeply committed to Wikipedia and contribute most of the content
    • Not all edits are additions to knowledge: beautify articles, etc. Tremendous amount of work put into making Wikipedia “standardized and beautiful”
  • His thought is that number is too small and that more people should be involved
    • 90/10 (90% of edits made by 10% of users) is very normal for contribution communities, but absolute number may be too small (11-15K people making 50% of edits)
    • Numbers problem - worried about how few people are involved and know how to edit
  • And that’s for en Wikipedia – others are probably smaller
  • Many people don’t even know that you can edit
    • Communication problem? Do people not know they can get engaged in the process?
  • Also worried about very narrow demographics/diversity of editors
    • Has interviewed 100 editors (IM, Skype), chosen at random from Wikipedia editor community (50% left, 50% stayed)
    • Only 3 women (3%) – “scary” male/female imbalance (one said she would never admit to being a woman online)
  • Other contributing factors to lack of diversity:
    • Editors who have left Wikipedia described the environment as “too hostile”
  • People may do lots of work editing, but there is a high risk that it will just disappear with a revert
    • Hypothesis: “The way the technology is structured is deeply, deeply masculine and does not fit with the way that women work together” (collaboration, working together vs. deleting/writing over what someone else has done)
    • Content creation driven by personal interest, and this likely directly informs community makeup
    • Computer games, mechanical topics, etc. very popular
    • Arts, etc. tend to get much less coverage
  • Small number of editors + narrow demographics + editing technology + personal interest (no $$ on the line) = skewed content distribution
    • Need to encourage participation from a broader group of people if we want better content coverage of content areas
  • Very interesting that there is no social networking on Wikipedia to encourage people to get and stay involved with the community
    • Possible option: some type of social network that enables you to hang out with other people
    • Yelp built community around contribution (holding parties, making physical connections). Built social network in order to encourage ongoing user generated contribution
  • Wikipedia already tried this: Project Esperanza—“Tried to encourage the right type of behavior, some ideas remained, e.g. barnstars, some were lost like “articles in need of help”, key problem may have been the way it was organized.”
  • Goal for Wikimedia might be to establish greater diversity: “more people, more types of people”
    • PR efforts to communicate value of editing
    • Underlying process of collaboration (e.g., editing, reverts, deletions) may be a problem: how it appeals/offends certain types of people
  • Perspectives on technology platform:
    • “Evolved dramatically in first couple of years, but hasn’t changed in the last few years”
    • Markup language perfect for researchers, but too “geeky” and complicated for the average user. Not intuitive at all. (“Part of the success of Twitter is that it is so easy to use. Boom, that’s what you do”)
    • WYSIWIG would be a huge step towards making things better
  • Perspectives on community change:
    • Study how different types of people (particularly around gender) work together and incorporate those elements into the platform
  • How do different groups work together?
  • How do they give feedback?
  • Could similar logic be applied to different language Wikipedias? (e.g., might one culture interact differently than another and therefore require different means of collaboration?)
    • He is just starting research around this (going to look at the top 10 wikipedias)
    • He doesn’t know the answer, but is very intrigued by the question
  • Technology access questions:
    • Internet can not be the answer in places without stable access/electricity
    • Has to be mobile in some places (example of Kenyans accessing data websites over mobile phones)
  • Has started to analyze what people look at vs. what content exists/is created

References

  • External expert Piskorski.pdf