Detailed Study on User Interactions Producing the Wikipedia

If you are interested in the growth and development of large social systems like the Wikipedia, you may want to read through a paper from three researchers teaching at the UCLA Computer Science Department – On the Evolution of Wikipedia.

The paper aims at being the first detailed study about user behavior on the Wikipedia, and on how users of the system create and maintain information appearing on its pages. As the authors tell us:

This paper tries to model the behavior of users contributing to Wikipedia (hereafter called contributors) as a way of understanding its evolution over time. It presents what we believe to be the first extensive effort in that direction. This understanding will allow us, in the future, to create a model for Wikipedia evolution that will be able to show its trends and possible effects of changes in the way it is managed.

Many usability studies on the Web focus upon the way that information consumers behave upon the Web. This study turns that around, by instead looking at information producers.

A few of the findings about user interactions, from the paper:

1. The number of articles on the Wikipedia has been growing at an exponential rate since it started, but the number of articles from each contributor has decreased over time.

2. Most users tend to revise existing articles rather than creating new ones.

3. Most users tend to focus their attentions upon a single main article.

The paper provides a nice view of the Wikipedia from a very different perspective.

There are also some interesting numbers coming out of the study (which uses Wikipedia data from October, 2006). Here are a few of those:

1) The amount of links in the Wikipedia number 58.9 million, an average of 45 links per article.

2) The number of broken links is 6.5 million (I wonder if that includes “citation needed” links that appear in some articles.)

3) The number of internal redirects is 6.8 million.

4) The number of revisions listed in the study’s data is 48.2 million.

2 thoughts on “Detailed Study on User Interactions Producing the Wikipedia”

  1. This really is a fascinating study, and for the reason you suggest – it looks at Wikipedia, and other social networking sites from an entirely new angle. However, I think that there is room for even more work in internet studies such as this one. In particular, I’m interested in the broader social implications of blog usage. For instance, has Wikipedia changed our society’s attitude towards cooperation and helpfulness in general? Ten years ago, I would have expected that a project like Wikipedia simply couldn’t last, since the temptation to tamper with it would be so great. We hear so often about how no one has any respect for his fellow man any more. And yet it does manage to maintain a level of consistent quality. Further, people volunteer to add this kind of information, again demonstrating that being helpful seems to be regarded as a virtue. No one has really done an extensive study yet of how our society is beginning to shift in response to new technologies.

  2. rzrsej

    I like the idea of such a study. The closest I can think of that does try to test what you suggest are the PEW Life surveys that try to understand different aspects of internet usage.

    The cooperation amongst people using the internet is interesting.

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