This is just to announce that the final draft of my PhD. thesis "Wikipedia: A quantitative analysis" is already finished. Only minor appendixes remain, on general background for some statistical methods that I applied.
It will be (hopefully) approved to be presented in just a few days, though bureacracy will delay the "voce" until middle of March (more or less).
It includes the first quantitative analysis comparing the top 10 language versions of Wikipedia, as of Dec. 2007 (to allow fair comparison of EN with other languages). Among other interesting insights, it presents a complete study of the activity of logged authors, articles and talk pages, evolution in time of distributions of key parameters (diff. authors per article, articles per author, revisions per author/article, etc.).
It also offer a more in-depth study of the inequality of contributions by logged authors, and also for articles. Likewise, it presents a complete survival analysis to examine the average lifetime of Wikipedia contributors, focusing on the transitions first contribution --> joining the core --> core membership --> leaving the core --> abandoning the project.
Finally, we already examine some very basic metrics for quality, analyze the commont quantitative patterns of reputated authors and high quality content and try to infer implications of all these findings for the future sustainability of the Wikipedia work flow model in the following years.
If any of you is interested in having a look at the (still draft) manuscript, I accept on-demand access petitions to the repo :).
I'll wait after the public defense and comments from reviewers to make a public summary of our conclusions.
I think inthe first place Wikipedia gets its academic relevance through the publicrelevance it de facto has. Wikipedia became the most popular encyclopedia andis a very important source of information for many people. That includesscholarly knowledge which leads to a kind of public pressure. The highrelevance and importance that Wikipedia has among the public can hardly beignored by scholars. Whatever somebody might think about the principles andquality of Wikipedia, nobody can ignore the high relevance this encyclopediahas, I believe. If for example somebody from outside the scientific community wants to getinformation about Neuroscience there is a high chance that he will simplysearch with Google for that term which will almost for sure lead him to theWikipedia article on Neuroscience. Therefore this article might be the first impressiona person gets about the discipline.
Soregardless of the functional principles of Wikipedia and the conflicts they causefor scholarly communication (e.g. the not clearly visible authorship, the lackof quality control etc.), Wikipedia has at least a high PUBLIC relevance andmaybe already a quite significant relevance in academics. A study by the GermanHIS shows for example that the majority of German students uses Wikipedia as aninformation source and generally believe that it is a trustful source. Also inresearch there seems to be a growing relevance. The Journal RNA Biology forinstance, wants its authors to publish abstracts of their articles in Wikipedia(Nature commented that with the title: Publish in Wikipedia or perish).
At the sametime Wikipedia needs scholarly expertise to enhance its quality, which is whythe Wikimedia Foundation is trying to motivate scholars to engage themselves inthe projects. This is why I believe there is this kind of forced marriage. Ofcourse there are many conflicts between academics and Wikipedia but in the endboth cannot really ignore each other. I know colleagues who are absolutelyagainst Wikipedia and they have good reasons. But this won´t stop people to useit.
Wikibooksand Wikiversity do not have this high public relevance yet, so they do notforce scholars so much to react. At the same time they offer interesting possibilities forscholarly communication which Wikipedia doesn´t have: For example, originalresearch is possible in Wikiversity, Wikibooks allows a more obvious authorshipetc. However, from our observation it seems that these projects do not have ahigh relevance for scholarly communication yet.
So to putin a nutshell, I believe that the driving force of scholarly engagement is thepublic success of Wikipedia, which the other projects don´t really have yet. Thereforethey play a minor role for scholarly communication so far (which might change of course).
I hope Icould clarify my point a bit and didn´t cause even more confusion ;)
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We justfinished our report on Science in Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.Unfortunately it is in German only, but I would like to present at least anEnglish summary to you. People who know German can download the paper here:
In this report we examine the potentialof Wikipedia, Wikibooks and Wikiversity
for academic communication. Firstly, weintroduce the pioneer project
Wikipedia and the following projects bythe Wikimedia Foundation by outlining
their historical development and basicfunctional principles. Secondly, we
focus on the scholarly use of thedifferent platforms. Starting with Wikipedia
and followed by Wikibooks andWikiversity, we analyze each project regarding
its peculiarities that contrast it fromthe others, its size and range, its
academic content, its authors, and theway it is used for teaching, collaboration
We found that in all examined projectsacademic engagement is presented
through scholarly content itself and throughthe related communicative processes
such as teaching and partlycollaboration and research. However, there
are significant differences in the wayand the range this engagement appears.
Therefore, the results show two sides:On the one hand, Wikipedia has enormous
public and growing academic relevance.Additionally the encyclopaedia
depends on many areas of knowledge withscientific expertise in order to
be qualitatively satisfying. This leadsto a kind of forced marriage between
Wikipedia and academia. On the otherhand, Wikibooks and Wikiversity seem
to be less successful compared to theirsister project, which is why there are
only weak connections between academiaand these platforms so far. In all
cases the social and technologicaldynamics of the projects make it difficult,
if not impossible, to estimate theirlong-time future influence on scholarly
communication. Therefore we suggestcontinuing to observe them from this
You are welcome to contact me if you are interested in ourproject.
Sociology student at the University of Bielefeld, Germany
Research assistant at the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA)
of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (AAS)
Strohgasse 45, 5
Tel. (Office): +43-(0)1-51581-6597
Project “Interactive Science”
(for more information please see www.oeaw.ac.at/ita/interactive)
Thank you for your interest! We do not seriously plan a translation actually. But I am in touch with somebody from "Liquid Books" (a project similar to Wikibooks) who suggested to upload the text there and to translate it collaboratively. It is a nice idea and eventually we will do that. However I am afraid I won´t be able to work on that myself because I am quite busy with other things and I doubt that we will find people who seriously work on that. But maybe it´s worth a try...
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Betreff: Re: [Wiki-research-l] Report on science in WIkipedia and other Wikimedia projects
Gesendet: Fr, 15. Mai 2009
Von: Piotr Konieczny<piokon(a)post.pl>
> René König wrote:
> > Hieveryone,
> > We justfinished our report on Science in Wikipedia and other Wikimedia
> projects.Unfortunately it is in German only, but I would like to present at
> least anEnglish summary to you. People who know German can download the
> paper here:
> > http://epub.oeaw.ac.at/ita/ita-projektberichte/d2-2a52-2.pdf
> > https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wiki-research-l
> This sounds quite interesting. Are there any plans for a full translation?
> Piotr Konieczny
> Wiki-research-l mailing list
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