[RCom-l] The tragedy of the Commons

WereSpielChequers werespielchequers at gmail.com
Thu Dec 15 12:52:56 UTC 2011

Hi Mayo,

I rather suspect that there isn't consensus on this committee to restrict
researchers in their requesting community members to complete research
questionnaires. However I do think there is significant support in the
community to enforce existing spam policies on people indiscriminately
approaching wikimedians to complete research surveys.  Sarah Stierch's
survey was targetted at the small minority of editors who have self
identified as female, and the recent newpage patrol survey was supposed to
be targetted at people active in the new page patrol process.  I would
consider them to be archetypical targetted surveys by Wikimedians asking
relevant questions. Berkman by contrast was very broadly targeted, run by a
third party and not obviously relevant to Wikimedia.

I came to the conclusion that we would need some sort of throttle on
research surveying of wikimedians long before I drafted the Omnibus
proposal back in July, so the trigger for my writing that was not Berkman,
though obviously it was the trigger for resurrecting the idea. There have
been many discussions that I've seen on wiki and on the mailing lists about
various research surveys, and I'm fairly sure there is a consensus that
some research is OK provided we can control the quantity or people can opt
out of it. The difficult thing will be working out the acceptable level of
research surveying before the community considers it to have been exceeded.
Another difficulty will be to introduce a throttle system that in the
longterm both the community and the research community can live with. For
example there have been proposals in the past for an opt out or even an opt
in mechanism, I consider that such proposals would be workable from the
community's point of view, but I'm not sure that we'd get viable research
samples, especially if the research was becoming more and more intensely
targeted on a fast dwindling band of "consenting" wikimedians.

However if the rest of RCom considers that it isn't part of RCom's remit to
limit the amount of surveying by bonafide researchers, and if some of you
think that the community  is broadly accepting of research; Then perhaps
the best option would be to file an RFC on this and see what the community


On 14 December 2011 16:24, Fuster, Mayo <Mayo.Fuster at eui.eu> wrote:

> Hello!
> I hope you are fine.
> Dario I already moved in order that Goran has access to the survey.
> WSC your comments and suggestions seems to strongly assume that there is a
> consensus on the need to "limiting the amount of surveying that Wikimedians
> are subjected to". Which is the base for this statement?. Do we have any
> strong indicator to stand that there is too much request or that this is
> not the case?. At least on the base of Berkman episode, I would not arrive
> to that conclusion. Certainly, it does not represent my interpretation: I
> don't think in the community there is a predominance of a rejection
> attitude. To me developing research is a way to contribute and beneficial
> to Wikipedia - but again, beyond each impression on community position and
> each own personal position on this. we don't have a strong indicator or
> elaborate analysis of the approach of the community toward research.
> In something I think we need to reflect on is that in this stage of things
> - and from Berkman and Sarah experience- researchers can extract the
> conclusion that it is better to not get in contact with Rcom and it is
> better not to consult the community on your recruitment method -  you would
> save much more time and effort . There is something that it is not working,
> if this is the case. In this regard, I would not think in terms of how to
> control and limit the amount of research developed (also because it would
> be very very difficult) but instead value and incentive that it is done in
> a way in concordance with how Wikipedians view about how should be done (in
> terms of recruitment process, in terms of open data, in terms of assuring
> the results arrive to the community, in terms of addressing questions
> relevant for wikimedia goals, etc) and that is design in a way that could
> be as much beneficial for the community as possible.
> Cheers! Mayo
> «·´`·.(*·.¸(`·.¸ ¸.·´)¸.·*).·´`·»
> «·´¨*·¸¸« Mayo Fuster Morell ».¸.·*¨`·»
> «·´`·.(¸.·´(¸.·* *·.¸)`·.¸).·´`·»
> Research Digital Commons Governance: http://www.onlinecreation.info
> Fellow Berkman center for Internet and Society. Harvard University.
> Postdoctoral Researcher. Institute of Govern and Public Policies.
> Autonomous University of Barcelona.
> Visiting scholar. Internet Interdisciplinary Institute. Open University of
> Catalonia (UOC).
> Member Research Committee. Wikimedia Foundation
> Ph.D European University Institute
> Visiting researcher (2008). School of information. University of
> California, Berkeley.
> E-mail: mayo.fuster at eui.eu
> E-mail: mayofm at cyber.law.harvard.edu
> Twitter/Identica: Lilaroja
> Skype: mayoneti
> Phone United States: 001 - 8576548231
> Phone Spanish State: 0034-648877748
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> ________________________________________
> From: rcom-l-bounces at lists.wikimedia.org [
> rcom-l-bounces at lists.wikimedia.org] On Behalf Of WereSpielChequers [
> werespielchequers at gmail.com]
> Sent: 14 December 2011 16:09
> To: The Wikimedia Foundation Research Committee mailing list
> Subject: Re: [RCom-l] The tragedy of the Commons
> Hi Yaroslav,
> While I didn't see the actual survey I'm aware that it was run. I suspect
> that the community would have little problem differentiating between a
> Wikimedian surveying a targetted group of Wikimedians on currently
> contentious matters internal to the community as opposed to an outside
> researcher surveying a large proportion of the community and perhaps asking
> questions that don't seem very relevant. Sarah's survey could have been
> done as part of an Omnibus, and I'm sure if we had an Omnibus survey it
> would be an opportunity to do a followup.
> Alternatively we could see it as part of my alternative option of targeted
> research - unlike the Berkman survey Sarah did her targetting in such a way
> that she wasn't blocked as spam.....
> On 14 December 2011 14:58, Yaroslav M. Blanter <putevod at mccme.ru<mailto:
> putevod at mccme.ru>> wrote:
> On Wed, 14 Dec 2011 13:46:48 +0000, WereSpielChequers
> <werespielchequers at gmail.com<mailto:werespielchequers at gmail.com>> wrote:
> > The controversy over Berkman is not in my view primarily a communication
> > issue and it certainly isn't about the legitimacy of that survey. I
> believe
> > that the community trusts RCom as a regulator of research to know
> whether
> > research is legitimate or not.
> >
> > A big part of the controversy is over advertising, and I'm not convinced
> > that you can design a banner ad for a third party research survey that
> > isn't seen by some as advertising for that third party. An Omnibus
> survey
> > could be a Wikimedia one and therefore I would argue an internal ad
> rather
> > than a third party one. Perhaps that isn't our only option, and maybe
> there
> > are alternative ways to solve that, one way would be to change policy to
> > allow advertising for bona fide research. But that would be a difficult
> one
> > to sell to the community, particularly on the heels of a fundraising
> drive
> > where "Wikipedia doesn't take ads" was a core message.
> >
> > The other aspect of being a regulator of research is the issue of how we
> > control the amount of research requests made to the community. To my
> mind
> > that is fundamental to what we should be doing, and it is a major reason
> > for my being on this committee.  But this is almost an opposite thought
> > process to "promoting research".
> >
> > There are two proposals that I've made as to how we do this, one would
> be
> > to contact everyone once a year with an Omnibus survey, the other rather
> > more complex one is to throttle back research surveying by volume and
> limit
> > each campaign to a small subset of the community. The two approaches can
> be
> > hybridised by rewarding institutions that collaborate by allowing them
> to
> > use our systems to approach a larger proportion of editors. One reason
> why
> > I was opposed to the Berkman survey was that it was the worst of both
> > worlds - one single research project going to all or almost all of our
> most
> > surveyed community.
> >
> > I'm not convinced that the community currently has confidence in RCom to
> > regulate the amount of research requests that wikimedians and especially
> > English language Wikipedians are exposed to. Nor am I convinced that
> > everyone on this committee regards that as our responsibility. To my
> mind
> > this gives us a couple of possibilities, one would be to try and agree a
> > mechanism for limiting the amount of surveying that Wikimedians are
> > subjected to, and then sell that to the community via a request for
> > comment. One option in any such request for comment could be for the
> > community to agree not to put any constraints on researchers, but I'd be
> > surprised if that option got consensus however strongly it was promoted
> by
> > some members of RCom. The other possibility would be to clarify that the
> > remit of this committee is to promote legitimate research by vetting
> > proposals and otherwise communicating with the community; and to inform
> the
> > community that if it wants to put constraints on legitimate researchers
> > contacting wikimedians via the site then it needs a an additional
> process
> > other than RCom.
> >
> > WereSpielChequers
> >
> Thanks for your ideas, which I find very much reasonable. I have an
> immediate objection though. Not all research goes through RCom, and we have
> no means to stop any single person or organization from sending a hundred
> messages to talk pages. For instance, recently it was a survey with the
> purpose of understanding the role of the female editors, or whatever the
> purpose was (It is difficult for me to find a link immediately, but it can
> be done, I guess it was run by Sarah Stierch and colleagues). They did not
> bother to go to RCom, and I could imagine what the response were if we
> demanded that for instance this survey would become part of Omnibus. Since
> it looks almost inevitable that we have to go and ask the community
> opinions at some stage, we probably also need to ask this question: Should
> every research requiring subject recruitment be regulated (reviewed) by
> RCom in advance, or may be the community (first robably of en.wp) just does
> not want any regulation of the subject recruitment.
> Cheers
> Yaroslav
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