[RCom-l] Fwd: surveys by community members

WereSpielChequers werespielchequers at gmail.com
Mon Nov 28 06:07:48 UTC 2011

This is very much focussed on the model where a community member identifies
a problem area which would benefit from research, and then they want to be
paid to research it.

My concern about such applications are that you risk blurring the line
between what the community expects volunteers to do for free and what it is
willing to pay for; Also we need to be wary of pushpolling, I've already
seen research done by community members being criticised for that and I
think we need very clear rules to prevent that happening.

The advantage of an independent researcher is independence, hopefully
neutrality and if we request it a certain verifiable professional standard.
The disadvantage is that they cost money and may misunderstand the

The advantages of a Wikimedian researcher are that they are presumably a
volunteer and that they understand what it is that they are studying. The
disadvantages include their possibly wanting to research an area of the
wiki that they have strong opinions on, and that they are unlikely to have
verified credentials for holding personal data for research purposes.

I really like the idea of using research to investigate some of the
problems of the community. There are several areas where community opinion
is deadlocked and independent neutral research might possibly supply the
information that could break that deadlock. But I'm uncomfortable about the
model of commissioning existing volunteers to investigate areas where they
have strong opinions. I would prefer that we have something of a Chinese
wall between topic and researcher. So community members would be welcome to
propose research projects, and also to offer to undertake research
projects, but not to be both the proposer and the performer of the same
paid for research. Or at the least we should avoid paying editors to
undertake research in an area where they are known to have strong views.

For example; The theory that I find most credible as an explanation of the
decline of the community since 2007 is the end of the "SoFixIt" culture and
its replacement by the templating culture which some consider newbie biting
and which has lead to hundreds of thousands of articles disfigured by
garish templates calling attention to problems  that somebody hopes someone
else will understand and fix. One possible partial solution to that would
be to replace some of the maintenance categories with unobtrusive hidden
categories, but to do so we need research to establish whether or not these
templates succeed in getting newbies to edit. Currently the community is
too divided as to whether we think the templates work as a call to action
for us to agree a change, but a small amount of independent research should
be able to establish which view is more correct and thereby enable the
community to make an informed consensus decision.


On 23 November 2011 00:43, Dario Taraborelli <dtaraborelli at wikimedia.org>wrote:

> All,
> here's a message from Siko, WMF Head of Community Fellowships. As with the
> 2011 Summer of Research, WMF is willing to fund research (both in the form
> of individual fellowships and small grants) to contribute to a better
> understanding of our community and projects. While there are existing
> procedures for community fellowships and grants, we don't have guidelines
> to apply for research fellowships/research grants.
> Some community members have started submitting research proposals for RCom
> review and I thought this could be a good chance to get Siko and Asaf (Head
> of the WMF grants program) to help us draft guidelines for the evaluation
> of research fellowship/research grant proposals, which are currently
> missing from http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Research:FAQ
> What I envision is a two-tiered process:
> (1) RCom will first review proposals based on its standard procedures,
> regardless of funding requests. We will solicit the opinion of external
> referees via a single-blind review process when needed (we did this for the
> EPIC/Oxford proposal). We will then write our recommendations whether a
> specific proposal is methodologically sound, relevant and non-disruptive to
> our community to help WMF make a funding decision .
> (2) WMF will request supplementary information to projects applying for
> funding and use this information, feedback from RCom and its internal
> assessment of the priority/usefulness of the proposal to make a funding
> decision.
> This will help RCom focus on the research value of the proposal per se
> while leaving to the WMF fellowship/grant program the actual funding
> decision. On a related note, I am working closely with Philippe Beaudette
> to configure SugarCRM to help us triage, handle and assign requests for
> RCom review.
> Please let me know if you have any comments or concerns on the overall
> proposal. As Siko notes, the Dispute Resolution project below is a research
> proposal from a community member asking for regular SR support/review, not
> a WMF-sponsored project, and potentially a good case to get this process
> started.
> Dario
> Begin forwarded message:
> *From: *Siko Bouterse <sbouterse at wikimedia.org>
> *Date: *November 22, 2011 10:33:58 AM PST
> *To: *Dario Taraborelli <dtaraborelli at wikimedia.org>
> *Subject: **surveys by community members*
> Hi Dario,
> This is a survey request from a community member interested in learning
> more about his Wikipedia projects, for RCom's review:
> http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Research:Wikipedia_Dispute_Resolution
> Background:
> Steven Zhang is active in MedCab and the creator of some other DR pages
> and processes on EN:WP.  I've been speaking with him about the possibility
> of doing a fellowship on dispute resolution, though an exact project is
> still to be pinned down and nothing is approved for fellowship at this
> point.  Although the survey is not an official WMF project, and Steven is
> acting in the capacity of community member, I am interested in the results
> of his survey to learn more about current issues with DR and see if there
> are projects that we should support in the form of a fellowship.
> This may be a growing need, I've gotten a couple of similar inquiries so
> far and expect they will increase as we ramp up community fellowships.  I'm
> curious to know what the RCom process looks like for surveys run by
> community members, some of whom might not have the same research background
> or methodological training as academic researchers, but are motivated to
> learn and share understanding about their community and projects.   Is this
> something worth asking about on the RCom list?  (If so, feel free to
> forward my message).
> In this case, its a relatively small sample size so hopefully not too
> disruptive.  I think Steven could also use some guidance about what free
> survey collector would be recommended for use - is RCom ok with something
> simple like Google Forms or have other recommendations?
> Thanks!
> Siko
> --
> Siko Bouterse
> Head of Community Fellowships
> Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
> sbouterse at wikimedia.org
> _______________________________________________
> RCom-l mailing list
> RCom-l at lists.wikimedia.org
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/rcom-l
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