[Wikipedia-l] Reflection and research: User surveys (2 of 3)

SJ 2.718281828 at gmail.com
Fri Sep 22 01:56:43 UTC 2006

A number of Wikipedians have advocated for a user survey for a very
long time.  Erik Zachte has been the most vocal and persistent.
Realizing a user survey was one of the top items on the agenda of the
Wikimedia research network before it stopped holding meetings.  It has
been the subject of long debates and conversations on IRC, has come up
this summer in Special Projects Committee discussions, and has been
the bugbear of dozens of student and professorial research projects.

Today I attended the wrapup discussion of a three-day conference on
open content and public broadcasting, with gathered luminaries from
WGBH, PBS, the Hewlett Foundation, the Corporation for Public
Broadcasting, Yale law school, the Federation of American Scientists,
and so forth.  Of great relevance to them : good information on the
demographics of Wikipedians, segmented by activity in various areas of
the community and the projects.  Are we dominated by people with no
full-time jobs and no children?  The question was not posed to me, but
I could not have answered with certainty.

Noone outside of the projects can run a survey that ties reliably to
user login authentication.  Important sociology and technology
projects going on every month, talks given by Wikipedians and
Wikimedians every week, and literally thousands of third parties
making decisions about communities and creativity, wish they could be
informed by the results of such surveys.

With a brief discussion about preserving privacy in aggregate data,
randomizing test and control samples, and a tweak to allow web forms
on pages that are aware of your wikipedia userid, we could have a
simple projects-wide survey completed within a month.  Let's make this
a priority and make such a thing happen -- then figure out how to
optimize future iterations.

The latest discussions on meta are here:

I recall other pages on en:wp and other language wp's that are not
currently linked from there; if you were part of one of those efforts,
please add a link to your work.


ps - while looking for the link to the user survey on meta, I ran
across this: a poll applet that seems to be working as of last month.

(thread 2 in a 3-thread microseries.  see also

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