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Submissions/Wiki Means Fast and Collaborative, Not Engagement: Five Theses to Center New Wiki on Users and Wikimedia Values

From Wikimania 2013 • Hong Kong

This is an accepted submission for Wikimania 2013.

Submission no.
Subject no.
Title of the submission
Wiki Means Fast and Collaborative, Not Engagement: Five Theses to Center New Wiki on Users and Wikimedia Values
Type of submission
Author of the submission
Marc Miquel
David Morera
Country of origin
Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona, Catalonia)
E-mail address
Personal homepage or blog



Would Wikipedia worked well if it was not a ‘wiki’? The possibility of editing fast and collaboratively fitted the mission. The rise of its popularity came along with a high positioning in Google search results. We know the story. But how should it follow? Along with research and Internet examples I develop 5 theses on how to create (or maintain) engagement. Usability is always strong point. We can’t escape using persuasive technologies. Game dynamics should be discussed as meaning. Multi-lingual knowledge can be the hidden treasure. All in all, Wikipedians should not be afraid of change to keep the same values.

Detailed proposal

"Would Wikipedia worked so well if it was not a ‘wiki’?” is the million dollar question. The possibility of editing fast and collaboratively fitted perfectly well with the mission of collecting all human knowledge under a free license. But is it ‘wiki’ or the values the responsible of the success? The facts proved that a ‘wiki’ is not engaging any kind of project thought to be collaborative. And motivation research studies tell us that ‘ideology’ is as important for editors as the sense of progressing in the community. So both.

However, we must not forget Wikipedia’s popularity came along with a high positioning in Google search results, which are always the preferred options to navigate. Curiously, Wikipedia was Social Media even before the Social Media disrupted the web 1.0 and changed all kinds of communication. But besides few changes in the file uploading process, search box positioning and toolbar options Wikipedia did not change as much as the Internet and Technology had changed in these years.

Reviewing previous research and Internet examples I develop 5 theses on how to create (or maintain) engagement.

First, there is academic research about every Wikipedia aspect but in usability. Since 2001 the field of Usability and User Experience has revolutionized the Web to simplify processes, to hide unneeded information and set visual priorities to facilitate navigation. In surveys many new editors consider the learning curve is slow and the edition not being WYSIWG is a problem. Fear of degeekification? Not many changes have accounted in Wikipedia’s usability. As with Open Software, it is important to remind that the fact that everything needs to be open does not imply everybody should understand/see every layer of the software.

Second, Wikipedia is an Encyclopedia and a Social Network. It uses interaction channels continuously. There is extensive research on interaction between edits, discussions, userpage messages and community portal. They are social networks as any Social Media space. However, users suffer a great cost of remembering tasks, opening many windows, etc. Also, why is not there a synchronous communication channel (a chat)? Wikipedia editors do not want it to become Facebook but it certainly is a Social Network with communication requirements. “Editor Engagement” group is working in this direction fortunately.

Third, Wikipedia can become my ‘knowledge workspace’ if I knew how. Consolidated editors learn about topics in order to write an article later. Why not using design and persuasive technologies to help them accomplish this personal goal? BJ Fogg defines ‘baby steps’ as essential to create a habit and editors need to know what they can write about and who they can relate with in the community. Facebook and Google are using history of posts, searches and messages with Data Mining techniques for commercial purposes. These techniques (implemented and discussed with open code) could be directed to other purposes in Wikipedia. I can picture a message like “I have seen you are interested in Picasso Art. Do you want to check its article and explore how you can extend it?”

Fourth, many Wikipedians are multilingual but many readers are not. The encyclopedia sets its goal in providing the ‘sum of all human knowledge’ in each Wikipedia language editions. Yet it could also engage users in understanding the multilingual points of view they provide. For instance, Natural Language Techniques such as Semantic Relatedness can show the distance between two concepts like “democracy” or “psychology” in English and Chinese. To implement data visualizations and explain differences might encourage editors to introduce them in their local edition.

Fifth and last, game mechanics have never been discussed in Wikipedia, yet they exist. Motivation to write in Wikipedia shares in great deal the same reason Game Mechanics experts consider for a game to success: ‘autonomy’ and ‘mastery’. Number of written articles, user page medals and other achievements are usually stimulating progress among editors. ‘Gamification’ concept does not want to introduce rewards per se, but to give meaning to actions and choices. Maybe editors should be able to create rewards and challenges according to their activities in a Wikipedia language edition scale.

These five theses sum up what creates engagement in current research and sets the debate about Wikipedia. ‘Wiki’ is a successfully implemented concept, which can be combined to many other communication channels and information structures. All in all, Wikipedians should not be afraid of changing technology channels to keep the same values.

  • Analysis and Public Engagement
Length of presentation/talk
25 Minutes
Language of presentation/talk
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Other works we presented in conferences like Wikiacademy Fourth survey to users and editors in Catalan Wikipedia.

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  1. WereSpielChequers (talk) 23:27, 28 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Jeromy-Yu Chan, COIC (talk) 14:22, 30 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  3. I like where this is going :) Dimi z (talk) 16:11, 30 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  4. Asaifm (talk) 08:02, 1 February 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  5. Pginer (talk) 19:36, 22 February 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  6. Hola, amics. അമിർ എ. അഹരൊനി (talk) 20:43, 5 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  7. Risker (talk) 21:47, 3 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  8. Slashme (talk) 19:06, 7 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  9. Jtmorgan (talk) 23:34, 17 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  10. Superbellymonster (talk) 03:02, 8 May 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  11. Your name here!