Independent and interdependent task allocation in Wikipedia editorial work

Graph of the article count for each of the ten...
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Wikipedia articles that are controlled by a small group of editors that coordinate their work closely seem to be of higher quality. This is one of the main suggestions made by Kraut an Kittur, whose work was previously featured on this blog, in a paper at the CHI conference in Boston this spring. The paper analyzes the impact number of editors and editorial concentration (ie, inequality of contribution) have on independent or interdependent tasks and on article quality. Their working hypothesis was that for interdependent tasks, especially if they are to produce high quality outcomes, it is preferred to have a smaller core of high impact editors. The results are partially supported by the data.

The success of Wikipedia has demonstrated the power of peer production in knowledge building. However, unlike many other examples of collective intelligence, tasks in Wikipedia can be deeply interdependent and may incur high coordination costs among editors. Increasing the number of editors increases the resources available to the system, but it also raises the costs of coordination. This suggests that the dependencies of tasks in Wikipedia may determine whether they benefit from increasing the number of editors involved. Specifically, we hypothesize that adding editors may benefit low-coordination tasks but have negative consequences for tasks requiring a high degree of coordination. Furthermore, concentrating the work to reduce coordination dependencies should enable more efficient work by many editors. Analyses of both article ratings and article review comments provide support for both hypotheses. These results suggest ways to better harness the efforts of many editors in social collaborative systems involving high coordination tasks.

via Coordination in collective intelligence.

The research is important because it pricks to a certain extent the Wisdom of Crowds ideology, which for a time has lured many to believe that Wikipedia is the product of unaided, uncoordinated, crowdsourcing. (Although I usually do not link to Wikipedia articles as reference sources, this time I do it to reveal how the Wikipedia community thinks about concepts such as “crowdsourcing”.) For more infromation about Wikipedia, see Andrew Lih’s recent book, the Wikipedia Revolution.

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Sorin Adam Matei

Sorin Adam Matei - Professor of Communication at Purdue University - studies the relationship between information technology and social groups. He published papers and articles in Journal of Communication, Communication Research, Information Society, and Foreign Policy. He is the author or co-editor of several books. The most recent is Structural differentation in social media. He also co-edited Ethical Reasoning in Big Data,Transparency in social media and Roles, Trust, and Reputation in Social Media Knowledge Markets: Theory and Methods (Computational Social Sciences) , all three the product of the NSF funded KredibleNet project. Dr. Matei's teaching portfolio includes online interaction, and online community analytics and development classes. His teaching makes use of a number of software platforms he has codeveloped, such as Visible Effort . Dr. Matei is also known for his media work. He is a former BBC World Service journalist whose contributions have been published in Esquire and several leading Romanian newspapers. In Romania, he is known for his books Boierii Mintii (The Mind Boyars), Idolii forului (Idols of the forum), and Idei de schimb (Spare ideas).

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