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Submissions/The purpose-driven social network: Supporting WikiProjects with technology

From Wikimania 2012 • Washington, D.C., USA

This is an accepted submission for Wikimania 2012.

Download the slide deck for this talk
Submission no.


Title of the submission
The purpose-driven social network: Supporting WikiProjects with technology
Type of submission (workshop, tutorial, panel, presentation)
Author of the submission
Erik Moeller
E-mail address
erik at wikimedia dot org
Country of origin
United States resident
Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)
Wikimedia Foundation
Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)
Participation in WikiProjects is decreasing, consistent with overall participation trends. This may also relate to the lack of intuitive technology support for organizing and joining WikiProjects, and for managing the associated workflows.
Sometimes WikiProjects organize face-to-face meetings focused on improving specific articles. The photograph shows a meetup of WikiProject Quebec participants.

On the English Wikipedia, the page "What Wikipedia is not" states: "Wikipedia is not a social network like Twitter or Facebook." That is certainly true. Wikipedia is not like Twitter or Facebook, because its purpose is not to simply connect with people and share items of interest. It's to give the whole world access to humanity's knowledge.

To serve this overall purpose, we do organize socially in countless ways. And one of the central organizing mechanisms in many wikis is the "WikiProject" format, where Wikimedians choose a topic like "LGBT studies" and organize around it, identifying articles that need to be written or improved, developing portals, running contests, notifying each other of relevant discussions (e.g. deletions), or even planning face-to-face meetings and conferences.

In other words, WikiProjects enable purpose-driven social networks. Beyond making the work itself more effective, they provide a powerful means of affiliation: You can find people who care about the same things you care about. This makes them an especially promising mechanism for engaging new users.

However, in the current implementation, new users often discover WikiProjects fairly late into their tenure, because even interacting with them and understanding all their complexity requires a fairly advanced level of wiki interaction. They're supported by various bots, scripts, and external sites -- but to make them more accessible, robust, and efficient, it would be good if the core software provided more tools for organizing projects and workflows.

In this presentation, I will:

  • summarize the state of research on WikiProjects
  • recap the current tools and technologies used to support WikiProjects
  • give an overview of key features that are missing from this list, based on interviews with WikiProject organizers and my own assessment
  • contrast Wikimedia's WikiProject approach with other purpose-driven projects like Quora
  • propose a prioritized list of requirements for WikiProject support in MediaWiki and reveal initial user interface sketches.

Time allowing, this will lead to a brief open requirements discussion.

Technology and Infrastructure
Length of presentation/talk
25 Minutes for the presentation. It would be nice to have some extra time for discussion so we don't have to cut off abruptly.
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
Of course
Slides or further information (optional)
Special request as to time of presentations

Interested attendees

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  1. Yaron Koren (talk) 15:45, 14 March 2012 (UTC)[reply]
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  3. Carolmooredc (talk) 18:32, 16 March 2012 (UTC) Important topic[reply]
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