2019:Research/Evidence of Dark Matter Assessing the Contribution of Subject-matter Experts to Wikipedia

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Abstract[edit | edit source]

Attempts to explain the success of knowledge co-production communities have focused on organizational design, including structure, motivation, roles, and coordination mechanisms. Meantime, the role that subject-matter-experts play in these knowledge production settings has largely been left in a theoretical and empirical void; similar to dark matter in the universe, its existence has been assumed, but we know little about it as it is difficult to observe. In this paper, we start filling that void, using Wikipedia as the setting for our empirical investigation. First, we carefully crossed information from individual Wikipedia editor pages with external sources such as Google Scholar, in order to reliably identify editors who are credentialed experts. Matching these credentialed experts with their Wikipedia editing patterns, we used this dataset to train a machine learning classifier which we then employed to identify additional expert editors, and assess the nature and the scope of their work across Wikipedia. Our findings shed light on the activity patterns characterizing subject-matter experts, their sources of expertise, and engagement level within the Wikipedia community. Despite Wikipedia’s proclaimed anti-credentialist stance, our results suggest that the scope of expert involvement is substantial, albeit with considerable differences across topics. We estimate that approximately 10-30% of Wikipedia’s contributors have substantial subject-matter expertise in the topics that they edit. We discuss implications for theory and practice of peer-production.

Authors[edit | edit source]

Ofer Arazy (University of Haifa)

Session type[edit | edit source]

22-min presentation.

Participants [subscribe here!][edit | edit source]

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