Reflections on Wikipedia community

Some days ago I uploaded my first Wikipedia page online.

As many of us, I often use Wikipedia to have information about the many thing that I don’t know – from the most silly curiosity to important concept useful for my study or job – but I have to admit that I always gave for granted the community dynamics of the page and the revolutionary nature of wiki-processes.

Writing for the first time for Wikipedia was not so easy and, given my proud and touchy personality, I immediately though about the fact that anybody could come and change my text and that I would have not had the authorship of my contents. Anyway, I remained extremely fascinate about what I learned and experienced with the uploading of my first page.

What fascinate me most about Wikipedia community is that it has strict rules but that at the same time it is extremely revolutionary, especially in terms of power distribution. Horizontal power distribution immediately canceled my necessity to hold the authorship of the uploaded content and the actual reward of my action did not come from the action per-se but actually from the process.

Indeed, the reaction of the community to the upload of my page was immediate: I just had to wait 5 minutes to see the first changes in my contribution. The changes has been extremely pertinent and the community helped me in producing a more precise and organised page. In particular the community helped me in structuring the page -moving some citations in a different section – and in adapting my bibliography to Wikipedia standards. All the process has been fast, never chaotic or too much time-consuming.

Another thing that extremely interested me is the scheme of incentives and persuasive tools that Wikipedia creates to reduce the possible level of frustration that could hit the user when seeing that its contents were considered imperfect or controversial. I could notice a real effort to keep the community alive and to try to find an equilibrium between the necessity to guarantee an high-level service and inclusiveness. In this sense, after having received changes and comments of the community, I also received an invitation to keep on working and contributing to the community and to not give up if in a first moment the page wasn’t perfect.

I also changed my opinion on the reward scheme that Wikipedia implies. If it is true that on Wikipedia people cannot detain authorship,  what is not true is that they are not rewarded for their work. Even in this case Wikipedia opens communication challenges with its users in a way that they always receive a feedback for their actions. This is extremely important to keep the community alive and inclusive and it is a reward scheme that substitutes “ownership” with “presence” and “acknowledgement”.

Between the rewards that Wikipedia offers its users, it is necessary to add also “collaboration”. Indeed, on the one hand, users have the occasion to improve their knowledge in the same moment that they are producing it and on the other they can experience co-production logic. In this sense, there was no better moment in my life in which I could understood what is a common good and why is it so important to think about different schemes of governance of this kind of goods.

For a more in-depth analysis on some aspects of Wikipedia community I suggest the readying of the paper by Forte, A., & Bruckman, A. (2005). “Why do people write for Wikipedia? Incentives to contribute to open–content publishing”

p.s. This first experience as a producer on Wikipedia fostered in me a more general curiosity about all wiki processes and their scalability. Surfing around in the internet to know more about these themes I found a very interesting TEDx conversation by Alberto Cottica about Wiki processes and public policies.

Cottica’s point of view on Wikipedia community and its model is extremely creative and inspiring and I recommend everybody to see it and to consult also Cottica’s book “Wikicrazia“.

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