Sudha Ram and Jun Liu of University of Arizona completed a study on the relationship between the quality of Wikipedia articles and the nature of the collaboration among its authors. They divided editors up into seven categories, including starters, content justifiers, copyeditors, and all-round contributors. They found that the success of an article depends largely on the participation of authors with diverse roles.
How U.S. college students use Wikipedia
In an article entitled "How today’s college students use Wikipedia for course-related research" (appearing in this month's issue of First Monday), researchers Alison J. Head and Michael B. Eisenberg from the "Project Information Literacy" at the University of Washington Information School describe findings from 11 student focus groups with 86 participants on seven U.S. college campuses and an online survey generating 2,318 responses from six U.S. colleges. Wikipedia was used by 85% of the surveyed students to obtain background about a topic, slightly less frequently than other sources such as course readings, Google and scholarly research databases. As major findings from the study, the researchers list:
"1. Far more students, than not, used Wikipedia. Wikipedia was used in addition to a small set of other commonly used information resources at the beginning of the research process.
2. Reasons for using Wikipedia were diverse: Wikipedia provided students with a summary about a topic, the meaning of related terms, and also got students started on their research and offered a usable interface.
3. Respondents who were majoring in architecture, engineering, or the sciences were more likely to use Wikipedia than respondents in other majors...."
In related news, German magazine Der Spiegel recently interviewed 17-year-old Moscow high school student Andrey Ternovskiy about the success of his web start-up Chatroulette (which according to Der Spiegel "is already being talked about as the next big thing on the Internet"). Asked whether he had learned the required programming skills in school, Tarnovsky admitted that he "rarely" attended it, adding:
"I am a nerd. The web is everything for me. School bores me. I have my own way of learning: I read Wikipedia. School is a waste of my time and I'd rather use that time to program and for business negotiations."
"Today's Featured Article" impacts readership numbers on Time.com
"The recent bump in traffic to Behar's article reflects the power of the Wikipedia home page in driving reader interest. Before Wikipedia linked to the article, it was the 22nd most popular article on Time.com. After the link, it was the 2nd most popular."
Taylor cited generally high reader interest in the subject, partly due to recent critical media coverage of Scientology, as another cause for the change. He also mentioned last year's Arbitration Committee decision to block editing from Scientology IP addresses and by some anti-Scientology activists (see Signpost coverage).