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Harnessing the Wisdom of Crowds in Wikipedia: Quality through Coordination

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posted on 01.01.2008, 00:00 by Aniket Kittur, Robert E. Kraut
Wikipedia’s success is often attributed to involving large numbers of contributors who improve the accuracy, completeness and clarity of articles while reducing bias. However, because of the high coordination needed to collaboratively write an article, increasing the number of contributors is costly. We examined how the number of editors in Wikipedia and the coordination methods they use affect article quality. We distinguish between explicit coordination, in which editors plan the article through communication, and implicit coordination, in which a subset of editors set direction by doing the majority of the work. Adding more editors to an article improved article quality only when they used appropriate coordination techniques and was harmful when they did not. Implicit coordination through concentrating the work was more helpful when many editors contributed, but explicit coordination through communication was not. Both types of coordination improved quality more when an article was in a formative stage. These results demonstrate the critical importance of coordination in effectively harnessing the “wisdom of the crowd” in online production environments.


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