Research:Professionalization of the wiki field

22:43, 7 December 2015 (UTC)
Piotr Konieczny

This page is an incomplete draft of a research project.
Information is incomplete and is likely to change substantially before the project starts.

Are wiki activities constructed as an organizational field? In what ways is it becoming professionalized? To what extent is it becoming an industry? We will use definitions from sociology and economics, and bring data to these questions. The answers may help clarify where wiki-dom is going.

Methods edit

We'll bring data, analysis, and past literature to bear on these interesting propositions:

(1) There are distinct "roles" on-wiki and in the movement, such as: content creator, copyeditor, Mediawiki developer, extension developer, bot developer, vandalism tracker, admin, ArbCom, chapter officer/volunteer, event organizer, on-wiki policy expert / wikilawyer, attorney/advocate/public policy maven, Wikipedian-in-residence.

  • Data on edits can show that many editor-participants stick to a limited set of roles or topic area. To the extent they do, that shows how the roles are distinct, suit different tastes, and have different skills, work habits, and success criteria. The metrics for distinguishing these roles are not plainly established yet, but we may be able to draw from previous literature, find coauthors, or create simple definitions. Sources: Literature review; Quarry; WikiProject categories will help.
  • Peter has is making a database of en.wp copyeditors based on participation in WikiProjects WP:COPYEDIT, WP:TYPO, and WP:GRAMMAR. There are more than 1000 such participants. Given time, we can examine their edits and how different they look from (say) admins, or members of other WikiProjects, or similar projects on other language wikipedias.

(2) Some these positions are like occupations, and some are paid. The numbers may be increasing, adding to the population who are already have a job doing some flavor of wiki-work: PR consulant, knowledge-management consultants, people running enterprise wikis and LANs, WMF ops people, software developers. (WMF=Wikimedia Foundation)

  • Ad hoc research can create some database of this. Many "paid editors" or paid developers have COIs, or are discussed in sources. (COI=conflict of interest, or conflict of interest statement)
  • The WMF may be able and willing to supply specific evidence; we are not close to asking, yet.

(3) Both the volunteer roles and paid roles are increasingly "professionalized": the participants are trained, educated, certified, legitimated, and thus institutionalized. Their performance is measured and tracked, generally more formally and less ad hoc over time. They have COI statements; their edits are counted; they earn powers, responsibilities, and privileges with their accomplishments; they compete in elections; they apply for grants, and may get them; they go through judicial processes; they file cost reports and get reimbursed; they are cited in the public media; they publish blogs, reports, and articles. There are many score-keeping and ranking systems; creating a list of these will be informative.

  • We can establish start dates and end dates for some of these counting/legitimating mechanisms. For some, like grants, we may find ways to count how many participants apply, judge, or deliver on documented commitments.

(4) Organizationally, wiki activities are increasingly looking like an "industry", with growing numbers of organizations: multiple foundations (WMF, WikiEd, OpenSym), chapters (each of which is a nonprofit) etc., and companies (Wikia, Wiki Strategies, WikiStrat, signers of the public-relations-practices agreement). Wikis are a business of Atlassian (Confluence) and Microsoft (SharePoint), and there are dozens of other wiki softwares.

  • We can count these and hopefully establish start dates for many and end dates for some.
  • Definitions of "industry" are available from the U.S. government, the U.N, and other agencies and international bodies (Eurostat, IMF, World Bank), and sources on Wikipedias. The NAICS definitions tend to associate an "industry" with a list of employer establishments that produce principally output for that industry, and with a set of NAPCS product codes generally; that is, a distinct set of product lines produced largely by that set of establishments. Wiki work would tend to be in the "information services" sector.[1]

(5) These claims/facts make up an interesting a "case" of the development of a field, of professions, and/or of industry. (The terms may not all apply; that will be a result of the research.) These trends probably guide us to some insight about the future of the activity based on the look of other professionalization histories and industries.

We can analyze these based on the sociology of professionalization and the economics on new industries. Piotr is a sociologist who has published extensively about Wikimedia. Peter is an economist with a background in categorizing occupations and the appearance of new industries. See also Wikipedia sociology.

Relevant literature summary edit

  • Bartley (2007) discusses how nonprofit foundations shaped the field of ecological-forest-practices.[2]
  • North American government industry classification NAICS is defined mainly by ECPC, SIC is a U.S. predecessor.[3]
  • Eurostat has similar concepts and definitions of industry in NACE classification system; not clear what substantive criteria lead to creation of new industry categories.[4]
  • Meyer (2007) has a micro model of an open-source technology activity and the beginning of a new industry as a response to for-profit opportunities from it.[5]

Data edit

  • "Chapters employ about 100 people in total"; and half the chapters "are entirely run by volunteers without the help of paid staff" as of calendar 2013.[6]
  • On the occupation/roles question, see [5], Congressional communications staff, GLAM staff
  • On the industry question: Wiki-focused organizations includes the WMF, its 41 chapters, w:Wiki Education Foundation, Hallo Welt! MedienWerkStatt,[7]w:Wikia (300 employees), wiki farms,[8], w:Wiki Strategies, WikiWorks[9], Wiki-PR, Wiki Valley

Timeline edit

Here's a timeline with expectations, milestones ,and deliverables for this project.

  • Dec 2015: Draft of project research outline and timeline
  • Jan-Nov 2016: Literature reviews, data collection, analysis
  • Dec 2016: Findings of interest exist; working paper and presentation files exist; presentations at conference are feasible
  • Jan-Nov 2017: Data collection, analysis, and presentations (plausibly: WikiSym, Wikimania, WikiConference USA, SHOT/SIGCIS)
  • Dec 2017: Submission of publication, presumably to a social science journals, most naturally in sociology

Policy, Ethics and Human Subjects Research edit

  • We do not need IRB approval in the near term, and will use public data for now. (Piotr please comment further as needed.) We do not expect to conduct a broad survey nor disrupt the work of others. We may request data from the WMF or other established institutions.

Results edit

(For now, these envision implications of possible answers.)

  • If the wiki world is "professionalizing" like other nonprofit activities have, their histories tell us something about our future -- e.g., will how will formal criteria be ensconced in editor histories and performance? will editors increasingly be paid?
  • Similarly, if the wiki world is "industrializing" -- becoming an industry -- it tell us something about the kinds of institutions we can anticipate. Will many more companies start up? Will there be, or has there been, a "shakeout" of such firms? Or should we expect instead that there are specialists sprinkled across organizations?
  • The economic study of new industries will benefit from additional cases.

References edit

  1. Information services is NAICS category 51. For more see Census Services Annual Survey description, one from BLS
  2. Bartley, T. 2007. How foundations shape social movements: the construction of an organizational field and the rise of forest certification. Social Problems, 54(3), 229–255. JSTOR)
  3. NAICS and ECPC history; see "Criteria for Determining Industries"; "Economic Concepts in SIC Industries"; and "The Heterogeneity Index: A Quantitative Tool to Support Industrial Classifications"
  4. [1]; [2]; [3]
  5. Meyer, P. 2007. Network of tinkerers: a model of open-source technology innovation. BLS Working Paper No. 413.
  6. Lene Gillis; Arda Elmas; Seyi Olukoya; Walter Gómez Segura; Michael Guss. 2015. Introduction to Chapter-wide Financial Trends Report. Wikimedia Foundation.
  7. On Hallo Welt!: [4], Markus Glaser's company
  8. On wiki farms: Comparison tables on en.wp, Category list
  9. sources on WikiWorks: in, site