Wikipedia survey to analyse volunteer community

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A newly announced collaboration between the Wikimedia Foundation, the United Nations University and Maastricht University has set out to conduct the first-ever, comprehensive survey of Wikipedia.

The survey will be conducted by the Collaborative Creativity Group at UNU-MERIT, which is a joint research and training centre of United Nations University and Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and is expected to provide the Wikimedia Foundation with a better understanding of Wikipedia’s readers and contributors.

Wikipedia is the 9th most visited website in the world, receiving up to 65,000 hits per second. Since its inception in January 2001, the free online encyclopedia has grown to more than eight million articles in 250 languages, all of which are created and maintained by a community of volunteers.

"Surprisingly little data exists so far on why, how and how much Wikipedians contribute, or indeed even who they are,” said Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, who heads the Collaborative Creativity Group.

“Wikipedia is the world's largest and most successful collaborative reference project: its success is worth examining."

The survey will be conducted worldwide in several languages, and will take place over the course of the next several months. Early results are scheduled for presentation at Wikimania, the Wikimedia Foundation's annual conference, which will be held in July at the Library of Alexandria, Egypt.

According to Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, UNU-MERIT is a good research partner as it has a track record of intelligent research into global volunteer communities.

Previous research by UNU-MERIT has centred on the behaviour of Free/Open Source Software such as Linux and Firefox, which also depend on voluntary contributors from individuals around the world.

"For the first time, Wikimedia will have solid information about who our readers and contributors are, why they come to us, and what they do here,” Gardner said.

“This will help us figure out how to persuade new people to start contributing, and how to keep existing contributors engaged."
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