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Coordination, Division of Labor, and Open Content Communities: Template Messages in Wiki-Based Collections

  • Loris Gaio
  • Alessandro Rossi
  • Matthijs den Besten
  • Jean-Michel Dalle

In this paper we investigate how in commons based peer production a large community of contributors coordinates its efforts towards the production of high quality open content. We carry out our empirical analysis at the level of articles and focus on the dynamics surrounding their production. That is, we focus on the continuous process of revision and update due to the spontaneous and largely uncoordinated sequence of contributions by a multiplicity of individuals. We argue that this loosely regulated process, according to which any user can make changes to any entry, while allowing highly creative contributions, has to come into terms with potential issues with respect to the quality and consistency of the output. In this respect, we focus on emergent, bottom up organizational practice arising within the Wikipedia community, namely the use of template messages, which seems to act as an effective and parsimonious coordination device in emphasizing quality concerns (in terms of accuracy, consistency, completeness, fragmentation, and so on) or in highlighting the existence of other particular issues which are to be addressed. We focus on the template "NPOV" which signals breaches on the fundamental policy of neutrality of Wikipedia articles and we show how and to what extent imposing such template on a page affects the production process and changes the nature and division of labor among participants. We find that intensity of editing increases immediately after the "NPOV" template appears. Moreover, articles that are treated most successfully, in the sense that "NPOV" disappears again relatively soon, are those articles which receive the attention of a limited group of editors. In this dimension at least the distribution of tasks in Wikipedia looks quite similar to what is know about the distribution in the FLOSS development process.

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Paper provided by Department of Computer and Management Sciences, University of Trento, Italy in its series DISA Working Papers with number 0903.

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Length: 17 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2009
Date of revision: 29 Jul 2009
Handle: RePEc:trt:disawp:0903
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  1. den Besten, Matthijs & Dalle, Jean-Michel & Galia, Fabrice, 2008. "The allocation of collaborative efforts in open-source software," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 316-322, December.
  2. Matthijs Den Besten & Jean-Michel Dalle, 2008. "Keep it Simple: A Companion for Simple Wikipedia?," Industry and Innovation, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(2), pages 169-178.
  3. Juan Mateos Garcia & W. Edward Steinmueller, 2003. "Applying the Open Source Development Model to Knowledge Work," SPRU Working Paper Series 94, SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex.
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