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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Loris Gaio & Alessandro Rossi & Matthijs den Besten & Jean-Michel Dalle, 2009. "Coordination, Division of Labor, and Open Content Communities: Template Messages in Wiki-Based Collections," DISA Working Papers 0903, Department of Computer and Management Sciences, University of Trento, Italy, revised 29 Jul 2009.
  • Handle: RePEc:trt:disawp:0903

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    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. Jean-Michel Dalle & Paul A. David, 2005. "Simulating Code Growth in Libre (Open-Source) Mode," Discussion Papers 04-004, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
    4. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Nicolas Jullien, 2012. "What We Know About Wikipedia: A Review of the Literature Analyzing the Project(s)," Post-Print hal-00857208, HAL.
    2. Sebastian von Engelhardt, 2011. "What Economists Know about Open Source Software - Its Basic Principles and Research Results," Jena Economic Research Papers 2011-005, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.

    More about this item


    commons based peer production; wikipedia; wiki; survival analysis; quality; bug fixing; template messages; coordination;

    JEL classification:

    • M15 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - IT Management
    • L86 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Information and Internet Services; Computer Software

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