Expert, Editor, Diplomat, Vandal Hunter

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Events, skmurphy

I attended an interesting talk by Marc Smith on August 4 “New Metrics for New Media.” Sponsored by Bay Area CIO IT Execs it was a thought provoking talk. I had heard Marc Smith speak at the 2003 O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference and was curious what he was up to at Telligent. The video and slides are available on the CIO IT Execs Blog.

He made some remarks about unpublished research, I believe based on work by Howard Welser that built on “Visualizing the Signatures of Social Roles in On-line Discussion Groups” but addressed the four different roles that every successful Wikipedia article requires. One but of background, every  article has a “talk page” where the different contributors may discuss changes to the article itself, this allows a discussion to take place backstage without affecting the content of the article by embedding the discussion points in the article itself.

  • Domain Experts provide the key or core content for the article, and who often contribute to the talk page. They will make large changes, typically adding blocks of text, to a small set of articles.
    Value: core content for a page
  • Diplomats mediate disagreements among domain experts, most of their edits are to the talk pages.
  • Editors makes small changes, typically these are copyedits (e.g. fixing typos, punctuation, grammatical errors).  They correct small errors and improve the look and professionalism. They will make small edits over a large number of articles.
  • Vandal Hunters perform rapid reversions or undos to the article, normally in response to spam or other harmful edits. They have a very short time between last edit and their edit, and they have high percentage of actions that replace a page with an older version. They increase the chances of additional contributions by lowering the chance that a potential contributor reads a page that has been defaced, and then worries that their own contribution would be defaced.

I thought that there were some interesting parallels to how change happens, or is snuffed out, in a corporation.

I also think that most groups trying to reach a working consensus on a document, especially against a deadline, end up creating both document pages and discussion pages for the group to be able to hash out the final content and managed any issues or disagreements that need to be resolved. Archiving the talk pages is a quick way to make post mortems or after actions more useful, as they should contain a decision record for why certain decisions were reached and what options and/or issues were discussed and considered.

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