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Questionable title aside, this interesting article at least marginally renews my faith in law reviews producing high quality work:

Hoffman, David A., and Salil Mehra. n.d. “Wikitruth Through Wikiorder.” SSRN eLibrary. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1354424.

The authors present a nice history of Wikipedia's dispute arbitration process, and a solid analysis of published arbitration decisions. Very cool. By far the best part, however, is this sentence on the challenges of coordination in online collective action:

Altruists, like cats, are hard to herd.

(Thanks to Megan for the heads up on this one!)

Two seemingly interesting papers in the latest issue of JASIST:

Lim, Sook. 2009. “How and why do college students use Wikipedia?.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 9999:1-14. (link)


Jansen, Bernard J., Mimi Zhang, Kate Sobel, and Abdur Chowdury. 2009. “Twitter power: Tweets as electronic word of mouth.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 9999:1-20. (link)

I just read through Oded Nov's paper from Communications of the ACM:

Nov, O. (2007). What motivates Wikipedians? Commun. ACM, 50(11), 60-64. (link)

Two things occur to me. First, Nov explains away the potential influence of social desirability in about two sentences, but I'm not buying it. When you ask people why they do something, there's a huge number of social factors that are going to come into play. In the case of Wikipedia I also think there are likely to be lots of soft and implicit attitudes. Soft attitudes are expressions that don't reflect beliefs, but rather answers to questions someone might not have thought about previously. For example, if I asked you "How do you feel about Kobe Bryant elbowing Ron Artest in the neck last night?", you might respond by saying it's abhorrent. If I took that at face value, I'd be ignoring the fact that many people don't know about basketball, don't know who Bryant or Artest are, don't know the contest, or don't care. Unconscious attitudes, on the other hand, are attitudes that we hold and act on but can't express. To me, neither of these things makes survey research of this type invalid – I do similar surveys myself! But they're important issues, too often left out of discussions.

The second issue, maybe more important, is about scope. There are a fair number of studies now about motivations for contributing to various online collective actions. But they almost always focus on people who contribute a lot. However, these papers, like Nov's, usually don't make that distinction. They make claims about motivations for all contributors. In reality, the motivations of casual or infrequent contributors are likely to be very, very different. Harder to study, though! On the one hand, by studying the heavy contributors we capture motivations for majority of the work that gets done, but we do that at the expense of attention to the vast majority of people who contribute.

In sum: Social desirability, soft attitudes, etc. need more consideration when we talk about motivation. Studies that focus on heavy contributors should say as much, and more studies should look at casual contributors' motivations.

The latest issue of the journal Episteme has all the buzzwords of current topics. It's about Web 2.0, Wikipedia, prediction markets. And epistemology. Big time.

But don't bother. This journal is quite pretentious, and the articles are not particularly well written. Worse, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of new thought there. Rather it seems like a handful of scholars who have just caught on to what's been going on and are talking about it as thought it's the latest and greatest. It reminds me of going to a session at the American Anthropological Association meetings in 2003 and listening to a sincere anthropologist give a 6 point talk on how to use Powerpoint.

The only gem seems to be a long-ish article by Larry Sanger (Wikipedia co-founder) on expertise on Wikipedia:

Sanger, Lawrence M. 2009. "The Fate of Expertise after WIKIPEDIA." Episteme 6:52-73.

I'm not sure I agree with most of what he has to say – I need to stew on it a bit more. But regardless I think it's an interesting piece of opinion and history from someone who was there at the beginning.

An abbreviated bibliography on social loafing, for those few who might be interested. Karau and Willams' meta-study has a very long bib. up to its publication, but this shorter list hits some of the oldies and some of the goodies:

Charbonnier, Emmanuelle, Pascal Huguet, Markus Brauer, and Jean-Marc Monteil. 1998. "Social Loafing and Self-Beliefs: People's Collective Effort Depends on the Extent to Which They Distinguish Themselves as Better Than Others." Social Behavior and Personality 26:329-340.

Harkins, S., and Kate Szymanski. 1989. "Social Loafing and Group Evaluation." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 56:934-941.

Harkins, Stephen G. 1987. "Social Loafing and Social Facilitation." Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 23:1-18.

Harkins, Stephen G., and Jeffrey M. Jackson. 1985. "The Role of Evaluation in Eliminating Social Loafing." Pers Soc Psychol Bull 11:457-465.

Harkins, Stephen G., and Richard E. Petty. 1982. "Effects of Task Difficulty and Task Uniqueness on Social Loafing." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 43:1214-1229.

Harkins, Stephen G., and Kate Szymanski. 1988. "Social loafing and self-evaluation with an objective standard." Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 24:354-365.

Karau, S. J., and K. D Williams. 1993. "Social loafing: A meta-analytic review and theoretical integration." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 65:681-706.

Latané, B., K. D Williams, and S. Harkins. 1979. "Many Hands Make Light the Work: The Causes and Consequences of Social Loafing." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 37:822-832.

Petty, Richard E., Stephen G. Harkins, Kipling D. Williams, and Bibb Latane. 1977. "The Effects of Group Size on Cognitive Effort and Evaluation." Pers Soc Psychol Bull 3:579-582.

Szymanski, Kate, and S. Harkins. 1987. "Social loafing and self-evaluation with a social standard." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 53:891-897.

Williams, K. D, S. Harkins, and B. Latane. 1981. "Identifiability as a Detterent to Social Loafing: Two Cheering Experiments." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 40:303-311.

Salganik, Matthew J., and Duncan J. Watts. 2008. "Leading the Herd Astray: An Experimental Study of Self-fulfilling Prophecies in an Artificial Cultural Market." Social Psychology Quarterly 71:338-355.

Turns out the 'herd' can be led astray, but only to a point. The real quality of digital media shows through. This is a great follow-up to Salganik's earlier experiments, published in Science.

On Marc Smith's recommendation:

Adamic, Lada A., Jun Zhang, Eytan Bakshy, and Mark S. Ackerman. 2008. "Knowledge sharing and yahoo answers: everyone knows something." in Proceeding of the 17th international conference on World Wide Web. Beijing, China: ACM.

Marc is a fan of the way the authors handle large network graphs, and so am I. But I'm less sympathetic to the kind of clustering techniques they use. It's all so arbitrary – they end up writing things like: "We find that clustering the categories into three groups yields a result we find the most intuitively meaningful." That's fine, but we're not let in on the authors' intuition, and there's no reason to believe it's meaningful in any broad sense.