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Movie success predictions, readability, credentials and authority, geographical comparisons

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By Piotr Konieczny, Benjamin Mako Hill, Tilman Bayer, Dario Taraborelli, Taha Yasseri, Hfordsa, Drdee

A monthly overview of recent academic research about Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects, also published as the Wikimedia Research Newsletter.

Early prediction of movie box-office revenues with Wikipedia data

An open-access preprint[1] has announced the results from a study attempting to predict early box-office revenues from Wikipedia traffic and activity data. The authors – a team of computational social scientists from Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Aalto University and the Central European University – submit that behavioral patterns on Wikipedia can be used for accurate forecasting, matching and in some cases outperforming the use of social media data for predictive modeling. The results, based on a corpus of 312 English Wikipedia articles on movies released in 2010, indicate that the joint editing activity and traffic measures on Wikipedia are strong predictors of box-office revenue for highly successful movies.

The authors contrast their early prediction approach with more popular real-time prediction/monitoring methods, and suggest that movie popularity can be accurately predicted well in advance, up to a month before the release. The study received broad press coverage and was featured in The Guardian, the MIT Technology Review and the Hollywood Reporter among others. The authors observe that their approach, being "free of any language based analysis, e.g., sentiment analysis, could be easily generalized to non-English speaking movie markets or even other kinds of products". The dataset used for this study, including the financial and Wikipedia activity data is available among the supplementary materials of the paper.

Readability of the English Wikipedia, Simple Wikipedia, and Britannica compared

The automated readability index, one of the readability metrics used in the study[2]

A study[2] by researchers at Kyoto University presents a detailed assessment of the readability of the English Wikipedia against Encyclopedia Britannica and the Simple English Wikipedia using a series of readability metrics and finds that Wikipedia "seems to lag behind the other encyclopedias in terms of readability and comprehensibility of its content". The paper, presented at CIKM’12, uses a variety of metrics spanning syntactical readability indices (such as Flesch reading ease, the automated readability index and the Coleman–Liau index) as well as metrics based on word popularity (including the Dale–Chall readability formula and word frequency indices derived from Google News or the American National Corpus).

The authors prepared a corpus of matching articles for the purpose of comparison between the English and Simple English Wikipedia. The study did not perform a random selection of articles, but selected a sample based on the existence of a corresponding article in Simple Wikipedia. The findings of the first analysis indicate that Simple Wikipedia consistently outperforms the English Wikipedia on all readability metrics. Wikipedia also appears to contain on average more proper nouns than Britannica – which, the authors speculate, may be due to specific editorial policies. The second section of the paper measures readability for 500 articles for each one of eight topic categories selected from DBpedia (biology, chemistry, computing, economics, history, literature, mathematics, and philosophy).

The comparison indicates that articles in the computing category are the most readable by syntactical and familiarity measures. Biology and chemistry, on the other hand, seem to include the most difficult articles. The final section reviews the readability of Britannica articles, in particular comparing the readability of articles in the "introductory" class with that of Simple Wikipedia articles and the readability of "encyclopedia" class articles with that of Wikipedia articles. The findings indicate that Britannica outperforms Wikipedia in readability overall, while introductory articles outperform Simple Wikipedia articles. It should be noted that the comparisons were not performed on matched pairs and that the the criteria used to sample articles from Britannica were not specified.

A paper whose preprint was previously covered in this research report, and now published as a full research article in PLOS One,[3] found that the Simple English Wikipedia has a higher degree of complexity than the corpus of Charles Dickens' books when measured via the Gunning fog index, but is less complex than the British National Corpus, "which is a reasonable approximation to what we would want to think of as ‘English in general’". See also the September issue of this research report for a summary of a third readability study which had applied the standard Flesch Reading Ease test to the English and Simple English Wikipedias.

Wikipedia favors established views and scientifically backed knowledge

An article appearing in Information, Communication & Society[4] studies the discussion pages of English and German September 11 attacks articles, contributing to the ongoing debates on collaborative knowledge creation in the wiki Web 2.0 context, participation of experts and amateurs on Wikipedia, and, indirectly, reliability of Wikipedia. The article's research question, coming from the sociology of knowledge and social constructivism perspectives, asks to what degree Wikipedia's "anyone can edit" policy democratizes the production of knowledge, removing it from traditional hierarchies "between experts and lay participants". The term democratization here is used in the context of such theoretical concepts as wisdom of crowds, participatory culture, produsage and (more critically) the notions of cult of the amateur or digital Maoism. All of these refer to the fact that Wikipedia's editors are more often amateurs ("lay participants") than professionally recognized experts.

Using the grounded theory approach, the study focuses not on editors, but on their arguments. It finds that due to community-upheld Wikipedia policies such as Wikipedia:Reliable sources, dissenting opinions ("traditionally marginalized types of knowledge") such as various conspiracy theories are still marginalized or straight-out excluded; according to the author, this "did not lead to a ‘democratization’ of knowledge production, but rather re-enacted established hierarchies". The finding should be taken in a certain context; as the author notes, the article was written by amateurs ("lay participants"), who however decided to reproduce traditional knowledge hierarchies, relegating various conspiracy theories and similar points not backed up to reliable sources to obscurity on Wikipedia. The paper concludes that Wikipedia, like other encyclopedias, is prone to a "scientism bias", i.e. treating scientifically backed knowledge as "better" than knowledge coming from alternative outlets. This despite the "anyone can edit" motto of Wikipedia, the paper finds support for the argument that Wikipedia puts more stress on article quality than democratic participation, or in the words of the article: "Although laypeople apparently play a significant part in the text production, this does not mean that they favor lay knowledge. On the contrary, it is clearly elite knowledge of well-established authorities which is finally included in the article, whereas alternative interpretations are harshly excluded or at least marginalized."

Side-note: The study's use of a Firefox add-on Wired-Maker for content analysis rather ingenious, and applauds the mentioning of such a practical methodological tip in their paper.

Trust, authority and credentials on Wikipedia: The case of the Essjay controversy

At the Academy of Management conference in Boston, Dariusz Jemielniak presented a paper on Trust, Control, and Formalization in Open-Collaboration Communities: A Qualitative Study of Wikipedia [5]. It is built around a detailed description and interpretation of the Essjay controversy on the English Wikipedia in 2007 about the use of inaccurate credentials by active Wikipedian and administrator Essjay. The paper is framed in terms of the literature from organization theory on trust and control. Jemielniak argues that organization theory suggests that organizations must either be able or willing to trust participants or must rely on control systems which essentially obviate the need for trust. Using ethnographic data from Wikipedia, Jemielniak suggests that Wikipedia — and, perhaps, a series of similar computer-mediated "open-collaboration communities" — instead rely on a series of procedures and "legalistic remedies" which provide a previously untheorized alternative to traditional control systems used in organizations.

The working paper is the first in what Jemielniak suggests will be a series of papers based on a long-term participatory ethnographic study: over the past five years, Jemielniak has edited Wikipedia almost daily and is a steward on Wikimedia projects (as well as the chair of the Wikimedia movement's newly established Funds Dissemination Committee, and recently announced the committee's recommendations on funding requests by various Wikimedia organizations totaling US$10.4M). Jemielniak uses his own experience as well as detailed on-wiki records from conversations surrounding the Essjay affair to walk through the controversy and its implications in depth. He discusses how Wikipedians construct authority and initially reacted with indifference to the revelation that Essjay had used fake credentials, how this changed when new information about Essjay's use of his credentials came to light, how a series of proposals to prevent or respond to such issues in the future were raised, and how the community essentially decided to keep the status quo.

The paper paints a detailed, nuanced, and deeply informed portrait of Wikipedians' responses to the controversy and the ways in which trust and its relationships to authority and credentials are navigated in the project. The author suggests that the creation of rules and legalistic procedures allowed Wikipedians to walk the line between rejecting descriptions of authority per se while minimizing the effects of inaccurate descriptions of authority by suggesting that editors on Wikipedia should rely much more heavily on users' experience and on the degree to which particular contributions conform to Wikipedia's content guidelines.

A working paper by the same writer, presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology[6] gives an overview of Wikipedia's culture by reviewing the role of its norms, guidelines and policies.

Network of users communicating on Wikipedia article talk pages (Neff et al., p.22).[7] Edges connecting two Democrats are colored blue, edges connecting two Republicans in red, and edges representing inter-party dialogue are shown in green.



  1. ^ Mestyán, M., Yasseri, T., & Kertész, J. (2012). Early Prediction of Movie Box Office Success based on Wikipedia Activity Big Data. ArXiV. PDF Open access icon
  2. ^ a b Jatowt, A., & Tanaka, K. (2012). Is Wikipedia Too Difficult? Comparative Analysis of Readability of Wikipedia , Simple Wikipedia and Britannica. CIKM’12, pp. 2607–2610. PDFDOI Open access icon
  3. ^ Yasseri, T., Kornai, A., & Kertész, J. (2012). A Practical Approach to Language Complexity: A Wikipedia Case Study. PLoS ONE, 7(11), e48386. DOI Open access icon
  4. ^ König, R. (2012). Wikipedia. Between lay participation and elite knowledge representation. Information, Communication & Society. Advance online publication. DOI Closed access icon
  5. ^ Jemielniak, D. (2012). Trust, Control, and Formalization in Open-Collaboration Communities: A Qualitative Study of Wikipedia. Academy of Management 2012 Annual Meeting. PDF Open access icon
  6. ^ Jemielniak, D. (2012). Wikipedia: An effective anarchy. Society for Applied Anthropology 2012 Annual Meeting (SfAA 2012). PDF Open access icon
  7. ^ a b Neff, J. G., Laniado, D., Kappler, K., Volkovich, Y., Aragón, P., & Kaltenbrunner, A. (2012). Jointly they edit: examining the impact of community identification on political interaction in Wikipedia. ArXiV, PDF Open access icon
  8. ^ Clark, Malcolm; Ruthven, Ian; O’Brian Holt, Patrik and Song, Dawei (2012). Looking for genre: the use of structural features during search tasks with Wikipedia. Fourth Information Interaction in Context Conference (IIiX 2012). DOIPDF Open access icon
  9. ^ Daxenberger, J., & Gurevych, I. (2012). A Corpus-Based Study of Edit Categories in Featured and Non-Featured Wikipedia Articles. Proceedings of the 24th International Conference on Computational Linguistics (COLING 2012). PDF Open access icon
  10. ^ Rycak, M. (17 November, 2012) Wikipedia-Zugriffszahlen bestätigen Second-Screen-Trend. HTML Open access icon
  11. ^ Liu, Y. (2012). WT-verifier. Truthfulness verification of fact statements on Wikipedia (unpublished masters' thesis). State University of New York at Binghamton. HTML Closed access icon
  12. ^ Reinoso, A. J., Muñoz-Mansilla, R., Herraiz, I., & Ortega, F. (2012). Characterization of the Wikipedia Traffic. Seventh International Conference on Internet and Web Applications and Services (ICIW 2012), pp. 156–162. PDF Open access icon
  13. ^ Taraborelli, D. (2012) Wikipedia article ratings. The Data Hub TSV Open access icon
  14. ^ Graham, M. (5 November 2012). Virtuous Visible Circles: mapping views to place-based Wikipedia articles. Zero Geography. HTML Open access icon
  15. ^ Graham, M. (11 November 2012). The most visible country in Europe (on Wikipedia) is... Zero Geography. HTML Open access icon
  16. ^ Zachte, E. (15 November 2012) Wikipedia page reads, breakdown by region. Infodisiac. HTML Open access icon
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The paper summary seems to convey the impression that R.König is a "far out there" ultra-relativist / strong programmist. Hope that's what was intended... AnonMoos (talk) 17:24, 28 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Cities traffic

"the UK [being] Europe's most visible country ... is quite interesting because it isn't the country in Europe that uses Wikipedia the most (Germany does)" - Perhaps it's because the Premier League is Europe's leading football league and British artists (especially actors and musicians) are much more famous than Germans. --NaBUru38 (talk) 18:05, 28 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]


I always enjoy reading these interesting Recent Research Reports. Thank you to those who contribute to the reports! --Pine 18:59, 28 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Ditto. --Noleander (talk) 06:08, 29 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
I hope Wikimedia can somehow announce the readability issue to frequent editors. I don't think most editors are aware of the advanced level of English they're writing. (talk) 19:46, 29 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]


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