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User influence on site policies: Wikipedia vs. Facebook vs. YouTube

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By Han-Teng Liao, Piotr Konieczny, Taha Yasseri, and Tilman Bayer

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

User influence on site policies is highest on Wikipedia, compared to YouTube and Facebook

Laura Stein, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, has concluded[1] that, based on her comparison of user policy documents (including the Terms of Service) of YouTube, Facebook and Wikipedia, Wikipedia offers the highest level of participation power overall. Using Arnstein's ladder of participation to begin a theoretical discussion on participation and power, Stein carefully proposed a typology of policy and participation (Table 1, p. 359), from the maximal power of "dominant control over site content and governance", "shared control", the minimal power of "consultation", "choice", and "informing", to the no power of "deceptive or inadequate information" and "nonparticipation". She applied this typology across the five policy areas: "permitted content and its use", "content ownership/copyrights", "user information/data", "modifying software" and "user policy formation & consent") for the three websites, and found that Wikipedia beats other websites in all areas. In the first and last policy areas of "permitted content and its use" and "user policy formation & consent", Wikipedia gives users the "dominant control" of participation power; for the remaining areas, Wikipedia gives user "shared control over site content and governance".

In contrast, YouTube and Facebook only provide the minimal power of "informing" in three policy areas: "permitted content and its use", "content ownership/copyrights", "modifying software" and provide slightly better minimal power of "choice" for the "user information/data area". Although Wikipedia is not widely agreed on to be a "social media" website, Stein nevertheless presented a simple typology for evaluating the levels of participation power given to users by platforms. Also, it would be useful to apply this topology in other policy areas including fund dissemination and organizational governance in the near future.

Wikipedia's coverage of academics

Histogram of h-indexes of scientists from four different disciplines featured in Wikipedia. The solid line shows the average considering all the researchers of the field.

Anna Samoilenko and Taha Yasseri from the Oxford Internet Institute released an arXiv preprint titled: "The distorted mirror of Wikipedia: a quantitative analysis of Wikipedia coverage of academics".[2] In this study the notability of academics in the English Wikipedia is examined. The ground truth is taken to be the citation records of the scholars under study and the h-index in particular, although the authors admit that the quantity of publications and citations are not the best proxies for evaluating the quality and scientific impact of researchers. Based on the results of the paper, scientists covered in Wikipedia (which are taken from a sample of 400 scientists in 4 different fields of physics, computer science, biology and psychology) do not appear to statistically have a higher impact than the average scientists of their respective field, as long as the citation records are considered. Wikipedia article metrics (such as number of edits to the articles, unique editors, article length, number of wikilinks to the article) are only very weakly correlated with scientometrics such as number of publications, number of citations, citations per publication, [h-index], number of co-authors.

In the second part of the article, the researchers investigate the Wikipedia coverage of "Highly Cited Researchers" based on the list published by Thomson Reuters in 2010. In all the four fields under study, the coverage of Wikipedia is well below 50%. This not only indicates that those scientists featured in Wikipedia are no more highly cited than the rest, but many scientists with a high citation-based impact are left out of Wikipedia. Finally, the authors compared the inclusiveness of each of the four categories by size in terms of number of articles; they reported that more populated categories do not necessarily have a better coverage. The authors submit that the growth of Wikipedia alone will not resolve the problem of its incompleteness at least in categories related to scientists bibliographies, and that new policies are required if Wikipedia is to be more balanced in featuring academics.


Panorama of the Pantheon in Rome, with numerous art objects that the algorithm automatically assigns to their description on Wikipedia (see "Reconstructing 3D models of tourist sites annotated with Wikipedia information" above).


  1. ^ Laura Stein: Policy and Participation on Social Media: The Cases of YouTube, Facebook, and Wikipedia. Communication, Culture & Critique, Volume 6, Issue 3, pages 353–371, September 2013 doi:10.1111/cccr.12026
  2. ^ A.Samoilenko, T. Yasseri (2013). "The distorted mirror of Wikipedia: a quantitative analysis of Wikipedia coverage of academics". arXiv:1310.8508. Open access icon
  3. ^ Nuša Farič, Henry W W Potts: Motivations for Contributing to Health-Related Articles on Wikipedia: An Interview Study. Medicine 2.0’13, London 23-24 September 2013 PDF
  4. ^ Robin Mattebo: Citation needed – the perceived credibility of Wikipedia among high education students. Master’s Thesis, Uppsala University August 2013
  5. ^ Pnina Fichman and Noriko Hara: Knowledge Sharing on Wikimedia Embassies
  6. ^ Imran Latif, Syed Waqar Jaffry: Trust Evaluation Mechanisms for Wikipedia. Proceedings of the IJCNLP 2013 Workshop on Natural Language Processing for Social Media (SocialNLP). (p.48)
  7. ^ Zhu, H., Kraut, R., & Kittur, A. (2012). Effectiveness of shared leadership in online communities. Proceedings of the ACM 2012 conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work - CSCW ’12 (p. 407). New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. PDFDOI Open access icon
  8. ^ Bryan C. Russell, Ricardo Martin-Brualla, Daniel J. Butler, Steven M. Seitz, and Luke Zettlemoyer: 3D Wikipedia: Using Online Text to Automatically Label and Navigate Reconstructed Geometry, ACM Transactions on Graphics (SIGGRAPH Asia 2013), Vol. 32, No. 6. [1]
  9. ^ CannCasciato, Daniel, "Wikipedia-type Disambiguation Functionality in LCSH: a Recommendation" (2013). Library Philosophy and Practice (e-journal). Paper 1022.
  10. ^ Maximilian Klein and Alex Kyrios: VIAFbot and the Integration of Library Data on Wikipedia. code4lib Issue 22, 2013-10-14
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Samoilenko and Yasseri

"...a subjective element might have been introduced into the hitherto structured system of academic evaluation."

Oh heavens no, the structured system of academic evaluation may be subjective? Someone call the mean opinion score police and ask them what to do.

But seriously, adding fields for the h-index and number of academic publications in academics' biography infoboxes would be great. Even better for the newer academic impact measures which take open access for readers and libre code publications into account. (talk) 09:12, 3 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]

We should probably also go through the Highly Cited Index and make articles on the people we're missing, since it does seem to be quite a few. SilverserenC 19:11, 3 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Well, most of them in fact. Wikipedia:WikiProject Missing encyclopedic articles/Thompson-Reuters most cited scientists has been started with a small sample. Johnbod (talk) 02:34, 4 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]

VIAFbot tripled traffic of

I remember back when Wikipedia first got slashdotted. Positions are reversed nowadays. I hope we warned that we were coming! Rmhermen (talk) 17:34, 4 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Library of Congress

How does Wikipedia disambiguation use brackets?— Vchimpanzee · talk · contributions · 20:47, 4 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]

See John Smith. Johnbod (talk) 00:44, 5 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I believe the authors should have written "parentheses" rather than "brackets." GeorgeLouis (talk) 05:45, 5 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]


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