Overview of research on Wikipedia’s readers; predicting which article you will edit next
With contributions by: Piotr Konieczny, Maximilian Klein and Tilman Bayer
“Wikipedia in the eyes of its beholders: A systematic review of scholarly research on Wikipedia readers and readership”
This paper  is another major literature review of the field of Wikipedia studies, brought forward by the authors whose prior work on this topic, titled “The People’s Encyclopedia Under the Gaze of the Sages”[supp 1] was reviewed in this research report in 2012 (“A systematic review of the Wikipedia literature“).
This time the authors focus on a fragment of the larger body of works about Wikipedia, analyzing 99 works published up to June 2011 on the theme of “Wikipedia readership” – in other words focusing on the theme “What do we know about people who read Wikipedia”. The overview focuses less on demographic analysis (since little research has been done in that area), and more on perceptions of Wikipedia by surveyed groups of readers. Their findings include, among other things, a conclusion that “Studies have found that articles generally related to entertainment and sexuality top the list, covering over 40% of visits”, and in more serious topics, it is a common source for health and legal information. They also find that “a very large number of academic in fact have quite positive, if nuanced, perceptions of Wikipedia’s value.” They also observe that the most commonly studied group has been that of students, who offer a convenience sample. The authors finish by identifying a number of contradictory findings and topics in need of further research, and conclude that existing studies have likely overestimated the extent to which Wikipedia’s readers are cautious about the site’s credibility. Finally, the authors offer valuable thoughts in the “implications for the Wikipedia community” section, such suggesting “incorporating one or more of the algorithms for computational estimation of the reliability of Wikipedia articles that have been developed to help address credibility concerns”, similar to the WikiTrust tool.
The authors also published a similar literature review paper summarizing research about the content of Wikipedia, which we hope to cover in the next issue of this research report.
Chinese-language time-zones favor Asian pop and IT topics on Wikipedia
A paper presented at the WWW 2014 Companion Conference analyzes the readership patterns of the English and Chinese Wikipedias, with a focus on which types of articles are most popular in the English- or Chinese-language time zones. The authors used all Wikipedia pages which existed under the same name in both languages in the period from 1 June 2012 to 14 October 2012 for their study, coding them through the OpenCalais semantic analysis service with an estimated 2.6% error rate.
The authors find that readers of the English and Chinese Wikipedias from time-zones of high Chinese activity browse different categories of pages. Chinese readers visit English Wikipedia about Asian culture (in particular, Japanese and Korean pop culture) more often, as well as about mobile communications and networking technologies. The authors also find that pages in English are almost ten times as popular as those in Chinese (though their results are not identifying users by nationality directly, rather focusing on time zone analysis).
In this reviewer’s opinion, the study suffers from major methodological problems that are serious enough to cast all the findings in doubt. (more…)