Socialization tactics in Wikipedia and their effects

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Citation: Boreum Choi, Kira Alexander, Robert E. Kraut, John M. Levine (2010) Socialization tactics in Wikipedia and their effects. Proceedings of the 2010 ACM conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (RSS)

doi: 10.1145/1718918.1718940


Tagged: Computer Science (RSS) wikipedia (RSS), socialization (RSS), online communities (RSS), membership retention (RSS), motivation (RSS), online socialization (RSS)


This paper studies how newcomers to online communities are using an extended example of the newcomer socialization project in a series of WikiProjects within English Wikipedia.

The authors build of the theoretical work by John Van Maanen and Ed Schein and their typology of socialization tactics who argue that there are six dimensions of socialization.

In Socialization tactics, self-efficacy, and newcomers' adjustments to organizations, G.R. Jones hypothesized that the size dimensions could be split into what they called "institutional socialization" and "individual socialization. Using this model, institutional socialization includes:

  1. formal training
  2. coherent sequences
  3. fixed timetables
  4. mentoring
  5. building on existing skills

On the other hand, individualistic socialization include:

  1. informal
  2. random
  3. variable
  4. disconnected
  5. involves skill change.

Literature reviewed had previously shown that institutional socialization has a number of positive effects, including understanding their roles, feeling more accepted by the organization, and having more satisfaction and commitment. They're also more likely to stay, and to do better work. Recruiting processes and practices can also serve as socialization, and affect retention. These include informal or formal discussions, observing newcomers, and recruiting from existing members' acquaintances

With this theory in mind, the authors look into online socialization. They note that institutional socialization is possible online; some online groups, such as, have formal training for new users, using cohorts, mentoring, clear sequences and incentives.

The authors empirical setting is WikiProjects on English Wikipedia. They select 12 WikiProjects from the 50 WikiProjects focusing on US States because each project has similar content and restricting the sample to US States helps control for many other potentially confounding variables. Then use qualitative data analysis to consider socialization mechanisms used within WikiProjects and identify 7 tactics. Communication was coded if it included any of these tactics:

  1. invitations to join the project
  2. welcome messages
  3. requests to work on a particular task
  4. offers of assistance
  5. positive feedback on work
  6. constructive criticism of work
  7. personal comments

They present two studies. In Study 1, the authors present the qualitative results of coding along these dimensions noted above. In Study 2, the authors consider the impact of these socialization tactics on the socialized newcommer's commitment to the project. The authors reviewed the amount of communication with projects 1 month before to 1 month after someone joins a WikiProject, and provide 3 models. They conclude that newcomers respond to constructive criticism with increased contribution, but that invitations may only introduce a temporary boost in motivation.

Theoretical and practical relevance:

A very interesting start to comparing online and offline socialization, with some concrete ideas for large Wikipedias.