Why academics do and do not participate on wikis
|“||What I wonder is why professors don't curate [pages on] Wikipedia and add course materials and open access sections of textbooks, much of which they post online anyways. We aren't really seeing the potential that you would hope for with all of the Web 2.0 tools out there. We aren't seeing the academic community take advantage of them as much as other subsets of the community.||”|
Purpose of this page
This list is inspired by Top 10 Reasons Why Academics Should Edit Wikipedia and shall serve as a basis for discussion of expert involvement in Wikimedia and other wiki projects. The discussion is being continued through a survey on the topic.
Please order by importance - those reasons (perceived or real) most likely supported by many academics would go to the top, less likely ones to the bottom. The same for the rough categories. The list is in flow, and everyone is invited to contribute to it. Though the aim is to have a top-10 list (or so), there is no reason to delete any suggested item, as long as it is potentially relevant - just reorder accordingly. If you think you can shorten an item without losing much, then go for it.
Why not to participate
We should probably add a way to mark reasons as to whether they apply only to Wikimedia projects, only to wikis, or to Web 2.0 tools in general.
Lack of incentives
- Wiki edits do not increase my scientific reputation and is not useful for my research.
- I do not know what that would be good for.
- None of my peers do it.
- Work done cannot be properly cited in CV.
- Wiki edits take away time from my research.
- Wiki edits could actually damage my reputation.
- It does not fit into my workflows.
- The quality of wiki articles in my field is rather low, which rarely brings me in anyway, and I value my time too highly to help fix that.
The following reasons did not make the top ten list.
- I am not allowed to post my original research in there.
- The rules are too complicated.
- Everything I write will get changed or removed before long.
- Reuse of one's contributions to Wikipedia, although permitted by CC licenses, are considered unethical behaviour in academia.
- Wikipedia robots with poor algorithms frequently revert my legitimate edits to the website.
- I already have to do lots of writing and editing with a higher return and I can't do any more.
- I am involved in too many other projects already and can't handle another area of focus.
- I already do lots of writing and editing and don't want to do any more.
- Developing content for Wikiversity creates a conflict of interest with university commitments.
- Most Wiki editors are younger than 20 and edit topics they don't understand.
- I dislike spending time correcting stuff that I posted correctly or corrected but was turned incorrect in between.
- I dislike arguing with other contributors who do not have a clear understanding of the subject but are sure they have.
- Most regular contributors, administrators and other "regulars" resent and/or are envious of my qualifications.
- I do not want to argue with other contributors who have no understanding of the subject but are sure they have.
- I do not want others to modify what I wrote.
- I dislike discussions with anonymous participants.
- I feel uncomfortable pointing peers to articles that I worked on at Wikipedia, because I can never be sure that the article is in good shape when they actually come and take a look.
- I do not want to spend my time correcting stuff that had been correct before but turned incorrect in between.
- I do not want others to see the kind of mistakes I make.
- Why should I deal with an encyclopedia if I have access to primary sources?
- I dislike the user interface.
- Wikipedia? That's a non-reliable source!
- Nobody cares here about my status in academic world.
- Frankly, I'm not interested in joining a project for altruistic motives. What's in it for me, myself, personally?
Lack of knowledge about Wikipedia
- What is Wikipedia? What is a wiki?
- Really!? I can edit an article in Wikipedia?
- I do not know how to edit a wiki.
- It looks too complicated e.g., the markup
Nothing wrong with having this one as well, right?
- To learn how to use wikis for collaborative work.
- To learn how to use wikis for building a knowledge base.
- To discover firsthand what it's like to participate in a crowd-sourced medium.
- To create reference material which is potentially available free of charge to the reader on the Web.
- To create reference material which can be used in education.
- To create reference material which can be used in research.
- To gain experience to teach students how to use wikis.
- To meet others who are interested in the same subject matter to contribute, collaborate, comment, challenge, or critique it.
- To provide material that can & often will be translated into multiple other languages.
- To reach a larger audience than would typically be possible through lectures and academic publishing.
- To identify through participation areas that will warrant further research.
- To help building the web of linked data and later use it to analyze some experimental data.
- To obtain unbridled comments, feedback, and criticism of one's work or style of presentation.
- To find others who are interested enough in one's subject matter to contribute, collaborate, comment, challenge, or critique it.
- To create some reference material which can be used in education / first acquaintance in research on new topics by academics who are working in different field.
- To participate in developing a different type of knowledge resource and help in its development of how to do it and what it should contain.
Editors and readers are encouraged to add as well as re-rank or revise these "essays":
For professors not pursuing active research, the primary factor is arguably that wikis are inconvenient as teaching tools. Wikipedia articles are loaded with material that is either too advanced or irrelevant, and it takes time and effort for an instructor to overcome this. While quality material exists on Wikiversity, it is difficult to find. The general absence of testbanks is another factor. It is common for instructors to change physics textbooks every few years due to concern that the local student population eventually develops an informal bank of solutions to the homework problems. It is very easy for a professor to inspect two or three textbooks that arrive in the mail each year and pick one. Designing a course around wikis is time-consuming, and writing a wiki to teach a course is even more difficult.
These barriers can be overcome, but the process will be slow, especially at first. The lack of organization on Wikiversity parallels a similar such lack on Wikipedia and on commons. On Wikipedia and on commons the solution seems to be the use of external search engines (e.g. Google) to find the material. There is no reason that a Google search will not eventually lead to quality materials on academic wikis. But the growth rate will begin slowly. At the moment few people are searching, which means that few people are finding, which leads to low search engine ranking. But don't despair! What is currently low use of wikis caused by low search engine ranking, can evolve into high use accompanied by high search engine ranking. One universal property of exponential growth is that it begins very slowly.