Do wikipedia editors specialize?

One of the students in our lab, Nathan Drezner, has a new collaboration out entitled, “Everyday Specialization: The coherence of editorial communities on Wikipedia.”

In this paper, Drezner studies edit histories of over 30,000 Wiki pages across four different cultural domains (science, sports, culture, and politics). His goal is to better understand how editors cluster together in smaller subdomains: do editors tend to focus on a single science, or single sport, or single political party or type of art form (books, film, television) or do they range widely in the types of pages they edit?

Drezner finds a nuanced story of how in some domains, like Sports and Culture, people tend to focus more on particular subdomain, like books or film or a particular sport, while in politics there is a great deal of balance in the partisan identity of editors’ behaviour. Science is somewhere in between, not as balanced as politics but not as siloed as sports and culture. This tells us that some kinds of human interests tend to be more partisan in nature, but that the one we think of as most partisan (politics) is intentionally balanced to convey more trust to readers.

Drezner’s work gives us a great look into how editorial communities behave on Wikipedia, helping us see the dynamics of lay users when it comes to knowledge formation. His work highlights the value of this new kind of data — the edit history — as a fascinating resource to better understand editorial behaviour. The data he used in the study is available at our lab dataverse and he has also created code at his GitHub repository that others can use to create their own datasets of edit histories by different domains.

Finally, a shout out to Simon DeDeo whose paper on editorial conflict and resolution on Wikipedia was the inspiration behind this project.