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Wikis as Social Networks: Evolution and Dynamics

Wikis as Social Networks: Evolution and Dynamics

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Published by Ralf Klamma
Despite of the enormous success of wikis in public and corporate knowledge sharing projects we do not know much about the evolution and dynamics of wikis. Our approach is to analyze wikis as social networks and apply dynamic network analysis on them. In our prototypical environment we handle the complex data management problems arising when dealing with different wiki engines and different sizes of wiki dumps. The analysis and visualization of evolving wiki networks allow wiki stakeholder to research the social dynamics of their wikis.
Despite of the enormous success of wikis in public and corporate knowledge sharing projects we do not know much about the evolution and dynamics of wikis. Our approach is to analyze wikis as social networks and apply dynamic network analysis on them. In our prototypical environment we handle the complex data management problems arising when dealing with different wiki engines and different sizes of wiki dumps. The analysis and visualization of evolving wiki networks allow wiki stakeholder to research the social dynamics of their wikis.

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Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: Ralf Klamma on Dec 31, 2008
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07/04/2011

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Wikis as Social Networks:Evolution and Dynamics
Ralf Klamma and Christian Haasler
RWTH Aachen UniversityInformation SystemsAhornstr. 55, 52056 Aachen, Germany(
klamma
|
haasler
)
@dbis.rwth-aachen.de
Abstract.
Despite of the enormous success of wikis in public and cor-porate knowledge sharing projects we do not know much about the evo-lution and dynamics of wikis. Our approach is to analyze wikis as socialnetworks and apply dynamic network analysis on them. In our proto-typical environment we handle the complex data management problemsarising when dealing with different wiki engines and different sizes of wikidumps. The analysis and visualization of evolving wiki networks allowwiki stakeholder to research the social dynamics of their wikis.
1 Introduction
Since wikis have become very successful in huge collaborative projects like the
Wikipedia 
, an encyclopedia with millions of entries in hundreds dozens of lan-guages edited by a countless crowd of editors. But also in organizational settingswikis are already introduced as Web 2.0 tools for knowledge sharing and projectmanagement [1–3]. Therefore, questions like what is making a wiki project par-ticularly successful have become very interesting for research and practice. A lotof added-value services and businesses have been built around the wiki conceptwhich lead to a big variety in wiki software and wiki hosting services. Even if one can start a wiki with a simple ’wiki-on-a-stick’ solution like TiddlyWiki,the maintenance of large collaborative wiki demands more elaborated platforms.Two well-known providers of wiki platforms based on the
MediaWiki 
engineare the
Wikimedia Foundation 
and the hosting service
Wikia 
. A variety of wikiprojects are hosted on the
MediaWiki 
engine, e.g. the Wikipedia. We concen-trate on this engine here. Due the chosen architecture, also other engines can besupported. We demonstrate this with the
TikiWiki 
engine.The enormous number of public and organizational wikis has created a longtail [4] of wikis. Besides the very successful and very visible wiki-based knowledgecreation and sharing projects, there are many others with much lesser numbersof editors and edits.If we want to give wiki stakeholders tools for analyzing the dynamics and theevolution of their wikis we have to deal with different wiki hosting software, withwikis ranging from a few hundred nodes to wikis with millions of nodes, with
 
wiki dumps from unreliable public and corporate sources, with data managementproblems and with complex algorithmic problems. Especially, the ability to hostthe analysis and visualization of different wiki engines for the whole long tail of wikis is still a true challenge.Social networks in computer mediated communication have drawn also a lotof scientific attention, e.g. [5–7,1]. In this paper we concentrate on the dynamicanalysis of wikis, especially dynamic network analysis (DNA). DNA [8] is anemerging area of science advancing traditional social network analysis (SNA)by the idea that networks evolve over time in terms of changes of nodes inthe networks and changes of links between nodes. We argue in our paper thatDNA is applicable for wikis. For wiki users, wiki managers, and wiki hostingservices it is extremely important to know if wikis are still going to grow innumbers of authors, edits and wiki articles or if the wiki is going into a phaseof stagnation. It is important to know if and when non-existing articles will becreated and edited by users. When a node (wiki page, an editor, a URL) is‘important’ in the moment, will it stay important over the lifetime of the wikior will its importance change over time? If a network is heterogeneous will itbecome homogeneous after a while or will it be that way for ever?In the Web 2.0 not only wikis but also other new media have become tremen-dously successful [9–11]. By developing standard operations for handling Web2.0 data analysis and visualization we hope to encourage communities to ap-ply dynamic network analysis thus increasing their agency in a world where weleave billions of virtual footprints day by day. To serve the needs of differentstakeholders and communities in DNA we have developed a framework calledthe
MediaBase
[12]. A MediaBase consists of three elements: (a) a collectionof crawlers specialized for distinguished Web 2.0 media like blogs, wikis, pods,feeds, and so on; (b) the crawlers feed multimedia databases with a commonmetamodel for all the different media, artifacts, actors, and communities leadingto a community-oriented cross-media repository; (c) a collection of web-basedanalysis and visualization tools for DNA. Examples for MediaBases are availablefor technology enhanced learning communities (
www.prolearn-academy.org
),for German cultural science communities (
www.graeclus.de
), and for the cul-tural heritage management of the UNESCO world heritage Bamyian Valley inAfghanistan (
www.bamyian-development.org
). The
WikiWatcher 
introducedin this paper is part of the
MediaBase
.The rest of the paper is organized as follows. In Section 2 we analyze priorapproaches and open issues. In Section 3 we characterize wikis as social networkswhere DNA is applicable. Section 4 describes design and architecture of oursoftware prototype
WikiWatcher 
. In Section 5 we are presenting the main resultsof our analysis of different wikis. We conclude our paper with a discussion andan outlook on further research.
 
2 Static Analysis of Wikis
There is an already existing literature on the analysis of wikis. Most of thestudies concentrate on static aspects of wikis. A lot of studies have already beenperformed to analyze wikis. In general, those studies can be classified in studieswhich make use of the publicly available wiki data (dumps) themselves and instudies making use of additional data like access log files [13]. In this paper, weconcentrate on the analysis of publicly available wiki dumps. In this regard, wecan further classify studies concentrating on the static analysis of wiki dumps[14,15] and those concentrating on the dynamic aspects. But first, let us startwith a well-known example: the Wikipedia.The Wikipedia is the most researched wiki. We want to mention only afew studies to characterize the scientific progress in the DNA of wikis. Amongthe first comprehensive studies of Wikipedia was the 2005 study by Voß [14].Wikipedia was measured according to its network characteristics. In particular,the article referred to the changes in size of the wiki database, the number of articles, words, users and links. Among other things Voß figured out that thedistribution of links behaves scale-free with respect to
growth 
and
preferential attachment 
[16]. Wilkinson and Huberman evaluated qualitatively the collabo-ration of the Wikipedia community. They showed that the accretion of edits toan article is described by a simple stochastic mechanism, resulting in a heavytail of highly visible articles with a large number of edits [17]. They figured outthat the quality of an article depends on the number of its modifications. Kitturet al. [7] examined the success of Wikipedia. In particular, they analyzed if it isa great number of contributors where each deals with only a few articles (‘wis-dom of the crowd’) or if it is only a small elite group of contributors that hasthe lion’s share (‘power of the few’). The later is true. On this qualitative viewon Wikipedia, the work of Priedhorsky et al. [13] is built up. They dealt withvandalism in Wikipedia articles. For this purpose, two types of information wereused: Wikipedia articles themselves and their log files. By this means it could bemeasured which article revisions the visitors had viewed and if it was an intactor damaged version. The researchers aimed to quantify the influence of articleedits and revisions respectively to the visitors. The number of vandalized pagesviewed by real readers is extremely low. Further research classified users withrespect to their position in online communities like wikis. Although Wikipedia’sequal treatment of editors some members seem to get a leading role [18].Most research in this area aim for Wikipedia, but is not ready for arbitrarywikis. A general concept for handling and analyzing any wiki is missing. Wikisare applied in a variety of social and organizational environments. It would beuseful to obtain methods and tools for interpreting those incidental social struc-tures. Hence, the motivations of this work are to afford a view on wikis as socialnetworks, to build up formal network models, to apply measurements of SNA,to visualize wiki networks, and to consider the dynamic aspect of wiki networks.The data and information basis of the most projects and researches is built up onwiki log files or direct database access. With respect to the ‘open’ wiki conceptthis work uses only public wiki data. Most wikis offer automatically generated

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