Liu, Jun, and Sudha Ram. “Who Does What: Collaboration Patterns in the Wikipedia and Their Impact on Article Quality.” ACM Transactions on Management Information Systems 2, no. 2 (2011): 11:1- 11:23.
The article “Who Does What: Collaboration Patterns in the Wikipedia and Their Impact on Article Quality” identifies main critiques of Wikipedia and provides research by Liu and Ram to account for these issues. The main questions Liu and Ram address are 1) Why do Wikipedia articles vary widely in quality? and 2) How can quality of Wikipedia articles be improved? Because Wikipedia is easy to edit, an article can be edited by any person; however, all editors do not edit the same way or with the same intensity (2). The research by Liu and Ram investigated the Wikipedia’s article assessment project as a starting place for determine various degrees of quality. The criteria for assessment includes: 1) well-written, 2) comprehensive, 3) well-researched and verifiable, 4) neutral, 5) stable, 6) compliance with Wikipedia style guidelines, 7) appropriate images and copyright status, and 8 ) appropriate length and focus (4). To study the relationship between collaboration and quality, Lui and Ram selected articles which had been rated by these criteria as a basis for their study. Their methods involved creating categories of how contributors edited articles; from looking at that data, Lui and Ram then identified collaboration patterns. Lui and Ram concluded that “article quality depends on different types of contributors, that is, the roles they play, and they way they collaborate” (16). Additionally, Lui and Ram feel that improving Wikipedia article quality is possible if software tools are developed to help contributors make the decision to include references, links, and support for their edits. These software tools should “nudge contributors to assume different roles and support self-justification and self-policing” as well as “motivate the contributors to revist the article, review their inserted sentences, and respond to other contributors’ modifications” (20).
The main point of this article truly hones in of the positive results which can emerge when collaboration is instilled into the creation/editing of Wikipedia articles. Lui and Ram’s research definitely supports the hypothesis that the better-written and better-referenced articles are constructed by multiple contributors who justify their added content/changes and who respond to other contributors. This same concept could be easily transferred to the field of technical communication where collaboration continues to be rare. Additionally, this article clearly articulates why Wikipedia continues to receive mixed reviews in terms of being a credible sources of information. I think that Lui and Ram articulate this best when they state, “It is unreasonable to simply assume that Wikipedia is completely reliable or unreliable” (2). If practices such as the methods suggested by Lui and Ram are implemented, could Wikipedia change its current status where it is viewed as being neither completely reliable or unreliable? If so, would it change the way people use the medium?