Coordination, Division of Labor, and Open Content Communities: Template Messages in Wiki-Based Collections.
Matthijs den Besten
In this paper we investigate how in commons based peer production a large community of contributors coordinates its efforts towards the production of high quality open content. We carry out our empirical analysis at the level of articles and focus on the dynamics surrounding their production. That is, we focus on the continuous process of revision and update due to the spontaneous and largely uncoordinated sequence of contributions by a multiplicity of individuals. We argue that this loosely regulated process, according to which any user can make changes to any entry, while allowing highly creative contributions, has to come into terms with potential issues with respect to the quality and consistency of the output. In this respect, we focus on emergent, bottom up organizational practice arising within the Wikipedia community, namely the use of template messages, which seems to act as an effective and parsimonious coordination device in emphasizing quality concerns (in terms of accuracy, consistency, completeness, fragmentation, and so on) or in highlighting the existence of other particular issues which are to be addressed. We focus on the template "NPOV" which signals breaches on the fundamental policy of neutrality of Wikipedia articles and we show how and to what extent imposing such template on a page affects the production process and changes the nature and division of labor among participants. We find that intensity of editing increases immediately after the "NPOV" template appears. Moreover, articles that are treated most successfully, in the sense that "NPOV" disappears again relatively soon, are those articles which receive the attention of a limited group of editors. In this dimension at least the distribution of tasks in Wikipedia looks quite similar to what is know about the distribution in the FLOSS development process.
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