Monday, July 22, 2013

Finding your friends on Wikipedia

A segment of a social network
A segment of a social network (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In my opinion, the most notable missing features of Wikipedia is the ability to network socially . Lack of social features conspire to minimise participants' social capital (the expected collective or economic benefits derived from the preferential treatment and cooperation between individuals and groups).

Lack of networking capabilities is in line with a pervasive attitude that ownership of contributions should be suppressed, external authority ignored and that knowledge matters in the project.

Accordingly social costs of participation are growing. Participants in the project have great difficulty in acquiring social capital. The stakes of establishing world opinion tend to outweigh social stakes. Accordingly there is a growing gender gap, under-representation of cultural minorities and disrespect of real world authority.

Currently users will try to establish social capital by listing on their user page their many contributions;  merit badges called barn stars and other merit awards called wiki-love; listing participation within broad groups using "userboxes" and in narrow interest groups called projects many of which are not content related but have a more social character.

Perhaps a better remedy would be to
  1. allow participants to acquire social capital via the MediaWiki software.
  2. provide some real proof of expertise in selected areas.
My 5 cents is creating a friend recommendation system. This is a small offshoot from my edumetrics project I've developing a small tool to allow you to find users whose edits include a significant component which is similar to your more significant edits.

While not a full featured recommendation system it does have some merit already
Future directions would be to:
  • create and present a table of friends. 
  • define a friendship context (an explanation why someone is recommended similar to Amazon's recommendation system). 
  • differentiate friends from foe (currently extended conflict or even stalking can masquerade as friendship).
  • get a notification about other users' activity (particularly where they match your friendship context)
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