Motivations of Wikipedia contributors

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that can be edited by anyone. The encyclopedia is maintained by volunteers who willingly edit and create articles with no monetary recompense. Several studies have been done into the motivations of Wikipedia contributors, including a collaborative survey by the Wikimedia Foundation and Collaborative Creativity Group at UNU-MERIT.[1]

Academic studies[edit]

Since the creation of Wikipedia in 2001, academics have been interested in what motivates people to contribute to the site. Several academic studies have been carried out in order to try to determine what these motivations are. While similar conclusions have been drawn between different studies, there have also been significant differences of opinion.

Heng-Li Yang and Cheng-Yu Lai[edit]

Yang and Lai's paper "Motivations of Wikipedia content contributors" hypothesised that because contributing to Wikipedia is voluntary, an individual's enjoyment of participating would be the highest motivator.[2] However, their study showed that although people might initially start editing Wikipedia out of enjoyment, the most likely motivation for continuing to participate is self-concept based motivations such as "I like to share knowledge which gives me a sense of personal achievement."[2]

Andrea Forte and Amy Bruckman[edit]

In 2005, Forte and Bruckman wrote a paper called "Why Do People Write for Wikipedia? Incentives to Contribute to Open-Content Publishing" in which they discussed the possible motivations of Wikipedia contributors. They apply Latour and Woolgar's concept of the cycle of credit to Wikipedia contributors, suggesting that the reason that people write for Wikipedia is to gain recognition within the community.[3]

Oded Nov[edit]

In his 2007 paper "What Motivates Wikipedians", Oded Nov related the motivations of volunteers in general to the motivations of people who contribute to Wikipedia.[4] Nov carried out a survey using the six motivations of volunteers, identified in an earlier paper.[5] These six motivations are:

  • Values – expressing values to do with altruism and helping others
  • Social – engaging with friends, taking part in activities viewed favourably by others
  • Understanding – expanding knowledge through activities
  • Career – gaining work experience and skills
  • Protective – e.g. reducing guilt over personal privilege
  • Enhancement – demonstrating knowledge to others

To these six motivations he also added the following two:

  • Ideology – expressing support for what is perceived to be the underlying ideology of the activity (e.g. the belief that knowledge should be free)
  • Fun – enjoying the activity

The survey found that the most commonly indicated motives were "fun," "ideology," and "values," whereas the least frequently indicated motives were "career," "social," and "protective."[4]

Wikimedia surveys[edit]

The Wikimedia Foundation has carried out two surveys of Wikipedia contributors and users in 2010[1] and 2011.[6] The 2011 survey is the beginning of a process of semi-annual surveys in order to understand Wikipedia editors more and better cater to their needs.[7]

2008 survey[edit]

In 2008 the Wikimedia Foundation, alongside the Collaborative Creativity Group at UNU-Merit launched a survey of readers and editors of Wikipedia. This was the most comprehensive survey of Wikipedia ever conducted.[8]

The results of the survey were published two years later on March 24, 2010.[1]

Anecdotal evidence[edit]

Editors of Wikipedia have occasionally given personal testimonials of why they contribute to Wikipedia. A common theme of these testimonials is the enjoyment that editors seem to get from contributing to Wikipedia and being part of the Wikipedia community. Also mentioned is the potential addictive quality of editing Wikipedia. Gina Trapani of Lifehacker said "it turns out editing an article isn't scary at all. It's easy, surprisingly satisfying and can become obsessively addictive."[9] Jimmy Wales has also commented on the addictive quality of Wikipedia, saying "The main thing about Wikipedia [...] is that it’s fun and addictive".[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Citation/CS1/Suggestions' not found. Invalid <ref> tag; name "wikistudy" defined multiple times with different content
  2. ^ a b Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Citation/CS1/Suggestions' not found. Invalid <ref> tag; name "Yang and Lai" defined multiple times with different content
  3. ^ Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Citation/CS1/Suggestions' not found.
  4. ^ a b Nov, Oded (2007). [: "What Motivates Wikipedians?"]. Communications of the ACM. 50 (11): 60–64. doi:10.1145/1297797.1297798. Retrieved 11 August 2011. {{cite journal}}: Check |url= value (help)
  5. ^ Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Citation/CS1/Suggestions' not found.
  6. ^ Wikimedia Foundation. "Wikipedia editors do it for fun: First results of our 2011 editor survey". Wikimedia Foundation Blog. Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
  7. ^ Wikimedia Foundation. "Launching our semi-annual Wikipedia editors survey". Wikimedia Foundation Blog. Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
  8. ^ Moeller, Erik. "New Reports from November 2008 Survey Released". Wikimedia Foundation Blog. Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  9. ^ Trampani, Gina. "Geek to Live: How to contribute to Wikipedia". Lifehacker. Gawker Media. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
  10. ^ Griffin, Ricky W. (2011). Management (10 ed.). Mason, OH. USA.: South-Western Cengage Learning. ISBN 1439080992. {{cite book}}: |access-date= requires |url= (help)

External links[edit]