Special:Contributions/newbies: a study of newly-registered user behaviour
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| Every day ten thousand accounts are registered on the English Wikipedia. What motivates readers to register? What percentage of accounts are used for vandalism and subsequently banned? Of those accounts used for editing, how many go on to become productive community members, and what influences them to do so? Which pages do new users tend to edit? How do other users interact with them?
In the absence of a General User Survey, this paper will present some baseline statistics and an exploratory analysis of the contributions of recently registered users. Recommendations for improving "newbie handling" will be made.
In March 2007, the number of accounts registered on the English Wikipedia each day ranged from 7076 to 10958, averaging 9390. Despite its huge popularity, little to nothing is formally known about the users who register on this (or any other) Wikimedia wiki - we can only surmise based on our own experiences. This lack of data precludes us from understanding how new users approach and interact within the wiki. We do not know who is registering or what their motivation is. We do not know why many people register accounts but never use them to edit. We do not know which policies or processes new users struggle to understand, or even which they tend to encounter first. We do not know if new users perceive that a user community exists, and if they do, we do not know how they act to feel included. Without answers to these questions, "newbie handling" (socialisation of new users into, ideally, productive community members) can be a haphazard activity at best.
A MediaWiki wiki offers particularly powerful tools to the "online ethnographer": the Special:Contributions page, by which some activities can be tracked, and public logs such as the "Block log" and the "Upload log". This presentation will analyse the contributions and logged activities of all users who registered on a single day (for example, January 31 2007). It will also analyse how the users interact with the community, by way of the users' talk pages.
As the English Wikipedia is the most popular Wikimedia project and now a website known and used worldwide, such data will prove a valuable resource in an understudied area. As other wikis mature to the size and popularity of English Wikipedia, comparisons of growth patterns will be possible. Ultimately a data-based view can inform a holistic approach to new-user socialisation in order to retain and support the highest possible rate of productive (as defined by the existing community) users.
Slides are available: media:Wikimania 2007 Proceedings Brianna Laugher slides.pdf.