Submissions:2019/“Wikipedians are born, not made” – applying the learnings from a 10-year-old research paper after all

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“Wikipedians are born, not made” – applying the learnings from a 10-year-old research paper after all


Editor Recruitment & Retention

Type of session:



Ten years ago, Katherine Panciera, Aaron Halfaker, and Loren Terveen published their research paper “Wikipedians are born, not made.” People who read this paper in 2009 learned that “the activity of Wikipedians and non-Wikipedian editors differs from the beginning”, that “the number of edits made in the first two days is a strong predictor of the probability that a new editor will become a Wikipedian”, and that “Wikipedians make higher quality edits than non-Wikipedian editors.” But most of all, we could learn that “Wikipedians are the essential core of the Wikipedia community.”

Re-reading this 10-year-old research paper today raises a number of questions:

  • If Wikipedians are to be the essential core of the Wikipedia community, then has enough really been done to retain them?
  • If only a very small fraction of the total population qualifies as natural-born Wikipedians – does our traditional way of doing outreach work, i.e. targeting the general public really make sense if our goal was to recruit long-term Wikipedians? What would it mean to re-think our outreach work?
  • Where would we find natural-born Wikipedians, if we’d like to recruit them for Wikipedia?
  • Which are the best ways of retaining members of our core community going forward?

The session will focus on answering questions like the ones listed above. Ideally, we’d have enough time at the end to discuss the main assumptions and statements of the talk.

Academic Peer Review option:


Author name:

Frank Schulenburg

E-mail address:

Wikimedia username:

Frank Schulenburg

Affiliated organization(s):

Wiki Education Foundation

Estimated time:

25 minutes presentation, 15 minutes discussion

Preferred room size:

Up to the organizers to decide

Special requests:

Wireless microphone headset

Have you presented on this topic previously? If yes, where/when?:


If your submission is not accepted, would you be open to presenting your topic in another part of the program? (e.g. lightning talk or unconference session)