Submissions:2019/Supporting deliberation and resolution on Wikipedia

From WikiConference North America
Jump to: navigation, search

This submission has been accepted for WikiConference North America 2019.


Supporting deliberation and resolution on Wikipedia


Tech & Tools

Type of session:



Resolving disputes in a timely manner is crucial for any online production group. We present an analysis of Requests for Comments (RfCs), one of the main vehicles on Wikipedia for formally resolving a policy or content dispute. We collected an exhaustive dataset of 7,316 RfCs on English Wikipedia over the course of 7 years and conducted a qualitative and quantitative analysis into what issues affect the RfC process. Our analysis was informed by 10 interviews with frequent RfC closers. We found that a major issue affecting the RfC process is the prevalence of RfCs that could have benefited from formal closure but that linger indefinitely without one, with factors including participants’ interest and expertise impacting the likelihood of resolution. We develop a model that takes several of these factors into account that is able to predict whether an RfC will go stale with around 70% accuracy a week after the RfC is posted.

One recurring issue we found was that it may take a great deal of effort for a single Wikipedia editor to read through an entire RfC and then formally close it. RfCs (as well as other discussions on Wikipedia) can grow to tens or hundreds of comments with many deep threads of back-and-forth conversation. We are now investigating the use of collaborative tools for discussion synthesis towards making the process of closing RfCs easier. The web-based tool we study, called Wikum, allows people to iteratively tag, group, and summarize small sections or subthreads of discussion at a time towards summarizing an entire discussion. It also supports multiple people working together to summarize a large discussion. Early studies of Wikum with 8 frequent RfC closers suggest that it can be a helpful tool for people closing large RfCs.

The work presented in this talk includes research published in two papers, as well as unpublished work. More information can be found in the following links:

Deliberation and Resolution on Wikipedia: A Case Study of Requests for Comments Jane Im, Amy X. Zhang, Christopher J. Schilling, David Karger CSCW '18.

Wikum: Bridging Discussion Forums and Wikis using Recursive Summarization. Amy X. Zhang, Lea Verou, David Karger. CSCW '17.

Academic Peer Review option:


Author name:

RfC work led by Jane Im (Korea University, University of Michigan). Wikum work led by Amy Zhang (MIT). Other collaborators are Christopher Schilling (Wikimedia Foundation), Jonathan T Morgan (Wikimedia Foundation), David Karger (MIT)

E-mail address:

Wikimedia username:


Affiliated organization(s):


Estimated time:

22 min

Preferred room size:


Special requests:

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

Yes, Wikimania 2019

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)