The goals of this research are (1) to understand ways of recruiting and socializing volunteers to online production communities like Wikipedia, (2) to design processes and tools that assist the newcomers' information-seeking as part of their socialization, and (3) to build processes and tools to support the interpersonal processes of socialization, including peer mentorship and mentorship with more senior community members. Online production communities are becoming increasingly important, because they are creating the software that drives the Internet, generating valuable scientific data and building history's largest encyclopedia. In the face of inevitable turnover, every online community must incorporate successive generations of newcomers to survive. Newcomers are a source of content, labor, new ideas, and audience. However, attracting and incorporating newcomers into existing communities can be difficult. Socialization is the process of teaching newcomers the behaviors and attitudes essential to playing their roles in the group. Communities have available a variety of socialization tactics. Research from offline organizations shows that organizations' use of institutionalized socialization tactics and newcomers' active information seeking are effective in increasing newcomers' commitment to the organization, their satisfaction and their productivity. However, those tactics are not commonly used in online communities and seem to have different effects when they are used.
This project pursues theory-guided design. The findings from the research will extend existing theories on socialization in groups and organizations by supplementing findings primarily based on self-report measures with ones based on behavioral measures, and by providing evidence on socialization in online communities, where constraints on newcomers are radically different than they are offline. The research will develop processes and tools for solving important problems of newcomers' socialization, which will be evaluated in the context of socializing newcomers in Wikipedia and especially in the Wikipedia initiative of the Association for Psychological Science, which seeks to improve the scientific quality of articles in psychology. These tools will be made freely available to other scientific associations and other online production communities more generally.
This project supports NSF's mission to inform the public about science by improving Wikipedia as a vehicle for disseminating scientific knowledge about psychology in particular, and by developing a model for how other scientific societies could partner with Wikipedia or similar efforts to better generate and assess scientifically up-to-date and accurate information meant for the public. It will directly involve many college students, who will be assigned to write or improve psychology articles; they will get feedback from the broader community on their performance. As such it directly supports teaching and learning psychological science and will help increase students' involvement with their scientific societies.