ICOS Lecture: Aaron Halfaker

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 1:30pm to 3:00pm

Room R1240, Ross School of Business

The Interdisciplinary Committee on Organizational Studies (ICOS) presents Wikimedia Foundation Research Scientist Aaron Halfaker, who will give his talk, “The Practice of Managing Open Production at Scale.”

As Wikipedia's community of volunteer editors grew, the problems that the community needed to manage became an increasing burden. Wikipedians rose to the challenge and developed a suite of semi-automated tools and a set of practices that support distributed, weakly-coordinated workers. While their efforts were very effective in reducing the time necessary to curate the wiki, there were a set of unforeseen consequences. 

In this presentation, Halfaker will quantify a robust—if not inherent —trade-off between the speed and efficiency of quality control in Wikipedia and the motivation of rejected contributors—especially new editors. He will show how Wikipedian's shifting focus on quality control and formal process has led to a dramatic decline in the rate of retention of desirable new editors that threatens the long-term viability of the project. 

Halfaker will conclude with a discussion of the development of new technologies and community practices by the Wikimedia Foundation that are geared toward reversing the retention issue without sacrificing efficient quality control.

Read more about ICOS and its lecture series.

Speaker bio: Aaron Halfaker is a research scientist at the Wikimedia Foundation. He studies online communities (like Wikipedia) using data mining, statistical modeling and experimentation. Primarily trained as a technologist, his interests are spread broadly across the physical sciences and the nature of groups of people. He is deeply interested in the "moving parts" that make open production communities like Wikipedia work. Through building knowledge about system-level problems, opportunities and consequences, he seeks to design better technologies.

Halfaker earned his PhD in computer science from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor of arts in computer science from the College of St. Scholastica.