Wikipedia’s Open Content Production Platform Creates Significant Spillover Benefits That Encourage Users To Contribute Further.

Aleksi Aaltonen and Stephan Seiler | The London School of Economics and Political Science | October 16, 2014

Many organisations are developing open platforms to create, store and share knowledge. Aleksi Aaltonen and Stephan Seiler analyse editing data by Wikipedia users to show how content creation by individuals generates significant ‘spillover’ benefits, encouraging others to contribute to the collective process of knowledge production.

Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Wikipedia are among the world’s most popular websites – and all of them are based on user-generated content. While some platforms of this kind are primarily used to share individually produced content, others are based on a more direct interaction between users in the production of content.  

Wikipedia is the leading example of this type of joint production. The online encyclopaedia contains almost 4.4 million individual articles in the English language version alone, which have been edited by more than 20 million users since its inception in 2001. Wikipedia has largely displaced the former market leader, Encyclopaedia Britannica, which is based on a more traditional process of content production.

Wikipedia (and open source production more generally) constitutes a marked departure from traditional modes of production within organisations. Rather than using a fixed set of procedures to arrive at a pre-specified output goal, open source is characterized by commons-based peer production, a process that is ‘decentralized, collaborative, and non-proprietary; based on sharing resources and outputs among widely distributed, loosely connected individuals’...