My research in the area of social computing and HCI. I am interested in the dynamics of online peer production communities, specifically how consumers and average contributors differ from users who produce the majority of the content. I've looked in depth at this issue in both Wikipedia and Cyclopath. As part of my research I've done logs analysis, surveys, interviews, and user testing.
My research, while always somewhat quantitative in nature, has started to incorporate qualitative elements due to the fact that I couldn't answer all the questions I wanted to using data logs alone. I am very interested in looking at sites that offer the option of user contribution (such as Wikipedia). My dissertation research investigates quantitative and qualitative differences between consumers, average contributors, and core contributors (who produce the majority of the content). How do these users differ in their usage of the site, when they contribute, the quality of their contributions, the type of work they are doing, how much time they spend on the site, their reasons for using the site, the benefits they receive from the site, etc.?
While my early work studies Wikipedia, the remainder of my work is
based on the site Cyclopath.
Cyclopath is a geographic wiki started by Reid Priedhorsky and Loren
Terveen in 2006 in GroupLens lab. The primary goal of Cyclopath is to
give cyclists in the Twin Cities a good, bike-friendly route between two
points. The secondary goal is to allow the map to be edited by any user.
This allows users to receive up to date information. As we run the site
out of our research lab, we have access to data logs, the option to add
features to the site, and the ability to meet our users in person.
Part of what interests me in this domain is the conflict that while we (site owners, researchers) think we want everyone to participate, the sites usually work smoothly without everything contributing. However, anecdotally, we know that some people have information to offer that they aren't contributing. How can we get users to contribute information that is useful to the site without forcing people to contribute or having a site overrun with unnecessary contributions?