If You Think Wikipedia Posters are Grumpy, Just Talk to Technology Industry Analysts

January 5, 2009 at 5:08 pm | Posted in Blogs, Fun, social software | Leave a comment

NewScientist reported on Saturday “Psychologist finds Wikipedians grumpy and closed-minded“.  It seems that in a survey of Israeli online encyclopedia contributors rated low on agreeableness and openness.  Similar results are quoted from studies of Digg, Twitter, and YouTube.

So why to do they contribute?

Amichai-Hamburger speculates that rather than contributing altruistically, Wikipedians take part because they struggle to express themselves in real-world social situations. “They are compensating,” he suggests. “It is their way to have a voice in this world.”

Now, I’m just a grumpy, anti-social blogger, but I feel there are several patterns for contribution to social sites.  Selecting any one audience or blending the results will fail to find the clusters of usage characteristics. 

My exposure to social sites is as an adult, and an industry analyst on a collaboration and content strategies team, so I’m no expert at the patterns for teens or young adults.  But from a professional point of view, I can see patterns including:

  • Lifelogging: Persisting insights and knowledge to retain them for future reference
  • Networking: Getting attention and being searchable for the purpose of attracting others who could be useful to you in the future by offering you information, employment, or buying your products and services
  • Content reuse: For people that often communicate electronically and have ideas, rants, positions, or just lists of links that they find themselves repeating, a blog or wiki entry provides a place to craft the entry once and then just point people to it every time thereafter
  • Staking territory: Being the first to point something out, draw a conclusion, or coin a term in order to reap dividends later.  In the web 2.0 world, blogging an idea is a little like copyrighting it in that you can easily prove later that you came up with it first – in the court of public opinion, if not a court of law

One thing all of these have in common is that they aren’t altruistic at all.  But that’s not a bad thing – by following their own interests, others can benefit from their postings/tweets/entries.  And many of the top IT bloggers are quite extroverted, social people judging from their speaking events and networking.

Still, this research intrigues me.  I’d enjoy applying similar research criteria to see if other groups are grumpy and closed-minded: Smalltalk programmers, Green Bay Packer fans, music A&R executives, American Idol viewers, plumbers, technology industry analysts, …

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