On Motivations to Contribute Knowledge and the Accuracy of Self-Assessments

January 24, 2008 at 7:42 am 5 comments

Have you ever written a Wikipedia entry? I wrote an entry on Online Health Communities and also wrote about the process of submitting an entry (and keeping it there) in eLearn Magazine.

Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia) and Rich Baraniuk (founder of Connexions) wrote an op ed piece for the San Francisco Chronicle, which concludes, “Everyone has something to teach. Everyone has something to learn. Together, we can all help transform the way the world develops, disseminates and uses knowledge. Together, we can help make the dream of Open Education a reality.”

I agree that everyone has something to teach but can everyone teach? Can everyone write? As Editor-in-Chief of eLearn Magazine, I have seen submissions with great ideas that were well-written, ones with great ideas that were poorly written, and so on. Clearly not everyone can write, but I still appreciate that they are motivated to express their ideas.

The November 2007 issue of CACM had an article about what motivated Wikipedia contributions and the primary motivation was fun. A blog post “hypothesize[s] that the motivations for participating in volunteer question-answering services are different from participating in projects to create open information sources.”

I would like to hear more about the processes that Jimmy and Rich think should be set up to facilitate knowledge sharing. Will people contribute for fun or will they have other motivations? I thought I knew a lot about Online Health Communities when I wrote the original Wikipedia entry, but what if my self-assessment was flawed? Or what if I was knowledgeable but unable to express my ideas clearly? However, I certainly agree with Jimmy and Rich’s goals.

I also agree specifically about the value of current information, since there are no reasons other than historic for including Pluto in a list of planets. And I know that my college Astronomy course does not qualify me to write about Pluto’s current classification.


Entry filed under: e-learning, online health communities, Web 2.0. Tags: , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Acey Weeks  |  January 23, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    I really wish i could wright and teach its definitely not something everyone can do.

  • 2. Lisa Neal  |  March 5, 2008 at 1:07 am

    There is an interesting post at http://www.theminsider.com/2008/01/28/new-online-metrics-bwcoms-reader-engagement-index/ about how the average number of comments per story is a good indicator of reader engagement. What I like about using commenting as a metric is that it is a more reliable indicator that someone actually read an article, while a page view (spiders aside) only means someone opened the page. However, far more people read than comment. While YouTube shows that many people are exhibitionists, not everyone is and I even find that lots of people email me feedback rather than post a comment because, I assume, they want to make their comment privately, even if it isn’t personal.

  • 3. awie foong  |  March 3, 2008 at 8:19 am

    nice blog lisa… it would be interesting to know if “fun” carries different meanings for different people. and if those answers may help wikipedia reinforce the motivation of the ocntributors.

  • 4. Mike Gualtieri  |  January 25, 2008 at 12:48 am

    “Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet. ” – Plato

  • 5. richb  |  January 24, 2008 at 9:03 am

    lisa – a very thought-provoking post.

    but i would argue that while just about everyone is motivated by “fun”, many education sites (like Connexions, cnx.org) are less anonymous than wikis and so are much closer to other kinds of academic publishing such as journal articles and monographs. this gives rise to another set of motivations beyond shear fun, like building your academic reputation, starting a community around your personal ideas, and and ultimately (once we get all the peer review procedures in place) even helping earn your tenure.


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Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM

Lisa GualtieriLisa Gualtieri is Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine. She is Director of the Certificate Program in Digital Health Communication. Lisa teaches Designing Health Campaigns using Social Media, Social Media and Health, Mobile Health Design, and Digital Strategies for Health Communication. Contact Lisa: lisa.gualtieri@tufts.edu


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