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Submissions/Why We Read Wikipedia

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This is an accepted submission for Wikimania 2017.


This is an Open submission for Wikimania 2017 that has not yet been reviewed by a member of the Programme Committee.

Submission no. 2063 Subject - E3 C7
Title of the submission

Why We Read Wikipedia

Type of submission (lecture, panel, tutorial/workshop, roundtable discussion, lightning talk, poster, birds of a feather discussion)


Author of the submission

Philipp Singer, Florian Lemmerich, Robert West, Leila Zia, Ellery Wulczyn, Markus Strohmaier, Jure Leskovec

Language of presentation


E-mail address



LZia_(WMF) (The username of the person who has submitted the proposal)

Country of origin

Germany, Switzerland, USA

Affiliation, if any (organisation, company etc.)

EPFL, GESIS, Stanford University, Wikimedia Foundation

Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (up to 300 words to describe your proposal)

(Abstract copied and adapted from a peer-reviewed publication we have on this topic.)

Wikipedia is one of the most popular sites on the Web, with millions of users relying on it to satisfy a broad range of information needs every day. Although it is crucial to understand what exactly these needs are in order to be able to meet them, little has been known about why users visit Wikipedia. In this presentation, we show the result of a series of research projects that aimed to close this gap by combining a survey of Wikipedia readers with a log-based analysis of user activity. Based on an initial series of user surveys, we build a taxonomy of Wikipedia use cases along several dimensions, capturing users' motivations to visit Wikipedia, the depth of knowledge they are seeking, and their knowledge of the topic of interest prior to visiting Wikipedia. Then, we quantify the prevalence of these use cases via a large-scale user survey conducted on Wikipedia with almost 30,000 responses. Our analyses highlight the variety of factors driving users to Wikipedia, such as current events, media coverage of a topic, personal curiosity, work or school assignments, or boredom. Finally, we match survey responses to the respondents' digital traces in Wikipedia's server logs, enabling the discovery of behavioral patterns associated with specific use cases. For instance, we observe long and fast-paced page sequences across topics for users who are bored or exploring randomly, whereas those using Wikipedia for work or school spend more time on individual articles focused on topics such as science. At the time of the submission of this proposal, the results for English Wikipedia are available. We are planning to finish the study of 5+ more languages by mid-June 2017. The languages currently considered are: Arabic, Dutch, Hindi, Japanese, and Spanish.

What will attendees take away from this session?

You will learn about Wikipedia readers: what are their motivations for coming to the website and what depth of information they would like to have access to when on Wikipedia. You will also learn about important subgroups of Wikipedia readers, for example, we will show you how one can characterize those who come to Wikipedia for intrinsic learning versus those who come for a work or school project. The study is currently done on English Wikipedia but by mid-June 2017, we expect to have the results for 5+ more languages: Japanese, Spanish, Arabic, Hindi, Dutch, and maybe more.

Theme of presentation
For workshops and discussions, what level is the intended audience?
Length of session (if other than 25 minutes, specify how long)
55 minutes
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
Most probably.
Slides or further information (optional)
Details about the English Wikipedia study can be found at https://arxiv.org/abs/1702.05379 . The study about the 5+ other languages will be documented at https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Research:Characterizing_Wikipedia_Reader_Behaviour
Special requests
Is this Submission a Draft or Final?

This is a Completed submission for Wikimania 2017 ready to be reviewed by a member of the Programme Committee.

Interested attendees

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  1. Amir É. Aharoni (talk) 07:23, 10 April 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Schiste (talk) 07:47, 10 April 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  3. SSastry (WMF) (talk) 17:06, 10 April 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  4. Saebou (talk) 15:15, 7 May 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  5. Frhdkazan (talk) 19:08, 11 June 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  6. Doc James (talk) 21:22, 28 July 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  7. Smallbones (talk) 18:31, 4 August 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  8. Cobblet (talk) 03:51, 10 August 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  9. Grijz (talk) 14:29, 11 August 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  10. --Baskervill (talk) 15:39, 11 August 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  11. -Another Believer (talk) 16:01, 11 August 2017 (UTC)[reply]