Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Wikipedia Gender Gap, Part III

In part I and part II, we discussed several of the gender gaps in Wikipedia. In this part, we'll talk about reverted edits, blocking, and their association with female and male editors. .

The hypothesis here was that "Female editors are less likely to be blocked." However, there wasn't a statistically significant difference in the percentage of females blocked (4.39%) and males blocked (4.52%). Surprisingly, females were significantly more likely to be blocked indefinitely (3.85% and 3.32% respectively). Females were also significantly more likely to be reverted for vandalizing Wikipedia’s articles (3.26% and 2.11% respectively). This should be taken with a grain of salt, because the proportion of users who self-reported their gender and were blocked or reverted for vandalism was even smaller than the baseline.

Reverted Edits
Are female editors more likely to have their early edits reverted? To find out, the editors first "cleaned" the data from the reverted edits that were vandalism damage repair and took into account only reverts that were made within one week of an edit (more than 95% of the edits in the data set). For the seven first edits, the average reverting percent for women was significantly higher than that of men. Beyond those first edits, men and women's chances of having their edits reverted are similar.

Are women more likely to leave Wikipedia after their early edits were reverted? The authors answered this question by building a Cox regression model, to find out which factors are associated with changes in activity life span. The model included gender, the number of edits made in the first 24 hours of editing Wikipedia, the proportion of edits made in the first 24 hours
that were reverted for vandalism-related reasons, the proportion of edits made in the first 24
hours that were reverted, but not for vandalism-related reasons, and %RvNV×Gen, an interaction term between %RvNonVandal (the non-vandalism reverted edits) and gender, which was used to study the interaction between gender and reverts for non-vandalism reasons.

All the variables except for %RvNV×Gen were significantly associated with activity lifespan. The more edits an editor made during her/his first 24 hours, the longer her/his lifespan was likely to be. Shorter life span was associated with having early edits reverted. Even after taking said factors into account, being female still had a strong association with shorter lifespan.

While early reverts tend to make a lifespan shorter for both men and women, the likelihood of their departure wasn't gender-related. Female editor was just as likely to leave after being reverted as a male editor. In short, it's not that women "give up" more often than men when being reverted, it's that they were more likely to be reverted.

In Conclusion
Why doesn't Wikipedia have more women editors? This isn't the first time this question has been widely discussed. Last year, after a survey that found that only 13% of the Wikipedia's editors were women, the NYT published an article about the subject, which lead to some serious discussions and blog posts. Sue Gardner, Executive Editor of the Wikimedia Foundation, wrote a blog post including several of the reasons women supplied when asked why they hadn't edit Wikipedia. Answers varied and included reasons like the less-than-friendly interface, lack of time, lack of self-confidence, and an overall atmosphere of misogyny.

Now, since we know women *do* edit Wikis and *do* deal with less than friendly interfaces (have you ever, for example, tried to convince a Live Journal post to behave?) one must wonder if the main problem is, indeed, a culture that isn't women-friendly enough for most women to make the effort to fit in.

Lam, S., Uduwage, A., Dong, Z., Sen, S., Musicant, D. R., Terveen, L., & Terveen, J. (2011). WP:Clubhouse? An Exploration of Wikipedia’s Gender
Imbalance WikiSym’11, October 3–5, Mountain View, California

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