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Why Some Wikipedia Disputes Go ­nresolved

By MIT News

November 9, 2018

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers found that debilitating factors such as excessive bickering and poorly worded arguments have led to about 33% of Requests for Comment (RfCs) by Wikipedia editors going unresolved.

The research team compiled and analyzed a comprehensive dataset of RfC conversations collected over eight years, and conducted about 7,000 interviews with Wikipedia editors who frequently close RfCs to understand why, in some instances, they do not find a resolution.

The researchers also developed a machine learning model that leverages the dataset to predict when RfCs may "go stale" (are removed without resolution).

The team discovered that only about 57% of RfCs were formally closed, and roughly a third were left without resolution.

Said MIT’s Amy Zhang, “We think it could be useful for editors to know how to target their interventions. They could post [the RfC] to more [Wikipedia forums] or invite more people, if it looks like it’s in danger of not being resolved.”

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