Talks and presentations

The behavior and network position of peer production founders (Foote and Contractor)

April 26, 2018

Talk, iConference 2018, Sheffield, UK

Abstract: Online peer production projects, such as Wikipedia and open-source software, have become important producers of cultural and technological goods. While much research has been done on the way that large existing projects work, little is known about how projects get started or who starts them. Nor is it clear how much influence founders have on the future trajectory of a community. We measure the behavior and social networks of 60,959 users on over a two month period. We compare the activity, local network positions, and global network positions of future founders and non-founders. We then explore the relationship between these measures and the relative growth of a founder’s wikis. We suggest hypotheses for future research based on this exploratory analysis.

Starting online communities: Motivations and goals of wiki founders (Foote, Gergle, Shaw)

May 11, 2017

Talk, CHI 2017, Denver, Colorado

Abstract: Why do people start new online communities? Previous research has studied what helps communities to grow and what motivates contributors, but the reasons that people create new communities in the first place remain unclear. We present the results of a survey of over 300 founders of new communities on the online wiki hosting site We analyze the motivations and goals of wiki creators, finding that founders have diverse reasons for starting wikis and diverse ways of defining their success. Many founders see their communities as occupying narrow topics, and neither seek nor expect a large group of contributors. We also find that founders with differing goals approach community building differently. We argue that community platform designers can create interfaces that support the diverse goals of founders more effectively.

Wikis and work groups: A social network approach to predicting community growth (Foote, Shaw, Hill)

June 10, 2016

Talk, International Communication Association (ICA), Fukuoka, Japan

Both work groups and nascent peer production projects are composed of a small group of people, engaged in collaborative sense-making and knowledge production. The work group literature has found that dense, non-hierarchical interaction structures are associated with productive groups. Based on these findings, we hypothesize that these same structures would also lead to more productivity from new peer production communities. However, an analysis of 2,555 wiki communities shows that early interaction structures have very little impact on eventual productivity (as measured by total edits) or community growth (as measured by total contributors). Rather, a quickly growing group of active editors is a much better predictor of growth than the structure of interactions between them.

Wikis and work groups: A social network approach to predicting community growth (Foote, Shaw, Hill)

April 09, 2016

Talk, INSNA Sunbelt, Newport Beach, Florida

Large peer production projects, such as Wikipedia and open source software, work surprisingly well in creating useful, large scale, and high quality artifacts. However, the vast majority of peer production projects fail to gain contributors or contributions. Because network scholars have focused on the rare successful projects, there is very little research on the factors that predict project growth in the first place. We approach this question by examining the network structures and participation dynamics of a diverse population of peer production communities as they are just starting.

Online Naturalization

February 04, 2015

Talk, Wilmette Family History Center, Wilmette, Illinois

I presented some of my research from my master’s thesis about how people change between roles in the genealogy community WeRelate. I also spoke about some of the benefits of using a shared, open source family tree for genealogy collaboration.

RSiena and Stochastic Actor-Oriented Models

April 01, 2014

Lecture, COM 632, West Lafayette, Indiana

As a guest lecture in Seungyoon Lee’s seminar on Social Network Analysis I presented an overview and brief tutorial RSiena and actor-oriented network models more broadly.

Watch and Learn: Activity contagion in an online genealogy network (Foote, Lee)

February 22, 2014

Poster, INSNA Sunbelt, St. Pete Beach, Florida

In this paper, we use activity traces to try to cluster users based on their behavior in an online genealogy wiki. We treat the wiki as a community of practice, and based on legitimate peripheral participation theories we expect that people will start in peripheral roles before moving to more central roles.