Mentoring in Wikipedia: A clash of cultures

David R. Musicant, Yuqing Ren, James A. Johnson, John Riedl

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The continuous success of Wikipedia depends upon its capability to recruit and engage new editors, especially those with new knowledge and perspectives. Yet Wikipedia over the years has become a complicated bureaucracy that may be difficult for newcomers to navigate. Mentoring is a practice that has been widely used in offline organizations to help new members adjust to their roles. In this paper, we draw insights from the offline mentoring literature to analyze mentoring practices in Wikipedia and how they influence editor behaviors. Our quantitative analysis of the Adopt-a-user program shows mixed success of the program. Communication between adopters and adoptees is correlated with the amount of article editing done by adoptees shortly after adoption. Our qualitative analysis of the communication between adopters and adoptees suggests that several key functions of mentoring are missing or not fulfilled consistently. Most adopters focus on establishing their legitimacy rather than acting proactively to guide, protect, and support the long-term growth of adoptees. We conclude with recommendations of how Wikipedia mentoring programs can evolve to take advantage of offline best practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages10
StatePublished - 2011
Event7th Annual International Symposium on Wikis and Open Collaboration, WikiSym 2011 - Mountain View, CA, United States
Duration: Oct 3 2011Oct 5 2011


Other7th Annual International Symposium on Wikis and Open Collaboration, WikiSym 2011
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityMountain View, CA


  • Wikipedia
  • mentoring
  • newcomer retention


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