Ideology and Composition Among an Online Crowd: Evidence from Wikipedians

53 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2016 Last revised: 2 Feb 2020

See all articles by Shane M. Greenstein

Shane M. Greenstein

Harvard University - Technology & Operations Management Unit; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Grace Gu

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Feng Zhu

Harvard University - Harvard Business School

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 28, 2020

Abstract

Online communities bring together participants from diverse backgrounds and often face challenges in aggregating their opinions. We infer lessons from the experience of individual contributors to Wikipedia articles about U.S. politics. We identify two factors that cause a tendency toward moderation in collective opinion: either biased contributors contribute less, which shifts the composition of participants, or biased contributors moderate their own views. Our findings show that shifts in the composition of participants account for 80% to 90% of the moderation in content. Contributors tend to contribute to articles with slants that are opposite of their own views. Evidence suggests that encountering extreme contributors with an opposite slant plays an important role in triggering the composition shift and changing views. These findings suggest that collective intelligence becomes more trustworthy when mechanisms encourage confrontation between distinct viewpoints. They also suggest, cautiously, that managers who aspire to produce content “from all sides” should let the most biased contributors leave the collective conversation if they can be replaced with more moderate voices.

Suggested Citation

Greenstein, Shane M. and Gu, Yuan and Zhu, Feng, Ideology and Composition Among an Online Crowd: Evidence from Wikipedians (January 28, 2020). Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 17-028, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2851934 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2851934

Shane M. Greenstein (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Technology & Operations Management Unit ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
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Yuan Gu

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

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Boston, MA 02163
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Feng Zhu

Harvard University - Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 431
Boston, MA 02163
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/profile.aspx?facId=14938

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