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What is peer production and why is there a need for a webdesign guide specifically for this?

Peer production is a way of online distributed knowledge production that relies on the collective intelligence of self-organizing groups of individuals, without or with less rigid hierarchical control and management (Benkler et al., 2015). This mode of knowledge production is most commonly known from projects like Wikipedia or Open Source Software. Because contributors self-organize in peer production, online environments that are tailored to the task and that facilitate collaboration and coordination can have an important impact on the success of the project. Developing a website (or deciding on an existing tool, like wikis or GitHub) that works best for your peer production project can seem quite complicated in the beginning. This website aims to give some guidance for those just starting out with online collaboration projects, but also those interested the features other projects use to facilitate peer production. In conclusion, this resource is thought to provide guidance, inspire and share great features and mechanisms other peer production projects developed! :)

How to use this website?

Right below these introductory questions, you find a section giving a structured introduction to elements of peer production platforms. For each element, there is a list of blog posts that use the respective tag. These blog posts contain information on features of peer production projects that implement these elements. You can also search directly for tags or other keywords, if you know what you are looking for. The guide to peer production, as well as the exemplary features are thought to help you understand and implement peer production elements to your own online collaboration projects.

Who are you and why did you create this website?

See About.

Can I contribute to this website or reuse its content or code?

See Get Involved.

Guide to Peer Production Elements for Websites

Knowledge Production Flow

To begin with, ask yourself how users are creating knowledge (e.g. in the form of articles, data classifications or analyses, software code...) in your case. Which steps are possible? How does a complete knowledge production flow look like? Where can users enter the knowledge production? Which steps do they usually take?

Example from Wikipedia: In a very simplified manner, a user creates an article and writes a first draft, which is then extended and improved iteratively by this or other users.

How did others solve this? - Articles on this topic

Stigmergic Basic Structure

Stigmergy is a term from biology, referring, for example, to the coordinated behavior of termites building a termite mound. This system can be uses as a metaphor for online collaboration: Users come together in an online environment (a website) to work towards a shared purpose. They coordinate either directly or indirectly via digital signs in the environment and build upon the work of other users.

Example from Wikipedia:

  • Shared purpose: Creation of an open encyclopedia
  • Environment:
  • Agents: Users of Wikipedia
  • Digital signs:
    • Research artifacts: Articles
    • Related signs: e.g. talk pages for discussions for every article, red links signalling missing articles, hints for article stubs that need more content
  • Accessibility of content/signs: All content (articles, discussions …) is publicly accessible on the platform

How did others solve this? - Articles on this topic

Equipotential Self-Selection

Users self-select which and how many tasks they want to work on, no one assigns them tasks. In addition, there are no formal credentials, e.g. a university degree, needed as an entry requirement

Example from Wikipedia: Without the need to create an account, anyone can in theory edit or create any article.

How did others solve this? - Articles on this topic

Range of Tasks

Which tasks from the knowledge production cycle are available to the users? Do they work mainly on clearly defined microtasks (e.g. classifying data points according to a protocol) or can they also work on more open-ended and conceptual tasks (e.g. creation of new data collection protocols, determination of their own reserach priorities...)?

Example from Wikipedia: Users can decide which topics they would like to write articles about, can conceptualize and write them and give feedback and contribute to articles other people have written.

How did others solve this? - Articles on this topic

Granularity and Modularity

Tasks should be broken down to smaller modules that fit together as a whole. This helps to attract people with different skills, backgrounds and time available. Also it makes it easier for newcomers if there are smaller and easier tasks available.

Example from Wikipedia: The most salient modules in Wikipedia are articles, whose subparts (sections, paragraphs, etc.) can be edited semi-independently. In addition, templates can be created and reused across articles, and images are reusable across articles and languages.

How did others solve this? - Articles on this topic

Communal Quality Control

Quality control is performed by the community (communal validation). There are processes to guide coordination in case of conflicts (negotiated coordination).

Example from Wikipedia: There are communal validation mechanisms, like “talk” pages: A discussion page for every article, where validation and coordination takes place. Articles can also be assessed and a grade can be assigned to them, following publicly available and community-built guidelines. There are special roles like “WikiProject coordinators”, who serve as points-of-contact and maintain their respective project, without having any special executive powers.

How did others solve this? - Articles on this topic


Visibility of contribution histories for artifacts and users

Example from Wikipedia: There are automatically generated contribution histories for every article and user.

How did others solve this? - Articles on this topic

Learning Features

Mechanisms that allow users to learn the necessary skills to participate in the knowledge production

Example from Wikipedia: There are a multitude of guidelines and tutorial sites on writing articles.

How did others solve this? - Articles on this topic

How did others solve this? - Articles on this topic

Social Features

Communication and socialising mechanisms that help to build and strengthen the community

Example from Wikipedia: There are socializing events, like the annual Wikimania conference, thematic groups, and communication possibilities like forums or chats.

How did others solve this? - Articles on this topic