Influencing Wikipedia Readers

Michael Stone, October 6, 2012, , (src)

Almost 30 years ago, Robert Cialdini wrote a classic book, “Influence”, on six principles underlying common compliance tactics.

Shortly after reading his book, I realized that the perspectives I’d seen so far on getting more people to edit Wikimedia felt incomplete: none seemed to address Cialdini’s basic claims about how we get people to do things:

Mnemonic Principle Description
R reciprocation We experience strong social and internal
pressures to reciprocate gift-giving. The
gift-giver can often choose the form of
C commitment & We usually strive to act in ways that are
consistency consistent with our own self-image. Even small
changes in our self-images resulting from new
commitments can produce large and lasting
changes in our behavior.
P social proof When uncertain about how to behave, we tend to
mimic visible bystanders who resemble us.
L liking We are more willing to do things for people we
like or find attractive.
A authority We respond to authority, both real and imagined.
S scarcity We covet scarce goods over abundant ones,
especially in competitive situations, and we
fear loss more than we enjoy gain.

As for how these principles can be applied…? Here are three rough thoughts:

  1. R, C: Ask people who’ve used Wikipedia intensely in the recent past to make an edit or to send a thank-you note, through Wikipedia, to one of the authors of the pages they were using.

  2. P, L: Get some editors who resemble the demographic(s) you’d like to grow in to encourage (in person, in social media, in on-page ads…) readers to edit.

  3. A, S: Ask some local authority figures – professors, mayors, first ladies – to praise/thank local editors.

P.S. - (Got other ideas? If so, please write about them and send me a link!)