How Many People Constitute a Crowd and What Do They Do? Quantitative Analyses of Revisions in the English and German Wiktionary Editions

Sacha Wolfer, Carolin Müller-Spitzer


Wiktionary is increasingly gaining influence in a wide variety of linguistic fields such as NLP and lexicography, and has great potential to become a serious competitor for publisher-based and academic dictionaries. However, little is known about the "crowd" that is responsible for the content of Wiktionary. In this article, we want to shed some light on selected questions concerning large-scale cooperative work in online dictionaries. To this end, we use quantitative analyses of the complete edit history files of the English and German Wiktionary language editions. Concerning the distribution of revisions over users, we show that — compared to the overall user base — only very few authors are responsible for the vast majority of revisions in the two Wiktionary editions. In the next step, we compare this distribution to the distribution of revisions over all the articles. The articles are subsequently analysed in terms of rigour and diversity, typical revision patterns through time, and novelty (the time since the last revision). We close with an examination of the relationship between corpus frequencies of headwords in articles, the number of article visits, and the number of revisions made to articles.


user-generated content; online dictionary; wiktionary; revision; edit; frequency; collaboration; wisdom of the crowd

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ISSN 2224-0039 (online); ISSN 1684-4904 (print)

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