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Group Related Phenomena in Wikipedia Edits

M. BurgessR.I.M. Dunbar
Feb 2024
Human communities have self-organizing properties that give rise to very specific natural grouping patterns, reflected in the Dunbar Number and its layered structure (a Dunbar Graph). Since work-groups are necessarily also social groups, we might expect the same principles to apply here as well. One factor likely to be important in limiting the size of groups is that conflicts typically escalate with the number of people involved. Here we analyse Wikipedia editing histories across a wide range of topics to show that there is an emergent coherence in the size of groups formed transiently to edit the content of subject texts, with two peaks averaging at around $N=8$ for the size corresponding to maximal contention, and at around $N=4$ as a regular team. These values are consistent with the observed sizes of conversational groups, as well as the hierarchical structuring of Dunbar graphs. We use the Promise Theory of trust to suggest a scaling law that may apply to all group distributions based on seeded attraction. In addition to providing further evidence that even natural communities of strangers are self-organising, the results have important implications for the governance of the Wikipedia commons and for the security of all online social platforms and associations.
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