Hot Off the Wiki: Structures and Dynamics of Wikipedia's Coverage of Breaking News Events

Brian Keegan*, Darren Gergle, Noshir Contractor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Wikipedia's coverage of breaking news and current events dominates editor contributions and reader attention in any given month. Collaborators on breaking news articles rapidly synthesize content to produce timely information in spite of steep coordination demands. Wikipedia's coverage of breaking news events thus presents a case to test theories about how open collaborations coordinate complex, time-sensitive, and knowledge-intensive work in the absence of central authority, stable membership, clear roles, or reliable information. Using the revision history from Wikipedia articles about over 3,000 breaking news events, we investigate the structure of interactions between editors and articles. Because breaking article collaborations unfold more rapidly and involve more editors than most Wikipedia articles, they potentially regenerate prior forms of organizing. We analyze whether the structures of breaking and nonbreaking article networks are (a) similarly structured over time, (b) exhibit features of organizational regeneration, and (c) have similar collaboration dynamics over time. Breaking and nonbreaking article exhibit similarities in their structural characteristics over the long run, and there is less evidence of organizational regeneration on breaking articles than nonbreaking articles. However, breaking articles emerge into well-connected collaborations more rapidly than nonbreaking articles, suggesting early contributors play a crucial role in supporting these high-tempo collaborations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)595-622
Number of pages28
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Wikipedia
  • collaboration
  • news
  • social network

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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