A group of researchers did an analysis of the personalities of Wikipedia members and apparently don't think they are all that great.   By not great, I mean they fared less well on scales of agreeableness, openness, and conscientiousness than people who weren't Wikipedia members.

Not surprisingly, introverted women were more likely to be Wikipedia members than non-introverted women.   Basically, women who can get boyfriends instead of slamming other contributors on Wikipedia tend to do that.   Not so shocking.

They did a survey of 139 people, 86 men and 54 women.  69 of those were Wikipedia members (and overwhelmingly men, thus skewing the female results harder) and they found that Wikipedia members were more likely to find their "Real Me" 'variance' on the internet; basically Wikipedia members prefer to express themselves online rather than in the real world.    Their other questionnaire, "BFI", is a short form of the Big Five Questionnaire and it is supposed to measure 5 traits; openness, neuroticism, conscientiousness, extroversion and agreeableness.    Where they didn't do well.

All this sounds bad, but does it mean that people who do a whole lot of work for free have negative characteristics?  Only if you set up a particular social standard and demand everyone match it.    Sure, we make fun of Wikipedia here but only when it's used for science or politics.   For things that have no controversy they are quite good.    And did I mention people do this for free, just like  on Reddit.com and some social media sites?

(not Digg, that sucker is owned by marketing people)

I think I am happy that there are introverted people who like to generate content and make the world smarter.  Labels don't matter much.   Unless you are a psychologist who makes labels your job.

They also think this is indicative of all sites that have user generated content.   Obviously it's not the case here, I think our community is pretty open to new people and commenters with real questions or concerns about things we write that they don't agree with.    And we're funny.   I just don't think there is a science community out there funnier than ours.    Some think they are, but they are just angry and laugh when they out-sanctimony each other.

What say you?  Do you have higher social anxiety and poorer social skills because you write science for community outreach?

Article: Yair Amichai-Hamburger, Naama Lamdan, Rinat Madiel, Tsahi Hayat. CyberPsychology&Behavior. December 1, 2008, 11(6): 679-681. doi:10.1089/cpb.2007.0225