How does collaboration change behaviour?

If you wanted to know whether someone who was collaborating with others or someone working alone would have the most variable behaviour, I think you could make arguments for both sides. On the one hand, someone collaborating is getting stimulus from those others which might lead to greater variation; on the other hand, some, especially in the business community, might characterise ‘stimulus’ as ‘interruption’ or constraints and think that it might lead to less variation.

The paper “Detecting Collaboration from Behavior” by Bauer, Garcia, Colbaugh, and Glass, presented at the recent ISI2013 in Seattle shows that the answer, at least for Wikipedia editors, is that collaboration increases variation as measured by entropy.

Obviously, this result needs to be followed up in other domains to see if it continues to be true — but there isn’t a lot about the analysis that’s specific to Wikipedia, or editing, so it looks like it will. From an intelligence point of view this suggests another channel for seeing what going on inside and between groups of violent extremists. It fits nicely with the analysis my group is doing looking at how language patterns across conversations (for example, email threads) reveal the interactions among the authors.


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