The internet can often be a negative environment. Might expressions of gratitude make online communities stronger and more inclusive?

To answer that question, CAT Lab partnered with four non-English language communities – Arabic, German, Persian and Polish Wikipedias – to test the effects of “Thanks,” a tool that lets editors give and receive appreciation for each others’ contributions. Starting in June 2019, we recruited hundreds of experienced Wikipedians to give a set of editors, including Wikipedia newcomers, Thanks for edits they deemed worthy of gratitude. When we compared that set of editors to a control group, we found that they were not only more likely to continue to be engaged after a two week period, they were also more likely to go on to thank other Wikipedians for their contributions. We did not, however, discover an effect of giving Thanks on Wikipedians’ attitudes or behaviors.

Read more about the studies as well as about how Wikipedians currently use Thanks and Wikilove, from data we collected in preparation for the study.