About Me (Nate TeBlunthuis)

I’m a Ph.D student in the University of Washington Department of Communication. I belong to the Community Data Science Collective, an interdisciplinary research group made up of faculty and students from my department at UW and the Department of Communication Studies at Northwestern University. I am training to be a computational social scientist of organizational communication (with a side of political communication).

I research networked collectives that work together in pursuit of public goods (e.g. peer production organizations ), or social change (e.g. social movements). I’m particularly interested in how organizational norms, practices, and forms emerge (constructed and adopted) or are disrupted (replaced by new forms). I hope that understanding this will help expand and improve management of the commons.

My paper “Revisiting ‘The Rise and Decline’ in a population of Peer Production Projects” has been accepted to CHI 2018! For this project, I set out to replicate some of the key findings from “The Rise and Decline of an Open Collaboration System”. Aaron Halfaker, Stuart Geiger, Johnathan Morgan, and John Riedl argued that the decline in the number of active Wikipedia editors could be attributed to the rise of quality control systems that made it difficult for newcomers to join the community. I wanted to know if such systems create barriers for newcomers in peer production projects other than Wikipedia. I adapted Halfaker et al.’s methodological approach to analyze a set of 700 Wikia wikis. It turns out that typical wikis not only have similar mechanisms for decline as Wikipedia, but also exhibits ‘rise and decline’ patterns.

I am also leading a project that analyzes competition and legitimization between related Change.org petitions using organizational ecology and topic modeling. Our preliminary results are that a typical petition obtains more support when there are many similar other petitions. However as the number of similar petitions increases, competition takes over and the number of signatures falls. This result was predicted by density dependence theory. We also test a hypothesis motivated by resource partitioning theory. This says that outcomes for specialists improve when resources are distributed less equally. Surprisingly, we find evidence that this is not the case on change.org. This suggests interesting differences between organizational processes in transient collective efforts like online petitions and traditional social movement organizations.

I care deeply about the free software and free culture movements. I’ve been using Linux for 10 years and I support the free software community as a member of the free software foundation. I also contribute to Wikipedia.

I am a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow.


I grew up in Kennewick in eastern Washington state. After high school, I worked in a glass laboratory at PNNL where I contributed to a number of material science papers. I went to college at Whitworth University where I received a double-B.S. in Mathematics and Computer Science in 2012. As an undergrad I was part of a bioinformatics research group and contributed to research on structured search engines. Afterwards, I worked at Microsoft for a couple of years where I mostly worked on search suggestions for Bing multimedia and learned about machine learning and big data.


nathante <at> uw <dot> edu