Sharing an article I came across on Daily Dot (followed it from the
vandalism article shared in an earlier mail), dated January 04, 2013
Nobody wants to edit Wikipedia anymore :
excerpt (and I've underlined what I found significant):
That's the question Wikipedia leaders and social science researchers
are tackling. They've documented a drastic decline in the retention
of new Wikipedia editors over the last five years.
A new study published in the American Behavioral Science Journal by
former Wikimedia Fellows says Wikipedia has lost some 30 percent of
its English-language editors since 2006, as a result of off-putting
automated rejections, _restrictive new rules, and controlling older
_"What was most surprising was the scale of the problem," lead
researcher Aaron Halfaker told the Daily Dot.
Founded in 2001, Wikipedia was a first-of-its-kind experiment in
online collaboration. Anyone who desired could sign up and become an
editor, contributing to any of the site's entries, which now include
more than 23 million topics. This openness allowed Wikipedia to
cover a much wider range of subjects than a traditional
encyclopedia, but it also made the project a source of criticism for
its frequency of misinformation, either through accidental mistakes
or deliberate vandalism.
That's why Wikipedia instituted new rules in 2007 to improve the
quality of information, but according to Halfaker, these same rules
have driven away more than just the unwanted vandals.
In 2006, only about 6 percent of "quality" new editors had their
contributions rejected---a.k.a. "reverted" in Wikipedia lingo. In
2010, the number of contributions by new editors were being reverted
at a rate of 1-in-4 by senior editors and the site's own automated
Halfaker said that as a result, only about 11 percent of new editors
have been staying on past their first two months, driving down the
total number of contributors to the site. He said part of that has
to do with the _"nasty" initial experience many new editors have_.
If you're a new Wikipedia editor, the first message you get is
usually from a bot or a semi-automated editing tool. It'll warn you
of such issues as "lack of sources" or "blanking" and is designed to
deter vandals or "bad-faith editors."
(sorry some links from the article were lost in this paste.. do see the
I recently blogged
rant about this myself:
Go a little easy on people who are starting to contribute; love,
encourage and forgive them instead of being so critical and punishing.
Create page-tags/templates that can illustrate the fact that it's a
work-in-progress, assign this status by default on new articles so a
newbie isn't expected to already have advanced skills (which is a
stupid, stupid thing wikipedia is doing right now. Adding references
templates is difficult, period. Don't expect a person with less than 50
edit counts to know or even want to learn about it). When a visitor
comes at a page, maybe an age or number of edits can be displayed at
top to convey an idea of how mature or immature the article is.
Having permanent-tenure editors is as bad an idea as having permanent
bureaucrats or government leaders: There should be limited terms and
off-periods between them and retirement times; that will be good for
editing community and will encourage editors to pass the baton on
than be in a permanent status contest of entrenchment, edit-counts,
deletions etc that I see at present. I got totally turned off at the
last wikipedia meetup I attended in my city when people started showing
off their edit-counts and were treating them like army medals. Many of
the veteran editors today would never have participated in Wikipedia if
they'd faced the kind of treatment given to newbies today. Obviously,
this is an unsustainable model and headed for collapse when the present
generation of editors dies out. Remove any element of competition;
is no such thing as healthy competition. There is no need for
wikipedia's editors to have an obsessive compulsive quality control
behaviour : we are NOT competing with peer-reviewed journals or
mainstream publications; we are NOT supposed to be 100% accurate
"no-matter-what". That much is obvious in the disclaimers; we need to
remind the editors lobby about it. Quality is achieved through time,
love, room for experimentation and prolonged attention; not through
rushed editing and deletions. Beware of throwing out the baby with the
I can expect what the standard set of responses to this would be.
I should not rant.
Wikipedia has standards.
Don't blame the system for your weakness.
Only the worthy shall find the grail.
So and so textbook definition of so and so rule or word.
The iceberg hasn't hit any of the Indian ships yet so we're ok, full
Yatta yatta. But I suspect I still won't find anything that addresses
the core issue : Why am I and so many others turned off by wikipedia's
defence mechanism and its assumption that everyone out there wants to
steal its preciousss? Why is no outreach programme or training workshop
going to work on me?
I can see some parallels here: with the setting in of rigid structures,
things take a downturn and the ones at the top/center get full of it.
And to control things they end up designing mechanisms that only end up
prosecuting the innocent. Everywhere : schools, governments, societies,
NGOs, companies, families, even wikipedia. The only place I don't see
rigidity setting in with time is Nature : obviously she realized some
merits of disorder that we haven't grasped yet.
But I will still keep asking:
Had all these bots and senior editors and all this mind-boggling
complicatedness been present when Wikipedia began, would it ever have
Where in all the asap-reversions and immediate judgements is there any
desire for long-term sustainability?
Why would any organisation on this planet even have limited terms and
retirement ages for their executive members if they weren't necessary?
Why is flowing out not seen as a natural precondition to flowing in?
When has the relentless pursuit of perfection, at the cost of human
connections and vulnerability, made anyone happy?
Why does wikipedia today look more like it is ruled by fear than by love?
Self-designed learner at Swaraj University <http://www.swarajuniversity.org>
Wikimediaindia-l mailing list
To unsubscribe from the list / change mailing preferences visit