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
   response systems.

   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 original..)

I recently blogged <> a 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 steam ahead.

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 taken off? 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?


Nikhil Sheth
Udaipur/Pune, India
Self-designed learner at Swaraj University <>

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