Wikipedia co-founder: we're losing contributors

By on August 4, 2011, 2:00 PM

Wikipedia, which is run by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, is starting to lose contributors. The multilingual online encyclopedia with over 19 million articles needs the volunteers to write and edit its articles in order to stay relevant, both in terms of content and as an important online resource.

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales revealed the critical tidbit of information during Wikimania, the website's annual conference in Haifa, Israel. In an attempt to retain volunteers, administrators of the Internet's fifth most visited website are working to simplify the way users can contribute and edit material.

"We are not replenishing our ranks," Wales told the Associated Press. "It is not a crisis, but I consider it to be important." In regards to the current system, he said: "A lot of it is convoluted. A lot of editorial guidelines ... are impenetrable to new users."

This is the first time the 10-year-old website has publicly acknowledged that its number of contributors is declining. Previously, the organization insisted that the number of active editors on the site was stable.

Wikipedia has been frequently criticized for having an unnecessarily complex editor with an arcane markup language. Tech-savvy individuals can often figure it out rather quickly, but most other users become overwhelmed and just give up.

Wikipedia has been working on simplifying its tools for quite some time now. There has been talk of a WYSIWYG editor that can be easily picked up by everyone, but it has yet to materialize.

Another possibility for the decreasing number of contributors is the belief that most articles have already been written and are more or less complete. As a result, fewer users may feel the need to help the project grow. Wikipedia is aiming to have 1 billion users and 200,000 editors by 2015.




User Comments: 16

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Jibberish18 said:

It DOES seem to use an arcane script for updating articles. I updated an article a few weeks back and wanted to leave a source for people to see. Took me 5 tries in total to get it and I did it by looking at someone else reference for example.

thatguyandrew92 said:

It is too difficult, and it's also annoying when they flag your stuff as advertisements, when it isn't....

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

The place if full of rules lawyers. I just correct typos now. Its not worth making any meaningful changes or additions because you'll just get swooped down by these harpies who get off on the power trip.

Lokalaskurar Lokalaskurar said:

1 billion users and 200,000 editors by 2015

Yeah... about that. Unless China+India+Taiwan etc. smashes down the wall in a Kool-aid fashion and saves the day, those numbers seem astronomical by today's estimates

I have never met a teacher who approves of Wikipedia, despite its latest win in the category of the most complete and factually correct encyclopaedia. Personally, I see more factually incorrect data in freshly printed encyclopaedias than I see in all of Wikipedia!

Things have to change in this town, Aie-Emm-Oooh... I really like the wiki-wiki-good-stuff.

Guest said:

Besides the dated style of editing, the other major issues there are the Kafkaesque levels of bureaucracy and management going on there, the cronyism and cliques that dominate over the less established - but often more knowledgeable - editors.

Why would a respected college professor or a professional in a field bother to update or write articles they have privileged knowledge on, when within five minutes they'll just reverted and possibly harassed by a fifteen year-old homeschool kid, or a self-diagnosed Asperger's shut-in, quoting jargonic acronyms and nonsensical rules to prevent them changing an article they feel an untitled sense of ownership of?

The5Xfactor said:

Jibberish18 said:

....I updated an article a few weeks back and wanted to leave a source for people to see. Took me 5 tries in total to get it and I did it by looking at someone else reference for example.

Hmmmm! It is scary to know that someone called "Jibberish" is updating Wikipedia!!!

(I am just kidding, Jibberish! please don't get offended!)

Lokalaskurar Lokalaskurar said:

It DOES seem to use an arcane script for updating articles. I updated an article a few weeks back and wanted to leave a source for people to see. Took me 5 tries in total to get it and I did it by looking at someone else reference for example.

You are indeed pointing out a very interesting thing here. Interestingly/stupidly enough - Wikipedia is still (via some conversion) compatible with old computers like the IBM 5150, those who actually uses QDOS browsers...

You've probably seen this, although it's either fascinating or just blatantly stupid.

I think the arcane script seems to be there because of these obsolete bug-roasters.

Jibberish18 said:

the5xfactor said:

Jibberish18 said:

....I updated an article a few weeks back and wanted to leave a source for people to see. Took me 5 tries in total to get it and I did it by looking at someone else reference for example.

Hmmmm! It is scary to know that someone called "Jibberish" is updating Wikipedia!!!

(I am just kidding, Jibberish! please don't get offended!)

Nah. I'm use to it. Heh.

Jibberish18 said:

Lokalaskurar said:

It DOES seem to use an arcane script for updating articles. I updated an article a few weeks back and wanted to leave a source for people to see. Took me 5 tries in total to get it and I did it by looking at someone else reference for example.

You are indeed pointing out a very interesting thing here. Interestingly/stupidly enough - Wikipedia is still (via some conversion) compatible with old computers like the IBM 5150, those who actually uses QDOS browsers...

You've probably seen this, although it's either fascinating or just blatantly stupid.

I think the arcane script seems to be there because of these obsolete bug-roasters.

Wow....It really is archaic huh?

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Guest said:

Besides the dated style of editing, the other major issues there are the Kafkaesque levels of bureaucracy and management going on there, the cronyism and cliques that dominate over the less established - but often more knowledgeable - editors.

Why would a respected college professor or a professional in a field bother to update or write articles they have privileged knowledge on, when within five minutes they'll just reverted and possibly harassed by a fifteen year-old homeschool kid, or a self-diagnosed Asperger's shut-in, quoting jargonic acronyms and nonsensical rules to prevent them changing an article they feel an untitled sense of ownership of?

Very eloquently put.

Guest said:

I'm a teacher. I recommend wikipedia articles to my students. I donated for wikipedia in the last couple fund raises. :)

Lokalaskurar Lokalaskurar said:

I'm a teacher. I recommend wikipedia articles to my students. I donated for wikipedia in the last couple fund raises.

Man! You just made my day with that line!

TJGeezer said:

I depend on Wikipedia for all sorts of information that, in my case, has proven to be utterly dependable. One time I contributed an article, not overlong and carefully edited, with a couple links to technical companies I had mentioned in the body. It got booted as spam, which it was very carefully not. A polite request for clarification did not get a response, not even a go to hell or a got'cha, sucker.

I've been a paid writer for more than 30 years in fields including news, tech support and health pieces, manuals and multiple contracted books and articles on arcane technical subjects, so I do know an informative article from a sales piece. I won't waste my time contributing another article unless they get some reasonably competent, or at least responsive, editors. Since their editors are too self-important to respond to their writers, why bother to contribute? Life is too short to waste dealing with twits posing as editors who haven't a clue about how to work competently with writers who have donated their time.

Xclusiveitalian Xclusiveitalian said:

Maybe it's because college's and every other school won't let you use it anymore...

wujj123456 said:

Lokalaskurar said:

1 billion users and 200,000 editors by 2015

Yeah... about that. Unless China+India+Taiwan etc. smashes down the wall in a Kool-aid fashion and saves the day, those numbers seem astronomical by today's estimates

FYI, there is no problem accessing wikipedia from China now. I guess the gov finally figures out how much it hurts by blocking wikipedia, though they still don't get how bad censorship is in general. (I am from China)

Lokalaskurar Lokalaskurar said:

FYI, there is no problem accessing wikipedia from China now.

About that, I fumbled with the sentence structure a little (sounded like I implied some sort of censorship in Taiwan + India as well - which certainly wasn't my intention).

In any case, I greatly appreciate your information!

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