Wikipedia losing contributors: Fatal flaw, the community editors?

Wikipedia losing contributors: Fatal flaw, the community editors?

Summary: Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales admits that the world's fifth most visited website is losing contributors, partly down to the complexity of the site. Others cite poor community engagement.

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TOPICS: Collaboration
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Wikipedia, the world's largest online encyclopedia, is struggling to maintain the contributors which make the site what it is, said founder Jimmy Wales on Thursday.

Criticised over the years for its lack of community focus -- even though the site is community run and led by thousands of volunteers and contributors -- its current problem is with its complex machinery of templates, editing and strict editorial guidance.

Scrambling to make the editorial process simpler and easier for the general population to engage with, speaking to the Associated Press, Wales described some of the setbacks that Wikipedia has to deal with to evolve.

With over 3 million entries, the site's articles are subject to daily pranks, misinformation and mass defacing of articles.

Wales spoke of contributors leaving as one of the main issues. "We are not replenishing our ranks".

At 90,000 active contributors by March, the goal is to attain another 5,000 by next June.

Speaking about its contributor base, the typical profile appears to be a "26-year-old geeky male", while others leave as there is a short supply of further articles to add.

But as the fifth most visited site on the web, and nearly a decade old, it is struggling to maintain its community effort with so many contributors are leaving.

Wales acknowledges the issues with Wikipedia from a founders' perspective, yet others who actively engage with the site see other barriers.

Speaking to ZDNet's senior technology editor, Jason Perlow, for which has his own Wikipedia entry, resonated similar feelings earlier with me on the phone in regards to Wikipedia's fundamental issues.

"Wikipedia appears to have a strange undefined organisational structure, or lack thereof. It seems to be run by some Mad Max-like community stuck in the middle of the desert. Contributors have to submit to many editors that follow meticulously baroque editorial guidelines, which are imposed in an inconsistent fashion."

He went on to explain that the site in its very essence is user unfriendly. Media uploads can be one of the major setbacks to new Wikipedians, partly for the complex licenses on offer and the lack of understanding around which images can be used for which purpose.

Perlow described how not only is the wiki-syntax old and outdated, along with the further complexity of the site's features and editorial processes, the community spirit could be the site's fatal flaw.

"Wikpedia is not a community conducive to creating content. The site is open to abuse. The number of times I have had to edit my own Wikipedia page because of some blatant libel, I lose count. The site is probably edited by 14-year-olds."

For users who have something they want to say or write, seem to need to be part of a niche crowd -- difficult to get in to from the word go; while others with their own entries are deterred due to the abusive edits they often have to endure.

Topic: Collaboration

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39 comments
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  • RE: Wikipedia losing contributors: Fatal flaw, the community editors?

    Another part is due to the contributors themselves. I have seen discussion pages where people fight over what should and should not appear on a page, even if it has information to back the claim/information.

    The way it seems to determine whether the content is added is by an editing war, and whoever gives up first loses -- of course.

    It's almost as if there needs to be another portal to allow users to vote on what should be approved like a poll to prevent such wars. Though then we will start seeing sites selling votes for such stuff.

    But maybe what I am saying is no longer correct, as it has been a long time since I have paid attention to the discussion pages.
    ian.aldrighetti
    • RE: Wikipedia losing contributors: Fatal flaw, the community editors?

      @ian.aldrighetti No, this is pretty accurate. Just go take a look at all the wackjobs who edit conspiracy-theory articles.
      RvLeshrac
      • Many wikipedia 'fans'/editors think they **own** certain pages, so usual ..

        @RvLeshrac: ... visitor's editions that correct blatant nonsense, but which is taste of 'elite' people, <b>almost always get blindly deleted</b>.<br><br>Since usual visitors do not have this habit of sitting on certain pages and tracking its changes, they give up easily, the quality of Wikipedia does not grow much.
        DDERSSS
    • I've contributed on topics I'm learned...

      only to have them repeatedly removed by other contributors citing some rule I've demonstrated the very same contributors break in other posts.

      It's dominated by a few with plenty of time on their hands and an agenda to advance. In the end we move on, and wikipedia is what it's become!
      Richard Flude
      • RE: Wikipedia losing contributors: Fatal flaw, the community editors?

        @Richard Flude

        I stopped contributing and donating to Wikipedia because of retarded editors.
        josh92
      • RE: Wikipedia losing contributors: Fatal flaw, the community editors?

        @Richard Flude
        Absolutely dead on. Those who know how to research, document, etc., get tired of idiots with no research skills hacking things up. In several cases I took entire articles I started and set them up as independent websites to avoid all the edits.
        Rick_R
      • RE: Wikipedia losing contributors: Fatal flaw, the community editors?

        @Richard Flude

        Exactly what I've found. I don't bother editing wikipedia anymore because nothing is applied consistently, Admins act like antisocial a-holes, and there's constant fighting over every topic no matter how irrelevant.

        Plus wikipedia is designed to be hugely bureaucratic. I suppose it needs to be a bit bureaucratic, but there's a task force for everything, every article falls under several categories under the authority of many different admins, has 3 different types of ratings, etc. Not only that the noteworthiness guidelines are abused to delete articles that people disagree with. It almost seems like all you need to do to get an article deleted is question its noteworthiness, the admins are more than willing to agree to do it to anything regardless of whether they understand the topic.

        When I edited wikipedia I was trying to give back. Never have I encountered such a thankless thing as editing wikipedia. You get screamed at online and attacked personally no matter what you write.
        snoop0x7b
      • RE: Wikipedia losing contributors: Fatal flaw, the community editors?

        @Richard Flude <br><br>Right on. I contributed to wikipedia when it was new and it wasn't such a nightmare.<br><br>Fast forward 8 or so years. My brother (a history professor who has taught american history at the university level) tried to contribute to an article about a well-known american history book where he merely wanted to point out a few criticisms of that book (and he meticulously cited his sources). He wrote it in an academic manner (that is, not angry or bitter, just stating the fact that there is a genuine controversy among scholars about some of the interpretations in the book), and it kept getting deleted by some jackass editor with a political axe to grind. It was absolutely ridiculous. Here is a history professor who teaches american history at university, is well regarded in his field, and has many published articles in history journals. All he wanted to do was point out the FACT that there was some controversy to certain claims (with citations to back it up) and some jackass politically-motivated thug editor wouldn't let his contribution stay.<br><br>Needless to say, my brother (very learned and not politically extreme - about as moderate as they come) hasn't tried to contribute anything to wikipedia since.
        stooge51
      • RE: Wikipedia losing contributors: Fatal flaw, the community editors?

        @Richard Flude Advance in what way?
        mejohnsn
      • RE: Wikipedia losing contributors: Fatal flaw, the community editors?

        @Richard Flude
        I agree. The last time I contributed several paragraphs of information, it was just deleted without comment. That's enough for me.
        nfordtchrpub
    • No voting

      @ian.aldrighetti <br>A majority voting on information doesn't necessarily mean that the information will be more correct.
      sissy sue
      • Every once in a long while, you write a comment I agree with...

        Majority rule is not a way to turn a lie into fact.
        adornoe
      • RE: Wikipedia losing contributors: Fatal flaw, the community editors?

        @sissy sue Absolutely true. Unfortunately, it is one of the deeply imbedded myths of the American tribe that the people have a deep wisdom the elites do not, and that the majority is, if not always compeletely right, at least pretty close to right most of the time.

        How people could continue to believe this after seeing what their elected 'representatives' did this last month in Congress is absolutely beyond me.
        mejohnsn
      • mejohnsn: Oops! I missed it! What did congress do last month?

        ;)

        Be clear.
        adornoe
      • RE: Wikipedia losing contributors: Fatal flaw, the community editors?

        [i]Majority rule is not a way to turn a lie into fact.[/i]

        And you're probably one of those nutjob a$$holes they were talking about up above.
        bunker buster
    • RE: Wikipedia losing contributors: Fatal flaw, the community editors?

      @ian.aldrighetti What you say sounds credible for some pages. Others have a very different problem: nobody is updating the article itself based on the discussion, both being very out of date.
      mejohnsn
    • Still the same.

      2014. This biggest problem now, are the tougher rules which practically need a verified source for every sentence. You'll see most new articles will have long strings of reference marks all over the place. There is a lot less incentive now for new contributions if it seems more like a job than a past time.
      humpty88
  • Wikipedia censored

    Wikipedia is the most censored site. You can't add anything what might upset the Elite, Government, UN, Pope, Democracy export etc.
    Pu-239
    • RE: Wikipedia losing contributors: Fatal flaw, the community editors?

      @Pu-239 And Jason Perlow! Don't forget Jason Perlow.
      jgm@...
  • RE: Wikipedia losing contributors: Fatal flaw, the community editors?

    Why am i not surprised I used to be an editor on Wikipedia even earned Badges and stuff but after a while i just got annoyed Wikipedia has three core principles or guides if you want to call it that and you would follow the principles to the T and some stupid 14 year old kids who have no idea concerning the principles would remove your info , they would ask friends to join with them so when you argue they make it look like most people on the discussion page agreed with them with actually showing you why or if they did show you why it didn't fall under the guidelines.
    bxbbrian