Wikipedia is Dying; Nobody Edits Anymore

We all know on Wikipedia, anyone can edit. The problem is, nobody wants to.

Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales made an announcement at this year’s Wikipedia conference: Nobody wants to edit Wikipedia anymore.

Wales later told the AP that the number of Wikipedia editors is slowly dwindling. “We are not replenishing our ranks,” he said, “it is not a crisis, but I consider it to be important.”

According to Wales a lot of the core Wikipedians have simply aged out, got married and found that they have better things to do with their time.

I’d personally add one more reason: Wikipedia makes it entirely too hard for people to become contributors/editors and when you do, your content (even content that fits within the MoS parameters of editorial content) is seemingly arbitrarily changed by admins without any rhyme or reason.

I used to be a Wikipedia editor and in many ways it was very useful. I spent much time adding my clients’ case studies to relevant topics, helping with their SEO while improving the validity of wiki content. But, when trying to help other clients become editors themselves, I often heard, “this is just too hard” and “they make it too difficult.” Or, “all of my hard work was erased for no reason.”

Now, I do think editing should be somewhat restrictive and shouldn’t be so easy that anyone can make any changes they want. And, I’m sure there were instances of my clients adding sales-speak to the site, which will get flagged faster than … well something that gets flagged quickly.

But, when you make the game so difficult that people give up, you can’t be surprised that no one wants to play with you anymore.

Today, Gawker said: Wikipedia needs to get cool again, somehow. When Wikipedia launched in the early naughts it was attractively subversive—it pissed off your teachers, journalists and any square over 40, basically. Idealistic young nerds flocked to the site with that early web 2.0 communitarian fervor. But new editors aren’t showing up at the same rate. After years at the top result on practically every Google search, Wikipedia has lost its urgency. Kids who were in 8th grade in 2004 have gone through their entire high school and college careers consulting (i.e. plagiarizing) Wikipedia; to them, Wikipedia is a dull black box—editing it seems just a bit more possible than making revisions to Pride and Prejudice.

Meanwhile, Twitter and Facebook have become the preferred sites of younger Internet users and Wales has been trying to incorporate some of those features into the site to keep younger users participating:

“The typical profile of a contributor is ‘a 26-year-old geeky male’ who moves on to other ventures, gets married and leaves the website,” Wales said. “Other contributors leave because, 10 years after the website was launched, there are fewer new entries to add.”

By March, Wikipedia had about 90,000 active contributors. The goal is to tack on another 5,000 by June of next year, said Sue Gardner, executive director of the nonprofit that runs the website.

Among its steps, Gardner said the site is expanding a program that encourages university professors to assign the writing of Wikipedia entries to their students, particularly in India, Brazil, Canada, Germany and Britain.

The website has also introduced a new feature called WikiLove aimed at keeping users engaged. Visitors to the website select a graphic icon — choices include kittens, stars and the Mediterranean dessert baklava — and send it with a message of appreciation to a page contributor as encouragement. “It’s like a ‘like’ on Facebook,” Wales said.

Let me know what you think. Are you a Wikipedia editor? Do you want to become one? Or, should the site put its glory days behind it?

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