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Wikipedia Disputes Editor Exodus Claims

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the waiting-on-netcraft dept.

The Internet 207

eldavojohn writes "The Wikimedia blog has a new post from Erik Moeller, deputy director of the Wikimedia Foundation, and Erik Zachte, a data analyst, to dispute recent reports about editors leaving Wikipedia (which we discussed on Wednesday). They offer these points to discredit the claims: 'The number of people reading Wikipedia continues to grow. In October, we had 344 million unique visitors from around the world, according to comScore Media Metrix, up 6% from September. Wikipedia is the fifth most popular web property in the world. The number of articles in Wikipedia keeps growing. There are about 14.4 million articles in Wikipedia, with thousands of new ones added every day. The number of people writing Wikipedia peaked about two and a half years ago, declined slightly for a brief period, and has remained stable since then. Every month, some people stop writing, and every month, they are replaced by new people." They also note that it's impossible to tell whether someone has left and will never return, as their account still remains there."

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207 comments

Liar (2, Insightful)

Tom (822) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254084)

If someone starts off saying "it ain't so" by listing half a dozen facts that have nothing to do with the question, he's either terribly stupid, or trying to pull a fast one on you. It's called misdirection and confusion. Yes, it's actually a named trick in the arsenal of con artists.

So much for that.

Re:Liar (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30254118)

At Wikipedia, we are proud that we have more editors than readers

Re:Liar (1)

Moryath (553296) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254536)

You kidding? That's the goal of most admins - if you have new editors, there's the possibility that "consensus" on the little fiefdoms they control might actually change.

Most Wikipedia administrators have the goal of driving off new editors as fast as possible.

Re:Liar (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254652)

It's definitely a joke. It is not possible to have more editors than readers unless people are editing without looking at what they are editing, in which case WP is thoroughly screwed.

Re:Liar (2, Funny)

The Archon V2.0 (782634) | more than 4 years ago | (#30255024)

It is not possible to have more editors than readers unless people are editing without looking at what they are editing

Given the tendency of some editors to edit without ever looking at any source material for what they are editing, it sounds about right.

Re:Liar (4, Insightful)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254128)

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

But a Wikipedia administrator with a bunch of tags and article locks isn't too far away from inventing a fourth type of lie.

Re:Liar (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254336)

But a Wikipedia administrator with a bunch of tags and article locks isn't too far away from inventing a fourth type of lie.

Orwell has prior art, methinks.

Re:Liar (2, Insightful)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254946)

A relevant Orwell reference... on the internet? Dear god, what is slashdot coming to!

Re:Liar (1)

The Archon V2.0 (782634) | more than 4 years ago | (#30255104)

A relevant Orwell reference... on the internet? Dear god, what is slashdot coming to!

Yeah, really. Let's all stop posting. And then we can see if Taco edits out references to the mass exodus on Slashdot's Wikipedia page, replacing it with "The number of people posting to Slashdot peaked about two and a half months ago, declined slightly for a brief period, and has remained stable since then. Every month, some people stop posting, and every month, they are replaced by new people."

Re:Liar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30254382)

inventing a fourth type of lie.

I suggest Wicanard

Re:Liar,Christmas sale,free shipping discounts... (-1, Offtopic)

Johnson1985 (1688668) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254140)

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Comparision with the FLOSS communities (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30254198)

If someone starts off saying "it ain't so" by listing half a dozen facts that have nothing to do with the question, he's either terribly stupid, or trying to pull a fast one on you. It's called misdirection and confusion. Yes, it's actually a named trick in the arsenal of con artists.

So much for that.

Did you actually read the fine blog? It's titled "Wikipedia’s Volunteer Story" (emphasis mine). So it's not so much an answer to a question as a question about the relevance of the supposed question. It's like asking whether nuclear warheads or terrorism is the greater danger to world peace. (I'd answer both.)

The Wikipedia blog raises an interesting point about the seemingly irrelevant statistic about an increase in the number of readers or users as against the alleged decrease in the number of editors. This invites comparison to the free and open source software communities. Majority of those in the FLOSS community aren't developers (editors) but users, users who may include the free software advocates and others whose contribution don't necessarily involve the writing and rewriting of code. For example, the helpful mailing list or forum member who might volunteer to explain to a newbie how to edit a certain /etc/config file to revive a bjorked installation.

Re:Comparision with the FLOSS communities (1, Flamebait)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254394)

It's like asking whether nuclear warheads or terrorism is the greater danger to world peace. (I'd answer both.)

I think you mean "neither". They can't both be greater.

And it can logically be argued that if anything nuclear warheads have encouraged world peace.

Mod this "-2 pedantic and offtopic", I just had to point it out.

Re:Comparision with the FLOSS communities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30254954)

You can argue the same thing about terrorism. So what?

Re:Liar (5, Insightful)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254242)

As opposed to simply reeling off ad hominems, and attacking his writing strategy rather than his argument?

He didn't say "it ain't so". RTFA. In fact, it doesn't even dispute it even though that's presumably the intent, it simply talks of looking further into the figures.

The first two things listed may not be directly related to the number of editors - but that's the point! "Number of editors leaving" is a rather meaningless figure. You have to look at the whole picture, which is what he's doing. And the second one is related - they're still getting new articles, so there's yet to be any problem.

The third one is directly related.

He then goes in depth in discussing the alleged claims of the 49,000 figure.

Am I reading the same article as you?

Re:Liar (0, Troll)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254516)

The first two things listed may not be directly related to the number of editors - but that's the point! "Number of editors leaving" is a rather meaningless figure. You have to look at the whole picture, which is what he's doing. And the second one is related - they're still getting new articles, so there's yet to be any problem.

Editors are meaningless? No more than developers are meaningless to open source software, readers and users just come to consume. This is bit like a CEO looking at his financial statement saying it looks great after he fired R&D and marketing, sure current products and sales will last a while but magic 8-ball would say "outlook not so good".

Re:Liar (2, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254548)

I think it's a bit much to say you're replying to a post riddled with ad hominems, I see a single one in the subject line, the rest looks looks conditional.

I also think it's a natural response when we're used to seeing politically motivated people dance around a simple claim.

Re:Liar (3, Insightful)

gilleain (1310105) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254686)

Yes, this is an argument pattern I call "ad logicam" (I don't care if that is terrible latin, it's been 17 years since I used the language).

What happens is that the arguer knows these terms like "ad hominem", "straw man", etc. and concentrates only on that aspect of an opposing argument. So, you could make the most well thought out reply that completely destroys their point, but end with "you idiot" and the argument is 'lost'. Not lost in the technical sense of having a better point, but lost to flame and bitter gall.

It doesn't help that slashdot is full of idiots as well...oh no! My point!...

Wikipedia "Knowledge" (2, Insightful)

Steve Franklin (142698) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254572)

What's the difference? Wikipedia is simply a means of promoting whatever is the accepted "common knowledge" about a subject at the time. Anything resembling original research is immediately stricken from the Wikipedia "Gospel according to the Experts." In this regard, Wikipedia resembles the kind of banal nonsense one reads in high school textbooks.

Re:Wikipedia "Knowledge" (1)

EsbenMoseHansen (731150) | more than 4 years ago | (#30255002)

Still, when I was wondering the other day what Ochratoxin [wikipedia.org] (I was reading a dire warning to avoid certain foodstuff for my baby due to this), wikipedia gave a good answer right away, for free. I don't get the wikipedia hate; I find it an extremely useful source of knowledge, completely replacing the by-now obsolete and bulky encyclopedias.

Oh, and I am impressed with your highschool textbooks! If only they could bring the students up to this level ;)

Re:Wikipedia "Knowledge" (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30255206)

Except high school textbooks are right, you clod!
The "neutral point of view", "reliable sources", and "no original research" rules on Wikipedia keep out the Holocaust denial, the moon-landing hoax theories, homeopathy apologists, etc.
What you call "banal nonsense" is normally called verifiable facts about the universe.

Re:Liar (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254812)

Sorry, but I have been working for a (dead tree) magazine for a while. It might be different for online media, but editors leaving is NOT a good sign for a paper. Even if you bring more new people on board than are leaving, you're usually losing out. It's like in every business, when your skilled, experienced workers leave and you have to replace them with new, inexperienced people, quality suffers. First, by the very law of tenure, it's not the "bad" people that stay for long. They won't be kept long, in a business they'll be fired, in a volunteer area like wikipedia they'll either be asked to leave or, if they're disruptive, banned. So you can assume that 100% of what is leaving is "good" people. Else they would not have stayed around for a year or longer. On the other hand, you don't know what you get in. It's like hiring a new guy. Can he do his job? Is he a slacker? Is he even sabotaging you (unlikely in a professional environment, but for wikipedia? How do you determine if some new guy is going to be a dedicated editor or just a troll)? You won't know for a while.

Out with the good, in with the new is not necessarily something good...

Re:Liar (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30254272)

When the news were published on that blog the wikipedia admins noticed to their horror they coudn't roll back other web pages... What a very stupid reply, indeed makes him a liar or an idiot.

Just saying, my worthy contributions have been mangled a few times by idiots with admin powers or who have friends with admin powers. It's very disheartening, it's like a massive exercise at bureaucracy. Nobody likes a jack boot in the teeth. And there are some many fouled up policies too...

Having said that I think the whole project is an amazing construct and contains a massive amout of useful data. It's a testment to the usefullness of free software and free content. And to human altruistic collaboration.

A tough cookie.

Merge slashdot code to Wiki if you dare? (5, Interesting)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254638)

As Slashdot is open source, Perl based, it won't be a problem.

Lets merge Slashdot code to Wikipedia so people, semi-randomly selected can moderate Wiki editor responses. It will have karma system too. If an editor does too much flamebait or "troll", his karma will go negative and by default, his editing powers will be reduced to normal levels and eventually taken off.

You have no clue how your type of editor responses makes users and the real deal (one off editors) feel right?

Re:Liar (3, Insightful)

Geek Prophet (976927) | more than 4 years ago | (#30255126)

If you think that he is "listing half a dozen facts that have nothing to do with the question", then you don't understand the question. The question is not, "Are editors leaving Wikipedia in droves?" The question *he* cares about is, "Does this claim that editors are leaving Wikipedia in droves mean Wikipedia is dying?" So, he states outright that this claim is being made, and then disputes it. Only after he takes care of the important stuff does he address the question of number of editors. So, no, this wasn't "smoke and mirrors" (to give the actual name to the trick). It was his attempt to address what *he* considered important before talking about the accuracy of what *you* consider "the question".

Re:Liar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30255170)

In fact, for once, the term "begging the question" can be used properly!

Oh, you can tell (4, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254092)

They also note that it's impossible to tell whether someone has left and will never return, as their account still remains there.

I stopped editing Wikipedia in 2004, IIRC. There were plenty of cases who people left and you could tell they weren't likely to return, as their User or Talk page had some spectacular meltdown where they cursed the entire project and -- in the cases of the more qualified editors -- they vowed never to write anything about their field outside of academic rounds ever again.

Re:Oh, you can tell (4, Insightful)

ACS Solver (1068112) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254188)

Cursing or not, I can understand why people stop editing. I used to contribute stuff but stopped some 3 years ago. One problem is that Wikipedia has gotten very bogged down in its own bureaucracy. For making non-minor edits, there's the distinct impression that you're supposed to know a huge amount of rules and guidelines, proper procedures and whatnot. Then there's the problem with other editors that won't accept your edits as valid unless you can show them a citation they understand. Requiring citations is great, but if I'm making edits related to a fairly small European language only spoken in one country, what can I show? I can cite books or online resources written in that very language - citations that some editors don't find satisfying because they don't understand what it says.

Re:Oh, you can tell (5, Insightful)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254296)

The funny thing is, elsewhere on this artice will be people bitching about "Well I left Wikipedia, I got fed up of people coming in an making changes to articles, without discussing with people or following basic guidelines". I'm not saying you're in the wrong, I'm just saying there's no right answer here, and the fault is not with "Wikipedia" as an entity.

The fallacy is referring to "Wikipedia" as if it was some single entity. The problem is between the editors - and when you edit, that includes you. There's no you-and-them, as the them may well be other people who are complaining about "Wikipedia", when by "Wikipedia" they actually mean their experience with you.

The only plausible time when a them-and-us argument is valid is when discussing Wikipedia admins (who are granted special privileges). But this doesn't apply to editors. You were an editor, and are just as much a target of Wikipedia criticism as any other editor.

The bottom line is that when you have a massive collaboration between people online who don't even know each other, there are going to be disagreements. Unfortunately, rather than debate it with each other, sometimes both sides of an argument will take it out on "Wikipedia", each of them referring to the other side's view as wrong, and an example of how doomed Wikipedia is.

Thankfully, criticisms on Slashdot comments or in the tabloids don't change the fact that out of this collabaration, we nonetheless actually have a resultant free encyclopedia that's pretty damn good.

Re:Oh, you can tell (4, Insightful)

ACS Solver (1068112) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254468)

I actually agree with what you're saying for the most part. But part of the general criticism of Wikipedia comes because people on the outside see it as a single entity. Which is unsurprising. So whenever they see something bad/wrong/unlikeable, they are going to blame "the Wikipedia" as a whole. It's to be expected, really, most readers have never edited Wikipedia. According to TFA, the amount of active editors peaked at over 54k while last month the amount of unique visitors was 344m. Granted, more people than those 54k have ever made edits, but how many? 200k? A million? Even in that case it would be a very low percentage of readers, what I'm saying here is, to non-editors Wikipedia will be a single entity.

I see one big difference between Wikipedia and some other great collaborative projects like the Linux kernel, X11, Wine, Haiku, etc. For open-source programming projects, there's a fairly significant entry barrier. You have to know programming, you have to be able to figure out how the project works in general before you can contribute code. Essentially, by the time you can submit a code patch, you'll have learned a few things about the internal working, whether you like it or not. To edit Wikipedia, though, the entry barrier is much lower. If you're already reading Wikipedia, all you need to edit is the ability to write in whatever language you may want to edit in. That's it. So you can easily start editing without even knowing there are Wikipedia admins, without having any clue about the (by now fairly complex) internal organization of Wikipedia and its editors. And, of course, not knowing anything about the various "camps" of editors (deletionists vs inclusionists, anyone?).

As such, a fairly new editor to Wikipedia can go edit a few things and then be very surprised when they discover all the internal stuff, scaring them away.

And as a disclaimer, yes, I do overall think that Wikipedia is one of the greatest achievements of the Internet. It does seem rather US-centric, it does suffer from partisanship on articles regarding certain topics, etc., but on many, many subjects it's the best place for quick, all-in-one-place information.

Re:Oh, you can tell (1)

cellurl (906920) | more than 4 years ago | (#30255166)

I truly believe that about a year ago, something changed. I can't put my finger on it, but there has to be an internal memo somewhere that specified putting-the-brakes on edits. A year ago you could put your rock-band on wikipedia, but now you can't.

Q: Where can I download all of wikipedia?
Yes, remain under the license-of-the-day, but perhaps I want to filter it a bit for my kids.
Where is the wikipedia.zip file?

Not allowed on wikipedia [wikispeedia.org]

Don't You Just Love Modern Life? (3, Funny)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 4 years ago | (#30255012)

the problem with other editors that won't accept your edits as valid unless you can show them a citation they understand

Aggravated further still by the fact that the "other editor" is, in real life, a self-absorbed Starbuck's barista whose only claim to precedence arises from the fact that he got involved in editing Wikipedia when it was the cool thing to do for sociopathic high school geeks who didn't have the motor coordination to play online shooters. He was navigating manufactured bureaucracy while you were navigating jungles leading that archaeological expedition; now you want to correct something on the article about the very same cache you unearthed, but "Would You Like Extra Foam On That?" Boy is throwing up speed bumps, mainly because he he lacks any basic understanding of your field of expertise, but also because he just had a fight with his mom and he's in a real foul mood.

Re:Oh, you can tell (5, Insightful)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 4 years ago | (#30255308)

A large part of the internal Wikipedia war is Inclusionists and Exclusionists. Inclusionists believe by and large that a page should never be deleted - simply moved, merged, or filled out until it is eventually up to par. Exclusionists believe pages should be held to a certain standard, and pages that can't reach that standard within a few days after their creation should be deleted.

I myself am an Inclusionist. In the days of cheap storage and bandwidth, there is not really a good reason not to have a page on there because it doesn't have references or citations yet. The key word there is "yet". Higher-ups are too quick with the delete button and so if you cannot write a large article with proper citation within a few days you might as well not bother at all.

That's why I (and many others) just don't bother at all anymore. I was fortunate enough to be able to write for a little while when Wikipedia was still fairly new. I loved watching the articles I created get built up by other people and grow, but this takes time. Nowadays, the current policy is basically unwilling to provide the time to let the weekend and occasional contributors pitch in to build an article slowly, so instead the people writing the articles are the people who have a vested interest in getting them written. That is a good and bad thing.

Anecdotes are not data (5, Insightful)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254264)

The point being, there's no automated way to do this, in order come up with statistics about the site.

An anecdote of "Well I stopped editing in 2004, and so did some people I know" may make for interesting discussion, but doesn't tell us anything useful about trends in Wikipedia editing as a whole, and certainly doesn't support the recent story.

Unfortunately, Wikipedia is one of Slashdot's blindspots - where the usual thought out points go out of the window in the groupthink, and mod points are dished out purely on who can criticise Wikipedia, for whatever reason, be it a personal bad experience of editing there, or some axe to grind against its policies.

Re:Anecdotes are not data (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254538)

I agree, Wikipedia sucks. Where be mah mod points? At any rate, all data no matter where it comes from should be scrutinized. If you read something and take it for face value or use that one point as a "citation" that encompasses your whole argument then you will always look a fool. Unfortunately, "life choices" are often taken from one point and then embedded in our brains and no one else can tell us different. Religion comes to mind as a "citation" in this case.

Re:Anecdotes are not data (4, Insightful)

zoney_ie (740061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254574)

It nevertheless should tell you something that criticism of Wikipedia is now so widespread, and particularly by ex-editors/admins (one could argue that is nothing surprising - but the sheer numbers of such "exs" surely is extraordinary).

Anyway, it is interesting, sometimes useful in a sort of "ask a friend" way, and sort of a real-life H2G2, but basically, it's a bit of fanciful nonsense to think it's anything particularly special or proper (the same goes for the web in general, and "web 2.0" in particular). People are the same as always, and the information online is neither necessarily persistent, and is mostly noise (and any influence on offline "hard copy" information may be overall detrimental due to the noise/inaccuracy added).

Also too many people still haven't realised that the Internet is not some special mystical place but is in fact just part of the real world, and ultimately has to be subject to real world social, political and judicial norms, despite the difficulties in applying some of those.

A lot of the idealists who want to belief the fluff about a free magical Internet are people who in the real world would try to push their idealistic nonsense and simply allow the strongest elements in society to abuse any "freedom" to impose horrible restrictions of freedom. It's the same kind of mindset that believed the nonsense accompanying certain failed political ideologies of the 20th century, which we now have ample evidence that they are fanciful ideas that in reality just bring misery.

People need to stick to boring old tradition and the lessons we have learnt over and over again over centuries.

You show the reason (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254618)

Reading your lengthy post shows anectodal evidence of why people doesn't like Wikipedia editing.

Trust me, people likes Feynman, Einstein, Hawking like scientists not just because their amazing breakthroughs... They like them because they were friendly to average people.

"Editing an article, dealing with editors feels something like snail mailing a typed letter to Britannica HQ in 1980s. At least, Britannica guys were polite people."

Here is another "anecdotal" evidence, a quote told to me by a very very important Scientist who were horrified by some issues on articles and tried to fix them. As citation, what would you need? Name? Home address? Phone? On web? No, thank you, I better stay as another anecdotal guy.

Re:You show the reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30255350)

In wikipedia-land, you can never contribute to a subject you invented despite being an expert in the field. This is the greatest fail of wikitopia.

I knew it was a lot, but... (3, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254108)

In October, we had 344 million unique visitors from around the world, according to comScore Media Metrix, up 6% from September.

That's a lot of eyeballs.

If nothing else they deserve an award for not plastering advertisements on their site. I know some major newspapers that would love to see their sites get that kind of traffic.

Re:I knew it was a lot, but... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30254156)

They might deserve an award if they actually built Wikipedia themselves. Those are OUR articles and OUR blood, sweat and tears. They had BETTER not start serving ads on content that they didn't create.

Re:I knew it was a lot, but... (1)

Suzuran (163234) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254328)

Why not? That's how the vast majority of "real" news sites work. They repost AP stories and add a ton of ads. Most news outlets don't have reporters of their own.

Re:I knew it was a lot, but... (1)

symbolic (11752) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254916)

They pay for the right to post those AP stories, do they not? Wikipedia is not a news site. It's a knowledge base, created by thousands of people who took the time to share what they know.

Re:I knew it was a lot, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30254678)

I like wikipedia and all, but they don't deserve an award for not having ads.

The wiki folk constantly have fundraisers and the user community constantly donates money, which is one of the reasons they don't have ads.

Re:I knew it was a lot, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30254758)

That's odd, I can't quite remember the last time I didn't see ads. They're just the annoying fundraiser thing at the top of the page.

Wikipedia hits 3 million, dies. (5, Funny)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254126)

The online encyclopedia, knowledge base, social networking site, essay repository, blog, search engine, news aggregator, dessert wax and floor topping Wikipedia has reached its three millionth article and ceased all editing [today.com] as everyone gives up this "free" foolishness and goes home, to read newspapers and watch network television for the rest of their lives.

Dr Felipe Ortega reported that only 1% of edits by random users were kept. "They were all unspeakable shit," said burnt-out administrator WikiFiddler451. "All of them. No, I'm not exaggerating. Go to Special:Newpages and read a day's entries some time. You'll start by deleting the whole database, before you get onto plotting the doom of humanity. Christ, why go on?"

Recent media coverage has highlighted the "inclusionist/deletionist" wars of 2005, including enquiries from Endemol looking for a "passionate deletionist" to join Big Brother 11, "preferably one with big tits." It is thought that Wikipedia could have had ten million articles by now had they not viciously abused their editorial powers by deleting your valuable contributions about you, your teacher at school, your garage band or your dog or the many cameraphone pictures you uploaded of your penis.

"Everything's already been written," said WikiFiddler451, burning the last of his Star Wars figurines before leaving for his rehabilitation course in social interaction skills and basics of hygiene. "Do you have any idea how big THREE MILLION articles is? A BILLION GODDAMN WORDS! Are you going to read more than a droplet of that in your life? No you aren't. You're following your goddamn Twitter.

"But hey, only two million articles are The Simpsons in popular culture or Doctor Who in popular culture. No-one actually reads this stuff, they just write it. We have LiveJournal for stuff people write that no-one wants to read. 'Oh, I wandered lonely as a cheeseburger/ My passionate angst filling my Coke with darkness.' Or Knol. KNOL! I'll just Bing that one."

Shell-shocked veterans of Wikipedia are at a loss now that it's all over — wandering the alleyways of the Internet, mumbling to themselves about "ANI" and "we had to delete the village in order to save it," threatening the policemen moving them on with "arbitration" and bursting into tears when the policeman answers "citation needed." Mere children, sent into the culture wars to save knowledge from horrors they barely understood, and coming home as crippled wrecks. No victory parades for these brave men and women. There is only so much Citizendium, Uncyclopedia and 4chan can do for these child heroes. With your help, we can build Potemkin wikis for these honorable veterans, where they can safely ban and unban, revert and edit-war, and correct the naming of Danzig^WGdansk^WDanzig^WGdansk without the possibility of damage to actual human readers. Please donate so that they may never bug you again.

Not a decline (4, Funny)

paul248 (536459) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254134)

The number of Wikipedia editors is not declining. In fact, their population has tripled in the last six months.

Re:Not a decline (1)

lordandmaker (960504) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254288)

Is that the number of people editing, or the number of users? I'm still a Wikipedia user. I still have a talk page, I think it still gets autoedited by a newsletter or two. I've not logged in in about three years.

Re:Not a decline (2, Funny)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254326)

Elsewhere on this page: "Wikipedia is crap! I tried to make an edit on the Elephant page, about a sudden increase in numbers, and it got reverted! Everytime! Well, that ends my experience of editing with Wikipedia, I don't know why I bother! And obviously therefore no one else will, and Wikipedia is doomed."

Exodus evidence??? (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254148)

Well I looked for and article about this and couldn't find it on Wikipedia, so it must not be true.

And this damn well better be modded as funny if at all.

Wikipedia vs. English Wikipedia (1)

azgard (461476) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254176)

I think the original article was talking about English Wikipedia, but Eric quotes statistics from all Wikipedias combined.

My own experience. (4, Insightful)

taxman_10m (41083) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254194)

I joined recently to update the page of a candidate running for Ted Kennedy's seat (election will be done and over with by January). I wasn't updating much, adding the candidate's birth date, linking to a book he had written, and adding the part copied from other candidate's wiki pages that links him to the Senate race. After a full day of back in forth with an editor deleting whatever I had just added, the only think that made it through was the link to the book he had written. And I think that just slipped through. Not worth the effort at all trying to update a page with new info. That ends my time working with Wikipedia.

Re:My own experience. (3, Informative)

BlueBoxSW.com (745855) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254222)

I've had similar experiences.

I think the editors probably do a lot of good overall, but they tend to be heavy handed, deleting whole articles without warning rather than striking parts they find objectionable (which I think is more the intended role of the editor).

Further, I've seen cases where one editor will request better sources, and a second will just delete it (rather than nominate it for 7-day deletion). Kind of annoying.

Editors can't delete articles (2, Informative)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254436)

But you were an editor too, along with everyone else giving their experiences here.

Editors can't delete articles, so that is factually wrong. Admins can, but that is not "without warning", it's after a debate when comments are invited from editors (including you), so again that is factually wrong.

There's also Speedy Delete which can be more contentious, but that's still not without warning, and again only Admins can do that. And it's a balance, without it, Wikipedia would be bogged down with thousands of nonsense articles that editors create, as this can be done at a faster rate than they could be deleted through the AfD debate. And if anything, this is another reason why more editors is not necessarily a good thing, as it also means more work generated - the number of editors is meaningless, without telling us what those editors are doing. And indeed, perhaps the editors leaving are the ones you dislike, in which case, you should be glad :)

Re:Editors can't delete articles (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#30255076)

*sigh* Now we have a mod abusing "overrated" on a post that was never uprated, and thus escaping metamod.

I'll say it again: editors can't delete articles, and articles aren't deleted without warning. Those are facts. The OP was mistaken, I'm afraid.

(Rather than complaining about Wikipedia editors (who can be anyone), perhaps we should complain about the poor state of moderation on Slashdot, especially as mod points now seem to be given out to a subset of people, also making it far easier to abuse...)

Re:Editors can't delete articles (1)

Kagato (116051) | more than 4 years ago | (#30255234)

Of course they can't just delete articles. But they sure as shit can get on IRC and get their other editor friends to stack the vote an article for deletion.

Re:My own experience. (1)

rs232 (849320) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254302)

"After a full day of back in forth with an editor deleting whatever I had just added"

I sympathise with your experience. Myself gave up after repeated abuse from the so-called unbiased editors (after a simple request for some citations). One even posted a private email from me to the forum in order to deride it with a fellow unbiased editor. Wikipedia, a heap of self-serving corporate propaganda and free advertising pretending to be an Encyclopedia ..

Re:My own anecdote. (2, Interesting)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254466)

So wait, one editor is rude to another editor, and you blame "Wikipedia"?

Perhaps if a troll upsets me here, I should blame "Slashdot".

Wikipedia, a heap of self-serving corporate propaganda and free advertising pretending to be an Encyclopedia

Now we're getting silly - believe it if you like, but your anecdote of a bad experience from another editor does not support this view! I can't see how these two issues are even remotely related? That editor was likely just a random other person (who for all we know, is also criticising "Wikipedia" based on his experience with you!) not anything to do with representing corporation. Hell, I'm sure even people working for Britannica have a bad day sometimes (as with just about any job), but that's not a reason to criticise the end product.

Self-serving? It serves people who want to read it. Corporate propaganda - examples? Free advertising? Well yes, it's free of adverts. And yes, it's an encyclopedia. Squabbles between editors don't change that.

Re:My own anecdote. (4, Insightful)

ivucica (1001089) | more than 4 years ago | (#30255236)

It is fascinating how ofter Wikipedia apoogists seem to repeat this same argument in other comments of this article.

It's the fault of culture of rules and bureaucracy propagated and promoted by ... whom? Wikipedia?

When there's police brutality without punishment, do you blame the policeman or the government?
When there's a massacre perpetrated by your authoritarian government, do you blame the army/policemen, or the government?
When Madoff steals money over there in the US, do you blame Madoff or those who didn't stop him?

Of course, you can blame the person who directly committed the crime (or the immoral act, depending on laws). But sometimes, just sometimes, the act is a product of the culture. I have a pratical example of bad culture influencing otherwise smart and good people in my country, but stating my personal experiences directly would make me a racist.

Is it core Wikipedia management's fault that I had problems [wikipedia.org] adding a short stub article about a well-known Croatian band [wikipedia.org]? I don't know. Is it Wikipedia's fault? Yes. Wikipedia is more than just the site, it's also the community. Whoever created the rules is responsible for making active editors and admins behave like shit. Why did [citation needed] have to become a joke?

Anecdotes are not evidence (2, Interesting)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254354)

Anecdotes are not evidence, and tell us nothing about trends in contributions.

But yes, basically some people have a bad experience about working with other people online anonymously. But it is a mistake to think that this means Wikipedia is flawed - for all we know, the other person is also here complaining about people who kept adding "rubbish" to an article... I'm sure you think your change was valid, and maybe it was, but that's not always the case [slashdot.org]. There's no right answer, yet people will always come away, complaining about Wikipedia, no matter what their edit was.

It's entirely natural that some people aren't cut out for Wikipedia editing - I wouldn't expect a massive collabation with large numbers of anonymous people online to be easy. I mean, what do you propose? That all edits should be allowed to stay? Well no, that would be unworkable.

Many things in life, especially those in life that involve working with other people, require cooperation and time, and sometimes not everything goes your way. It is a mistake to think that making the edit is the only work necessary, because such a policy of no reverts would be unworkable. You have to sometimes discuss changes with other people - that's true of all sorts of things in life, such as open source projects, volunteer work, or jobs. But that doesn't mean that no one is interested, nor does it mean that there is something wrong with the activity. Imagine someone saying "I tried working in a band once, but it was hopeless, the other guys didn't want to play any of the songs I wrote or listen to my suggestions, so I left" - sure, it's a nice little anecdote, but it tells us nothing about (a) whether you were in the right or not, (b) about trends in music, or (c) whether working in bands is a good idea or not, other than the obvious point that you have to be prepared to work with other people, who sometimes may not agree with you.

Why is Wikipedia so different? Yes, by all means tell us about how you didn't like being an editor, but please don't present that as criticism of the project, or evidence of a trend - anymore than my dislike of playing football is valid criticism of football, or evidence of a decline in the sport.

Re:Anecdotes are not evidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30254642)

basically some people have a bad experience [but] it is a mistake to think that this means Wikipedia is flawed

Oh no, my friend. The concept allows that to happen. That means that the concept IS flawed. No matter what you think we should believe.

Re:My own experience. (2, Interesting)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254372)

PS - what was the article (or name of the candidate)? If you're in the right, maybe other people such as myself can have a look, and put the changes back.

Re:My own experience. (2, Insightful)

Dulimano (686806) | more than 4 years ago | (#30255096)

I have seen hundreds of posts on Slashdot about incompetence and abuse of power by Wikipedia editors. NONE of these posts contained reference to the events described. Citation needed, indeed.

Re:My own experience. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30254476)

The popularity of Wikipedia is one of the clearest symptoms of the human condition on the Internet: a state where truth is not authority or accessibility, but authority and accessibility are truth. Put in practical terms: people refer to the top Google hit for anything they search for, and informed researchers / educators are finding it increasingly hard to reach out to the layman via the Internet.

Yes, by quantity alone, Wikipedia wins - but only after my stack of 500GB drives, filled with random bits. Yes, any printed Encyclopedia Generica also contains errors. So what? What are you doing using either, beyond Middle School / Junior High? Every subject has well-known compendia of knowledge and well-used text books for an introductory exposition, so why aren't you reading there? The problem is not that people aren't using traditional generic encyclopedias any more; the problem is that people are using Wikipedia where previously they would never have gone to the first random person they meet in the street and asked them for information about a subject.

So much for Wikipedia's effect on everyone else. What is most damaging, I think, is that Wikipedia itself has grown as a cult. My girlfriend is from a JW family, and I've seen what a mild cult is like: people who criticise it are met with jargon, misdirection (TFA is a fine example!), denial, and finally anger. Ritual is more important than enlightenment, because ritual which was initially aimed (if you're feeling generous) to fulfil the cult's vision instead becomes a method of maintaining existing power structure. A cult convinces you that you are educating yourself in the best way by propagandizing successes while ignoring endemic inefficiencies. You will learn some things from getting involved in Wikipedia, just as you will gain philosophical insight from many cult study groups - indeed, some cult / Wikipedia articles are technically brilliant - but you're unlikely to improve your condition. You're not there to promote scholarship, or pedagogy: you're there to support the rules.

I thrive in an academic environment. I am thoroughly scrutinised by peers. I interact with experienced educators and students so my ability to impart information is improved. I feel I've made advances to my discipline, and that those tutored by me have benefitted from my efforts in preparing myself to help them. But I've not got past first base trying to teach cult members, whether the more fundamentalist JWs I've known or through contributions to Wikipedia. The challenges are always the same:
- "But [authority] imparting [belief], which means [policy];"
- "But [inability to understand source], which means [conspiracy];"
- "But [disagreement], which means [call on authority to suppress dissent]."

This isn't how scholarship works. The worthiness of scholarship is measured by the question: "Have I exposed some truths?" The worthiness of cult contribution is measured by: "Have I provided an argument which pleases my masters?" The majority of non-trivial Wikipedia articles are neutrally titled subjects presenting the result of a dominant viewpoint being transformed into a supporting argument, just as a cult article on "X" will end up being "why X is right/wrong"; the majority of scholarly articles are works written to support a transparent abstract.

The Internet was a lot easier to find introductory information from before Wikipedia: search engines returned, at the top, accessible subject-specific sites contributed to by researchers, professionals or keen amateurs (N.B. an "amateur" in the sense of an expert doing something on his own dime, often with a level of qualification, such as a radio ham). Now it's Wikipedia, Wikipedia scrapes, answers.com style aggregators, random stores with products related to words, and - if you're really lucky - a subject-specific site. The latter remain popular because they're introduced to you by experts, whether on forums, at college, or among colleagues - but to find these among search results always takes more effort than just hitting "en.wikipedia.org" right at the top.

And that's the only reason's Wikipedia's popular: she's easy and you're lazy.

Re:My own experience. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30254592)

that pretty much sums up my thoughts on wikipedia. i've never tried contributing as the comments pages seem to always be 2 or 3 people with different views arguing for a way of expressing something which favors their view.

Re:My own experience. (5, Insightful)

labradore (26729) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254496)

I am not surprised by your experience. I have recently found that I was unable to make spelling and grammar changes to several pages that were locked. Lots of the pages that I was interested in contributing to were in some kind of locked state. It seems strange that someone could justify locking a page and controlling it without satisfying the basic requirements that he or she be fluent in the language in which the page is written. I found myself hoping that some other group with less anti-social tendencies would fork from wikipedia.

Dealing with protected pages (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254932)

Did you try registering for an account and making a few edits to unrelated pages to establish yourself as a serious editor [wikipedia.org]? If so, what was the your Wikipedia username?

If the page was fully protected, did you try blanketing the talk page with {{editprotected}} requests? Did you try checking the page's deletion log (View history > View logs for this page), seeing why the page was protected, and then seeing if the problem had blown over? If it has, request unprotection at Wikipedia:Requests for page protection [wikipedia.org].

Re:Dealing with protected pages (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30255218)

Look at all the bullshit you have to go through just to fix some spelling mistakes. That's why people leave Wikipedia and why it sucks.

Here is how I gave up on them (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254560)

You know the tiny fastmail.fm Aussie company who just does mail business and stays afloat with their fast, simple, modern UI and advanced/up to date tech/software usage?

Someone dared to write the unique features of Fastmail, when I referenced it to a server admin (in mail business) friend, he joked back at me for using a "spammer mail company"... I asked "how?", some idiot "citation needed" type went to article and marked it as spam. Imagine you claim your local pharmacy to sell drugs, it is the same thing for a company who just stays up with mail. Like, "do business with us, check wiki article, it accuses us to be spammers of a free encyclopedia".

Fastmail guys didn't care much, I cared (as user) and reminding the nazi editor what would happen if it wasn't wikipedia and if they accused a big evil mail provider to be a spammer on a large dotcom didn't help much. "no legal threats" policy.

If I was in mail business and if Wiki did similar thing to me, I would find that editor/user and sue him for hurting my image and putting my business to risk. Their NPVO or whatever self claimed terms wouldn't matter a second. Who the hell are them and what makes them different from other dotcoms?

We should give up creating our own monopolies really...

Re:My own experience. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30254608)

Neat trick: create a new article and wait for it to be merged with the old one.

Re:My own experience. (1)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254668)

Their POLITICAL opinions get in the way, which is one of the reasons I take EVERYTHING I read on Wicki with a GRAIN OF SALT. If I can't find infomation ANYWHERE to back it up, I blow it off as someone on Wicki with a political axe to grind.

Re:My own experience. (2, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254892)

It gets into the field of bizarre when you see editors revert cleanups.

My personal story: I read a (probably little read) article to find it being vandalized (something like "$whateverperson is gay" sprinkled into the article) so I went and edited it. I admit, I didn't bother to register just for that. It was neither a locked article nor was it in any way controversal, so anonymous editing was possible. I removed the "xxx is gay" parts and checked it in with a remark noting that it was a vandalism removal.

2 hours later it was reverted by an editor.

Maybe it was pertinent for an article about Greek column styles to know that a certain person likes "Greek love", dunno...

Re:My own experience. (1)

gabebear (251933) | more than 4 years ago | (#30255018)

I joined recently to update the page of a candidate running for Ted Kennedy's seat (election will be done and over with by January). I wasn't updating much, adding the candidate's birth date, linking to a book he had written, and adding the part copied from other candidate's wiki pages that links him to the Senate race. After a full day of back in forth with an editor deleting whatever I had just added, the only think that made it through was the link to the book he had written. And I think that just slipped through. Not worth the effort at all trying to update a page with new info. That ends my time working with Wikipedia.

Just pulled the wikipedia articles for the five candidates... they all have their birth-dates and none mention a book.

Who were you talking about? If they weren't really a candidate or Ted Kennedy's seat then your work should have been deleted.

the problem with wikipedia (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30254286)

I think the problem with wikipedia is fairly effectively demonstrated with the following two examples:

Some guy nominates Heavy Metal (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org] for deletion and fails in his attempt. So what does he do? Merges every episode, save that one, into List of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles episodes [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org]. You see - this user knows he couldn't get consensus by an AfD so he engages in backroom deals to gain support.

And then there's Torchic [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org]. A front page featured article with 20 paragraphs and 46 citations now reduced to redirecting to a list of pokemon, with 2-3 paragraphs (depending on whether or not a one sentence paragraph counts) and no citations. Amazing stuff.

Established editors defend this by saying stuff like "wikipedia doesn't need articles on every pokemon when so many other real world subjects are lacking!". What such editors don't understand, however, is that when someone's pride enjoy is spat upon, as it often is at wikipedia, they not only stop contributing to those articles - they stop contributing to all articles.

And wikia isn't an alternative. I mean, what's the definitive wiki on pokemon if it's not wikipedia? pokemon.wikia.com? bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net? pokemon.neoseeker.com? pokemonwithus.wikia.com? pokeworldpokedex.wikia.com? pokebuddies.wikia.com? pokemates.wikia.com? pokepals.wikia.com? pokemonpokedex.wikia.com? pokemonaiman.wikia.com?

Re:the problem with wikipedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30254442)

One day we'll get out of our basements and overthrow them brother, just you wait.
Maybe next year? I was going to do it last wednesday, but my adhd kicked in so I just played wow all night. Mom is getting me a new monitor for christmas as well, so want to get that out of the way (though I'll get rid of her during the uprising).

What's with the "Deputy Director" stuff? (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254300)

I never really could understand the title "deputy director". Isn't that just an Assistant? Does s/he get paid more if s/he is a deputy as opposed to an assistant. Or is it just another pretentious affectation? Please explain.

Re:What's with the "Deputy Director" stuff? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30254446)

No, a deputy director isn't the assistant to the director, they're next in line to be in charge (like the vice president of the United States could be considered a deputy)

Re:What's with the "Deputy Director" stuff? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254908)

Fancy titles and self esteem. Why do you think janitors are now facility managers?

Someone touched a nerve eh ? (5, Insightful)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254362)

The number of people reading Wikipedia continues to grow. In October, we had 344 million unique visitors from around the world, according to comScore Media Metrix, up 6% from September.

I don't think the number of readers was actually a point of contention. How long those readers actually stay on Wikipedia and how useful they find it now that everything is getting culled by overzealous moderators citing "lack of sources" etc. is possibly more the point.

Wikipedia is the fifth most popular web property in the world. The number of articles in Wikipedia keeps growing. There are about 14.4 million articles in Wikipedia, with thousands of new ones added every day.

Wikipedia's own article on Wikipedia has a nice graph of article count. Since Jul 2007 it seems they've typically been adding about 2000 articles a day ... so "thousands" is being used in it's most literal sense. But without the number of articles being edited down to nothing, or simply being culled, this data is useless, and they damn well know it. Tell us how many articles are being deleted each day, and that that number isn't increasing !

The number of people writing Wikipedia peaked about two and a half years ago, declined slightly for a brief period, and has remained stable since then. Every month, some people stop writing, and every month, they are replaced by new people.

Interesting this is exactly the point at which the increase in articles per day flatlined, meanign that the number of editors they ave maintained since means a linear addition to the total volume of articles, and not the "projected doubling that they expected" on the graph.

They also note that it's impossible to tell whether someone has left and will never return, as their account still remains there.

So they don't maintain a timestamp of "last activity by author" ??? Fucking nonsense, pardon my language.

The report touched a nerve, and their response with half-assed, half-complete figures does nothing to convince me the report was incorrect.

And they have the gall to ask for 7.5 million US in donations for a diminshing product. Jimbo's days of champagne, caviar and jet planes are numbered methinks.

Re:Someone touched a nerve eh ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30254544)

"The number of people writing Wikipedia peaked about two and a half years ago, declined slightly for a brief period, and has remained stable since then. Every month, some people stop writing, and every month, they are replaced by new people."
Well, I guess that means they don't need me then. Frankly, I can't even be bothered to correct major errors anymore, it just isn't worth it.

Lapsed editors (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30255000)

So they don't maintain a timestamp of "last activity by author" ??? Fucking nonsense, pardon my language.

There is a most recent contribution for each username, and this contribution has a timestamp. But the blog post discounts inferring things based on this date as it "doesn’t predict whether the same person will make an edit in the future". I'd make a comparison between this view and the concept of a lapsed Catholic [wikipedia.org].

citation needed (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30254364)

Why hasn't this summary been given this tag yet?

Wikipedia Disputes Editor Exodus Claims (2, Funny)

DeanFox (729620) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254396)


[Citation Needed]
A more robust citation is needed. Marked for Deletion.

Re:Wikipedia Disputes Editor Exodus Claims (1)

rs232 (849320) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254506)

[Citation Needed]
A more robust citation is needed. Marked for Deletion.


- unquote -

You have violated Wikipedia posting standards WP:NPOV, WP:NPV, WP:NEU, your account is hereby deleted.

signed ~~~~ some smug-self-absorbed-know-it-all-with-no-social-life

How About Those (2, Interesting)

DeanFox (729620) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254512)

And then there are those who won't even try. I have subjects I could contribute too. But a wise man might be described as someone who doesn't make the same mistake once.

I heard long ago complaints about elitism and the elitist top grand master guru cabal who control the website. New comers are scoffed, 'good 'ol boy' network prevails.

I suspect the editors who are still left are well suited for their post - elitist power hungry control freaks who validate themselves stepping on others. I want nothing to do with them. [Citation Needed] and [Marked For Deletion] have become memes I suspect from people who have been burned by the wikipedia process and the control freaks who consider themselves demigods.

I pass. The frustration I hear from others who have tried to contribute I won't accept in my life let alone seek it out. The expertise I have in a subject or two will never make it to wikipedia. I won't even bother to get started.

-[d]-

Re:How About Those (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254552)

The expertise I have in a subject or two will never make it to wikipedia. I won't even bother to get started.

Why don't you write it for everything2? Writeups are rarely edited there, only superseded.

Re:How About Those (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30255192)

Ha! I thought about contributing to some articles relevant to my engineering work, but when I read some of the discussions that went on forever about obscure grammatical points or trying to decide between two perfectly (and probably equally) valid words, I ran (clicked) away very quickly.

I love Wiki, but it's the land of the obsessive compulsive. I'm terrified to even read the discussion for the article on the TV show Monk. ;-)

How did they dispute it... (2, Interesting)

the_raptor (652941) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254530)

How did they dispute it? Did they just edit the wiki article about editors leaving?

But seriously wikipedia started dying the second they handed out enhanced powers for being a no lifer trolling Wikipedia all day. Later on top management showed no interest in reigning in abusive admins, and even rewarded several who were shown to be taking part in out right fraud and lying.

I can appreciate their pain... (3, Interesting)

Stachybotris (936861) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254580)

I just spent the last fifteen to twenty minutes perusing the Special:NewPages [wikipedia.org], and it's terrifying. For every actual encyclopaedic or even semi-valid article, there seem to be a handful of pages that are pure garbage. There are "articles" about fictitious bands [wikipedia.org], self-promotion [wikipedia.org], slander [wikipedia.org], and things that really don't matter [wikipedia.org]. On top of that, many of the new submissions seem to be very poorly written from a grammatical point of view. They're not quite as bad as the average YouTube comment, but they're close. If I was in charge over there, I'd be deleting things left and right as well.

There are probably a number of reasons for the lack of quality, but certainly the ability for anyone to contribute has got to be a big part. Is there an easy fix? No, probably not. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the barriers to approval are lop-sided, so raising them won't necessarily help. It's not like potential users will put up with taking a written exam just to be able to edit a single page...

I would suggest using privilege escalation to grant users more power and control based on how long they've been members and require that when people create accounts, they specify a number of areas that they possess knowledge of. Say I create a new account. When a user creates a login, he has to pick five to ten topics that he thinks he's qualified to write about (and these can be fairly broad, otherwise we'd have far too many checkboxes). He can't make any changes or contributions for a week (to prevent people from signing up just to vandalize articles) and can only lurk and learn the rules. Then, after that time period is up, he's allowed to only make changes to existing articles in his self-proclaimed fields. If he makes enough good and accepted changes, then allow him to start writing new articles in his self-proclaimed fields. Finally, after a period of time has passed where he's acknowledged as knowing what he's talking about and not a jerk who does things for the lulz, let him make changes/create articles anywhere.

One thing I would love to see done more than anything else, however, is the clear separation of fiction and non-fiction, by at least a subdomain, if not an entirely different FQDN. Star Wars as a film and a cultural institution in America? That goes in Wikipedia as non-fiction. Luke Skywalker as a person? That's in-universe and belongs in Wookiepedia, or at least in the fiction section. A biography of Luke doesn't belong in the same encyclopaedia as one about Louis Pasteur, plain and simple.

Re:I can appreciate their pain... (2, Interesting)

careysub (976506) | more than 4 years ago | (#30255084)

... I would suggest using privilege escalation to grant users more power and control based on how long they've been members and require that when people create accounts, they specify a number of areas that they possess knowledge of.....

I think that this is the right track for an enduring and effective Wikipedia. The ethos of "anyone can edit" (including anonymous IP addresses never before used) and pretending that all are equal seems to be the source of most of WIkipedia's problems.

For example, I read that anonymous IP address edits are the source of most vandalism, and have very low quality over all, and that anonymous edits are usually reverted, and that dealing with all of this is a substantial work load for the active editors and Admins. While allowing anonymous edits surely helped get Wikipedia started, it seems to be a purely negative policy at this point.

Requiring that edits be made by accounts (which are still free, anonymous, and easy to set up) will allow a meritocracy to emerge from among the editors/contributors based on a history of quality contributions (with appropriate supporting policies and tracking techniques), and more importantly this meritocracy would confer a presumption of value to their work, and higher levels of protection from newbie editors, so that effective long-time contributors do not find their work being trashed by the uninformed. Wikipedia tries to do some of this (anonymous edits being apparently presumed likely of no value, Admins with special powers, both of which the illustrate that the notion that everyone is equal is a sham in fact), but not having a system of merit built in makes it much harder and less effective. It makes it possible to recognize that an account represents a true authority on some area of knowledge (perhaps by dropping thie anonymity to the WIki Foundation), and treat their contributions appropriately without forcing them to try to jump through many hoops.

The revolution eats its children (4, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254988)

Wikipedia was a very interesting concept. A free online encyclopedia that everyone could contribute to. Everyone could fill his knowledge and information in, contribute to the common knowledge and, eventually, this should lead to possibly the best, most complete collection of human knowledge ever assembled. A quite noble goal, and for a while it worked out well.

Then came the trolls, the spammers, the corporate shills, and we noticed that human is appearantly not able to cooperate without rules and boundaries. Sad. But we're humans. Driven by base interests, instincts and egoism. So the idea of editors and supervisers was born, people who should take it into their hands to make sure these shills, spammers and trolls are kept out and tossed out. A noble goal, and for a while it worked out well.

But editors are just as much human as the spammers, trolls and shills are. When you are given the power to shape and regulate the knowledge of humankind, it becomes quite tempting to not only shape and regulate it, the big temptation is to dictate it. You are the keeper of knowledge, the overseer of truth.

No nobel goal this time and behold, it doesn't work out well.

It's the same "who watches the watchers" problem we see a lot today. If there's nobody overseeing your use of power, the temptation to abuse that power becomes strong. It seems we are unable or unwilling to self regulate ourselves when we are not held accountable for what we do. As we see here (as well as in politics or business) if you are only held accountable by your peers, it's unlikely that anything but the most gross transgressions will ever be punished. And with "gross", of course I mean "whatever goes against the interests of your peers". Not what goes against the interests of your "inferiors", your users or even the project or duty itself that you agreed to oversee and manage.

So what could be done? Another superstructure above the editors? I think it's already been done, and it doesn't change jack. A broader base has to be founded, not a smaller top. Power in the hands of more people, not less. The meta-moderation system of /. comes to mind, where some (or many, computers can handle it) can vote for or against a certain moderation. One person may err. Some people may conspire to push an agenda. A few millions are hard to bribe, convince or sway.

Wikipedia allegedly has millions of users. Ok, so use them. Again, certain people may have a dislike of a certain editor and will vote his edits negative no matter how much they might remove vandalism because they feel slighted by them. The majority won't. And IF the majority feels slighted by a certain editor, it might be a good idea to remove that editor. Quite obviously he's not doing a good job.

WSJ (3, Interesting)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30255246)

What is this? Wall Street? That's the only place I know of where when something stops growing, because infinite growth of any human enterprise is not possible in reality, it's a signal to mark the time of death and run screaming into the hills. Oh noes! Company XYZ's growth is not going to be 50% a year forever! They're projecting 49.9%! Sell! Sell! Oh woes is we! Buy more bad loan products! Those are safer!

I would have thought hitting a level of stability in something like Wikipedia would be a good thing.

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