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Contributors Leaving Wikipedia In Record Numbers 632

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the three-phases-of-web-sites dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "CNET reports that the volunteers who create Wikipedia's pages, check facts and adapt the site are abandoning Wikipedia in unprecedented numbers, with tens of thousands of editors going 'dead' — no longer actively contributing and updating the site — a trend many experts believe could threaten Wikipedia's future. In the first three months of 2009, the English-language version of Wikipedia suffered a net loss of 49,000 contributors, compared with a loss of about 4,900 during the same period in 2008. 'If you don't have enough people to take care of the project it could vanish quickly,' says Felipe Ortega at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, who created a computer system to analyze the editing history of more than three million active Wikipedia contributors in ten different languages. 'We're not in that situation yet. But eventually, if the negative trends follow, we could be in that situation.' Contributors are becoming disenchanted with the process of adding to the site, which is becoming increasingly difficult says Andrew Dalby, author of The World and Wikipedia: How We are Editing Reality and a regular editor of the site. 'There is an increase of bureaucracy and rules. Wikipedia grew because of the lack of rules. That has been forgotten. The rules are regarded as irritating and useless by many contributors.' Arguments over various articles have also taken their toll. 'Many people are getting burnt out when they have to debate about the contents of certain articles again and again,' adds Ortega."
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Contributors Leaving Wikipedia In Record Numbers

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  • by grub (11606) * <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @12:50PM (#30227330) Homepage Journal

    No need to keep posting slashdot stories on Wikipedia's impending demise. Just follow this new user page [wikipedia.org] on wikipedia.
    • by KlaymenDK (713149) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:14PM (#30227624) Journal

      Har har har. How very funny.

      Actually, the Wikipedia:Statistics [wikipedia.org] page gets you all the stats there's to be had.

      Also, Wikimedia:Statistics [wikimedia.org] is showing a steady influx of New Wikipedians [wikimedia.org] and Active Wikipedians [wikimedia.org], albeit not quite as many as previously.

      Hmm, I wonder if this is more a publicity stunt in relation with their current funds drive?

      At least, "Wikipedia shows signs of stalling as number of volunteers falls sharply" should probably have been "Wikipedia shows signs of maturity as number of new volunteers falls slighly".

  • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @12:53PM (#30227360) Homepage
    How much more can we write about Louis Pasteur or the Treaty of Worms or Heilongjiang? Wikipedia has had a ton of stuff poured into it and doesn't really need new contributors. Not surprising they're trying to drive contributors off. One thing I've learned in life, when people are being dicks they're doing it for a reason that benefits them.
    • by KlaymenDK (713149) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @12:57PM (#30227394) Journal

      Maybe not finished, but certainly quite aways toward it.

      “If you don’t have enough people to take care of the project it could vanish quickly"
      That's an odd thing to say. For a game such as an MMO, it would be detrimental to have all the players leave; but a reference is a different kind of game: even with no new contributions and no more editing, there is still a vast mass of articles on historical (history up until today, at least) subjects, and they're not likely to disappear just because the contributors do.

    • by Titoxd (1116095) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @12:58PM (#30227402) Homepage
      That's pretty close to reality. There's not much to do anymore, at least for me. I still keep up with my watchlist, and visit frequently to remain aware of what is going on, but my time is spent doing other useful things. And yeah, internal politics get boring after a while...
      • There's not much to do anymore, at least for me.

        Well I'm a mathematician and to my mind there is an awful lot to be done on the mathematics pages on Wikipedia.

        The majority of mathematics articles on Wikipedia typically begin with a rambling, incoherent and unhelpful introduction to the topic. When they do begin to properly define the entity at hand, they typically pick the most opaque and rambling definition possible. Important properties are often glossed over while any pertinent mathematical oddities are given their own individual sections on the page. Throughout the spectacle, hyperlinks to equally poorly written articles are liberally thrown down as though the author believes the reader would actually benefit from the topics convoluted connections to some advanced graduate level topic. This article [everything2.net] basically sums up the situation in a nutshell.

        I've actually attempted to change things, but it's an uphill struggle which I for one know I can't win. Time and again I have been faced with what I can only describe as completely inane article custodians whos arguments at times read like a satire of themselves. In the instance of only one article I was told that "Compound interest is the best way to introduce e^x as everyone understands compound interest", "It's better to talk about the properties of a function before defining it", and "Thinking that a certain method is a better way to introduce a topic breaks Neutral Point of View policy."

        At times, the stonewalling becomes so exasperating that I end up losing patience somewhat and end up essentially telling these people outright that they are being stupid. Bad idea. I have recently been brought up on Wikiettique charges of hurting someone's feelings [wikipedia.org], and despite my complete and utter lack of ability to change just about anything on the site, have been labeled "a bully"; a label to go with my being a "Point of Viewer".

        My current opinion is that the Wikipedia editors and custodians have the mentality of 12 year olds. I have tried and tried to explain to these people that the articles they have taken charge of are in need of serious reform; with mathematical bric-a-brac like havercosine [wikipedia.org] coming before the sum of cosines formula on trigonometry pages. If you try and change something, they will revert it. If you try and argue a case, they will dismiss it. If you press them on their opinions, they will appeal to WP:RULES. If you press them further, they will quite literally start crying. I deeply, deeply wish I was exaggerating here. I cannot believe I once thought so highly of Wikipedia and the people that ran it. The influence of these pages on the learning and perception of mathematics worldwide terrifies me.

        Now, maybe I'm just an old crank, too stuck in my old ways. But you tell me where the formula for the the sum "cosA + cosB" should be on this page [wikipedia.org]. Before or after the formula for the sum of an infinite number of cosines, or that for "versed cosine"? Now; guess where it is?

        Wikipedia is rotten from the top to the bottom. I used to think that the rot set in at the top with Wales, and slowly trickled down to the user base. Now I'm not so sure. It may be that Wikipedia was always going to primarily attract the type of person who is not interesting in providing knowledge for all, but only those for whom its articles are personal prestige projects, intended to impress only themselves and their imagined audience.

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:07PM (#30227516) Journal

      or Heilongjiang

      I think a lot more could be written about the Northeastern Chinese province of Heilongjiang. It's got a ridiculously small Wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] (even in simplified Chinese [wikipedia.org]) yet is home to 38 million people and is about the area of Texas [wikipedia.org]. And after all that this province has a vastly smaller page than Texas (especially if you look at Texas as a portal page). That's a higher population and area than most US states. If those people spoke English and had more access to internet, I'm sure this page could harbor a lot more encyclopedic information.

      What I'm trying to say is: your articles are finished. If the world revolved around you, Wikipedia would be complete. But not to the billions of other people in the world. So keep your claims of "it's finished, dummies" to yourself.

    • by Tom (822) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:07PM (#30227520) Homepage Journal

      One thing I've learned in life, when people are being dicks they're doing it for a reason that benefits them.

      The keyword being them - not necessarily the project.

      There are many discussions in dozens of blogs about what the benefit for the Wikipedia "inner circle" is. Most of it isn't very friendly. Much of it sounds right nevertheless.

    • by eln (21727) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:11PM (#30227568) Homepage
      Wikipedia was supposed to end up being something akin to a compendium of all human knowledge, which in theory could never really be "full" because human knowledge always expands. The problem is, the powers that be over there decided to arbitrarily apply their "noteworthy" filter on everything, and so they've collapsed the infinite array of human knowledge down into a decidedly finite set of "relevant" human knowledge. Of course, they alone are the arbiters of what is and isn't relevant, and wield the delete hammer often. Under these circumstances, yes you'll eventually come to the end of what is "appropriate" for wikipedia.

      Having said that, I don't think even with their draconian and arbitrary relevancy policies that they're anywhere near the end of everything that would fit on the site. The issue is not that they're running out of things to put up, it's that they're actively driving contributors away by subjecting them to all these hoops to jump through that didn't exist before. You have the old guard admins fighting amongst themselves, and throwing up arbitrary restrictions to make it harder and more frustrating for new editors to get involved.

      Wikipedia is also much more susceptible to rot than most other sites. Without a steady stream of admins coming in and doing the grunt work of cleaning up the many thousands of articles on the site, those articles will eventually be taken over by the trolls and become useless. Eventually, enough articles will suffer this fate that no one will consider the site any kind of good resource anymore, and we will have lost something truly remarkable.

      Wikipedia as it stood not too long ago was a remarkable testament to the power of collaborative editing, and represented an incredible resource. If it continues the slide it's on, it will end up being an object lesson in how political infighting and needless bureaucracy (particularly bureaucracy designed to protect personal fiefdoms) can ruin things for everyone.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        But the contents of Wikipedia are creative commons so if enough people get fed up with their policies then they can start the whole thing up again with all the current content, but without the current rules and admins ....

        • by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n ... t ['etz' in gap]> on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @04:20PM (#30230056) Homepage Journal

          This is much, much easier said than done. Wikipedia is far more than just the content, and it would take a significant problem in the community to make a difference of this nature.

          The Spanish Wikipedia community did get to the point that a majority of the Spanish language editors left and formed their own alternate wiki, with their own funding sources and infrastructure. Because of the fact that the Spanish Wikipedia was never really deleted, the two communities have essentially co-existed and shared content with each other.

          This is also one of the few "successful" forks I've seen for a project like Wikipedia. I was also encouraged to do something similar with the Wikibooks project when editors were not happy with some Wikimedia foundation policies getting shoved down the throat of the Wikibooks users. Knowing the problems with forking, I encouraged the editors to stay put and fight the policies from within. In retrospect, I'm still not sure I made the correct decision there, but it did keep the community mostly in tact.

          The only way you are going to see a major shift is if the Wikimedia Foundation no longer can financially support and sustain Wikipedia servers and infrastructure. There is quite a bit of fluff to the Wikimedia's budget that can be trimmed before that becomes a significant issue and possibility.

          Coming up with an alternative to the Wikimedia Foundation is the real trick, and something that I don't think could be developed nearly so easily as simply ripping a copy of the latest Wikipedia content dump. If you can create a legitimate alternative non-profit foundation to compete with the WMF, that would be a chance to make a huge difference. The question then is.... why? If you have the bucks to create such a legal structure, why are you wasting resources in this manner?

      • by kingduct (144865) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:43PM (#30228028)

        I'd add that the concept of "compendium of all human knowledge" included a whole lot of stuff that can't be cited. Unfortunately, Wikipedia decided that it was supposed to compete with Brittanica and other traditional encyclopedias and needed academic citations. All of a sudden humans who knew things outside the realms of academia were lesser again, and people who knew how to make a citation were greater, even if they didn't understand what they were citing.

        I myself stopped participating after having an extended argument related to a minor edit I made, but the other guy had a citation. While I had real world experience on the issue and the other guy didn't, he had the citation. When I finally got the book he cited through inter-library loan, it turned out he had completely misunderstood the text.

        I think Wikipedia or something like it will evolve to include different tags that let people determine if they want to read uncited or irrelevant information.

        • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:35PM (#30228684) Homepage

          All of a sudden humans who knew things outside the realms of academia were lesser again, and people who knew how to make a citation were greater, even if they didn't understand what they were citing.

          I myself stopped participating after having an extended argument related to a minor edit I made, but the other guy had a citation. While I had real world experience on the issue and the other guy didn't, he had the citation. When I finally got the book he cited through inter-library loan, it turned out he had completely misunderstood the text.

          I also quit after an extended argument over citations.
           
          His citation was to a fanciful coffee table reference book published before the system in question was declassified, and which was widely cited elsewhere on the web. My citation was to a professional academic analysis written a decade after the system was declassified, but which existed only in a few thousand hard copies. (Damm thing cost me nearly $100.00, in comparison his was usually found in $10 bins around Christmas time. At least that's where I got my copy of it.) In addition I had actually worked on the system in question.
           
          The powers that be decided than since he could point to places on the web that cited his citation - it was obviously more correct than mine.

      • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:51PM (#30228114)

        It sounds like Wikipedia simply needs to be forked, just like many open-source projects which had bad leadership (XFree86 is a good example). Then the new leadership can institute better rules and policies.

        • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:30PM (#30228590) Journal

          Hosting Wikipedia is very expensive, so a fork would be difficult for someone to maintain. I could grab a copy of the DB easily; it's only about 5GB, but the images, movies, and other resources are a few TB (at least). Then you add on the bandwidth for hosting it and the CPU costs for people editing it and you'll find it's not so easy. Hosting it on something like FreeNet would be a nice idea, but I don't know how well FreeNet handles wiki-like functionality.

          Claiming that Wikipedia is finished is hilarious. Of the last ten things I've looked up on Wikipedia, four have been stubs. I contributed a little bit, but never really felt encourage to participate a lot in Wikipedia for two reasons:

          First, deletionists irritated me. A couple of pages that I made some changes to were marked for deletion and then removed. Looking at the history of the people nominating and voting for deletion, none of them had made any changes to Wikipedia other than to propose and vote for deletion. I don't really see that any content should be deleted from Wikipedia. At most, it should be moved to a specialist wiki, and if one doesn't exist then it should be created and the Wikipedia page should be redirected to a general page on the subject that links to the specialist Wiki. I suggested this well over a year ago, but still people delete content from Wikipedia. There's little incentive to contribute anything to a project where someone who has made no positive contribution can come along and delete your effort.

          The second issue was that there was no concept of responsibility for articles. Most of the time when I spotted something wrong on a Wikipedia page, I made a note on the talk page. If I checked back a few months later, no one had responded and no one had made any changes. Fine, I can make changes myself, but then I'd be writing in my own style which would disrupt the flow of the page. Ideally, each page should have a maintainer and various editors. The maintainer should be responsible for making changes, the editors (who can be one-off visitors) should be responsible for flagging errors. Possibly this belief on my part is an artefact of the way that I work normally (I'm a freelance writer), but it is how I produce my best results.

          • by zippthorne (748122) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @03:05PM (#30229112) Journal

            Of the last ten things I've looked up on Wikipedia, four have been stubs.

            I've oft wondered how many of those stubs are things about which no one has written, and how many are things about which fairly decent articles have been deprecated, not-notabled, or otherwise removed for various reasons on the spectrum of reasonable to nefarious.

      • by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:58PM (#30228204)

        Wikipedia as it stood not too long ago was a remarkable testament to the power of collaborative editing, and represented an incredible resource.

        It still is. But the experiment of information anarchy on the Internet has run its course, because it turned out not be very useful or interesting. Not, for the most part, because of big eviiil government, but simply because the signal to noise ratio is so low that it isn't worthwhile. Moderated web forums have pushed Usenet aside. Email blacklists have limited which IPs allowed to originate outgoing email. Facebook has replaced homebrew home pages. The existence of Wikipedia in the first place is a testament to the need for organization and filtering; otherwise we'd all just post our wisdom to our own little web sites and let users combine it all with search engines. It is possible that Wikipedia will take this too far and become too heavy-handed, but the simple fact that it's changing is not evidence of that in itself. Rather, it is maturing, and the fact is, a random user editing a random Wikipedia page is now more likely to make it worse than to make it better.

      • by VJ42 (860241) * on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:31PM (#30228616)

        Having said that, I don't think even with their draconian and arbitrary relevancy policies that they're anywhere near the end of everything that would fit on the site.

        Wikipedia is home to this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fictional_ducks [wikipedia.org] the rules can't be that draconian

    • The kids have a crazy idea, work hard, total chaos, but lo-and-behold Something Wonderful Is Made. Then the foosball tables get wheeled in, there's an in-house rave with free pizza and beer and cocaine every Friday night, the kids try branching out into a hundred other lines of business they have no good reason to be in, and that hockey stick revenue projection starts to look more and more like a zombie's EKG reading. Finally, the adults get called in, all the kids get thrown out except for the one or two

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hemp (36945)

      A lot of the stuff in wikipedia is obviously copied from other materials. I think they may have finished copying all of the easily available materials.

    • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:32PM (#30227858) Homepage

      Right. The important articles were in the first million. Let's see what's coming in right now:

      • Euan Huey: "his brith Euan was born on 2 may 2000.He has a twin and has a IQ of 123.his clan is macRae and he lives in bridge of weir,scotland.Everyone loves him He is the b..." -- Deleted.
      • List of Senators in Brazil (1826-1889): "This is List of senators in Brazil 1826-1889" -- Kept.
      • Byron kroon: "Byron is Amazing" (Tag: very short new article) -- Deleted.
      • List of horror films: 2007: -- Kept.
      • Silvertone guitars : "Kiss plays this guitar brand so does the artist tj wilt" (Tag: very short new article) -- Deleted.
      • Percy the Park Keeper: "Percy the Park keeper is an animated childrens series by Nick Butterfield." -- not yet examined.

      Any questions?

      That's why most new articles are deleted. Most of the whining about "deletionism" is from fans who want to blither endlessly about their favorite movie/comic book/Star Trek episode/vampire. That's what Wikia is for.

      Wikia ended up as a hosting service for fancruft. They have the Star [Trek|Craft|Wars|Gate] wikis, and the low-end advertisers who target that demographic. It's not going to get Jimbo Wales a private jet. [theregister.co.uk] It's useful to Wikipedia, though, in that the rabid fans can be diverted to Wikia, which has rather lower standards for inclusion.

      • by TorKlingberg (599697) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:10PM (#30228340)

        Of course a lot of crap is coming in. It always has. The problem is that many start to assume anything added by a newbie is crap until proven otherwise.

        As a thought example, let's say 80% of new articles are crap. Then let's say 90% is deletions are accurate. 90% is pretty good, but that still means about 44% of good new articles are deleted.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Pathwalker (103)

        I think you are missing one possible cause of the whining about "deletionism".

        I see the problem as editors who revert any changes to articles without taking a moment to verify the fact before they remove it.
        Often a few seconds of search would have lead to a citation for the fact.
        Adding the citation would improve the article, whereas a knee jerk reaction to delete the new information leads to stagnation.

        Often when I check the contribution history of the editors involved, it consists almost entirely of deleti

      • by stefanlasiewski (63134) <slashdot@stefa n c o .com> on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:30PM (#30228592) Homepage Journal

        from fans who want to blither endlessly about their favorite movie/comic book/Star Trek episode/vampire. That's what Wikia is for.

        Why not?

        Wikipedia already hosts plenty of articles on Star Wars [wikipedia.org], including many pages about characters and episodes.

        Is there Wikipedia rule against writing these sorts of fluffy articles? If so, why are those rules applied against Star Trek episodes, but not against Star Wars? The reasoning and deletions seem arbitrary.

        I find it ironic that contributions to technical articles about Linux, databases and system administration get deleted, but Wikipedia still has a 2000 word article about Chewbacca.

        I agree that Wikipedia isn't a great place to host a list of your favorite comic book, and I'd rather that Wikipedia focus on 'important' topics.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @03:42PM (#30229610)

          There is a huge double standard applied to what is considered obscure on Wikipedia. I once wrote a very complete article on Metz, France, one of the largest cities in France, and it got deleted for being "obscure" and because "Wikipedia can't have an article on every no name city nobody has every heard of", yet we have plenty of Wikipedia enormous wikipedia articles on US cities that are a tenth the size of Metz, France. I also wrote an article on Ancient Mound civilizations and it got put in for deletion for being "obscure", then got deleted when I mentioned it was based on my PhD thesis for being "original research"--I'm one of a few dozen people in the world who are even qualified to write it! It's insane.

          • by Luyseyal (3154) <swaters AT luy DOT info> on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @03:54PM (#30229744) Homepage

            You should have submitted it anonymously (or largely anonymously) and cited a copy of your dissertation (online PDF preferred). As I understand it, that's how half the more detailed articles are written when only a few have any clue. It's moronic, but

            As for the Metz, France, one, yeah that was a dumb deletion. Every podunk town in Texas has a Wikipedia page. Probably because Texas is the France of the U.S. in terms of pride. Back on topic, make friends with a French admin. ;)

            I only ever make anonymous grammar fixes, etc. because I don't have time for Wiki's B.S.
            -l

          • by Stormie (708) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @09:25PM (#30232666) Homepage

            . I once wrote a very complete article on Metz, France, one of the largest cities in France, and it got deleted for being "obscure" and because "Wikipedia can't have an article on every no name city nobody has every heard of"

            I'm afraid I'm going to have to call bullshit on that one, Anonymous Coward. The Metz article [wikipedia.org] was first created in June 2002 [wikipedia.org] (content: "Metz is an industrial city in northern France. It is represented in la Ligue Nationale, the French premier football division by F.C. Metz."), and has never been deleted at any time.

      • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted.slashdot@org> on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @04:06PM (#30229882)

        Sorry, but you are an egocentric narrow-minded asshole!

        And I am not insulting you or trolling, because I’m merely stating facts. Really? Well...

        Most of the whining about “deletionism” is from fans who want to blither endlessly about their favorite movie/comic book/Star Trek episode/vampire. That”s what Wikia is for.

        What else would make you think, that you are the one who gets to decide what belongs and does not belong somewhere?
        Or is it that elusive “everybody” guy, that makes you think you know what belongs where, and use him as an excuse?

        YOU do NOT have ANY right at ALL to tell ANYONE what is important to HIM. And you DO NOT OWN Wikipedia.
        So if a person thinks this is important enough to be written down, than it IS. By definition. Period. No discussion.
        Your problem is, that you don’t fix your end.
        If you want your Wikipedia, build your own.

        Wanna know what normal people do when they don’t think that what YOU say is important/relevant?
        They TUNE OUT! They simply don’t listen or read it.
        There. “A simple solution for the non-egocentric man!” Was it that hard?

  • by otravi (1289804) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @12:55PM (#30227374)

    They also have a stupid rule regarding "how important stuff has to be" before it can be added as a new article on Wikipedia. That one alone is the main reason I never again will try to contribute anything to it.

    • by truthsearch (249536) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:05PM (#30227500) Homepage Journal

      That's why I like subject-specific wikis (see sig). An article of no importance to Wikipedia may very useful in another wiki. There are also other benefits, such as community rules more appropriate to the subject.

      • by Creepy (93888) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:39PM (#30227960) Journal

        My problem is the "relevance" people are at odds with wiki projects. There was a wiki project to catalog early Apple ][ and C64 games and every article I added got flagged immediately for relevance even if relevance was cited in the article (e.g. awards, top 10 lists, etc), and then within a couple of days, candidate for deletion. I would then have to defend the relevance on the Talk page and it just became an exercise in frustration. Many times the article would just get deleted anyway.

            I did in fact move my articles to a non-wikipedia web site and have stopped contributing to it for the most part. Either the relevance admins should allow wiki projects to add their entries or kill the wiki project - there are always going to be somewhat minor entries for any wiki project, but the entries need to be there for completeness.

  • by djdbass (1037730) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @12:56PM (#30227384)
    This happens to any system of sufficient size and age.
    Europe has been there for a while.
    The US is getting there now.

    People are never content to leave well enough alone.
  • by F-3582 (996772) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @12:57PM (#30227388)
    The german version is having these problems, as well, with authors being frustrated, because their articles are being deleted for various stupid reasons (like: only referenced in blogs, no real-world influence, except for some obscure hacker meetings etc.) The discussions have even reached the big media.
  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @12:59PM (#30227428) Homepage
    I think there are three big issues. First, there is a lack of low-hanging fruit. That is, the easy articles have all been written and many have been expanded to decent lengths. That makes people less inclined to help out or to join in (and moreover to stick around). Second, the project has also become much more deletionist. Much of the material on pop-culture subjects has been either cut down or deleted outright. This has pushed many editors to other smaller wikis where they can have the level of detail they want. Moreover, many editors who previously first got hooked by writing and tweaking fun stuff are no longer getting hooked that way. Third, the deletionism has combined with a general attitude that is very bad unwelcoming to newcomers. The overall result is a serious decline. Some of these effects (such as inclusionist and pop culture editors leaving) also reinforce other aspects since when they leave it leaves the overall community more deletionist. I think the project is still healthy but it might very well not be so if these trends continue for another year or two.
    • by hemp (36945) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:12PM (#30227582) Homepage Journal

      Third, the deletionism has combined with a general attitude that is very bad unwelcoming to newcomers.

      You totally correct. I believe the number of people leaving is actually the result that most wiki editors wanted. It seems that every entry has at least one editors who does not want anyone messing with "his" entry.

      I long ago gave up any attempt to correct misspelled words or inconsistencies within the same entry.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      You forgot one important factor - Wikipedia the RPG going into open beta. When newbies are numbed by the maze of rules (many contradictory, many obscure) and are repeatedly ganked as they cross out of the starting zone... They aren't likely to hang around. The outright hostility of the upper level players to any not in their clique leads to a hostile environment for those that do stay. And lastly, the willingness of the GM's to stand behind those that lie, cheat, and steal takes it's toll on the few tha

    • by PhrostyMcByte (589271) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:49PM (#30228090) Homepage

      I've used to make maybe 5 edits per year since Wikipedia began. Recently I've made a lot less, and it's not because I've run out of things to contribute.

      Of the past 5 edits I've made, I think 4 of them have been tagged as a "good faith edit" and removed because they didn't live up to their new policies. Really, I understand their motivation -- they want everything to be as verifiable as possible. But I think this goes against what made Wikipedia big in the first place.

      It used to be so quick and easy to add new information. Anyone who spotted an error was compelled to correct it. It brought the entire internet together as one big community. Now you have to stay caught up with their ever-changing policies, be prepared to defend an edit in the discussion page, etc. -- it's no longer quick and easy. It's no longer fun to contribute. It's more like actual work now. I'm glad that some people can still enjoy doing it because I find Wikipedia an invaluable resource, but as an 'infrequent' contributor, I have a lot of trouble finding the motivation to put up with it any more.

    • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:16PM (#30228422)

      My favorite tag is "citation needed."

      I generally read this as, "someone needs to look up a citation for this, and I'm too high and mighty to stoop to such a level! Do it for me, peons!"

      Whatever happened to the encyclopedia *anybody* can edit? Either find and add the citation yourself, or delete the fact for having no citation. But shitting those little tags all over the pages doesn't accomplish anything except making the article hard to read.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RPoet (20693)

      I am one of these elusive deletionists. I am motivated by the huge amounts of spam articles being put into Wikipedia these days, articles almost unambiguously meant to drive customers to the company. Wikipedia is the fifth most visited website in the world, and a Wikipedia article will shoot your company right to the top of Google. One CTO of a company posted such an article and told me that they found visitors who came to their website from Wikipedia stayed many times longer than people who found them thro

  • by rehtonAesoohC (954490) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:00PM (#30227438) Journal
    The system is set up in such a way that when people put massive amounts of effort into adding contributions or what not, they aren't rewarded with anything for doing it other than more rules and regulations and difficulty in posting more edits and content.

    Couple that with the natural tendency of people to burn themselves out of things after a while and the natural idea that as the wiki grows, it shouldn't need edits on old content and people have less and less to contribute, and you end up with a declining contribution pool... It's bound to happen inevitably, it's just a matter of when and how they deal with it when it starts to happen.
  • Not a surprise (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Capmaster (843277) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:00PM (#30227440)
    When 'deletionists' destroy the work people are putting in, it's not surprising when the people who have put that work into Wikipedia leave the site. There's only a finite amount of things that can be written about and as Wikipedia progresses, the articles that are created must become more and more obscure. But with those kinds of articles effectively banned from Wikipedia, the only editors it needs around are those that upkeep the existing articles.
  • add one (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tom (822) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:03PM (#30227464) Homepage Journal

    Exactly the reasons I left a long time ago. Glad to see others are finally doing the same, maybe the Wikipedia leadership will wake up.

    "Many people are getting burnt out when they have to debate about the contents of certain articles again and again," adds Ortega."

    Been there, done that. You've contributed to improve an article, a dozen people have worked on it. Then a fucktard comes along and nominates it for deletion because of lack of "notability". Delete discussion goes on, clear consensus on "keep".

    Two months pass. Article gets improved further. Next fucktard comes along, delete nomination. Discussion, with links to the first one, consensus arrives at "keep" again.

    Winter holidays. The same fucktard from the 2nd time comes along and nominates the article a 3rd time. This time, vocal people are away or just tired of it all. Whoops, delete request accepted by a narrow margin, all the work of everyone goes *poof*.

    So you treat people like shit, destroy the result of their volunteer work, and then you're surprised they're leaving? You've gotta be kidding me.

  • by Fractal Dice (696349) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:04PM (#30227486) Journal
    It's always more fun to be breaking new ground on a project where people appreciate every contribution than it is to maintain a mature project against the normal background of misunderstandings, agendas and entropy. This is hardly unique to wikipedia.
  • by NoYob (1630681) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:05PM (#30227488)
    Can you imagine if it degrades?

    Kid's paper after using Wiki as his source:

    George W. Bush, the US' first retarded President, started wars in the Middle East to help his Vice President's (Dick Cheney) portfolio.

    Of course, they'll be folks on the other side:

    Barak Obama, America's first Socialist President along with the Wicked Witch of the West, Nancy Pelosi, turned the US into a bankrupt shell of its former self.

    Then, there will be others....

    Ray Vaness, the World's greatest porn actress, has been a great influence on American politics.

    Now, just think of all those little kids putting references to porn actresses into their school papers and bringing them home?

    I for on welcome the chaos that may ensue.

  • by whoever57 (658626) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:10PM (#30227556) Journal

    Wikipedia also has a problem with site admins who do things like block people first and ask questions later. I myself was blocked for merely reporting (in the proper venue) that another user was editing in violation of his community ban.

    There are admins who it appears can violate every community rule yet won't receive any sanctions. Of course people are leaving - the admins have driven them away.

    Then there are the cases where people have been hounded off Wikipedia and later it has been shown that they were correct and their antagonist was the one who should have been banned.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:11PM (#30227564) Journal
    Mr. Wales, I think that if you approached Mark Cuban [slashdot.org] and asked him to give Wikipedia editors a cool million dollars each not to leave, you could save Wikipedia.

    Boy, dreaming up solutions when you perceive financiers to be bottomless pits of money with no brains sure is easy!
  • by electrosoccertux (874415) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:15PM (#30227656)

    Can't imagine why contributors are leaving. It's become a cesspool of those who do nothing but revert legitimate edits (to get their edit count up) because it isn't from anyone in power worth brown-nosing to.

    Like juries, the people who have enough time to become a real political power in the wikipedia game are not the people we want in charge of the contributions or making decisions.

  • Sisyphus (Score:5, Insightful)

    by swm (171547) * <swmcd@world.std.com> on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:15PM (#30227662) Homepage

    The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.

    EITHER

    you monitory your pages every day

    • reverting vandalism
    • patiently explaining to every newbie who wanders by why their edit is wrong, or inappropriate
    • enduring zombie edit wars (they won't stay dead...)

    all the while remembering that they aren't "your" pages, and that all you can do is make your best evidence-based case and hope that other agree with it...

    OR

    you don't, and you watch as bitrot and entropy slowly but relentlessly degrade the pages to something you can't bear to look at any more.

    I maintained some pages for about a year, and then after one particularly nasty edit war I gave up. Not in a petulant "they won't have me to kick around any more" way. I just stopped caring so much. Wikipedia dropped off my mental list of sites that I check every day.

    I still use Wikipedia—it's near the top of every SERP. But I haven't tried to edit anything there in years.

    • Re:Sisyphus (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:48PM (#30228888) Homepage

      you monitory your pages every day

              * reverting vandalism
              * patiently explaining to every newbie who wanders by why their edit is wrong, or inappropriate
              * enduring zombie edit wars (they won't stay dead...)

      all the while remembering that they aren't "your" pages, and that all you can do is make your best evidence-based case and hope that other agree with it...

      It's fascinating, and telling, that you fail to include "examine the new edit for quality" or any other positive statement on your list. You appear predisposed to revert.
       
       

      all the while remembering that they aren't "your" pages, and that all you can do is make your best evidence-based case and hope that other agree with it...

      From your 'to do' list above, it's abundantly obvious that you failed to remember that - as your 'to do' list is nothing but a list of ways to keep the article preserved in amber.
       
      You illustrates precisely why people are leaving in record droves.

  • by snarfies (115214) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:19PM (#30227694) Homepage

    I stopped participating on Wikipedia years ago due to deletionists slashing and burning any and alls article in the name of HURR HURR NOT NOTABLE. I mean, why bother? That said, I recently saw something interesting - about two months ago someone wrote an article about her negative Wikipedia experience - Bullypedia, A Wikipedian Who's Tired of Getting Beat Up [uptake.com]. As a result of this article, some folks got together to start WP:NEWT [wikipedia.org], where they wrote articles while posing as n00bs to see how they were treated. In some cases, they were in fact treated poorly indeed. Gems include "The reason I deleted the article was that the wikilinks did not have the proper markup. In addition, "See also" should be used instead of "See articles" and "External links" should be substituted for "Sites". Willking1979 (talk) 02:43, 6 October 2009 (UTC)" [wikipedia.org] and User:Multixfer throwing a total shitfit when (fully appropriately) outed as being a total asshole [wikipedia.org].

    • by uglyduckling (103926) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @03:40PM (#30229580) Homepage

      It seems to me that there is a significant minority of people whose primary hobby is to act as gatekeepers for Wikipedia and monitor new articles. They mostly delete them, giving newbies very terse (or no) reasons.

      I think a good antidote to this would be to require people to continue to produce a certain amount of new material in order to be able to moderate. Something similar to Slashdot moderation, whereby the algorithm chooses the 'middle category' and excludes lurkers and also the rabidly/obsessionally interested. Wikipedia should try to make moderation a necessary (if tiresome) responsibility for the good citizens that are genuinely interested in the community. It shouldn't be an occupation in its own right for something as wide and varied as Wikipedia.

  • by hitnrunrambler (1401521) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:20PM (#30227720)

    In the first 3 months of 2009 49,000 people who did nothing but patrol wikipedia all day were downsized because of the economy; raising questions of how the Internet will survive without the uselessly employed.

  • by stefanlasiewski (63134) <slashdot@stefa n c o .com> on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:30PM (#30227834) Homepage Journal

    Balderdash (pronounced /B*ryhed734as/)

    Hello new user. Thanks for adding your contribution to Wikipedia, but you are not worthy. Here's a slap in your face. There is no point in re-adding your article, because I am watching you, my reputation is better then yours and I have much more free time on my hands then you do.

    This new article doesn't meet Wikipedia's requirements for Notability [wikipedia.org]. I've never heard of this topic, and I've heard of everything on the planet. Therefore, I am recommending this article for deletion, and then you'll have to redo it from scratch.

    If you don't respond quickly, we'll delete the article. You DO check the deletion logs every day, don't you?

  • by Distan (122159) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:06PM (#30228288)

    I was an old-timer on Wikipedia who began contributing in 2002.

    I've witnessed layers and layers of bureaucracy be added to Wikipedia all under the benevolent dictatorship of Jimbo. I've witnessed what used to be a culture where all editors were considered equal become one where there are definite castes and hierarchies (and cabals).

    It just isn't worth the effort to edit anymore.

    Case in point: from 2002 to 2006 I was one of the primary editors of a set of articles that had to do with a subject that definitely has politics surrounding it. All the editors involved and I did our best to present both sides of the topic and to try to keep the articles fair and balanced. The number of editors was sparse and it was relatively easy to keep the articles on track.

    A couple of years ago a new user started editing these articles. He was extremely contentious but a skilled at wikilawyering. Every edit he didn't agree with would be dragged by him down a rathole of WP:V, WP:NOR, WP:POV, WP:PSTS, and so and and so on ad infinitum. It doesn't matter how well *your* edits are sourced from quality peer-reviewed sources. If he didn't agree with your edits he would find something to complain about; the journal you are citing isn't respected enough, the author you are quoting has an obvious bias, your summary of the published literature doesn't agree with how he would summarize the published literature, etc, etc, etc. Similarly, any objection you had to his edits (or to the overall effect his edits in aggregate were having on the article) would also be dragged down a similar path of his gaming the system.

    Editing the articles involved simply became too painful to continue. If you wanted to make any change that this user would disagree with then you had to prepare yourself of days of arguing with him before he would leave you alone. Similarly, one became hesitant to "correct" any of his articles because of the time-sink that you knew arguing with him was going to become.

    The existing editors tried many times to work within the system to make this user stop. There were multiple attempts at mediation and arbitration. But over time all of the "old" editors simply gave up. It just wasn't worth the effort anymore.

    When I visit these articles today I am ashamed at what they have become. What was once a fair attempt to present all sides of an issue has become extremely one-sided and quite misleading to a reader not familiar with the subject. The "problem user" has become in effect the only editor of these articles, tolerating only a handful of other editors who primarily make grammatical and punctuation changes.

    The only hope for the articles in question is that this user eventually gets tired and quits. He has won in his attempt to take over these articles, everyone with an established interest has been driven away, and I don't think any new user is going to be able to mount a challenge as he will simply tie them down in wikilawyering forever.
     

    • by snarfer (168723) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @09:48PM (#30232862) Homepage

      I strongly suspect you ran up against what I ran up against. Possibly even the same guy from the way you describe it. Here is what I think is going on: It's pretty clear that there are people employed to do this.

      I ran up against someone who I confirmed was employed to put a corporate viewpoint into articles on tort reform, and to keep other viewpoints off of the site. He was an admin, who worked on the site all day, every day, and who was employed as Director of a Tort reform center at a right-wing/corporate "think tank." There was no question that was almost all he was doing with his time. But he had a number of other admins he could call on to confrim his decisions.

      So I started tracking the edits of this guy and his cohorts. I found that they were working full-time on articles involving trade issues, tax cuts, tort reform, and the who gamut of the Chamber of Commerce / Corporate agenda...

  • by FridayBob (619244) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:58PM (#30229034) Homepage
    One of the things I hated most when I was writing for Wikipedia was the anti-science attitude of many editors there. I wrote mostly articles on biological organisms and was a strong proponent of using scientific names for article titles. Common names are simply not unique, a fact that has resulted in many heated and pointless debates (i.e. Tiger vs. Puma). I figure WP should try to move beyond that and embrace the advantages of scientific nomenclature that biologists have known about for 250 years.

    Most of the folks who were actually busy writing the articles agreed, but every time an attempt was made to change the policies, our efforts would be met with great resistance from people who simply did not know what they were talking about, let alone make any contributions of the kind. You could see from their edit histories that these people were bureaucrats: they produced very little content and an amazing amount of hot air. Yet, they have enormous influence at WP due simply to their dogged persistence.

    In my view, the fact that more productive editors are now leaving as opposed to arriving is only partly explained by the low-hanging-fruit phenomenon. I, along with many others, was willing to take WP -- or at least my small corner of it -- to the next level, but the problem is that those bureaucrats simply don't share the same vision. When it comes to certain subjects that enter into their own realm of consciousness, it seems like they'd rather keep things looking like an expanded version of the old encyclopedia that their parents once bought when they were kids. It's completely at odds with Jimbo's original vision, but try telling them that.

    As a result, the easy work has already been done, but anyone with the knowledge to do the hard stuff is quickly discouraged. I suspect most professional biologists don't even bother; a few of the ones I spoke to outside of WP had a low opinion of the site precisely because scientific names were not being used for article titles.

    Finally, there's the problem of vandalism. Since I've left, no one has stepped in to keep an eye on the articles I wrote, let alone expand them in any meaningful way. The vandalism, however, is constant. Most of the obvious stuff gets reverted, but it's the subtle vandalism that is the most problematic. Unless you're a specialist, you just can't tell the difference. Either WP should start paying specialists to keep watch, or they should start try treating their own volunteer specialists with more respect. I've heard for years that WP v2 was supposed to solve a lot of vandalism problems, but so far it hasn't appeared.
    • by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @04:56PM (#30230460)

      Way back when I was editing the "scientific skepticism" article, and I had some clownshoes nutcases fighting me because they had some sort of mystical, anti-science bent. From vandalizing in anti-science quotations from prominent wackjobs to inserting claims with citations by people talking about angels or people living with no brains in their heads, to libel about writers on scientific skepticism, I couldn't handle it. I committed the sin of reverting the page 3 times in one day which got me in hot water, same as the other guy, but I was still in the wrong despite how clearly what I was saying was simply true (and verifiable) information while the other guys' was pseudoscientific, bizarre nonsense, the type of crank that believes anything that isn't established science.

      The wiki admins were quick to point out "NPOV!" regarding scientific facts, and if you can't take a point of view over scientific evidence then even the most obscure "revelation" and superstition should, according to this line of thought, be given equal time. It is just like the evolution vs creationist nonsense, with the wiki staff taking a "both sides get to speak" position. It was ridiculous! If you're going to treat established, mainstream science on the same level as obscure fantasy then the whole endeavor is useless. Wikipedia was supposed to be a compendium of knowledge, not "claims." Science essentially is the purest form of our knowledge, and with such a backhanded attitude toward... just, ugh.

      Additionally, when asked about the page being frozen with clearly untrue and unscientific information, the staff knee-slapped about how "oh, the page is ALWAYS frozen on the wrong one." So, clearly, wikipedia bureaucrats have a relativistic view of truth as well. Fascinating. They told me to just "let the community take care of it," despite none of them willing to listen to my pleas and step in and fix it. I gave up and came back a month later with the problems not being fixed. Ugh.

      I won out in the end, with the page being changed significantly to include more (accurate) information and without the nonsense, but seeing what I went through I'm not going to give wikipedia much consideration anymore.

[Crash programs] fail because they are based on the theory that, with nine women pregnant, you can get a baby a month. -- Wernher von Braun

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