Reddit: Why Is Wikipedia Running Out Of Editors?

By July 19, 2012

The verdict is in: Wikipedia is running out of admins and editors. The numbers, as reported by the Atlantic, speak for themselves:

New administrators promoted by Wikipedia every month. Source: The Atlantic

Like global warming’s existence, the prevalence of Wikipedia’s demise is seldom contested. The facts are clear: the number of English Wikipedia editors making five edits or more a month is in decline from a peak of over 50,000 in 2007 to merely 30,000 this year. Sixty-seven administrators were elected by Wikimedia in 2005, with averages sitting comfortably between 40 and 50 per month. Today, that figure hangs in the single digits.

But why it is happening is another story, and a hot one on Reddit at the moment. Reddit readers weighed in on the root causes for many burning their Wiki-loyalty cards. Here’s a brief snapshot: (Wikipedia admins, take notes)

Too Many Rules

As one Redditer put it,

“There have been several times in the past couple years where I’ve put a genuine interest into improving some Wikipedia articles. It seems like, every time, I’ll get a response back that talks about how my changes didn’t follow the rules, so it got reverted. It got to the point where I dreaded seeing the “1 New Message” thing at the top-right corner after an edit, because it was never good news.”

This seemed to be the number one complaint in the Reddit discussion, voiced repeatedly by many Redditers. Yet, ironically, this is precisely what Wikipedia is fighting against. The site’s editing policy encourages admins to “Fix problems if you can, flag or remove them if you can’t,” outlining various options that one should consider before deleting an article. But from the influx of complaints there leaves heavy doubt as to how many admins actually follow these steps.

Lack Of Effective Quality Control

Another expressed difficulty navigating around the elaborate rule system to fix incoming concerns:

“I’ve been editing articles on Wikipedia for years and I still have no idea how to do some basic things like report random acts of vandalism that I stumble upon. So yeah, I think the rules are difficult to penetrate.”

Not Enough Specialized Knowledge

At Wikipedia’s dawn many years ago, the amount of information out there seemed limitless. Now, this Redditer expresses doubt as to what will follow the so-called “golden age” in the early 2000s:

“I hate to say it but most of the low hanging fruit has been written. I think this is a big factor that people don’t grasp immediately. There was a golden age in wikipedia authorship (2000-05?) that covered a large portion of what was necessary, and the scarcity of relevant new material has turned the community more insular and protectionist. There are pros and cons to this. On the one hand you don’t want common themes vandalized and jeopardizing the validity of the whole project, on the other you want to encourage scholarly contributions on esoteria. But there is only so much that is necessary aside from popular current events to provide the lion’s share of wikipedia’s value.”

Lack of Consensus On Content

With many of the low-hanging fruit picked, the question then results: what’s next? And as with many collaborative efforts, sometimes the direction is open to interpretation:

“The problem with wikipedia is that that the foundation (ie those under Wales) do not want it to be comprehensive. I believe that all the knowledge imaginable as general knowledge should be there, including popular culture. If an article is too long, then make a separate article for an obscure detail, don’t just say “Oh, we don’t need this much info”.

The issue is the Jimmy wales isn’t allowed to make profit from wikipedia, he makes his money from wikia and he “guides” wikipedia. He has a vested interest in making wikipedia having limited information, but more detail will be pushed to the wikia based sites about a topic, which he puts ads on and makes money off of.”

 What Do You Have To Say About This?

In all likelihood, if you are reading this article, you have used Wikipedia at least once in your life. What do you, dear Techli reader, think is the root cause for Wikipedia’s recent editorial shortage? Chime in below.