[p2p-research] Who Writes Wikipedia? (blog post by Aaron Swartz)

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Sat Nov 21 03:57:49 CET 2009

 From someone (Aaron Swartz) who ran an analysis on Wikipedia contributions 
in 2006, and found results different than Jimmy Wales suggested:
   "Who Writes Wikipedia? (Aaron Swartz's Raw Thought)"
When you put it all together, the story become clear: an outsider makes one 
edit to add a chunk of information, then insiders make several edits 
tweaking and reformatting it. In addition, insiders rack up thousands of 
edits doing things like changing the name of a category across the entire 
site — the kind of thing only insiders deeply care about. As a result, 
insiders account for the vast majority of the edits. But it’s the outsiders 
who provide nearly all of the content. ...
   Wales is right about one thing, though. This fact does have enormous 
policy implications. If Wikipedia is written by occasional contributors, 
then growing it requires making it easier and more rewarding to contribute 
occasionally. Instead of trying to squeeze more work out of those who spend 
their life on Wikipedia, we need to broaden the base of those who contribute 
just a little bit.
   Unfortunately, precisely because such people are only occasional 
contributors, their opinions aren’t heard by the current Wikipedia process. 
They don’t get involved in policy debates, they don’t go to meetups, and 
they don’t hang out with Jimbo Wales. And so things that might help them get 
pushed on the backburner, assuming they’re even proposed.
   Out of sight is out of mind, so it’s a short hop to thinking these 
invisible people aren’t particularly important. Thus Wales’s belief that 500 
people wrote half an encyclopedia. Thus his assumption that outsiders 
contribute mostly vandalism and nonsense. And thus the comments you 
sometimes hear that making it hard to edit the site might be a good thing.

--Paul Fernhout

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