[p2p-research] the wikipedia decline

Ryan Lanham rlanham1963 at gmail.com
Wed Nov 25 17:48:51 CET 2009


My sense is that we are all violently agreeing.  How does Paul differ?  If
you, Fernhout, Eugen, Sam and I agree, then it must be true.  And it is, I
think, a first.


On 11/25/09, Michel Bauwens <michelsub2004 at gmail.com> wrote:
> Despite the dismissal by paul hartzog of my interpretation, the fall of
> wikipedia pretty much started with the victory of the exclusionists ... this
> is pretty much confirmed by the article,
> with the revolt of the german wikipedia hackers, we now have a realistic
> chance to regain a inclusionist Wikipedia with a real democratic peer
> governance,
> Michel
> Wikipedia.org is the fifth-most-popular Web site in the world, with roughly
> 325 million monthly visitors. But unprecedented numbers of the millions of
> online volunteers who write, edit and police it are quitting.
> That could have significant implications for the brand of democratization
> that Wikipedia helped to unleash over the Internet -- the empowerment of the
> amateur.
> News Hub: Wikipedia Volunteers Quit
> 1:44
> Wikipedia is extremely popular with the public, but not so much with the
> volunteers who run the site. They're quitting, raising questions about the
> future of Wikipedia, says WSJ.com Senior Technology Editor Julia Angwin.
> Volunteers have been departing the project that bills itself as "the free
> encyclopedia that anyone can edit" faster than new ones have been joining,
> and the net losses have accelerated over the past year. In the first three
> months of 2009, the English-language Wikipedia suffered a net loss of more
> than 49,000 editors, compared to a net loss of 4,900 during the same period
> a year earlier, according to Spanish researcher Felipe Ortega, who analyzed
> Wikipedia's data on the editing histories of its more than three million
> active contributors in 10 languages.
> Eight years after Wikipedia began with a goal to provide everyone in the
> world free access to "the sum of all human knowledge," the declines in
> participation have raised questions about the encyclopedia's ability to
> continue expanding its breadth and improving its accuracy. Errors and
> deliberate insertions of false information by vandals have undermined its
> reliability.
> Executives at the Wikimedia Foundation, which finances and oversees the
> nonprofit venture, acknowledge the declines, but believe they can continue
> to build a useful encyclopedia with a smaller pool of contributors. "We need
> sufficient people to do the work that needs to be done," says Sue Gardner,
> executive director of the foundation. "But the purpose of the project is not
> participation."
> Digits
> Is Wikipedia Too Unfriendly to Newbies?
> How to Make $55,000 by Giving Away Your Work
> Indeed, Wikipedia remains enormously popular among users, with the number
> of Web visitors growing 20% in the 12 months ending in September, according
> to comScore Media Metrix.
> Wikipedia contributors have been debating widely what is behind the
> declines in volunteers. One factor is that many topics already have been
> written about. Another is the plethora of rules Wikipedia has adopted to
> bring order to its unruly universe -- particularly to reduce infighting
> among contributors about write-ups of controversial subjects and polarizing
> figures.
> "Wikipedia is becoming a more hostile environment," contends Mr. Ortega, a
> project manager at Libresoft, a research group at the Universidad Rey Juan
> Carlos in Madrid. "Many people are getting burnt out when they have to
> debate about the contents of certain articles again and again."
> Wikipedia's struggles raise questions about the evolution of
> "crowdsourcing," one of the Internet era's most cherished principles.
> Crowdsourcing posits that there is wisdom in aggregating independent
> contributions from multitudes of Web users. It has been promoted as a new
> and better way for large numbers of individuals to collaborate on tasks,
> without the rules and hierarchies of traditional organizations.
> But as it matures, Wikipedia, one of the world's largest crowdsourcing
> initiatives, is becoming less freewheeling and more like the organizations
> it set out to replace. Today, its rules are spelled out across hundreds of
> Web pages. Increasingly, newcomers who try to edit are informed that they
> have unwittingly broken a rule -- and find their edits deleted, according to
> a study by researchers at Xerox Corp.
> Journal Community
> discuss
> “ I have an entry on Wiki on some stuff that happened to occur in the
> 1500s. Some of the commentary/corrections that were done were most helpful
> in filling out the article, but the amount of stuff that one had to go
> through hardly justifies the effort when it is volunteer time that I am
> contributing out of my life. ”
> — William Ledsham
> "People generally have this idea that the wisdom of crowds is a pixie dust
> that you sprinkle on a system and magical things happen," says Aniket
> Kittur, an assistant professor of human-computer interaction at Carnegie
> Mellon University who has studied Wikipedia and other large online community
> projects. "Yet the more people you throw at a problem, the more difficulty
> you are going to have with coordinating those people. It's too many cooks in
> the kitchen."
> Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, who is chairman emeritus of the foundation,
> acknowledges participation has been declining. But he says it still isn't
> clear to him what the "right" number of volunteer "Wikipedians" should be.
> "If people think Wikipedia is done," he says, meaning that with three
> million articles it is hard to find new things to write about, "that's
> substantial. But if the community has become more hostile to newbies, that's
> a correctable problem."
> Mr. Wales says his top priority is to improve the accuracy of Wikipedia's
> articles. He's pushing a new feature that would require top editors to
> approve all edits before they are displayed on the site. The idea is to
> prevent the kind of vandalism that in January declared Sen. Edward Kennedy's
> death months before his actual passing.
> View Full Image
> Nicolas Goldberg for The Wall Street Journal
> Jimmy Wales, founder of the online encyclopedia, which is written and
> edited by volunteers.
> Mr. Wales, a onetime options trader in Chicago, founded Wikipedia in 2001
> amid frustration that his effort to create an online encyclopedia was
> hampered by the slow pace of copy-editing and getting feedback from experts.
> He saw Wikipedia as a side project -- a radical experiment with software
> that allows multiple people to edit the same Web page. The term "wiki" comes
> from the Hawaiian word for fast.
> The collaborative software fostered a unique form of online governance. One
> of Wikipedia's principles is that decisions should be made by
> consensus-building. One of the few unbreakable rules is that articles must
> be written from a neutral point of view. Another is that anyone should be
> able to edit most articles. One policy serves as a coda: "Ignore all rules."
> The Wikimedia Foundation employs a staff of 34, mostly in San Francisco, to
> run the site's computers, guide its planning and serve as its public face.
> In its fiscal year ended in June, it reported expenses of $5.6 million. It
> funds its operations mostly through donations. Earlier this month, it
> launched a campaign to raise $7.5 million from users.
> Wikipedia's popularity has strained its consensus-building culture to the
> breaking point. Wikipedia is now a constant target for vandals who spray
> virtual graffiti throughout the site -- everything from political views
> presented as facts to jokes about their friends -- and spammers who try to
> insert marketing messages into articles.
> In 2005, journalist John Seigenthaler Sr. wrote about his own Wikipedia
> write-up, which unjustly accused him of murder. The resulting bad press was
> a wake-up call. Wikipedians began getting more aggressive about patrolling
> for vandals and blocking suspicious edits, according to Andrew Lih, a
> professor at the University of Southern California and a regular Wikipedia
> contributor.
> That helped transform the site into a more hierarchical society where
> volunteers had to negotiate a thicket of new rules. Wikipedia rolled out new
> antivandalism features, including "semiprotection," which prevents newcomers
> from editing certain controversial articles.
> "It was easier when I joined in 2004," says Kat Walsh, a longtime
> contributor who serves on Wikimedia's board of trustees. "Everything was a
> little less complicated.... It's harder and harder for new people to
> adjust."
> In 2008, Wikipedia's editors deleted one in four contributions from
> infrequent contributors, up sharply from one in 10 in 2005, according to
> data compiled by social-computing researcher Ed Chi of Xerox's Palo Alto
> Research Center.
> Nina Paley, a New York cartoonist who calls herself an "information
> radical," had no luck when she tried to post her syndicated comic strips
> from the '90s. She does not copyright their artwork but instead makes money
> on ancillary products and services, making her perfect for Wikipedia's
> free-content culture.
> It took her a few days to decipher Wikipedia's software."I figured out how
> to do it with this really weird, ugly code," she says. "I went to bed
> feeling so proud of myself, and I woke up and found it had been deleted
> because it was 'out of scope.'"
> A Wikipedia editor had decided that Ms. Paley's comics didn't meet the
> criteria for educational art. Another editor weighed in with questions about
> whether she had copyright permission for the photo of herself that she
> uploaded. She did.
> Ultimately, it was decided that Ms. Paley's comics were suitable for the
> site. Samuel Klein, a veteran Wikipedian who serves on the board of
> trustees, intervened and restored her contributions. Mr. Klein says
> experiences like Ms. Paley's happen too often. Mr. Klein says that the
> Wikipedia community needs to rein in so-called deletionists -- editors who
> shoot first and ask questions later.
> View Full Image
> Nicolas Goldberg for The Wall Street Journal
> "Wikipedians" from around the world gathered in August at the annual
> Wikimania conference in Buenos Aires
> The Wikimedia Foundation says it is seeking to increase participation, but
> that growing the overall number of participants isn't its main focus.
> "The early days were a gold rush," says Ms. Gardner, the foundation's
> executive director. "They attracted lots and lots of people, because a new
> person could write about anything." The encyclopedia isn't finished, she
> says, but the "easy work" of contributing is done.
> To attract new recruits to help with the remaining work, Ms. Gardner has
> hired an outreach team, held seminars to train editors in overlooked
> categories, and launched task forces to seek ways to increase participation
> in markets such as India. The foundation also invested $890,000 in a new
> design for the site, slated to go live in the next few months, that aims to
> make editing easier for contributors who aren't computer-savvy.
> Wikipedia on the Decline
> 3:53
> WSJ's Julia Angwin interviews Andrew Lih, author of Wikipedia Revolution,
> about why volunteers are increasingly quitting Wikipedia.
> She says increasing contributor diversity is her top goal. A survey the
> foundation conducted last year determined that the average age of an editor
> is 26.8 years, and that 87% of them are men.
> Much of the task of making Wikipedia more welcoming to newcomers falls to
> Frank Schulenburg, the foundation's head of public outreach. An academic, he
> began contributing to articles about French philosophers on the German
> Wikipedia in 2005.
> "The community has created its own language, and that is certainly a
> barrier to new participants," he says.
> One of Mr. Schulenburg's first projects, called the "bookshelf," is an
> effort to gather the basic rules for contributing to Wikipedia in one place
> for newcomers. He hopes the new multimedia bookshelf will be the Wikipedia
> community's equivalent of a high-school civics textbook.
> In Germany, to recruit more academics, Mr. Schulenburg had devised an
> educational program called Wikipedia Academy. In July, he conducted the
> first such program in the U.S., for scientists and administrators at the
> National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. His goal was to entice the
> scientists to contribute.
> Wikipedia already attracts lots of academics, but science isn't its
> strength. By its own internal grading standards, the article on Louis
> Pasteur, one of the founders of microbiology, for example, is lower in
> quality than its article on James T. Kirk, the fictional "Star Trek"
> captain.
> For the July event, Mr. Schulenburg got about 100 scientists and NIH
> staffers to spend the day listening to arguments about why they should
> bother contributing to Wikipedia, despite the fact that it doesn't pay,
> won't help them get a grant or even win them applause from their peers.
> His audience was skeptical about the lack of credentials among Wikipedia
> editors. "One of my concerns is not knowing who the editor is," said Lakshmi
> Grama, a communications official from the National Cancer Institute.
> Journal Community
> Vote: How would you grade the quality of the content on Wikipedia?
> Several participants started contributing to Wikipedia right after the
> event. The NIH says it is considering whether to adopt formal policies to
> encourage its staff to contribute while at work.
> Each year, Wikipedians from around the world gather at a conference they
> call Wikimania. At this year's meeting in Buenos Aires in August,
> participants at one session debated the implications of the demographic
> shifts.
> "The number one headline I have been seeing for five years is that
> Wikipedia is dying," said Mathias Schindler, a board member of Wikimedia
> Germany. He argued that Wikipedia needed to focus less on the total number
> of articles and more on "smarter metrics" such as article quality.
> He said he disagreed with dire views about the project's future. "I don't
> expect to see Wikipedia follow the rule of any curve or any projection."
> Write to Julia Angwin at julia.angwin at wsj.com and Geoffrey A. Fowler at
> geoffrey.fowler at wsj.com
> --
> Work: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhurakij_Pundit_University - Research:
> http://www.dpu.ac.th/dpuic/info/Research.html - Think thank:
> http://www.asianforesightinstitute.org/index.php/eng/The-AFI
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Ryan Lanham
rlanham1963 at gmail.com
Facebook: Ryan_Lanham
P.O. Box 633
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(345) 916-1712
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