Monday, November 30, 2009

What's going on with Wikipedia?

As I've written before, for people who want to contribute articles, I think Wikipedia can have an unwelcoming, even hostile environment. There are editors who clearly live to delete new content rather than edit new content. (These are known as "deletionists": editors who shoot first and ask questions later.)

And then there are the flame wars, the infighting among "contributors writing about controversial subjects and polarizing figures," according to a recent Wall St. Journal article.

Although Wikipedia continues to be a popular Internet destination, the site is losing editors.

"Wikipedia is becoming a more hostile environment. Many people are getting burnt out when they have to debate about the contents of certain articles again and again," Felipe Ortega, a project manager at Libresoft, a research group at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, told the Wall St. Journal. Ortega analyzed Wikipedia's data on the editing histories of its more than three million active contributors in 10 languages.

So could this mark the end of crowdsourcing -- the theory that "there is wisdom in aggregating independent contributions from multitudes of Web users"?

The Journal points out that "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."

I could've told you that.

Look, I don't think Wikipedia is dying. But I think it is facing a crisis, even if it's akin to a mid-life crisis. Check out the interesting Journal article, "Volunteers Log Off as Wikipedia Ages."

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