Never mind the quality, feel the width

Is Wikipedia dying a slow death? Will the one-stop shop for students soon draw its final breath?

These are the questions posed by the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones in his blog post 'Wikipedia on the wane?' His post was fomented by a recent report from a Spanish academic who claims that editors are leaving the online wiki based encyclopedia faster than new ones are joining. The study estimates that Wikipedia has lost 49,000 editors in just a few months. That's rather careless of them - just where did all those editors go? What are they doing now? And where were they the last time we saw them? They certainly aren't editing Wikipedia's pages anymore says the report. And it seems that the crisis has been caused by heavy handed tactics and beaurocracy which is offputting to those who wish to create new pages or make changes to existing entries. Love or hate Wikipedia, you have to admit it is a real phenomenon, with just about every subject under the sun covered, and high rankings for all pages in search engines. If you want depth of information, go to Encyclopaedia Brittanica. If you want breadth and width of topic coverage, it's Wikipedia you need. They are both fairly accurate, but when an error was detected in the past, Wikipedians moved in quickly to rectify it. But will that continue, or will the website fall into neglect and disrepair?

The report, which also features in the Wall Street Journal, shows that enthusiasm (which let's face it, was the reason for Wikipedia's early success) seems to be falling away. Cellan-Jones suggests that without the 'worker bees' nurturing the pages of Wikipedia, and dedicated armies of enthusiastic and knowledgeable editors maintaining the fine balance between opinion and fact, the online encyclopedia may fall into disrepute. It would be ironic indeed if this was the case, now that Wikipedia seems to be gaining respect with its recently introduced new quality measures.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel - visitors to Wikipedia are on the increase, and it looks as though the rumours of its demise are premature. The solution has to be that more users need to become contributors - which was after all, the original ethos of the wiki, wasn't it?

Image source (edited)


geordie_online said…
I believe I saw evidence of the rotation of editors on wikipedia in class last week. My learners were experimenting with Web 2.0 tools and examined the functionality of wikipedia.

They altered a number of different aspects of the entry of 'Girls Aloud' and it took 9 hours for the entry to be returned to its previous state.

In previous sessions this took under an hour ;-)

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