Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Internet

Has Wikipedia Peaked? 484

Posted by kdawson
from the overworked-and-unpaid dept.
An anonymous reader writes "After more than a year with no official statistics, an independent analysis reported Wednesday showed that activity in Wikipedia's community has been declining over the last six months. Editing is down 20% and new account creation is down 30%. After six years of rapid growth and more than 2 million articles, is Wikipedia's development now past its peak? Are Wikipedians simply running out of things to write about, or is the community collapsing under the weight of external vandalism and internal conflicts? A new collection of charts and graphs help to tell the tale."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Has Wikipedia Peaked?

Comments Filter:
  • Running Out (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bostons1337 (1025584) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:02AM (#20939295)
    Wiki is just running out of things to document. They literally have almost anything you can think of. I'm a computer science major and I've wiki'd some really advanced topics that appear on there but hardly anywhere else on the internet.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Billosaur (927319) *

      I find it hard to imagine that given the diversity of things in the universe and then number of people on the planet, that there is nothing left to write about. Perhaps all the stright-forward, easy topics have been covered, but there are vast ranges of experience and knowledge still to be discovered. And after all, Wikipedia is a living thing -- nothing in it not of a historic nature can remain static for very long.

      Frankly, I think everyone wants a breather.

      • Re:Running Out (Score:5, Insightful)

        by NickCatal (865805) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:30AM (#20939723)
        Notable things which there are sources to cite are dwindling. 2 million articles is getting a bit excessive IMO. Wikipedia needs to focus on quality and not quantity (which is what Mr. Whales has been saying for a few years) and people aren't as excited about editing existing articles compared to making new ones.

        Or at least that is what I believe.
    • Wiki is just running out of things to document. They literally have almost anything you can think of. I'm a computer science major and I've wiki'd some really advanced topics that appear on there but hardly anywhere else on the internet.

      Sure, but when I want to find the volume isotope shift of Gallium-69 II's hyperfine structure for the 4s5p triplet S_0 - 4s5p triplet P_0 transition, then I'm out of luck. So no, Wikipedia isn't running out of things to document, us geeks just haven't had the time to upload

    • Woah! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by camperdave (969942) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:38AM (#20939833) Journal
      I'm a computer science major and I've wiki'd some really advanced topics that appear on there but hardly anywhere else on the internet.

      Are you saying that because a computerized knowledge base, owned, operated, and edited by people with computers, has a lot of stuff about computers in it, that it must therefore have a lot of stuff about everything in it? What about needlepoint? String collecting? Mayan hunting techniques? No, my friend, there's a lot more stuff to wiki about.
      • by Scrameustache (459504) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:59AM (#20940151) Homepage Journal

        I'm a computer science major and I've wiki'd some really advanced topics that appear on there but hardly anywhere else on the internet.

        Are you saying that because a computerized knowledge base, owned, operated, and edited by people with computers, has a lot of stuff about computers in it, that it must therefore have a lot of stuff about everything in it? What about needlepoint?
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Needlepoint [wikipedia.org]
        Seems pretty well researched. Huh, lookadat... didn't know they had an "embroidery" category :)
        • by overunderunderdone (521462) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @12:28PM (#20941533)
          You've made his point. There are a dozen links under Needlepoint to particular stitches 2/3rds of which go nowhere and the remainder are stubs. Only one goes to an actual article. Needlepoint isn't a particularly obscure activity yet there isn't much on wikipedia about it beyond that single article. A far more obscure topic from computer science would be fully fleshed out with plenty of links to even more obscure sub-topics.
  • So... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tink2000 (524407) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:02AM (#20939303) Homepage Journal
    Does Netcraft confirm it?
    Or should we look it up in Wikipedia?
  • Natural? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ilovegeorgebush (923173) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:03AM (#20939315) Homepage
    I think the decline of new articles is probably just natural due to 2 million existing articles being a LOT of information. Sure, there's plenty more to write about but I'd have thought the majority of the hobbiest-contributors (i.e. those who aren't die-hard users) simply don't have anything else to write.

    Either way, I think this is a little over the top - there's still a million and one things to write about. Hell, if it has peaked - it's not going anywhere!
    • Re:Natural? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by millwall (622730) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:09AM (#20939377)
      [...] the majority of the hobbiest-contributors (i.e. those who aren't die-hard users) simply don't have anything else to write.

      I second that. As a "hobbiest-contributor" myself I have written or expanded around 10 specialist articles. There is not a lot more specialist knowledge I feel that I have to contribute to Wikipedia - hence I've not added anything in the last 6 months or so.
      • Re:Natural? (Score:5, Funny)

        by Tetsujin (103070) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @11:18AM (#20940445) Homepage Journal

        [...] the majority of the hobbiest-contributors (i.e. those who aren't die-hard users) simply don't have anything else to write.

        I second that. As a "hobbiest-contributor" myself I have written or expanded around 10 specialist articles. There is not a lot more specialist knowledge I feel that I have to contribute to Wikipedia - hence I've not added anything in the last 6 months or so.
        I'm a hobby-contributor, myself... I guess you might be a hobbier contributor, but I really doubt you're the hobbiest contributor...
    • Re:Natural? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Itchyeyes (908311) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:21AM (#20939565) Homepage
      Also, you have to consider the fact that more well known topics would have been covered first. As the site matures the scope of topics not covered becomes more and more obscure and the pool of people knowledgeable enough to edit them gets smaller and smaller.
      • Re:Natural? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by eln (21727) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:27AM (#20939679) Homepage
        More and more obscure, meaning more prone to deletion by other editors. Wikipedia's goal has morphed from being the repository of all human knowledge to being the repository of all notable human knowledge. This seemingly minor distinction fundamentally alters what Wikipedia is all about, and causes things such as the deletion of "trivia" sections and the removal of entire entries because they are not "notable". While I agree that not every schmuck out there should necessarily have a Wikipedia entry, I think the standards for what is and is not "notable" may be set too high, which puts a heavy limitation on the number of articles that can be created.

        The set of all human knowledge is near infinite in its breadth, but the subset of "notable" human knowledge, depending on how you define that, is much smaller. It would be expected that as the site matures, the new information being added would be more obscure, and there would be more battles about the notability of that information.
        • Re:Natural? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Blakey Rat (99501) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @11:16AM (#20940405)
          It's not that they delete things that aren't notable, it's that the criteria are so... unevenly applied.

          I don't want to trot out the tired old Pokemon example again, but it's so easily applied. There are tons of Wiki pages dedicated to describing every Pokemon, while Viva Pinata (another video game with tons of fictional animals) isn't allowed to have more than one page. And, of course, at the same time they're aggressively deleting the trivia section of movies, books, and games because trivia isn't "encyclopedic."

          That all said, I do believe they need to encourage the creation and expansion of "encyclopedic" topics... there are tons of historical events and figures that have far too little coverage. But deleting content isn't the right way to go about it, not in my opinion. I say have hundreds of Pokemon pages, have thousands of them. But at the same time, make sure that your coverage of the important native American leader Weetamoo ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weetamoo [wikipedia.org] ) has a full bio. (For example; there are tons of articles like this that are extremely important topics, but have too little coverage.)
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Doctor O (549663)
          Amen. I haven't contributed to the English Wikipedia much, but I see the phenomenon you quote on German Wikipedia a lot. New articles get deleted left and right by regulars who don't know shit about the topic at hand or think it's not notable, even if it e.g. covers an online event in which several hundred people participated non-stop for 72 hours straight. Of course such "editors" won't discuss the reasons, either. It definitely drove me away from contributing, and several other people I know.

          Netcraft won'
      • Exactly. It's an infinite-series [wikipedia.org] of sorts: the more articles posted, the less the common denominator can write, the greater the decline of new articles.

        I'm sure some maths boffin will correct me here.
  • Wikiphobia (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AtariDatacenter (31657) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:05AM (#20939333)
    I think I'd have a lot to add to Wikipedia, but I don't. Any time I have made any contribution, substantial or minor, someone else comes around and knocks it off. The feeling I've gotten is that people seem to 'own' pieces of territory in Wikipedia. Be it individual articles, or their interpretation, or something else. My contributions have no chance of surviving in the face of these Wiki die-hards. So what is the point? I'm a read-only user now.
    • Re:Wikiphobia (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:09AM (#20939383) Homepage
      Find yourself a wikifriend. I'd be happy to volunteer (look me up on the wiki, I'm not hard to find).

      One new article with comments from a long-timer and you'll be off to the races.
      • Re:Wikiphobia (Score:5, Insightful)

        by truthsearch (249536) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:47AM (#20939981) Homepage Journal
        The GP's point is that one shouldn't need to buddy up or create their own territory on Wikipedia. The basis of the site is for any random person to add information. So if people delete things that "invade" their territory or that don't have the support of a long-time contributor than the site's being abused in a sense. It's deviated from its mission if new users are treated this way.
    • Re:Wikiphobia (Score:5, Informative)

      by Aladrin (926209) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:17AM (#20939497)
      I avoid it for another reason. I tend to enter into debates with others online, and if they don't say 'and don't cite wikipedia' beforehand, then they say it afterwards. The knowledge there is totally useless in a debate simply because it can be edited by anyone, regardless of what they actually know. Now, I use it as a last resort to look for information that might lead me to something a little more substantial.

      Unfortunately, I can't even argue with them because it says things like "However, extreme summer humidity often boosts the heat index to around 110 F (43 C)." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miami,_Florida [wikipedia.org] Try as I might, I could find no information on historic heat indexes in Miami on the web. The best I could find was high-low temperature and humidity charts, and since the heat index deals with the temperature and humidity at any given moment, it isn't very useful for calculating the heat index after the fact. Especially if you want to find out how often it hits 110.

      Just about everything I've looked up on Wikipedia in the last month has been someone's personal view with no facts to sustain it. As a starting point for research, I can't even say it's a good idea because things are stated as fact that are personal observation (anecdotes) or opinion, and that can quickly taint your view of whatever you are searching and lead you down a bad path.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by wlad (1171323)
        You can use wikipedia to look up information, but sure, you cannot quote it as source in a debate. That'd be crazy. Which is why wikipedia requires contributors to source statements, so you can quote the real source if you find a piece you want to mention.
        • Re:Wikiphobia (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:53AM (#20940069)
          Well, the question is how "independent" the source is. I've seen it more than once that it's been basically a circle-jerk. When you dig deep enough you'll see that those "sources" pretty much link to one another. That's also a way to fabricate "truth". A says something, B picks it up and points to A as its confirmation, C sees B and quotes it, which in turn A notices and uses C to support its "truth".

          Now add in the agendas of A, B and C and you get quite funny twists and "quotes". Bet I can prove with the help of the WHO and a few other "sources" that second hand smoking is actually good for your health?

          Simply quoting a source is meaningless if you can't verify how good the source is.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Lars T. (470328)

            Well, the question is how "independent" the source is. I've seen it more than once that it's been basically a circle-jerk. When you dig deep enough you'll see that those "sources" pretty much link to one another.
            Gee, just like science ;-)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Overzeetop (214511)
        It's actually a good place to start a search, if only to determine what the hard sources are. Taking wiki at face value is not a good idea, but if there is real data to be had then you can work your way towards the facts. I would agree, however, that it's probably a bad place to do real-time fact checking...though I'm not aware of any real-time fact source. If you don't know the material, there's no sense in debating real-time about it.

        As for your weather query, might I suggest weather underground's history
    • Yeah, I agree.

      Wikipedia encourages censorship and deals with conflicts in a Nepotistic fashion - at least in my experience.

      AIK
    • Sounds like they need a soft edit contribution module, ie: a way to add commentary, thoughts, content and put it into a queue that an editor can review and incorporate if/when the contribution is useful. Additionally they could let readers vote on these additions... digg style, to promote them to the top of the queue.

      This would take some of the territorialism out of the equation by giving the die-hard a role in selecting which edits make it with a back up method of identifying really useful contributions vi
    • But don't they give reasons why they remove your stuff? If it's lacking in some way, just improve it and try again? It would be interesting to see some examples.
    • Re:Wikiphobia (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ta bu shi da yu (687699) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:25AM (#20939639) Homepage
      Without seeing your edit history, it's a bit hard to comment. However, did you source the material you added? If you don't, it probably will get removed or modified.
      • Re:Wikiphobia (Score:5, Insightful)

        by asuffield (111848) <asuffield@suffields.me.uk> on Thursday October 11, 2007 @12:09PM (#20941287)
        This is somewhat problematic, because a lot of material on the level Wikipedia operates is unsourceable. Sources basically come in two forms: articles and papers published on "new" discoveries or creations, and texts designed to teach major subjects to people unfamiliar with them.

        If a piece of information is well-known but not part of a field that somebody would want to write a book about, then it won't ever appear in either of these things, so you can't source it. This is most common with the sort of basic, low-level knowledge that is passed around in communities. This also happens to be exactly the sort of information that Wikipedia should be collecting.

        As people in the field say, "if you implement TCP to the specifications then you get something which doesn't work on the internet".
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Angst Badger (8636)
      I've heard a lot of people express the same point, but it's not something I've experienced, so I suspect it must have to do with the amount of interest in an article. I generally tend to write about fairly obscure topics, except when I'm just making spelling or grammar corrections in an article I'm reading. Perhaps topics with a lot of interest just tend to be modified more frequently, and it's not that you're being shoved out of someone else's turf, it's just that the turf in question happens to be subject
    • by jc42 (318812)
      I think I'd have a lot to add to Wikipedia, but I don't. Any time I have made any contribution, substantial or minor, someone else comes around and knocks it off.

      Well, I've thought that, too. But just yesterday, I had yet another case of looking for something and getting the "no page yet" page inviting me to write it. My immediate reaction was "But I'm no expert on this". And, as so often happens, after digging the info out of a number of other places, I had the second reaction "Why don't I write the pag
  • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:05AM (#20939337) Homepage
    Has peaked a long time ago. Before

    --- PARAGRAPH FOR DEMOCRATS ---
    Fox news started to edit it

    --- PARAGRAPH FOR REPUBLICANS ---
    CNN and BBC started editing it

    Right now, a lot of articles are just plain dishonest. Just look up some controversial subjects. Contemporary forced subjugation and kidnapping children into slavery by muslims for example, or look at Bush's page that contains references to falsified news ...
    • by Applekid (993327) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:19AM (#20939553)
      Thing is, dishonest articles and misleading text won't get fixed. I gave up contributing to Wikipedia when I had my editing slammed left and right from "regulars" selectively applying rules in order to shut out the unpopular. "No original research" only applies when your assertions are against consensus, regardless of how accurate, "You don't own the article" only applies if you're outnumbered by a bunch of others that do own the article, "Bias" only when you're striving for uniformity.

      I mean, I'm not even talking about abortion or rape or anything... look at the fight over "XOR" vs. "Exclusive-OR". Sheesh.

      http://www.wikitruth.info/ [wikitruth.info] has some info... but don't take it's word on it. Give editing Wikipedia a shot and see the shitstorm it can raise.
      • http://www.wikitruth.info/ [wikitruth.info] has some info... but don't take it's word on it. Give editing Wikipedia a shot and see the shitstorm it can raise.

        I'm a casual Wikipedia editor -- I edit Wikipedia on and off, semi-regularly but certainly not enough to be part of any incrowd. I have never run into any shitstorms. In my impression, most of the people who keep running into conflicts are actively looking for them. The site you cite is a nice case in point -- the whole tone of it screams extreme, borderline-psycho

  • No (Score:5, Funny)

    by shutdown -p now (807394) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:05AM (#20939341) Journal
    They've just run out of Star Trek / Star Wars trivia to write new articles about. Turned out very few of the community knew anything else.
    • There are still plenty of pages with plugs for bands no one has heard of looking for free publicity. "The bacteria E Coli was the theme of a song by the band 'Flaming Gumbo'. A heavy-metal/gangsta-rap/funk/gospel band from Stripmall Florida."
  • by the_skywise (189793) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:06AM (#20939347)
    If the hype dies off then it'll be less of a target towards vandalism and the "die hards" that continue to add to it will do so in a more responsible manner.

    I highly doubt it'll become a wasteland...
  • by Andrew Lenahan (912846) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:10AM (#20939387) Homepage
    According to Alexa [alexa.com], Wikipedia has actually grown substantially in terms of traffic and viewership, with reach up 12% in the past 3 months. It's inevitable that with several million articles, the number of "missing" encyclopedic ones drops, and thus fewer new articles are created. You can't judge whether something has "peaked" based on fewer accounts being blocked and soforth. Rather than saying it's peaked, it looks more like it's starting to stabilise in terms of quality, while still growing in terms of readership and reach.
  • by Chris_Jefferson (581445) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:10AM (#20939393) Homepage
    I used to edit wikipedia a lot. The main reason I left was that many articles I'd helped to write got to the point where every edit was making the article worse, so either someone had to keep an eye on it and remove changes or the articles would slowly rot under bad edits. I'm not specifically thinking of trolls here, just bad editing.

    For example, the C++ article was better than it is now a year ago. Looking at the history list, almost every edit is undone by someone else. Can the article be improved? Possibly, but the way to do that is not to allow anyone to edit it, then expect someone to put the time into undoing 95% of the edits... that's soul-destroying.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Looking at the history list, almost every edit is undone by someone else. Can the article be improved? Possibly, but the way to do that is not to allow anyone to edit it, then expect someone to put the time into undoing 95% of the edits... that's soul-destroying.

      I've seen that done. I've even done it myself. Problem is, much of the reverted content tends to be unencyclopedic, e.g. paragraphs which guide the reader into how to do things, and spelling tends to be argued over a lot, sometimes causing repeat

  • No such thing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by njfuzzy (734116) <ian@ian-x. c o m> on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:11AM (#20939399) Homepage
    Anyone who thinks that Wikipedia can run out of things to document has a pretty narrow view of just how much information humans generate (and uncover in the Universe). This is not a matter of finishing the job, or anything nearly so monumental. It's just that for something like Wikipedia to thrive, it needs a lot of volunteers-- and that means a lot of people who think it is *cool* enough to spend their time on. The buzz is fading, and people are moving on to other trends. Nothing more, nothing less.
    • by cowscows (103644)
      I'm not very big into the whole wikipedia community, but from the bits that I've read, it sounds like there's been a lot of internal discussion over how much of that "human generated information" belongs in wikipedia. My little house sitting in an unremarkable suburb has decades of history behind it, dozens of people were directly or indirectly involved in its creation, hundreds of people have walked through it, and I could probably write twenty pages of information about it pretty easily.

      But it'd be a bori
  • by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:12AM (#20939425) Homepage Journal
    Oh, there's plenty of things to write about, the community has slowly been taken over by a few who seemingly wish to destroy it from within, or at least shape it into their ideal site. Legitimate and well written articles are constantly deleted or merged because they're "not notable" or they're fancruft. These of course, are okay reasons to delete articles, but when entire projects are basically swept away by one person who twist the guidelines in their favor (or had a corrupt hand in writing them in the first place), it's a great turn off.

    People go around touting "Wikipedia is not an encyclopedia" in one discussion, and then in the next want to get rid or some article because "it's not encyclopedic." I guess I see my ideal Wikipedia as a complete collection. If someone writes a decent, complete article on something somewhat obscure, and it's deleted because it's not notable enough, that just doesn't make sense to me. Maybe I'm just bitter and my view of Wikipedia doesn't agree with the majority? Don't know.

    I am annoyed about how they're trying to rid of trivia sections. Those are some of the most interesting parts of an article if you ask me.
    • Agreed. The noteriety standards are completely bogus, and I largely quit using wikipedia after running across one too many interesting 'marked for deletion' articles and seeing the kind of bullshit arguments petty tyrants used to try and get them deleted.
    • If your ideal is everything, use everything [everything2.com].
      • This is about par for the arguments I see being made by the 'deleters'. I'm more than happy to 'go away', especially if you are dead-set on making sure your content is limited to the range of subjects already covered acceptably by an Encarta CD-ROM.
    • I am annoyed about how they're trying to rid of trivia sections. Those are some of the most interesting parts of an article if you ask me.

      It's more than this. Wikipedia seems to have shifted from a content creation phase, to a content editing phase.

      I've noticed a lot over the past few weeks that more and more articles are being edited to remove things like trivia section, add citations, and trim things quite a bit. There's also been a big move to remove many images from the site that are deemed "unsafe", i.e. copyrighted, for whatever reason.

      I've spoken with people who became disgruntled with Wikipedia. They had the usual concerns, which I personally deemed trivial. However, one thing that did catch my ear was their dislike of the Wikipedia admins, or super editors, or whatever they are called. The stories matched up and went something like this:

      Administrators are less concerned about content than they are about the "quality" of that content. Quality usually means, spell checks, structure, copyrights, citations and general "encyclopedic worthiness" of the underlying material. One gets to be an administrator by doing things like, spell checking, minor editing, rearranging and moving articles, deleting "unworthy" articles, etc. There's also a great desire for articles to conform to the rules and polices of the site.

      The complaints usually revolved around pedantic and often autocratic admins deleting entire articles or a series of articles on "unworthy" topics; say an anime series or a fairly geeky debate on memes. Often very interesting content, like trivia sections** are removed wholesale. It's usually the case that the admins have grouped together and implemented a new "policy" which justifies their actions, despite how every many editors might object.

      I'm not overly familiar with the politics Wikipedia, so I can't personally attest to much of this. However, the tale has come to me in a pretty consistent fashion from a variety of sources; namely that Wikipedia is slowly but surely being taken over by a very anal retentive clique of "Wikicrats", and that the tone of the place is changing accordingly. It sounded a little hyperbolic at the time, but slowly I'm beginning to see changes in the tone of articles.

      I think it's a shift that Wikipedia was probably always going to make. But it seems a pity that the place is to become burdened by rules, policies and general bureaucracy. Death by a thousand kilometers of red tape seems an ill fitting fate for a site that blossomed by a billion altruistic edits.

      **Though personally, I do think a few trivia sections could do with trimming.
    • by Kamineko (851857)
      There's hundreds of useful and well-written articles that have been deleted due to non-notability, even when the consensus on AfD shows that the userbase wants the article retained.

      One of the most irritating aspects of the mass deletion is that the information isn't actually deleted as far as I know: it's just hidden from normal user view. Administrators can still read it.
    • by Guysmiley777 (880063) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:44AM (#20939919)

      I am annoyed about how they're trying to rid of trivia sections. Those are some of the most interesting parts of an article if you ask me.
      The problem I have is that the trivia section of an article can get to be larger than the rest of the article. Maybe someone should start Wikitrivia, where every topic can have an unlimited amount of inane blather, all linked together. Then you could write like a meta degrees of Kevin Bacon, where it will automatically calculate how many articles it takes to link back to Kevin Bacon! It'd be awesome!
      On a serious note, maybe a sub-page of trivia for an article where the main article page randomly displays one trivia factoid, and if you're REALLY interested you can go to the trivia page?
      • by Animats (122034)

        Maybe someone should start Wikitrivia, where every topic can have an unlimited amount of inane blather...

        That's what Wikia really is. They have the Star Wars wiki, the Halo wiki, the Bioshock wiki, the Marvel Database, etc. It's all about monetizing fancruft.

  • Ever since it became possible to identify the source IP-range of edits, I daresay there has been a decrease in people vandalising entries to boost their own/affiliates' references, and to discredit their competitors'/enemies' entries.

    That loss of anonymity would cut down a lot of the spurious traffic, as would the reduction in the number and intensity of edit-wars (since there would be less need for editors to re-establish legitimate fact.)

  • if it is peaking (Score:4, Interesting)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare@NOSpAm.gmail.com> on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:12AM (#20939435) Homepage Journal
    that's a hell of a peak, and it should stay the leader for awhile in what it does: being the default encylcopedia for the world

    that's because wikipedia benefits from the network effect far more than say google or yahoo. it is no small effort, but it is doable, to spider the web and compete with google or yahoo, and make a bid at becoming the defacto search standard instead of them. you need a platoon of programmers and a supply depot of big iron servers. but all that is required to do that is have a lot of cash

    meanwhile, consider a hypothetical wikipedia competitor. you have to, somehow, remobilize millions of freelance editors and article contributors. cash can't do that, only passion can

    all i'm saying is is that it is easier to bomb germany than it is to herd cats, because bombing germany just takes a lot of bombs and planes, but herding cats requires some sort of superhuman level of finesse no amount of money can buy

    so if wikipedia is peaking, i think it is because wikipedia is maxing out on not its potential, but maxing out on the entire potential of its market segment. if wikipedia is peaking, it is not because interest is waning or a competitor is in sight, but simply because there is nowhere more to grow to. which is pretty impressive. wikipedia owns its space in the internet, and its not some subtle niche. its a huge and important market space. wikipedia is a massive success, by any measure

  • Spam analogy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ThirdPrize (938147)
    Perhaps like 90% of e-mail is spam, 20% of all wiki edits were vandalism and that's been stamped on now.
  • statistics (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:20AM (#20939561) Homepage Journal
    As usual, statistics tell what you want them to tell.

    For example, "new user creation is down 30%" means that the number of users is still increasing, but the rate of increase is less. Which also means the rate of the rate of increase is now negative. Hey, how's that for a headline? :-)
  • Deletionism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:21AM (#20939569)
    The most obvious change in the editorial policy of late has been a campaign to delete stuff that is irrelevant. But the problem is that this is a highly subjective judgement and it creates a sense that it is useless to contribute anything that some junior editor is going to come around and delete. This is especially sad when it limits the development of articles on esoteric technical topics that might not be popular but are certainly valuable forms of knowledge.
          This really is a pity because it's not as though there is a legitimate practical reason to make Wikipedia concise in any way. Even if there were, there would certainly be a better way to organize the effort than simply to have people going around deleting things. The biggest problem with self-selecting voluntary enforcers is that they're usually the last people who should be trusted to do such things.
          People contribute voluntarily to spread knowledge and they may be biased or misleading but people who volunteer to delete others words are far more circumspect.
    • I only half-believe this and have not done the detailed digging needed to really validate it. But I'll throw it out there for discussion:

      Wikia is a service that allows any niche group to create their own sort of "wikipedia" for their topic. And unlike Wikipedia, it is for-profit, and clearly belongs to Jimmy Wales.

      Wales seeded the admin system on Wikipedia and continues to be influential in its direction. It is in his direct interest if Wikipedia takes the "notability" route to its logical conclusion--pushi
  • by Kinwolf (945345) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:23AM (#20939605)
    Personally, I stopped adding contribution when two articles I wrote(about 2 comic books series that where published by Dark Horse years ago)where marked for deletion. When I asked why, the validator answered that he did a google search and found nothing on the subject, so it was not worthy of being there. So there you have it, if it's not on google, it does not exist and has no business being in an encyclopedia where knowledge is supposed to be kept. With such an attitude, I saw no reason to continue adding stuff there.
    • by i kan reed (749298) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @12:26PM (#20941513) Homepage Journal
      Here's the problem... If it cannot be found by google and you(the original creator of the article) do not give print references that can be verified by other means... there's no evidence that what you're saying is not made up. Sure, longtime wikipedia editors are not trusting, but dealing with the number of advertisement and vanity articles(such as people who write articles about a "comic strip" they "published" in a high school newspaper for 2 months. You can't just take some anonymous person on the internet's word for things or else some of the other major objections with wikipedia(bad fact checking, etc) will be borne out. Get some ISBNs and try a lexisnexus search for the comic. Learn to use wikipedia's citation system before creating your first article. This is the advice I give to everyone who gets their pet topic article on wikipedia deleted. Try it. It works.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:31AM (#20939733) Homepage
    These days, it's hard to find an important, legitimate topic on which Wikipedia doesn't already have fairly good coverage.

    The days when e.g. you could discover that there was no article at all about the author Jessamyn West ("The Friendly Persuasion") and quickly throw in three paragraphs off the top of your head with a little bit of cross-checking, totally confident that you were improving Wikipedia, are gone.

    Now, improving Wikipedia is hard work, and it's less fun, and it goes slowly.

    In other words, it's now about quality, not quantity... and that's a Good Thing.
  • by br00tus (528477) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:33AM (#20939745)
    These statistics only mean something if the function graphed is born of one piece of logic - which it is not. There are a number of statistics about revert percentage in 2002 versus now. But lots of things have changed on Wikipedia over the past five years - a lot of vandalism reverts have been automated. Hell, I myself wrote a vandalism reversion program [wikipedia.org]. Not to mention changes in MediaWiki allowing easier reverting for admins and the like. So this would tend to increase reversion. Then there are the trends which counter reversion - like semi-protected pages. These variables have changed, and thus the timeline data becomes more useless. Also, what is now easily visible as a vandalism reversion nowadays may not be in the older data. Nowadays it is easy for a program to spot reverts - in the early days it was more manual and the program might miss a lot of vandalism reverts.

    As far as Wikipedia - it was a great idea by Larry Sanger, a "Web 2.0" encyclopedia built on wiki technology. This little R&D project by Sanger then gets taken over by the boss of the company, Jimbo Wales, who takes all the credit, and nowadays is concentrating on Wikia, while the project is being run by a mostly incompetent and increasingly nasty cabal. In a lot of ways, Wikipedia has survived despite the management due to Sanger's great idea and the normal user base. Right now it is successful because it is the only game in town, but I am quite sure that it will be knocked off the block by a competitor in the future.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:36AM (#20939799)
    Anyone that has ever edited any article on anything even remotely political is likely to have had their material completely removed within minutes, whether sourced or not and possibly their accounts banned. The extremist Administrator Jayjg is known to internally release your hidden IP address to other "Administrators" (when he is not spending literally years editing the article on circumcision) One of the highest Administrators, Slimvirgin was actually revealed to be a former intelligence agent named Linda Mack that spends nearly 24/7 on there with multiple sock puppets abusing editors.

    It's not surprise to me that people are fed up with the likes of these and the duplicitous "Jimbo" Wales who claims to have an open encyclopedia. The problem is it only is only open to a few political extremists that have managed to get a foothold in the highest levels of adminstration and change phrases like "extrajudicial killing" or "assasination" to "targeted killing" or sex-trafficking to "human trafficking" to completely removed.

    The "Human Rights in Israel" Article actually devotes a good part of its space to talking about why Amnesty International is actually anti-semitic for documenting violations Israel has made, and uses the lawyer that got OJ Simpson off a murder charge as the source!! I can't imagine why people would be fleeing this burning building in droves :-)
  • Citizendium has some features intended (& designed) to address several of the concerns that Wikipedia has raised. Obviously it will have a long way to go before it encompasses Wikipedia's breadth, though it's depth should be as good or better from the start. Citizendium starts here: http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Main_Page [citizendium.org]
  • by babbling (952366) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:40AM (#20939871)
    Reaching a peak is quite natural. I imagine Wikipedia probably has pretty much peaked. I imagine Google has similarly peaked. When almost everyone in the potential audience uses it, how could it be possible to get new users?

    So, Radiohead's new album was announced about 10 days ago, and the In Rainbows article [wikipedia.org] makes Wikipedia look pretty "alive," if you ask me!
  • Wiki-entropy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by athloi (1075845) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:46AM (#20939957) Homepage Journal
    We all know that moderators on most forums are abusive, and most blogs tend toward being personal reflections instead of informative. Why are we surprised Wiki followed the same path?

    Wiki's great strength and great weakness has been its model. Anyone can contribute, but that then requires cops to police the anyones. Then who watches the watchers?

    I read Wikipedia for articles regarding computer technologies and video games. On any other subject, it's often an inferior resource. Even further, I've found that most articles (which take the #1 Google spot) are plagiarized from the articles at Google spots 3-7.

    For many topics, there are better specialized sources written by actual experts in the field, and not bitter grad students, and these are overshadowed by Wikipedia's prominence. This "decline" was long in the making.
  • by Bromskloss (750445) <auxiliary DOT ad ... privacy AT gmail> on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:50AM (#20940021)

    ...is making it easier for people to start helping out. Decent discussion pages for starters. Right now they are plain wiki pages, relying on users to indent themselves to indicate whom they are replying to. They need proper methods for quoting and linking to individual posts. What is now called "archiving" (i.e., moving old comments to a separate page) wouldn't be so cumbersome anymore. As it is, you do it manually or with a program that parses the page. Silly.

    A lot of other things confuse a newcomer as well. There are 9 policies [wikipedia.org] and 23 guidelines [wikipedia.org], each with a loong page of its own.

    Uploading files isn't too simple either. (A lot of instructional text that would put anyone off.) Here is also one of many examples of poor separation between content and presentation. You specify a license by including the appropriate box on the description page of the file. It should be a flag, people!

    Want to discuss something? First, you need to find out whether it should go on the Village pump [wikipedia.org] or the Request for comment [wikipedia.org].

    Dispute? Gotta read up on negotiation [wikipedia.org], mediation [wikipedia.org] and arbitration [wikipedia.org]. I know I would sooner give up.

    If you click on "Editing help [wikipedia.org]", you are greeted with one rudimentary page which probably don't cover what you want and tons of links to similar pages with overlapping content.

  • by Raul654 (453029) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @11:25AM (#20940587) Homepage
    For about 3 years, I've been manually keeping track of some statistics that are important to me here [wikipedia.org].

    Some of Dragonfly's (the person who created those graphs) observations are fairly easy to explain, others require some knowledge of the site. Since I've been at Wikipedia (starting back in mid 2003) new article production has gone through 3 phases: (1) First it was super-linear. That is, each month, we produced slightly more new article than the previous month. Many people predicted that this would ultimately become exponential, and (2) eventually exponential growth is what we got. However, since last August, (3) that has mostly flattened out, to a relatively constant 40k-60k new article per month. I think the answer why is pretty obvious - all of the low-hanging fruit is long gone. When I started editing, there were lots of red links (links to articles that don't exist) that any non-expert might be able to churn out in 2 minutes. Many of the new articles I create nowadays [wikipedia.org] are highly esoteric, some of which I created after seeing them mentioned in journal papers I was peer reviewing. (Examples: Gustafson's law [wikipedia.org], Antigenic escape [wikipedia.org]).

    As far as new account registration, that's a bit more complex to explain. First and most obviously, Wikipedia is not new anymore. We're not going to see the kind of new-user account registrations that we used to. But there's another, more complicated factor at work. For about 9 months (March to December 2006), there existed a technique to vandalize Wikipedia with impunity. You register lots of accounts, and then use each one to vandlize exactly once, log out, log back in with another accout and vandalize, etc. Mediawiki did not block your IP unless you attempted to register from a blocked account, so by editing with each one exactly once you avoided ever having your IP blocked. The only effective way to combat this was to have checkuser access (which I have, but I'm one of only about 10 people on the English Wikipedia who do) I filed a bug report, which was fixed in December 2006. I suspect that a lot of the drop-off in user account registration has to do with this bug being fixed. Registering 100 throw-away accounts was no longer effective, so people did not do it, therefore - I suspect- account registration went down.
  • by IGnatius T Foobar (4328) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @11:26AM (#20940603) Homepage Journal
    Do a Google search on innumerable topics and Wikipedia shows up as the first link. This is Wikipedia's biggest problem. Anyone with an interest in how their topic of interest (themselves, their company, product, or service, something they're involved with, etc. etc. etc.) is seen on the Internet is therefore going to have a vested interest in what Wikipedia says about that topic. And then ... oh look! The entry on Wikipedia is editable! No wonder Wikipedia is a magnet for PR and turf wars. I lost my taste for Wikipedia when some people who have a personal axe to grind with me located a Wikipedia entry for a scene I was involved with years ago, and began spamming it with lies -- well written, but revisionist history nonetheless. Then when I reverted their edits they accused me of "vandalism" and it sparked an edit war. After the Wikipedia "management" got involved, we were forced to reach a "compromise" that still isn't 100% truth. How does a supposedly encyclopedic writing claim accuracy when you have to compromise with people who write complete falsehoods?
  • Too much democracy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FridayBob (619244) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @11:27AM (#20940639) Homepage
    After 18 months of flat-out wiki-madness involving an effort to organize and improve hundreds of articles, I quite working on the project last month following a dispute. My critics were a couple of people who had contributed next to nothing to the project, but they had an opinion ("You're violating the guidelines!") and they had a vote equal to mine. True, I was working mostly on my own and had developed a few unique solutions to some common problems, but no matter how hard I tried to explain, it was just no use. Eventually, it came to a vote that I won with the help of a few friends I had made, but by that time I could see the writing on the wall.

    It's not the first time I had been frustrated with Wikipedia. Earlier, I had tried working at Citizendium, hoping to escape the endless vandalism and find some more reasonable people to deal with. At first things seemed promising, but then it was decided that all of the old Wikipedia articles would be deleted, which felt a lot like throwing out the baby with the bathwater (so much for being a fork), and then Larry Sanger turned out to be a little too much of a micro-manager for my taste. So, it was back to Wikipedia.

    As I see it now, however, Wikipedia's main problem is not so much the vandalism, but that it is too much of a democracy. In such an environment, the average article can only be improved so far before it begins to degrade. It's not that too many cooks spoil the broth, but that's what happens when many (or most) of the cooks don't know what they're doing (or talking about). The problem becomes even more acute when hundreds of articles are involved that need to be organized into a coherent whole. You can see to it personally that the quality of one or more article is maintained, but as soon as you stop, then things start to slide downhill again.

    If, on the other hand, Wikipedia were to become more of a meritocracy, then I have no doubt that things would improve considerably. I'm sure many Slashdotters can imagine ways to do that, but I think they would also agree that such measures would leave the project looking quite different. In fact, it would probably take all the fun out of it for most people. But then, what do we want Wikipedia to be: fun, or a place to find good articles with accurate information?

Today's scientific question is: What in the world is electricity? And where does it go after it leaves the toaster? -- Dave Barry, "What is Electricity?"

Working...