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The Internet

Has Wikipedia Peaked? 484

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."
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Has Wikipedia Peaked?

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  • 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.
  • Re:Answers (Score:2, Informative)

    by Charbox ( 1134059 ) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:16AM (#20939479)
    Alexa shows a small drop over the past week, [alexa.com] but not larger than several other dips over the past few years.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Re:Wikiphobia (Score:3, Informative)

    by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:37AM (#20939813) Journal
    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 search? It was on the first page of a Google search for weather (below a bunch of basketball links for Miami Heat). The history function will give you the hourly temp and humidity values. You'll have to do it day by day, but a decent script should be able to scrape the data, then you can do the math and get all the information you need.
  • by Inverted Intellect ( 950622 ) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:40AM (#20939859)

    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 edits without any discussion until both/all involved are already pretty annoyed. I try to be as polite as possible when reverting, especially so when the contributors appear to believe that they've been adding significant content. First edits don't always point to the potential of the editor, so scaring them off isn't a good idea. Sometimes people just have to be nudged into reading some of the helpful tips on how to contribute.

    The situation tends to be hard to improve when almost all the edits making the article worse are single edits from logged IPs.

    I've had to consistently revert something approaching those 95% you mentioned of all edits done on a particular article, since most are guide-edits/incorrect spelling changes/blatant advertisments/irrelevant/vandalism/etc. done to a largely already complete article. I try to re-write edits when the information they add happens to be useful, despite being badly or clumsily written.
  • Re:Answers (Score:3, Informative)

    by ArieKremen ( 733795 ) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @11:43AM (#20940917)
    Actually no natural growth process can continue indefinitely. Zero order growth is a very simple and crude approximation that will hold for a short period of time. The decreasing rate in article submission shows that wikipedia has reached a certain maturity. It could be a first order growth, where the rate of article submissions is related to the information already covered or to the a higher threshold to contribute a new original article. Assuming a constant growth kinetic model simply indicates that the author of the study has too limited knowledge of processes, or was just plain lazy to look up more appropriate mathematical models, e.g., higher order kinetics or any of the other well established models.
  • 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.
  • Re:Woah! (Score:3, Informative)

    by AxelBoldt ( 1490 ) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @12:54PM (#20941871) Homepage

    I don't know if this already exists, and after a quick look i wasn't seeing it... but is there a "request an article" section?

    Yes, it's here: Wikipedia:Requested articles [wikipedia.org].

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken