no_gritzko_here (no_gritzko_here) wrote,

A story of one Wikipedia edit

Wikipedia edits per month

Recently, the topic of Wikipedia's decay stagnation got into the mainstream press, mostly thanks to the PR potential of XEROX PARC guys. The often mentioned reasons for decay are:
  1. the rules and guidelines for contributing become more and more elaborated, the learning curve worsens, occasional contributors are scared off, recruitment slows down
  2. contributions of newcomers and outsiders are often reverted by article's "shepherds" or just random passers-by, thus contributing to despair; arguing with anonymouses on the Internet is generally a miserable activity busy people try to avoid
  3. all trivial topics are already covered; due to the "no original research" policy, significant coverage in the mainstream press is necessary to prove a contribution's notability; thus, much less topics might be covered in the future
I'll tell just another embarassing story on how it works in Wikipedia:
  • On 27 Nov 2007, an anonymous with an ip address, resolving to knuth-pbdsl5.Stanford.EDU, edits Wikipedia page "Donald Knuth" to reflect Knuth's actual opinion about Wikipedia: "Knuth is a fan of Wikipedia, but he's a bit leery of the concept, saying that he would not want to have to remain forever on guard after making technically complex contributions, lest his comments be badly reedited." The comment for the edit says: "Somebody thought I was NOT a fan of Wikipedia ... I've tried to characterize my true views -- Don Knuth"
  • On 9 Sep 2008 RJFJR adds the citation-needed mark to that particular passage. RJFJR is a "veteran editor" awarded with a "gold star" (right). The fact practically guarantees that his sphere of control is even more broad than his competence.
  • On 29 Dec 2008 the "uncited claim" is entirely removed by Staecker, one of mid-level administrators. Happy Christmas!

The story is hardly an improbable coincidence. It is more like a predictable outcome of very simple basic rules. The perfect fact delivered right from the ultimate source on that particular topic was washed away, in fact, because it lacked press coverage. on entirely different unexpected reason. Thus, all three mentioned reasons for Wikipedia's decay slowdown are clearly illustrated by this little story.

P.S. 16:32  Check the comments; the story is even more interesting, as it turns out. The passage was marked as uncited, but it was deleted on another reason, namely the "self-reference" policy. P.P.S. 18:20 As it turns out, much more dramatic episodes happened in the past.
P.P.P.S. 18:40 Regarding the "Story is incorrect" argument by gort at HackerNews. The fact the passage was deleted because of "self-reference" even before it could be possibly deleted because of "uncitedness" only makes the point stronger: given that level of complication, it is absolutely no surprise that the growth has leveled off. But instead of the point #3 it puts an accent on points #1 and #2.

P.P.P.S. 23 Nov 2009. The fact of Wikipedia's decline is no longer controversial fearmongering; proven by stats, it hits the mainstream press
P.P.P.P.S. 11 Apr 2011. Wikimedia finally recognizes the obvious.
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