American historian: Wikipedia editors are down because they have nothing to write about

    Wikipedia as Gaudi’s Holy Family Temple

    The activity of Wikipedia editors has been declining for quite some time, and historian Richard Jensen, who himself is involved in writing Wikipedia, has a theory that can explain the reasons for this. The problem, according to Jensen, is that editors now just have less work than they did in the past.

    He cites examples of articles such as the Anglo-American War of 1812 and World War II, the peak of editing of which was between 2005 and 2007. While they have ceased to be substantially supplemented, the number of their views, on the contrary, is steadily increasing - which, according to Jensen, shows that the reason is not a drop in interest in articles, but that they are almost full.

    For the past five years, Wikipedia has had difficulty attracting and retaining new volunteer editors, writes The Atlantic. The Wikipedia Foundation has made building the editorial base its primary goal. To achieve it, he is trying to encourage a friendly attitude towards beginners in the community, as well as to make the registration process easier, and editing itself is more convenient.

    However, a downturn in activity may have little to do with community culture or site design. “Wikipedia has more and more readers, but fewer and fewer things left to add,” Jensen writes in the latest issue of The Journal of Military History.

    Of course, the encyclopedia about everything will never be able to approach absolute completeness, but at least on major topics, such as significant wars, important historical figures, basic scientific concepts, the English Wikipedia is pretty well filled. Articles about them may still require clarification of sources, small updates, new links, formatting corrections - but the bulk of the work, that is, the texts themselves and the structuring of articles, has already been done.

    Most of Wikipedia’s main articles were written in 2006 and 2007, and “since then have attracted relatively little editors’ attention. ”

    The growth dynamics of the number of articles on the English Wikipedia

    “When the encyclopedia reaches 100 thousand articles, then the number of new articles becomes less. When a million articles have already been written, you need to try very hard to come up with something new, ”Jensen writes. English Wikipedia, meanwhile, has more than four million articles.

    When the most interesting topics are described, editors lose interest. In the spring of 2012, 3,300 editors made more than 100 edits per month each, whereas in the spring of 2007 there were 4,800.

    Jensen dwells on the article separatelyabout the Anglo-American War of 1812, which he himself actively edited. The article, written by the joint efforts of three thousand volunteers, contains 14 thousand words. On the article’s discussion page, where editors discuss disagreements (for example, such trifles as who won the war), 600 participants who wrote 200 thousand words were noted.

    Today, an article about this war has much more readers than in 2008 - 623 thousand compared to 434 thousand - but the number of those who made the change fell from 256 to only 28. Of those 256, only one remained active. The reason, according to Jensen, is that the article has made so many edits that there is nothing to add to it.

    The history of editing the article "War of 1812"

    An article about World War II, which Jensen calls "the most important article on military history," has experienced a similar effect.

    The history of editing the article "World War II"

    “The Wikimedia Foundation has an educational program to turn students into editors. It may be easier to turn them into history professors, ”says Jensen.

    Of course, the good content of Wikipedia is a great achievement. However, the problem for the project is that at the same time it does not cease to need editors. Wikipedia needs volunteers to fight vandalism and bugs. But it will be difficult for her to attract them if there is no interesting job for them. The fight against vandalism is not in itself.

    Jensen believes that there is a way out of this situation: “Wikipedia is now a serious reference with a stable organizational structure and good reputation. The problem is that it is not serious in a scientific sense. ” He offers the foundation to facilitate the work of participants with scientific journals, their participation in scientific conferences and, possibly, even conduct special training so that they can bring articles to more professional standards.

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