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Recently I was having a casual conversation with a friend, and he mentioned that he spent too many hours a day playing video games. I responded with a comment that I, too, spent way too much time on an activity of my own – Wikipedia. In an attempt to reply with a relevant remark, he offered something along the lines of: "So have you ever written anything?" After a second, I quickly answered yes, but I was still in shock over his question. It seemed to be rooted in a belief on his part that using Wikipedia meant just reading the articles, and that editing was something that someone, hypothetically, might do, but not really more likely than randomly counting to 7,744.
This made me realize how much of the general populace views Wikipedia – as a website put together by some mysterious people, probably professionals. "that anyone can edit" is a phrase like Coca-cola's "It's the real thing", seen a thousand times without ever really being thought about. The numerous  links? Who knows what will happen if you click, but probably not worth finding out. Most sites have dozens of random links floating around, so people tend to mentally adblock them, especially considering that the links are all the way on the right side of the page.
That's right, a simple change of moving the  links to a more visible location might gather many new editors. Companies spend vast amounts of money and time to determine the perfect layout to attract customers; we need to spend just as much effort trying out various tweaks to determine what will attract editors. This needn't harm the readers, if done right. But we absolutely must engage in trial-and-error to figure what will work best. Maybe my suggestion will help; maybe not. But there's no excuse for ignoring the issue.
Of course, the position of the  links is hardly the only reason for the popular misunderstanding of Wikipedia. MediaWiki may be simpler than HTML, but is nothing compared to Microsoft Word. It's not a coincidence that so many Wikipedians understand some form of programming. VisualEditor should help the issue somewhat, but it's years behind schedule. Other causes may include the uniqueness of Wikipedia: readers have no experience with the idea that online info comes directly from other readers.
But perhaps the main reason why readers don't realize that this is really an encyclopedia "that anyone can edit" is that it isn't. Consider this: out of the top ten articles visited per this, three are semi-protected. Most major articles like United States, science, sun, apple and encyclopedia are protected (from a reader's perspective), so the edit links don't show up at all. While it's been claimed that only 5% of articles are protected, these more or less coincide with the 5% most viewed articles (with plenty of exceptions which prove the rule). Readers don't see protection as an unfortunate action taken to prevent vandalism; they see it the same way they can't edit the New York Times's website, evidence of a clear-cut distinction between readers and editors. To make matters worse, so-called anonymous editors can't create pages (unlike in most language versions of Wikipedia), so a casual visitor will have little inclination to believe that (s)he can, indeed, take part in building the world's greatest source of knowledge.
There isn't a simple solution to this. Encouraging helpful edits while preventing unhelpful ones is an ultimately impossible task. But as time goes on, we feel an increasing need to fully-protect Wikipedia's reputation by semi-protecting its articles, making us resemble Citizendium. It's easy to revert vandalism; let's not focus solely on preventing it no matter the cost.
The introduction of pending changes protection may help somewhat. Readers are once again given the  links, thus being invited to contribute. But after they click "submit (not save) changes", they are told that their submission will need to be reviewed by an experienced editor. Encyclopedia Britannica offers the same thing, and almost any newspaper will take a look at what you mail them. The concept of readers being the writers is completely lacking. And in any case, pending changes can not feasibly be applied to thousands of pages, as a huge backlog would quickly develop.
A lot of effort has been spent on trying to enhance newbies' experiences. This effort, including the Teahouse, is certainly vital. But it does nothing about getting people to make a single edit in the first place. We're so used to seeing Wikipedia through the eyes of editors that we don't understand how it looks to a reader. We enjoy claiming that "All readers are editors" without doing anything to make this saying a reality. Before I started seriously editing, I didn't even know what a star or plus in the upper right corner meant. The average visitor has no clue and no real desire to have a clue – fact: most people who want to join Wikipedia already did – and we don't really care, preferring to spend time making new rules about hyphens and dashes, and designing a Teahouse to help newbies navigate them.