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This user is no longer very active on Wikipedia.

The wisdom of crowds asserts that large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant. Even if this is a valid assertion, I do not see WP as meeting the stated conditions:

  1. Large groups of editors for each topic/project: I do not encounter crowds, a perception supported by the studies that show a steep decline in the number of active contributors.[1][2] Given the number of articles, erroneous or biased information simply goes without review or discussion in obscure articles with few editors.[3] Recently I have run into the problem of insufficient attention from administrators. For fringe articles; problems needing administrative intervention may be posted on the appropriate noticeboards, then be archived after a period with no comments, remaining unresolved.
  2. Diversity of opinion: The lack of diversity among WP editors is well-documented, not only gender[4][5], but other factors leading to systemic bias.
  3. Independence & Decentralization: The lack of diversity and numbers has led to a culture of WP which is plagued by trollish behavior, which drives away women more than men. Without diversity, biases may not be canceled but reinforced.[6] Efforts to address this by encouraging current editor's contributions to neglected articles is a misunderstanding of the problem; lack of diversity can only be remedied by increasing participation, not by having the same editors contribute more.
  4. Aggregation: Resolution on issues of content are based upon consensus that varies from one article to the next, if it exists at all. Instead, individual interpretation of guidelines becomes another layer of unresolved contention between editors.

These issues intersect with, and perhaps account for, the reasons given by Larry Sanger for his disillusionment with WP.[7]

The tasks involved in writing an article are many, and some are a good fit to crowdsourcing, while others are not. Copy editing (spelling, grammar, and punctuation) are accomplished by groups, as are the checking and compilation of facts from sources that are written for a mainstream audience. However, reading and summarizing a technical or academic source requires background knowledge in that field of study. The meaning of terms within a discipline, and knowing where a particular source fits within the current paradigm, requires much prior learning on the same topic. The WP assumption that the crowd of amateurs is a substitute for expertise and peer review is unfounded.

As is sometimes admitted even by WP advocates, some articles are rubbish. When crowdsourcing fails the quality of many articles is poor unless edited by those with old-fashioned expertise whether gained though formal education or otherwise. As I gained experience in editing, my contributions focused upon topics which match my expertise. However, lacking the infrastructure to recognize the need for experts, it is too often an uphill battle. While I have enjoyed learning about research, writing, and collaboration, I no longer think that Wikipedia is worth the amount of time and energy I have spent for the past three years, so I plan to limit myself to maintaining what I have already contributed. (This is my definition of Semi-Retirement)



  1. ^ Tom Simonite (October 22, 2013). "The Decline of Wikipedia". MIT Technology Review. 
  2. ^ Halfaker, A.; Geiger, R. S.; Morgan, J.T.; Riedl, J. (2012-12-28). "The Rise and Decline of an Open Collaboration System: How Wikipedia's Reaction to Popularity Is Causing Its Decline". American Behavioral Scientist. 57 (5): 664–688. doi:10.1177/0002764212469365. ISSN 1552-3381. Retrieved 2013-11-12. 
  3. ^ Alina Selyukh (Director). "Wikipedia At 15: The Struggle To Attract Non-Techy Geeks". All Tech Considered. NPR. Retrieved 2016-01-26. 
  4. ^ Kleeman, Jenny (May 22, 2015). "The sum of male knowledge: Wikipedia is the world's most popular encyclopaedia, a collaborative utopia. But only one in every ten of its editors is a woman". New Statesman. 144 (5263): 34–37. 
  5. ^ Gleick, James. "Wikipedia's Women Problem". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 2016-01-26. 
  6. ^ Gregory S. Berns (September 23, 2008). "The Stupidity of Crowds: Our brains are wired for herding". Psychology Today. 
  7. ^ Larry Sanger (December 31, 2004). "Why Wikipedia Must Jettison Its Anti-Elitism".