Wikipedia:Authors of Wikipedia

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This essays describes the authors of Wikipedia (also called Wiki-authors) and how articles are developed. For the majority of articles, Wikipedia has become an immense "pot-luck dinner".[1] The articles are, mostly, a somewhat random collection of information that many people thought to be worthy of interest. One of the most difficult aspects for many people to realize is that Wikipedia is basically "invented out of thin air", and people have retro-forced some rules with little regard to actually working with other people. For those reasons some Wikipedia articles may seem quite bizarre, and several so-called "official" guidelines are still demanding peculiar rules, years later, with some rules so wiki-spastic they have never been considered in any other multi-user site. The problem is so severe that there is even a policy, "WP:Ignore all rules" (WP:IAR) because many rules might no longer reflect what normal people would willingly follow. What seemed to be a reasonable format limitation years ago might no longer apply.

Origins of articles[edit]

Several portions of Wikipedia were created as articles copied from traditional encyclopedias, such as from the 1911 Britannica, or generated from a long list of town population-data, but those articles now represent, at most, maybe 10% of the current article base. The remaining bulk of Wikipedia contains random articles added as each subject arises.

As with a pot-luck dinner, each individual brings something to the table, so most articles tend to be a one-person contribution. Many articles are written by a person acting alone and later modified slightly by perhaps 10 other people, but most are essentially the viewpoint of one person. After an article has stayed a while (after several months), it might be radically expanded by another person, adding perhaps 30%–50% more information. Then, oftentimes a "2-year expansion" is made by the original author, almost doubling the size of an article. In short, only a fraction of the total articles have been significantly expanded by multiple people. Because there are tens of millions of notable subjects in the world, each person can write new articles each week without always needing to expand some other, older article. In early 2010, Wikipedia was growing at the rate of over 1,040 new articles, every day (see: WP:Modelling Wikipedia extended growth) despite the larger number of sub-standard articles deleted daily.

Groups of editors[edit]

Overall, Wikipedia users are divided into 2 groups of editors: the registered users and the unregistered IP addresses. The number of registered users with login names is 31,440,789 (roughly 31 million people), and there are a similar number of unregistered users. However, many of the registered users sometimes edit articles without logging in with their username, instead just using their IP address. So the total number of individual people who edit Wikipedia is at most 58,000,000, but probably far smaller. Some statistics have estimated the active editors during a month to be fewer than 300,000.

Small groups of editors often band together in Wikiprojects to edit articles that share a common theme or topic. Each Wikiproject develops its own rules, and many such groups have struggled to keep going due to the limited time that the various volunteers can spend in editing so many articles.

Uneven in quality or coverage[edit]

Because of the haphazard interest in subjects, some famous books, such as Gone with the Wind, might go seven years with only a hollow article about them, while a particular comic book might be described in numerous articles detailing each volume/issue published. The coverage of the book/movie The Da Vinci Code, for instance, was expanded into more than 12 articles about that single subject. And many articles about sports teams have been expanded into entire article-sets, with separate articles for each member of the team or coaching staff or for each play-off season. However, after a few years, the coverage of many subjects tends to broaden, bringing in related subarticles for poorly covered subjects, e.g., "Scarlett O'Hara" or "Rhett Butler" or "Ashley Wilkes" (or other characters in Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel).

Anticipating wiki-rot[edit]

After several months many articles tend to be adjusted multiple times in ways contrary to the original writing style or in ways that introduce many errors. Such long-term decay of articles is known as "wiki-rot". Phrases might have been changed or inserted or duplicated in later paragraphs, and with even just a few "bad-apple" changes, an article can seem chaotic or trashy. Many people set their personal Wikipedia-watchlists to receive update-alerts when articles had been changed so the updates could be fixed or adjusted soon after. However, in general, it is a good idea to revisit older articles, every few months to check for quality problems that have been added. It is not critical to make instant improvements because many readers have come to expect rampant vandalism in numerous articles. Hence, articles should be fixed only as time permits, not in a frantic rush to reach encyclopedic "perfection".

Anticipating text deletions[edit]

Deletion of whole sections of an article is called "blanking" and is a typical form of vandalism. However, blanking can sometimes be justified when it removes unsourced, inaccurate, or "POV" (slanted point-of-view) text. The fundamental problem faced by an editor trying to justify a deletion, such as by claiming WP:NPOV, is that very few Wikipedia policies actually condone such deletions. In the case of excessive text removals, feel free to try to restore text as intended by the writers, correcting quality issues as appropriate and remaining mindful of any discussions on the talk-page.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A potluck dinner is a meal where each member brings some part of the meal, such as an appetizer, vegetable dish or dessert.
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