Wikipedia:Wikipedia is being flooded

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This essay does not refer to the "flood flag", which does not exist on English Wikipedia. For information on that, please see Meta-Wiki or Simple English Wikipedia.
Except as specifically noted, all statements in this essay are as of July or August 2007, and (appropriately – this is not meta-WP) likely to refer specifically to the English Wikipedia.
Note:  The 2008 data shows this crisis may auto-abate; see below: Growth is slowing.

Wikipedia is being flooded with new articles every day. The English Wikipedia as of January 2008 has over 2.1 million articles; however, this is increasing at an alarming and uncontrolled rate. The rate at which Wikipedia's existing articles are improving to GA or FA status is far lower than the rate at which new articles are being created.

The problem[edit]

Wikipedia was growing very quickly

Wikipedia:Announcements shows that the total number of articles increased by 100,000 between March 22 and May 25 alone[1]. Last year Wikipedia increased by an average of 1822 articles a day, and so far it has increased by 1670 a day in 2007[2]. This would be fine if these articles were of good quality. We are, after all, trying to spread knowledge for everyone. But the main problem with these new articles is that, almost 100% of the time, they are Stub- or Start-class articles with little or no quality to them. They almost always lack any references, pictures, or general content.

If you have browsed through Wikipedia:Wikipedia is not failing, you may have noticed that it mentions Wikipedia's sheer size compared to other encyclopedias. This size is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you can argue that Wikipedia offers 1.8 million articles for anyone with an internet connection to access, and you'd be right, because it does. However, this huge size means it is that much more difficult to manage its growth. Regardless of how biased Wikipedia may or may not be, it is undoubtedly very editable. Wikipedia attracts new editors, both registered and anonymous, every day. Some come to vandalise; most come to contribute positively. As well as having an obvious benefit, this also has a downside. Generally, as the number of Wikipedians increases, the number of articles will increase. Many articles have been created by new or relatively new members, only to be abandoned by virtually everyone else in Wikipedia. This is so apparent, that a Wikiproject was even set up to help counter it.

A statistical analysis[edit]

Of the 1.86 million articles on Wikipedia (as of 1 July 2007), less than 4000 have been listed as Good or Featured Articles. So, while 0.21% of Wikipedia is of GA or FA status, Wikipedia’s total number of articles increased by 5.3% in little over a month. The number of Good Articles has increased by 6.4 articles a day since May 29. That means that, on average this year, for every article that is promoted to GA status, another 261 new articles are being created. The number of Featured Articles has increased by 57 in the same period, so based on the same statistics, around 1000 new articles are created for every article that is being promoted to FA status. Now, many people will say that Wikipedia is just a work in progress and that, eventually, every article will reach at least GA status. But, how could this possibly happen? At the moment, the improvement of articles to GA status will have to become 261 times faster than current rates, and 1000 times faster for FA promotion. This is not possible, and so the current amount of new articles being created on Wikipedia is simply getting out of control. In fact, it has probably been out of control for some time.

Wikipedia has many vital articles, which should (ideally) be of the highest quality. Instead, only 74 are – that’s only two more than when Wikipedia is failing was written in February 2007. WP:FAIL also tells us that, based on the rate of FA promotion in in 2006, it would take 37 years to get all of these vital articles to Featured Article quality. Approximately 140 of these vital articles are Good Articles, which would lead us to believe that "other encyclopedias could do a better job", according to Template:Grading scheme.

A solution?[edit]

We need more of these guys – WikiGnomes

Wikipedia needs to counter the evidently very open floodgates. We need to start improving what we already have before increasing the number of articles at such a rate. Even efforts such as Collaborations of the Month, Assessment Drives, and Backlog Eliminations (although useful) are not improving Wikipedia fast enough. The rate at which articles are being improved and promoted to GA or FA status is far slower than the rate of increase in the number of Wikipedia’s articles.

At the moment, I know of no single project or drive that is aiming to improve Wikipedia at a faster rate than that of its increase in size. Wikipedia:Gnome Week is probably the closest thing to such an attempt, but this is limited to just two weeks a year. The true solution is to gain more members who want to truly improve Wikipedia, not vandalise it or join and forget about it. As mentioned in Trends on Wikipedia and where we are heading, Wikipedia needs real editors, not casual contributors.

Growth is slowing[edit]

Situation has eased

During 2008, new studies showed that the growth of new articles is slowing, as many articles are also being deleted/merged. Projections estimate that by year 2017 (or sooner), the article deletions will match the article creations, even if no new efforts were advanced to reduce or combine hollow articles. The growth of Wikipedia is not boundless, but rather logistic (in an S-shaped curve) to reach a general top size (perhaps 4.7 million articles). However, it is still a good idea to delete non-notable articles, as soon as possible. Remember: Deleted articles can be restored, later, to combine draft text when source references are found.

Many arguments about the rapid growth of Wikipedia sound like:

"Oh no, my child is growing 2 inches every year! By age 40, we're talking 11 feet tall!"

Of course, the growth of children eventually slows, and Wikipedia has shown a similar slowing as processes mature to quickly delete non-notable articles. Many people have learned to request speedy-delete by heading an article with:

{{db|1=Misspelled name is already an article}}
{{db|1=Athlete only played in that one team article}}
{{db|1=Musician in just one rock band article}}

Although 2.7 million articles might seem like a lot, many notable subjects have not been expanded, even by the end of 2008. The growth projections estimate reaching, perhaps, 4.7 million articles, when the daily deletions will match new article creations.

Perhaps that 4.7 million (articles) reflects the day when every notable town will have an article, or at least a redirection to a township article including that town. In other subjects, such as films, perhaps 700 new films per year would cover that subject, certainly not requiring 100,000 articles every few months. Currently, sports players (and games) are being added by the thousands, with over 800,000 articles about sports on Wikipedia. That growth will slow, because it is unlikely to add 100,000 new notable sports players every year: older players will remain on those teams for several years. There just won't be that many brand new notable sports names, every year.

Meanwhile, unsourced articles will be deleted, or merged, after giving people months to add reliable sources. Most minor players for a team could redirect to a team-history article, listing who played for the team, in which year. Several songs could all redirect to the same album-article. Many articles are written by a dedicated person, but then go over 4 years without any major additions. If unsourced articles could last that long, they would get deleted, or merged, by then. That's why the new-article growth is counter-acted by the, similarly, intense deletions.

See also[edit]