Wikipedia:Seven Ages of Wikipedians

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"All the wiki's a stage,

And all the Wikipedians merely players."

As You Like It

William Shakespeare, as part of his keen observations into the nature of Wikipedianism, identified the Seven Ages of Wikipedians, a general guide to the behaviour and editing of Wikipedians at different stages during their editing careers.

It is important to note that these ages refer to the length of membership, not to the Wikipedian's actual age, and should only be used as a rough guide.


A smiling baby lying in a soft cot
WikiInfants are largely helpless.

WikiInfants are new to Wikipedia, treating it as they would any other encyclopedia. They may not understand that Wikipedia can be edited, or else believe that they are not allowed to do so. Often, they do not know how to edit. They lack any knowledge of Wikipedia guidelines, although they generally make good use of common sense.

Those WikiInfants who explore unusual parts on Wikipedia are often baffled by what they find, and require extensive help to make sense of it all. They may be startled by the community they unearth, having previously believed that articles simply spring magically into existence. Some WikiInfants return to their comfort zone immediately, but others are curious and begin editing as WikiChildren.

Although WikiInfants rarely, if ever, edit, they may still read articles extensively or use Wikipedia as a reference. A large number of people who access Wikipedia never progress beyond this age, and live their lives blissfully ignorant of the nasty side of the encyclopedia.


A child with Down syndrome piggy-backing on an adult
A WikiChild benefiting from the assistance of another, more experienced user

WikiChildren are Wikipedians who have recently discovered, or begun to use, the ability to edit. They often make extensive edits to articles which interest them or that they are reading, simply because they can, and may inadvertently be counter-productive. They also attempt to initiate discussions with fellow Wikipedians on Talk pages, although these may not follow the Talk page guidelines.

At this age, Wikipedians are highly enthusiastic about editing, but still lack an in-depth knowledge of policy. It is important to remember this when dealing with them. They may begin to learn more about editing from pages like WP:ABOUT, but are often distracted by humorous pages instead. Wikipedians at this stage often benefit from adoption by a more experienced user.

Edit count increases dramatically, as WikiChildren generally edit whenever they see room for improvement, and may use several edits to produce the desired effect, especially if they are unfamiliar with WP:PREVIEW. They often join large numbers of WikiProjects in areas which appeal to them, even if they do not make significant edits to relevant articles – they are easily distracted and may abandon a project after a short period. In this, WikiChildren have some similarities to WikiOgres, who also focus extensively on topics which catch their eye. However, WikiChildren usually remain in a constant state of activity, while WikiOgres remain dormant for long periods of time.

Edits made by WikiChildren may be disruptive, but this is largely due to a lack of knowledge rather than mischievous intent. Remain calm and explain the situation clearly; it is more productive to educate the WikiChild than to treat them as vandals.

Most importantly, be welcoming and encouraging to WikiChildren, even when offering criticism or setting limits.


An aerosol paint can
WikiTeens who have turned to vandalism

After being a WikiChild, many Wikipedians mature into WikiTeens (referred to by Shakespeare, somewhat ironically, as WikiLovers). They become cynical as to the value of editing, often saying things like “Why bother? It'll only get reverted in a couple of minutes.” They understand policy, but wish to rebel against it. They often believe that everything is a conspiracy.

Some WikiTeens become vandals, trolls or even WikiBarbarians, usually out of boredom, although many WikiTeens take long WikiBreaks in an attempt to avoid lashing out. Some people blame the WikiTeen's anti-social behaviour on a lack of WikiLove or overexposure to advertising, but most believe this is a natural part of WikiDevelopment, helping the WikiTeen to decide what they want to do.

When WikiTeens act out it is important to treat them fairly; WikiTeens who are punished too harshly may retaliate by running away. Even those who occasionally vandalize when bored may still contribute productively at other times – simply asking the WikiTeen to stop might put them back on the right track.

Not all WikiTeens are bad – many continue to be productive members of the community in spite of their cynicism. In fact, WikiTeens often make the most creative editors, combining the WikiChild's idealism with a WikiAdult's knowledge.


A room filled with toilet paper
The aftermath of one WikiYoungAdult's edit binge

Once a WikiTeen reconciles themselves to Wikipedia's limits, they begin to mature into a WikiYoungAdult – called a WikiSoldier by Shakespeare. They generally edit productively within a few chosen WikiProjects, generally having chosen one particular career to follow, although they may still be learning about the most complicated points of policy. For the most part, they work hard and behave well towards other editors.

However, after long periods of hard work, WikiYoungAdults may go on occasional edit binges, in which they cause general disruption to several articles, often without meaning to. During these periods, they may act very rudely to other editors, pull ludicrous pranks and create unusual articles, which they often find hilarious. In short, they act very WikiChildishly, even though they know better.

This is the WikiYoungAdult's way of blowing off steam, although it can sometimes leave them with a nasty hangover if they encounter unsympathetic editors. If confronted about their disruptive behaviour, the hot-headed WikiYoungAdult may engage in an edit war out of pride, and it may take outside help to get them to calm down enough to apologise. When dealing with out-of-control WikiYoungAdults, it's important not to give them ideas.


A WikiAdult finding love with another

More mature than the WikiYoungAdult, the WikiAdult (Shakespeare's WikiJustice) generally balances a number of tasks. They often edit articles extensively within their select area of interest or WikiProject, while also working behind the scenes at places like WP:RFA, WP:RFC or WP:AfD. They are often strict on matters of policy, having experienced edit wars and vandalism extensively in their WikiYouth. WikiAdults often seek recognition through Adminship or Barnstars, and may adopt several WikiChildren to pass on their knowledge. Personally, they usually follow policy on all matters, but may be coaxed into a breach of Wikiquette by the unruly behaviour of other users.


A WikiSenior doing some editing

After a long and fruitful career of editing Wikipedia regularly, a Wikipedian may become a WikiSenior.

One type of WikiSenior is characterised by a general loss of enthusiasm for editing, even on articles they previously enjoyed working on. WikiSeniors of this type return to using Wikipedia mainly as a reference and may no longer edit simply because they see little room for improvement. They are often known as WikiRetirees, even though they might occasionally edit an article for spelling or grammar. They may have trouble remembering all aspects of policy, complaining that things were different in their day. This may be the first indications of WikiSenility.

But very few WikiSeniors may become WikiElders, respected by their WikiColleagues and known for their almost infinite capacity to assume good faith. They may become WikiMentors and teach wave upon wave of WikiAcolytes and creators of featured articles. Or they may try to bring peace and understanding to the world, for our generation and the generations to follow. Whatever they do and wherever they go, WikiElders always remember that our future rests with our children.


WikiDeath comes for us all, but it doesn't have to be permanent.

Eventually, every Wikipedian faces the prospect of WikiDeath. Those approaching their WikiDeath lose faith in Wikipedia, and often take extended WikiBreaks or stop editing for long periods of time, claiming that they need to focus on other projects. WikiDeath occurs upon the official announcement of their retirement (although they may have been informal WikiRetirees for years), and may evoke despair or dismay among fellow Wikipedians. They may have a formal interment or they may simply fade into the sunset.

Fortunately, unlike conventional death, WikiDeath is not always the end. In fact, there is always life after WikiDeath, and the vast majority of those who have WikiDied simply revert to their WikiInfancy, although others avoid the website completely, fearing a relapse. This return to WikiInfancy can lead to reincarnation at an earlier age – either within the same wiki, once the editor has learned to trust in Wikipedia again, or possibly after migration to another country, another planet or even a parallel universe.

WikiDeath is not always due to problems with Wikipedia, but we should always do our best to keep Wikipedia strong and growing by contributing to an environment that encourages editors to stick around. Wikipedia's well-being and continued success depends on this.

Identifying WikiAges[edit]

Wikipedians who want to advertise their WikiAge can do so with the help of {{User:Strdst grl/ubx/sevenages}} – a userbox which can be adapted for each of the ages above.