Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2007-01-08/2006 in review

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The Wikipedia Signpost


Special: 2006 in Review

By Ral315, 8 January, 2007

Last week marked the end of 2006, and the end of the biggest year Wikipedia has seen, in terms of growth, press coverage, and quality. During last year, the English Wikipedia grew from less than 900,000[1] to over 1,500,000[2] articles. It began with an impressive $380,000 fundraiser in January, and ended with an even more impressive fundraiser which has raised over $900,000. This week, the Wikipedia Signpost begins to take a look back at the year that was 2006 in Wikipedia.

Growth

Wikimedia projects grew dramatically in 2006. Besides the English Wikipedia's growth, other projects also made significant gains. Of the top 12 languages, the Russian Wikipedia showed the most growth, with 146% more articles in 2006 than existed in 2005. English ranked just 10th of the 12 in terms of growth (75%), perhaps because it was already very large, ahead of only Swedish (61%) and German (56%). 38 additional Wikipedias were created in 2006, bringing the total number to 250. Of all Wikipedias, 22% (55 of 250) had at least 10,000 articles, and more than half of the Wikipedias (126 of 250) had at least 1,000 articles at the end of 2006 (compared to 17% and 40%, respectively, in 2005). Across all Wikipedias, the total number of articles increased from 3.09 million in 2005 to 6.05 million in 2006, a growth of nearly 96%.

Wikipedia's growth can also be measured in the number of visitors and other page statistics. Wikipedia's rank on Alexa's traffic analyzer rose from about 24 in 2005 to as high as 12th in 2006. Wikipedia is now considered more popular than such sites as eBay, Microsoft.com, and Amazon.com. According to Wikipedia developers, the site is now generating approximately 30,000 requests per second (about 2.5 thousand million requests per day). Requests are not the same as page views; a single page view can make many requests.

Other projects also experienced growth. Wikibooks grew from 34 language editions to 119 last year. Since late January 2006,[3] the number of English Wikibooks modules grew by nearly 10,000 (a 72% increase). Overall, the number of Wikibooks modules grew from about 26,700 to nearly 57,000 last year, a 113% increase. Wiktionary was among the projects with the most growth, as the English Wiktionary went from 109,000 to 316,000 entries, an increase of 188%. Overall, Wiktionary grew from just over 500,000 entries to over 1.7 million entries, a 236% increase. Wikiquote showed relatively slow, but still impressive, growth, moving from almost 31,000 articles in 2005 to about 53,000 in 2006 (a 73% increase).

Of all the projects, Wikinews seems to be the slowest in growth. It is difficult to judge Wikinews by the number of articles, because news articles, by definition, do not stay in flux for long; multiple stories can cover the same event. In the English Wikinews, 3,722 articles were written in the first 13 months of existence (December 2004-December 2005, about 9.4 articles per day). In 2006, the site was up to 7,498 articles (3,776 new articles, or about 10.3 articles per day). This shows a growth of about 9.5% over the last year. The German Wikinews actually showed a decrease in activity of about 1.5%, though some languages, like Italian and Swedish, did show improvement. Overall, the top 10 languages by total number of articles averaged about 6.6% growth in articles per day.

Legal issues

Legal issues began to become a significant problem on Wikimedia projects in 2006. The French Wikiquote was deleted completely in March 2006, after it became clear that the site was significantly composed of copyright violations. A Wikimedia Foundation statement on the site stated that "After analyzing the data contained in the fr.wikiquote site, the Wikimedia Foundation has determined that the material stored in the fr.wikiquote database does not provide the basic assurance of legal soundness necessary to the permanence of the project. Therefore, the site will be entirely taken down to be erased and relaunched."[4] While the plan originally was to relaunch the project immediately, after concern that the project's lack of community would allow the same problems to recur, the site was not relaunched until December.[5]

On the English Wikipedia and elsewhere, legal concerns led to the creation of the Office Actions policy. The policy, created on February 6 by Jimbo Wales, attracted little attention until it was used on Brian Peppers, an article about a disabled man whose photograph was promoted as a meme on the YTMND website. The article was deleted by AFD, and speedy deleted multiple times thereafter as recreations of deleted content. UninvitedCompany deleted the article on February 6 after a request from Peppers' family. The article was restored on February 13, and a wheel-war ensued. Upon the conclusion of another AfD on the article, continued problems occurred, and Jimbo deleted the article, with the decree that the article was not to be recreated for at least a year.[6]

The policy received even more attention on March 10, when Danny Wool, acting under the policy, replaced the contents of Jack Thompson, the article on a Florida attorney who has garnered criticism in gaming circles, with a single sentence after receiving a letter about the article. The article on Thompson contained at least 21 uncited statements before its blanking.[7] In response to criticism for the blanking, and worries about 'censorship', Wool said, "An article about Jack Thompson will be created. It will, I hope, be a very thorough article. It will also be properly and fully cited." The article was unprotected and replaced with a collaborated draft on March 14. The Signpost interviewed Foundation legal counsel Brad Patrick (currently the Wikimedia Foundation Interim Executive Director) afterward:

"What sort of problems were there with the article?"
"I can't comment on the specifics, but generally, his allegations were that certain of the material in the article could, potentially, be considered libelous or defamatory."
"Is there anything else you'd like to say in regards to the situation?"
"Just one other thing. I think people in the community may lose sight of the fact that we are engaged in a very serious venture. It's cool, we love it, we have friends online, we edit what we like. It is freedom in the best sense. But there is a very real issue; it is the responsibility of the Foundation not to be put at risk based on the sloppy, poorly thought out choices of others. We have 1 million users and articles in English Wikipedia. That's a lot. We don't have millions of dollars. We are a small foundation, in the grand scheme of things. We want the Foundation and Wikipedia to be around 2, 5, 10 years from now. And to do that, we need to make sure we act responsibly to keep the mission moving forward. ... My job is to advise the Board and protect the Foundation if they are sued. So far, it hasn't happened."[8]

Today, the article contains a whopping 112 citations, with no marked uncited statements.

One of the most notable issues involving the office actions policy happened in April, when confusion over whether an action taken by Danny Wool was an office-related one involved in the temporary blocking and desysopping of long-time contributor and current Foundation Trustee Erik Möller. On April 17, Wool protected Christopher Ruddy and NewsMax.com, but did not specifically mention that the action was taken due to Office concerns. Two days later, Möller unprotected the pages, calling the protection "inappropriate per protection policy". Kelly Martin reverted the action minutes later, and Wool indefinitely blocked Möller. The block was later reduced, then removed altogether by Wales, who later noted, "What got things wound up in this case was not the secrecy, but a wildly disproportionate and unfair blocking and desysopping."[9]

Foundation turnover

The Wikimedia Foundation experienced significant turnover in 2006. First and foremost was the hiring of Brad Patrick as general counsel and interim executive director in June.[10] The Board is still planning to replace Patrick in the role of executive director, though he will retain his position as general counsel.

In 2006, four new board members were introduced, with two members retiring. In prior years, the board's makeup had stayed relatively constant; from July 2004 (the beginning of the board's existence) through mid-2006, the board did not change. However, Angela Beesley announced her intention to retire from the board in July.[11] Elections were held in September, with Erik Möller declared the winner, with 42% support.[12] Just one month later, Jimbo Wales resigned his position as Wikimedia Foundation Chair (while still retaining his position on the board), and was replaced by Florence Devouard. In December, the Board acknowledged the retirement of Tim Shell, and simultaneously filled Shell's seat and added two additional seats. Among those chosen were Kat Walsh and Oscar van Dillen, who finished second and third, respectively, in the September elections, and Jan-Bart de Vreede, a Kennisnet employee who has worked with the Foundation previously.[13]

Next week

Next week, the Signpost's 2006 in review continues, with numerous elections, an audit, userboxes, Arbitration Committee decisions, a lawsuit, real and implied lawsuits, oversight, resignations, and desysoppings.

Links/references


Also this week: 2006 in review

Press plagiarismContent manipulationPR firmWikiWorldNews and notesFeatures and adminsTechnology

Arbitration