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Reports of Wikipedia's demise, prescriptions for its ills, and more
Wikipedia in decline?
This week brought a wave of media attention sparked by the November 23 Wall Street Journal story "Volunteers Log Off as Wikipedia Ages" (see previous Signpost coverage) as well as responses from Erik Moeller and Erik Zachte on the Wikimedia Foundation blog, "Wikipedia's Volunteer Story". Moeller and Zachte note that "The number of people writing Wikipedia peaked about two and a half years ago, declined slightly for a brief period, and has remained stable since then."
The BBC picked up the story with "Wikipedia 'loses' 49,000 editors" and extended coverage in the dot.life blog with the post "Wikipedia on the wane?" by Rory Cellan-Jones. The blog features comments "gathered [Wednesday] morning from some 'Wikipedians'" explaining why they had stopped editing, and both the story and blog post include reactions from Mike Peel (User:Mike Peel), chair of Wikimedia UK. The blog also has a boisterous comments section. The BBC also covered the Wikimedia Foundation reaction, reporting that "Wikipedia denies mass exodus of editors".
BBC News Channel interviewed Wikipedian Charles Matthews (User:Charles Matthews) on Wednesday as well; Matthews has provided a transcript of the conversation.
In response to the wave of coverage, the New York Times vocabulary blog Schott's Vocab featured the word "Deletionists" on Thursday.
The discussion was also picked up on Slashdot (with over 600 comments), and again (with over 200 comments) after the WMF blog post.
Other coverage includes:
Journalist Evgeny Morozov, who surveyed recent research and perspectives on Wikipedia in a review of The Wikipedia Revolution (noted previously), wrote a pair of columns on Wikipedia this week: "Free Speech and the Internet", in the New York Times; and "The serious gap in Wikipedia’s knowledge: The online encyclopedia is bloated with trivia and needs more meat" in The Sunday Times. (Morozov noted on Twitter that the headlines and subheadlines were not his choice.)
In the New York Times piece, Morozov focuses on the case of Wolfgang Werlé and Manfred Lauber, in which German Wikipedia chose to follow German law by redacting the names of convicted murderers who had completed their sentences, but English Wikipedia, after extensive discussion, decided to use their full names. Wolfgang Werlé's lawyers recently sent the Wikimedia Foundation a cease and desist letter, and previously won a default judgment against Wikimedia in a German court. According to Morozov,
The German case illustrates that some of the disputes could be too complex to be easily pigeon-holed into an intractable body of Wikipedia’s rules and practices.
He proposes that
whenever current rules and norms of the project come into conflict, Wikipedians shouldn’t shun away from asking for help. An external international panel comprising the world’s most eminent philosophers, legal scholars, historians and others can prevent challenging cases from getting ugly before they reach the courts.
The piece drew the ire of Jimmy Wales in a discussion on his talk page, particularly because of Morozov's negative characterization of Wikipedians and their decision-making processes.
In The Sunday Times piece, Morozov praises Wikipedia for its successes but criticizes the project for its lack of perspective on the relative importance of different topics. He argues that
Wikipedians have to find a way formally to enshrine the concept of “importance” into their editing practices. This doesn’t mean that entries about the disputed anatomy of Rasputin’s penis, or the memorial to a reputed UFO in Sweden, or the cultural history of the Richard Nixon mask, have to go: whoever wants can continue editing them — they should just be made aware that these aren’t areas that need the most attention.
- The Los Angeles Times Technology blog reports that the on-demand video service Vudu now gives access to information from Wikipedia about the movies it offers.
- The British political blogger Paul Staines accused Elliot Morley, a Member of Parliament, of reversing edits to his article. Staines also highlighted a particular piece of vandalism to the article. 
- The Guardian quizzes the hosts of the quiz show We Need Answers, with trivia questions based on Wikipedia articles.
- The Guardian reports that blogs link to English Wikipedia more than any other website.
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