Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2019-07-31/Special report
Coming as no surprise to those who have been following the remarkably linear decrease in the total number of administrators, a new record was recently set: fewer than 500 active admins.[a]
The large graphic above plots the total number of administrators (+) each month since 2011. That year was chosen as the beginning of the "inactive admin suspension rule", under which the privilege is removed for user accounts that don't make any admin actions for a period of time. The points are fitted to a linear trend line. The trend is a consistently decreasing admin count since 2011. Widefox, who has been maintaining trend graphs at User:Widefox/editors since 2017, this analysis: "A linear decline trend in the number of admins is a good fit with r2 = 0.994 . The WP:FRAMBAN loss of admins is a significant drop in the last two years, but similar to fluctuations before 2017."
A second chart to the right shows the active editor fraction: between 40 and 50 percent of all administrator accounts are active at a given time. If you look at the official tally (raw data compiled by bots), the active editor count peaked at just over 1000 in 2008, declined over the next few years to around 550, and has oscillated steadily between 510 and 570 since early 2017. Every tally during 2019 has been in the 43–46% range.
The Signpost followed conversations between various editors who were curious whether the aftermath of WMF's June 2019 office action had an effect on the admin corps headcount, and how that interacted with the overall trend noted above. According to Iridescent, "On Frambanday, 10 June 2019, the figure drops for the first time in recorded history below 510 (we only started counting in 2007), and drops steadily from then on before dropping below 500 for the first time on 28 July."[b]
Prior discussions have not resulted in consensus on how problematic a loss of administrators is; some take the view that bots and other efficiencies can take up the slack. Others like Iridescent express concern: "[T]he issue isn't so much the decline in admin activity per se, but the fact that if admin numbers continue to drop while editing continues, the admin/page ratio increases exponentially and we eventually reach the point where problematic pages need to be locked because there are insufficient admins to perform the routine maintenance." Whichever view is true, English Wikipedia now has 5.896 million articles and 48.247 million pages[c] versus 496 active administrators – or nearly 100,000 pages per active administrator – and the ratio is growing for the foreseeable future. Whether that is a problem, or how a problem would manifest, are questions still to be answered.
For previous Signpost coverage, see my "Wandering in the RfA desert of 2018", published almost a year and a half ago, and other related articles in the sidebar.