Wikipedia talk:Wikipedia Signpost/2012-01-02/Interview

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  • Exactly so:
    1. "So if we say that becoming an editor should be easy, really, that's a little delusional"
    2. "People get embarrassed when they make mistakes"
    I believe both the points are at the heart of the matter. I do not think there are easy remedies.
  • One area to focus on, in my opinion, is to address the most likely notifiers and talkbackers who do actually do interact with the newbies the most.
    My long observations from the past years, tell me the experience, that the most likely people to have the energy to speak an-mass to the newbies, and at the same time the people who are the strictest, are actually former newbies just recently grown in to self-confident Wikipedians - about the (half year or) 1 year or 2 years of experience in Wikipedia. They tend to extrapolate the behavior they witnessed on themselves (and themselves they survived it, so why not take it as role-model of interaction...) while they were newbies themselves.
  • They are the strictest and the mutest (mute, except placing the template and sign to talkpage).
    Its like, if they are testing themselves, whether they do already know all the related rules, actually.
    They are very important for the community, for there is non, with so much energy to work hard, nevertheless they should be schooled a bit more - on regular basis about the importance of new editors to the project. Reo + 16:57, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
  • "The new-editor feedback dashboard is live on the English and Dutch Wikipedias" - are you sure you didn't misquote here? I am a Dutch editor and unaware of the feedback dashboard being live there :) Check it out: http://nl.wikipedia.org effeietsanders 15:45, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
    • The Dutch FeedbackDashboard is at Speciaal:DashboardTerugkoppeling. It's been up for several weeks, but gets far less new feedback than English so far. Anything you can do to improve the interface for Dutch speakers (try logging in under a new account to see the tool for leaving feedback) would be most welcome. Steven Walling (WMF) • talk 17:54, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
  • "means of empowering kitten distribution" ... Wha...? Is that a placeholder that was never filled in?--greenrd (talk) 16:39, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Could Gardner explain what was meant by "quality was doing fine"? As Doc James says, the quality of Wikipedia articles unsatisfactory. The only meaning of "doing fine" that I'd be comfortable with was one showing the chart going up. We need to be careful that efforts to attract new editors do not make the quality chart go down. That's not just speculation: one recent large-scale student recruitment had precisely that effect on our articles. Colin°Talk 17:58, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
  • First of all quality is not "fine". Yes it is okay but our combined number of FAs andd GAs is still less that half a percent of total articles. We do not need new articles we need to improve the quality of what we have.
  • The fundraiser for money has been working exceedingly well with our number of donors increasing 10 fold since 2008. What we need now is a fundraiser for editors. I meet well educated professionals who use Wikipedia but have no ideas that they can edit it. We need to run a banner with the same energy we use to raise money to raise editor numbers. This idea has been trialed to a limited extent here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Invitation_to_edit but the effort did not have sufficient data crunching behind it to determine if it works.
Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 17:09, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
  • In my experience I have found that (within WikiProject Gastropods), identifying new contributors using NewArtBot listings, then welcoming them personally, inviting them to join the project, and then (assuming they express some interest) mentoring them carefully and enthusiastically, has been the best way to retain good new people and turn them into long-term editors. It certainly is a lot of work, and takes up a lot of time. Sometimes it prevents me from working as much as I would like on other aspects of Wikipedia, but when you take the long-term view, it is definitely extremely worthwhile. I would suggest that encouraging and even organizing this kind of activity from the most active projects may be one good solution to help reverse the curve on editor loss. Invertzoo (talk) 18:23, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
  • I think the electronics / engineering topic could really use a few people doing that. Somewhere between 95% and 99% of new contributors really want to work collaboratively to make Wikipedia better. Alas, a small percentage of the existing editors are arrogant and somewhat abusive with an attitude that they are always the smartest person in the room, and I really think that this drives away newbies. It's hard to figure out how to address this problem. --Guy Macon (talk) 18:42, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
  • The presentation Sue gave to WMUK included an analysis of the "new editor story" - discouragement on opening the edit tab, discouragement on feedback being the first two hurdles. Things we can do now to improve this are:
    1. Make page text simpler, especially minimising, unifying and clarifying mark-up.
    2. Don't delete good stuff. We speedy and prod rather wilfully, without proper checks for notability.
    3. Be kind. Be personal. Be friendly.
    Rich Farmbrough, 20:32, 2 January 2012 (UTC).
  • The lack of enough arbitrators was not discussed in the interview:
Phase Portrait Unstable Proper Node.svg The lack of enough moderators and arbitrators drives away editors and donations. More info.

For more info and discussion see User talk:Jimbo Wales/Archive_93#Declining number of editors and donations. --Timeshifter (talk) 01:45, 3 January 2012 (UTC)

Timeshifter: Looks like a rather diffuse thread-fest: everyone's wishing each other happy new year. OK.
To whoever indented Gardner's direct quotes in the interview above: I don't like it, I was happy with it before; but I can't be bothered to revert it all. Tony (talk) 02:02, 3 January 2012 (UTC)
I don't know if I should be replying to you Tony, but the indentation indicates you are replying to me. I assume you are not referring to the talk section I linked to. Because it is not as you described: "rather diffuse thread-fest: everyone's wishing each other happy new year." --Timeshifter (talk) 04:47, 3 January 2012 (UTC)
  • These graphs look strange. As someone whose day job involves time series analysis there are several things that come to mind. First, the "active editors" curve is smooth and well behaved up until about (eyeballing) March 2007. Up to this time we see a rising trend that is beginning to decrease a bit. We might expect it to asymptote like a logistic growth curve, or level off and gradually decline, but instead the trend suddenly screeches to a halt and reverses. If this were a scientific graph I'd immediately begin looking for a change in data collection methods. Then, if we could assure ourselves that the data series is consistent, we would look for a new process or other change that was introduced at this point. So, what happened in March-April 2007? Second, the lack of any relationship between the "active editors" and "retention rate" seems slightly odd. The retention rate began decreasing around the start of 2005, and has been quite smoothly decreasing at a decreasing rate up to the present. It's looks just a little strange for this curve to be totally decoupled from the number of active editors. (Yes, I'm aware that one is a number and the other is a ratio, but it's still a little puzzling that they're totally independent). To summarize my slightly long-winded musings, I think it's worth asking (1) if we're certain that the curves are showing us what we think they're showing us and (2) if so, what happened in March 2007? Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 03:54, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
    • I'll ask Erik Zachte about this. Tony (talk) 05:52, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
See below: #Schools/colleges banned Wikipedia in 2007. -Wikid77 09:53, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
    • The chart is from a study by Howie Fung and Diederik van Liere. I can't comment on the retention plot. The active editor plot corresponds with the one from wikistats [1], which has completely independent data gathering. This broken trend line has been discussed for years. I don't know of any good explanation for why the change in 2007 was so sudden. More generally speaking I do think the steep growth up to 2007 was partly because more and more people got the news about this Next Big Thing Called Wikipedia. At some point, presumably around 2007, nearly all internet users in many countries with high internet reach were aware of Wikipedia's existence, saturation near 100%, S-curve flattened out. Then as novelty effect wore off, some people who were marginally interested, but wanted to experience the newest hype, left for the Next Big Thing. Therefore comparing our current metrics with the peak in 2007 feels somewhat artificial to me. It would have been different if we had had a longer history, say with a steady state for 10 years, and only recently numbers started to drop. Of course the often mentioned aspects like less welcoming attitude towards newbies, and progressively difficult syntax, emerging social sites, etc all played their part. But my personal hunch is that Wikipedia's fast rise to fame, and the resulting the hype factor, is often underrepresented in explaining our modest decline in editors since 2007. Erik Zachte (talk) 07:13, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
See below: #Schools/colleges banned Wikipedia in 2007. -Wikid77 09:53, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
What happened was the start of deletionism as a major force and crackdown on the very open culture. The first larges cale example was the Userbox wars in 2006, and crackdowns on wheel warring in 2007. Those crackdowns changed the culture from the laid back culture wikipedia had when it started. CD-Host (talk) 22:15, 30 May 2012 (UTC)


To my knowledge, the sudden plateau of active editors in March 2007 is not the result of a change in data collection. I haven't seen any evidence that suggesting a change in either the way we capture the data, or the way "active editors" is defined. This plateau has actually been pretty well documented (see Ed Chi's paper). I actually spoke with him a while back and he was telling me that when his team started analyzing the data, they were also surprised at the sudden plateau and thought it might have been due to a glitch in the data. They conducted their own investigation and concluded that the plateau was in fact a real effect.
I actually agree with Erik's Zachte's comment on the "hype factor." I do think part (though not all) of the rise and subsequent plateau may be explained by more and more people finding out about Wikipedia and becoming interested in the project.
I'm not sure what you mean by the lack of any relationship between "Active editors" and "retention rate". If anything, the two seem to be inversely related. Can you clarify? Howief (talk) 16:55, 4 January 2012 (UTC)

I'm someone who started here in March 2010 and am still going quite strong here. It is my firm belief that the people who stay here are usually the people who take the time to make minor edits and read around the project pages to find something they enjoy. I started off by trying to remove the word "perished" from articles, and when I found myself enjoying it I started to branch out, eventually finding NPP. I did it quite voluntarily, but the vast majority of new users don't, and that's when they run into trouble. People who want to immediately do everything, be it trying to gain every possible userright, immediately try to set speed records as vandal fighters/NPPers, or write a brand new article, tend to get smacked down because there's no possible way they can use those tools/complete those tasks as effectively as is necessary, and as much as we want to be nice we can't mess around in those areas. As Sue says in the interview, we can't expect people to immediately become great editors; it'd be helpful to promote, for instance, WP:GOCE so editors can get a start doing something which won't run them into really severe trouble while simultaneously giving them a glimpse of just how diverse our topics are.
I also think we, the community, do understand our own dynamics better than the WMF does, and it'd be nice if the WMF acted on that premise. A look at the talkpage of New Page Triage (linked in the interview) and, dare I say, WT:IEP and WP:ACTRIAL, would indicate they're convinced they know what we need better than we do. New Page Triage will be helpful (at least to those of us who know what we're doing, which is a very small percentage of NPPers), but (the great majority of) the community rather clearly indicated what it wanted and thought was best for itself; alas, we're exactly where we were before that started. Not to say the WMF doesn't do a great deal of good work (indeed, without them I'm not typing this), but saying and doing are two different things; I'd like to see some more of the latter. The Blade of the Northern Lights (話して下さい) 04:21, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

  • This graph is more than two years out of date. Are current data available? (I just noticed this because the labels are far too small to be legible unless the graph is expanded to its full size. Somebody needs to read Tufte...) Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 14:38, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
The current month-by-month data is maintained on page:
  • http://stats.wikimedia.org/EN/TablesWikipediansEditsGt5.htm
That is the same data file I analyzed to conclude the editor-decline has ended. See below:
     • "#Editor base stabilized at 34,000 active editors".
The related graph could be updated from the new data of 2009-2011. -Wikid77 11:30, 7 January 2012 (UTC)


Note to readers[edit]

As I noted last week, we accidentally spliced the publication of this issue - see last week's Opinion essay for "the other take."he he Cheers, ResMar 21:57, 2 January 2012 (UTC)

What does "spliced" mean? --Guy Macon (talk) 04:50, 3 January 2012 (UTC)
"Spiked" rather than "spliced", perhaps? — Cheers, JackLee talk 06:51, 3 January 2012 (UTC)
"Spiked" doesn't make sense in this context either. Why not just use plain English? "Use jargon and acronyms judiciously..." -- WP:JARGON --Guy Macon (talk) 21:04, 3 January 2012 (UTC)
Are you guys seriously arguing over my word usage -_-. ResMar 00:17, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
Yes. One day and four comments after asking, I still have no idea what you mean. --Guy Macon (talk) 00:34, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
  • The two articles were meant to run in the same edition, but unfortunately, they were accidentally split into two separate editions. --SMasters (talk) 01:09, 4 January 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I've been using the word the wrong way all these years...thanks for the grammar lesson I guess. ResMar 03:35, 4 January 2012 (UTC)

Ah, so you meant "split" and not "splice" (the latter means to join together, not to separate). Everybody happy now? Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 14:30, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Schools/colleges banned Wikipedia in 2007[edit]

I agree the drastic decline in editors by mid-2007 does not follow patterns of normal population growth. Such drastic changes often indicate a key factor, such as a change in data-collection methods, or a massive societal change, such as a war, natural disaster, or government regulation. What happened in 2007? The closest factor seems to be a trendy movement among colleges and entire local schoolboards to ban use of Wikipedia in schools near the end of the 2007 summer break, and fewer returned for the 2007-2008 school year. To research this school-ban concept, I wrote an essay listing 18 major sources about the growing WP-ban from 2007:
      • WP:Schools and colleges banned WP in 2007-2008
Because U.S. schools voluntarily adopted the WP-bans, the decline would not be as drastic as if a bizarre U.S. Federal law (would be from 2006) had censored WP use after 2007, and the U.S. Govt rarely passes drastic legislation. Instead, however, when the growing support for school-bans is coupled with the yearly pattern of school vacations in May/June, then the rapid decline is worsened by students leaving for vacation, and fewer students returning to use Wikipedia in September for the next school year (2007-2008).

There is still a drop in WP editors for May/June each year, but the number returning in September has steadied over the past 2 years. The feared "free-fall decline" has ended, and globally, there are more active editors now, but slight drops in enwiki or dewiki, while Swedish WP has been unchanged as a steady number in 2011. -Wikid77 (talk) 09:53, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Tossing the ball into the Foundation's court[edit]

As one of the two journalists involved in this story, I probably shouldn't comment; but please indulge me a little. What I say is just my personal take—not The Signpost's views or those of my co-author, Skomorokh, or anything Ms Gardner said aside from what we printed.

I think there's some truth in Erik Zachte's observation that there was always going to be flattening of the curve after the hype and after the project reached a certain level of maturity. Back in the early days, article quality and comprehensiveness were queasy, but we didn't care that much: a frontier mentality prevailed and we didn't have to compete quite so keenly for our reputation on the internet. Things started getting more serious from about 2005 onwards, and in the process, some articles that university lecturers might have once scoffed at gradually became better written than they themselves are capable of producing. We became more rule-bound (like all quality publications) and more demanding of all editors. In effect, we pulled away from "anyone can edit", and we should accept as inevitable that quality enforcement has made WP less "welcoming" to newcomers, many of whom lack the skills and patience to learn the patterns demanded of this cultural product. Openness and quality are thus pitted against each other in key respects, and although Ms Gardner points to causal connections between these phenomena, in other parts of the interview she acknowledges them as competing forces ("if we say that becoming an editor should be easy, really, that's a little delusional").

I find Ms Gardner's professionalism and dedication impressive. But the Foundation's great challenge is to engage more deeply with the editors of the Wikipedias; and by that I don't mean that their now massively increased numbers of employees should sit around passively browsing en.WP (which does happen a bit), but that a culture of actively communicating and empathising with the volunteers needs to run more deeply. One disappointing event last year was the WMF's vetoing of our community's decision to stop anon drive-by article creation; this would have required that newbies show that they're prepared to edit existing articles for just a little while before creating their first article. The WMF appears to see increases in article numbers as a highly significant metric of success, whereas a groundswell of en.WP editors know that committed long-term members come from newbies who are keen to improve articles, and are painfully aware that every stub-article created imposes large overheads on existing editors to reach a minimum level of utility for readers. Ms Gardner is aware of this "scut-work" problem, but I felt she didn't place it in this practical context.

We have reached a stage in our evolution in which we need a multi-pronged strategy to keep the labour-force growing, upskilling, and increasingly diverse. It's one thing for the Foundation to develop technical functionalities (although the visual editor does sound excellent); but we need from the WMF a commitment to partner with us in the following strategies:

  1. Targeting demographics out there that have the time, skills, and knowledge. Professional retirees, especially women, are just one obvious quarry, and here's a strong basis for leadership by San Francisco among the chapters, starting with the anglophones and proceeding to other languages.
  2. Identifying which early editing patterns are associated with people who are more likely to join the community of article improvers. Ms Gardner talked of these patterns in broad terms in the Wikimedia UK video, but can we achieve the statistical depth that is necessary? Is the WMF trying to do this?
  3. Riding on point 2, developing both bot-based and human-supervised identification and messaging of such likely candidates.
  4. Also riding on point 2, collaborating with the community to develop effective infrastructures for the human mentoring of those identified by a combination of statistical probability and human savvy. Our mentoring resources are limited and need to be carefully allocated; if we can learn how to do this, there could be a big bang for our bucks. San Francisco is best placed to coordinate the analysis and interpretation of a mentoring program, given that it probably needs to be intertwined with the technical side the WMF sees itself as occupying.

Tony (talk) 14:38, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Editor base stabilized at 34,000 active editors[edit]

(Updated from thread in User_talk:Jimbo_Wales/Archive_89.)

The drop in editors has ended: The October and November usage stats have confirmed, along with 3rd quarter editor counts, that the count of active editors has stabilized at nearly 34,000 active editors (>10 edits per month), since June 2011 (October: 35,028 editors). We had discussed this likely outcome, several months ago, that the "free fall" or "hemorrhaging" of editors was obviously ending, at a bottom-out count of 34,000 people who will always edit English Wikipedia each month. The usage data, for the past 6 months (June-Nov.) has confirmed this same pattern of editors staying: each month in 2011 is nearly 99% of the 2010 active-editor counts. See table:

Year April May June July Aug Sep Oct Nov
2011 37,294 36,930 35,747 35,501 35,651 34,767 35,028 34,516
2010 38,991 39,286 36,270 35,856 36,429 34,874 35,443 34,764

Monthly counts: http://stats.wikimedia.org/EN/TablesWikipediansEditsGt5.htm

On average, people have stopped leaving: the count never drops below 34,000 active editors. That stability gives the WMF resource planners the controlled usage pattern they need to expect 34,000 active editors each month.

Who were those people who left?  Well, along with active users who were edit-banned, about 3,000 "average editors" left in June 2010, and do not seem to have returned. I am suspecting that they were some groups of students who left in June 2010, but now the remaining 34,000 editors do not take "summer wikibreak" as others did in past years. The final core of 34,000 editors seem to work each month, regardless of the northern hemisphere summer-break period beginning in June. However, it could be that more students (or others) use home computers to continue editing Wikipedia when school ends (or on vacations).
Meanwhile, because some other-language Wikipedias are growing in active editors, such as Spanish Wikipedia, the total of all-language active Wikipedians has been growing, slightly, for the past 6 months (October: 80,630 active editors, all-languages). Anyway, the so-called "mass exit" of editors since 2007 has clearly ended. Tell the Foundation not to turn off the lights yet: those 34,000 editors intend to stay all year at the party! -Wikid77 11:30, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

More articles and page views, but less editors. Low quality of many articles[edit]

Active editors over time.

Editors are leaving for various reasons. Some editors are being driven away. See: User:Timeshifter/Unresolved content disputes

This article has been mentioned: Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2011-12-26/Opinion essay. It also has a timeline chart of active editors over the years. See it on the right.

See Page Views for Wikimedia, All Projects, All Platforms, Normalizeds. The table has monthly page views for Wikipedia over years. It looks like the total monthly page views for all Wikimedia projects in all languages has almost doubled in around 4 years.

Here are fundraiser stats over the years: Fundraiser statistics - Wikimedia Foundation. Money can not buy editors, nor quality info on Wikipedia pages.

With more articles we need more editors to bring up the quality of the articles. Many articles need to be filled in, and need a higher level of quality info, charts, images, etc.. --Timeshifter (talk) 05:49, 10 January 2012 (UTC)