Wikipedia suffers mass editor loss

Staple student reference site Wikipedia has come under some hard times recently. The English language version of the site is crying out for $7.5 million USD worth of support to keep the site up and running and more crucially, free.

Research carried out by Felipe Ortega, from the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid suggests that if the downward trend continued it could spell problems for the site. "If the negative trend is maintained for too much time, say one or two years, eventually the project could enter a problematic phase," he said.

A further kick in the teeth for Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopaedia, is being reported on by the BBC News' Technology page, where new University research suggests that Wikipedia "lost" 49,000 of its volunteer editors in the first three months of 2009, compared to a meagre 4,900 over the same period in 2008.

With so many individuals dropping from the site, there are fears that perhaps the novelty of Wikipedia has worn thin. The website, which provides a service as an online encyclopaedia is a popular reference website, with students especially in regular use of it; becoming famous at universities and colleges for being a help with assignments and essays. It provides an important academic and general point of reference upon the internet. More of a community of people, writing articles about things they feel that they are knowledgeable, rather than a site full of qualified academics - It is a communally designed website, which encourages its visitors to act as editors and make any editorial changes as they see fit.

Despite the obvious concern surrounding the drop in editors, Wikimedia UK, a chapter of the organization that operates Wikipedia, has denied that it means the site is struggling. It says that it is seeking more expert contributors. "We're trying to engage a bit more at the moment with people who are very knowledgeable, people who are experts, so working with museums was the obvious next step," said Michael Peel of Wikimedia UK to the BBC.

"Wikipedia is definitely not dying. It's freely licensed which means that content that has been added will be there forever," he added in an interview with The Times newspaper.

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49 Comments

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At my school, using wikipedia means an automatic F, according to my school, "Wikipedia can be edited by anyone in the world, making it a very unreliable source."

I love wikipedia it's my firefox search box provider. It's got everything from history to a good read, even handy resource for traveling and flight, destination information.

The reason that Wikipedia has 'lost' editors is because Wikipedia has articles on almost everything. What sort of knowledge does the average person have that isn't already on the site? It's hard to find something new to put on the site due to it being so full already thats the reason editors have left, theres not much else for them to contribute.

No great loss to lose so many editors this year, some of them seem to be nazi's intent on making all the articles conform to their own personal style, rather than be a resource full of useful information.

osm0sis said,
Yeah, and where did those numbers even come from? 49,000 vs. 4,900? Sounds a little made-up.

I was thinking the same thing. Those are some odd numbers IMO... Not to mention, I have no idea where that sort of information would even come from.

Kirkburn said,
If there are millions of editors still, which I believe there are, 49,000 is a relatively tiny change.

May be there are over a millions of editors but, how many are really engaged with Wikipedia, the lousy $1.4m in donation said that very few ones.

I couldn't imagine not being able to use Wikipedia. The site is awesome and is responsible for eating up many a spare hour of mine.

SK[ said,]I couldn't imagine not being able to use Wikipedia. The site is awesome and is responsible for eating up many a spare hour of mine.

Mine too. LOL I particularly love the descendant information. I REALLY find that very cool.

For what Wikipedia is it really shows that maybe its hope for us all. Wikipedia is one of the only sites I would give money to...

I hope the novelty has worn off.. Hopefully this means the serious editors will remain and the hacks that have been posting poorly written, or false, information will disappear.

They clearly need a longer-term strategy to make some money to pay the bills so to speak. I agree with everyone above that be it a corporation or some form of advertising on the site, im pretty sure the Wiki will continue.

Agreed about this. And a plan doesn't have to include heavy advertising. How about making a deal with Google to enhance their returned information on searches by being willing to cooperate with their developers?

No, the novelty hasn't run thin, but the bias has grown. There are countless stories of articles pulled, edits to throw opinions to one side or the other locked. The problem is no accountability beyond the political viewpoint of the person holding the key.

With so many individuals dropping from the site, there are fears that perhaps the novelty of Wikipedia has worn thin.

I can understand editors leaving the project. I've edited Wikipedia around 3000 times now, and after some time it gets tiring that you don't get paid for trying to improve the accuracy of the information while at the same time sometimes even being challenged by other editors' highly personal opinions.

It's hard to say how this problem could be solved however, since free information that is as accurate and as frequently updated as possible is obviously very important.

Even if money really becomes a problem to the point that servers and bandwidth are at stake of shutting down Wikipedia, there are a lot of companies who will intervene and pay the bills..

Maybe Google, maybe Microsoft or even Apple, but it won't die...

Everyone uses Wikipedia, even in some cases to promote their products and using it like a FAQ of the product.

I just can't imagine it dieing in near future..

Wikipedia should start advertising in their website. i am sure it would get them some money to pay their bills...
Text based adds like google adds will look promising.

Yeah, I agree. Some ads would be acceptable on the site to help with revenue... And Microsoft or Google may get involved at some point with some sort of licensing agreement or something. Apple I would seriously doubt, but who knows.

I never considered Wikipedia to be a 'novelty'. It has free articles on everything. Yes there are some inaccuracies and vandals are rife but as a starting point or a quick reference it's absolutely brilliant. The fact it's user-generated isn't what makes it a good site for me, it's the fact that it is free and regularly updated. It would be a shame to see it use some kind of subscription model just to stay alive.

I agree, In almost all my school assignment and projects I usually have some references to wikipedia. It is a wonderful resource for students.

cabron said,
I agree, In almost all my school assignment and projects I usually have some references to wikipedia. It is a wonderful resource for students.

Referencing wikipedia should give you an automatic F. Wikipedia is a good starting point for research but it's less reliable then the weather.

If you reference wikipedia in university/college, prepare to fail...hard.

ahhell said,
Referencing wikipedia should give you an automatic F. Wikipedia is a good starting point for research but it's less reliable then the weather.

If you reference wikipedia in university/college, prepare to fail...hard.

Totally and completely false. A great majority of Wikipedia is referenced by outside sources. If you reference ONLY Wikipedia, you'll be in trouble, but if anyone receives an "automatic F" because they quote Wikipedia are just facing professors that really aren't ready to embrace the future...

Usually, I would use Wikipedia for the background and then go to the third party references for more information and quote those. Of course, you should also reference Wikipedia since you are getting the third party information from there.

As for what's "less reliable than the weather" -- try reading the national news. There's fails all over the place there, yet no one will dive into that and research it. Read the raw data and compare it to the conveyed data... no matter where you get your news, you'll almost always receive a slanted view that doesn't match completely with the raw data.

Depends on the nature of the quote.... But justin, if the wikipedia article has a reference for something why not go to the original published source and use that as your reference? The problem with using the wikipedia as a reference is that it is always changing. Someone might read your paper sometime in the future, go to the wikipedia and not be able to find the information.

I've written articles for engineering journals. The wikipedia was a great source of information that helped me pull everything together. But, using the wikipedia as a source would have been considered unacceptable to my peer review (as it should be). It shouldn't be acceptable in schools either.

My university gave an automatic F and referral to the dean for the use of wikipedia. Citing wikipedia at my university was considered an act of plagarism and non-sourcing (which again is plagarism).

Titoist said,
My university gave an automatic F and referral to the dean for the use of wikipedia. Citing wikipedia at my university was considered an act of plagarism and non-sourcing (which again is plagarism).

Your University probably have a retarded policy.

Exactly. It's a good place to start and get some quick insight. But it should not be quoted or used a reference for anything as important as school work and certainly not work related research.

pookie62 said,
Exactly. It's a good place to start and get some quick insight. But it should not be quoted or used a reference for anything as important as school work and certainly not work related research.

Exactly. Wikipedia is good for finding references and general information about a subject but shouldn't be quoted as most of their information comes from other references/sources anyway.

cabron said,
I agree, In almost all my school assignment and projects I usually have some references to wikipedia. It is a wonderful resource for students.

That surprises me. I've never taken a course nor have friends in which Wikipedia was an approved source... It was made quite clear that we were not to ever cite that website...

Shadrack said,
Depends on the nature of the quote.... But justin, if the wikipedia article has a reference for something why not go to the original published source and use that as your reference? The problem with using the wikipedia as a reference is that it is always changing. Someone might read your paper sometime in the future, go to the wikipedia and not be able to find the information.

Precisely why every revision of the page can be linked to - link to the specific revision you obtained your information from.

Se7enVII said,
Exactly. Wikipedia is good for finding references and general information about a subject but shouldn't be quoted as most of their information comes from other references/sources anyway.

Good point. And those sources are cited on the website as well. I guess It's helpful in that regard...

If the information isn't sourced on Wikipedia its completely useless, at the very least a reference should contain who wrote it (usually someone knowledgeable) or where it came from (respected source). If its not referenced you have neither. It's like me writing quoting something found on a beer mat in a pub.

If its sourced... check out the original source and verify the information.

You should not directly reference Wikipedia ever - or any other non respected source for that matter. Its not that its freely edited that is the problem, its that you have no idea who wrote Santa exists, and who they were to make such a claim... just because something is in a book doesn't make it more fact than Wikipedia. Its just generally better referenced as to who wrote it. Even if the source is questionable it at least lets the reader recognise that fact.

I only use Wikipedia to get an idea about what I'm going to talk about in my essay. Gives a good overall picture and lists some good references down at the bottom. My Uni automatically fails you or interviews you if you happen to use Wikipedia (not the quotes but the body language) whether or not you referenced it or it comes across in SafeAssign.

I only use Wikipedia to get an idea about what I'm going to talk about in my essay. Gives a good overall picture and lists some good references down at the bottom. My Uni automatically fails you or interviews you if you happen to use Wikipedia (not the quotes but the body language) whether or not you referenced it or it comes across in SafeAssign.

Se7enVII said,
Exactly. Wikipedia is good for finding references and general information about a subject but shouldn't be quoted as most of their information comes from other references/sources anyway.

Everything, everything, everything comes from other references/sources...
I don't honestly see the problem with referencing wikipedia, what makes what someone wrote on it any more or less accurate then what is put into other encyclopedia's.

It's true you shouldn't reference one source only, so only quoting wikipedia is not a good practice, but using it as one of many shouldn't be a problem.

what said,
It would be a shame to see it use some kind of subscription model just to stay alive.

Wikipedia won't die, it might become Googlepedia, but that would only be a good thing

As someone already said, non-referencing is an act of plagiarism.

If you so much as read the wikipedia article on a topic, you should reference it to avoid potential plagiarism of ideas. That is how I see it. I've never had a problem referencing wikipedia.

I have never heard of people in the physical sciences ever having problems referencing wikipedia. It is only in the arts subjects that I hear of problems.

ahhell said,
Referencing wikipedia should give you an automatic F. Wikipedia is a good starting point for research but it's less reliable then the weather.

If you reference wikipedia in university/college, prepare to fail...hard.

you sir are a maroon. Go crawl back under your rock and troll with your stone tablets

I just scroll down to the bottom of the article and cite the sources Wikipedia cited (instead of citing the Wikipedia article itself). Haven't had a problem yet.