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Wikipedia losing contributors, to streamline editing

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales says the user-generated encyclopedia is losing volunteer contributors, and must simplify its editing procedures.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
2 min read

Wikipedia is trying to simplify its editing procedures in response to declining numbers of contributors, founder Jimmy Wales said on the sidelines of an annual meeting today.

The user-generated online encyclopedia has been unable to attract new volunteer contributors after others stop helping out.

"We are not replenishing our ranks," the Associated Press quoted Wales as saying at the meeting in Haifa, Israel. "It is not a crisis, but I consider it to be important."

In March, the Web site had about 90,000 active contributors, and it's trying to recruit another 5,000 by June 2012, AP reported. It has more than 15 million registered users and 1,000 administrators, according to Wikipedia stats, and Google's DoubleClick Ad Planner indicates that it is one of the most popular sites on the Web.

Some contributors leave because Wikipedia has been around for 10 years and there is less demand for new articles. Others move on for personal reasons. Wales told the AP that the typical contributor is "a 26-year-old geeky male" who may move on to other pursuits and leave the site. Flame wars over edits also drive volunteers away.

To help stem the tide, Wikipedia says it will expand a program for teachers to assign entry writing to students. It will focus on students in India, Brazil, Canada, Germany, and Britain.

Wales told the more than 600 attendees in Haifa that content rules are "convoluted," the AP reported. "A lot of editorial guidelines... are impenetrable to new users," he said.

In a recent survey of Wikipedia editors, the most popular motivation cited for editing more frequently was "having others compliment you on your edits/articles."

To that end, the site has introduced WikiLove, feel-good icons that can be sent to editors to encourage them, similar to the "Like" button on Facebook, which, of course, may or may not be worth liking.