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After early exponential community growth, editing on Wikipedia has slowed recently. The number of readers, on the other hand, grows steadily. Over the past 3 years, the number of active monthly editors in all languages has declined by 12% (and twice that in English). But the effective change in active editors per reader may be 4x as large.
This change in how many readers become editors points to both a problem and a short-term solution: On the one hand, we have many more people coming to the projects who don’t know they can edit, find no reason to do so, or are discouraged before becoming active. On the other, we reach many more people than in the past, so effective changes in messaging, tools, or policy have a larger impact.
Mako and I were discussing this last night, leading to some back-of-the-envelope calculations (using some of the many great stats resources the Foundation maintains) and a heady R + ggplot session, which turned into a beautiful post on copyrighteous:
Unlike all those other [encyclopedia projects] Wikipedia is the encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Wikipedia is powerful because it allow its users to transcend their role as consumers of the information they use to understand the world. Wikipedia allows users to define the reference works that define their understanding of the their environment and each other. But 99.98% of the time, readers do not transcend that role. I think that’s a problem.
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