Was Wikipedia Just a Fad?

Recent data compiled by one of Wikipedia's larger contributors seems to indicate that after a long history of rapid growth, interest in contributing to the effort seems to be waning.

Unfortunately, a truer idea of how Wikipedia is doing is not possible because the statistics page has not been updated in over a year. However, one Wikipedia contributor has taken it upon himself to analyze the data to gain some perspective on the state of the project.

Robert Rohde -- known as "Dragons_flight" -- found the results surprising. Out of a sample of 100,000 articles, he found an overall decline in just about every aspect of the service.

For example, new account registrations are down a quarter since earlier this year. This decline in new editors has also resulted in a decline in the editing of articles -- some 17 percent -- and article deletions, down about 25 percent. Also down were user blocks, down 30 percent, and uploads, down 10 percent.

There were some exceptions to the rule. The article creation rate was up 25 percent and image deletions rose some 80 percent. But as a whole, the user base of Wikipedia seems to be less active.

Rohde said little of why he thought the user base of the popular social encyclopedia site seemed to be less involved, although he did note that the switch seemed to coincide with the discovery that a user known as 'Essjay' was found out to have falsified information about himself and his credentials, which was widely covered in the tech media.

"I'm not going to launch into an extended discussion of what's wrong with Wikipedia, but I do think we need to be paying attention to these trends and taking steps to intervene where possible," Rohde said.

No statistics were provided for other websites within the Wikipedia network.

The problems with Wikipedia could also come down to an increasingly large schism in the site's community, with two groups at odds over what information should and should not be included.

Those known as the "deletionists" seem quick with the delete key and have high standards for "notability." However "inclusionists" disagree, saying that articles shouldn't be deleted quickly because they may be expanded later, pointing out many articles are written over several edits.

Such arguments have increased across the site's discussion pages in recent months, and that could have something to do with the decrease in participation as well.

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