Behind the boosterism of this opinion piece by Andrew Lih in the New York Times (“it is by far the world’s most popular reference site” – notice that he doesn’t call it the world’s most accurate reference site) are some interesting tidbits:
–The rising popularity of smartphones threatens Wikipedia (editing Wikipedia on a cellphone is problematic).
–The “peak years” of Wikipedia were about 2005.
–Promotion from editor to administrator is at best one a month, compared to 60 a month in 2005.
–Wikipedia has a budget of $60 million and fund-raising is no problem.
My favorite part:
Last year the foundation took the unprecedented step of forcing the installation of new software on the German-language Wikipedia. The German editors had shown their independent streak by resisting an earlier update to the site’s user interface. Against the wishes of veteran editors, the foundation installed a new way to view multimedia content and then set up an Orwellian-sounding “superprotect” feature to block obstinate administrators from changing it back.
My other favorite part:
One board member, María Sefidari, warned that “some communities have become so change-resistant and innovation-averse” that they risk staying “stuck in 2006 while the rest of the Internet is thinking about 2020 and the next three billion users.”
And I like this too:
The worst scenario is an end to Wikipedia, not with a bang but with a whimper: a long, slow decline in participation, accuracy and usefulness that is not quite dramatic enough to jolt the community into making meaningful reforms.
What Lih doesn’t say (and I’m not sure anyone has said it) is that for all practical purposes, Wikipedia is fully built out and has been fully built out for years except for the need to update current events.
There is no more need to slave away on an extended biography of Eric Cartman: that’s already been done. Now all that remains is for the citizen-scholars who have staked out particular entries as their turf to fight off the trolls who keep changing things or blanking the page and writing: “Jason is gay ha ha.”
I was an early adopter of Wikipedia, but abandoned all efforts under a barrage of lunacy and I have heard from any number of people who have had similar experiences. (One typical Wikipedia incident involved some idiot who changed “Normandie,” a well-known street in Los Angeles, to “Normandy” without checking any maps because “it looked wrong.”)
Wikipedia is a tremendous driver of traffic for the simple reason that Google likes it, the philosophy being that in the battle for clicks, it’s more difficult to game Wikipedia and therefore outbound links from Wikipedia are inherently reliable, in contrast to a link farm of dubious origin. (You do know that Google is trying to improve the accuracy among its results, right?)
As long as Wikipedia remains a sinkhole of crackpots, coding tweakers and factoid zealots, I will dance on its grave. And here’s to you, Wikipedia tin foil hat guy.