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Questioning the health of Wikipedia

At the final session of the ISOJ 2010, Andrew Lih, University of Southern California presented his research into the health of Wikipedia (PDF).

His interest is prompted by talk about Wikipedia reaching its limits and a slowdown in the growth of the site.

Lih notes that Wikipedia had grown so quickly that from 2006-2009 there was no data, until a massive data dump towards the end of 2009.

Stats from 2009 started to show a leveling off of edits to Wikipedia, with new article production flattening out from 2007.

Lih showed that edits leveled across many languages, aside from Russian.

Some reasons for this decline could be the arcane wiki editing system and more rules about submissions and edits.

Stats show that between an eighth and a quarter of users create an entry but never hit save. To prove the point, Lih showed videos of users expressing confusion about how to edit entries. Basically, everyone found it very difficult to add and edit.

When Wikipedia starting, it had very simple rules such as neutral point of view. Now, there are a stack of rules which create barriers to entry to the community.

The Wikimedia Foundation argues that the community is stabilising. But Lih questioned this would enough to sustain the site and ensure a steady stream of new additions.

He suggested one possible scenario was a slow steady decline in quality, or a lack of timely content. And Lih noted that there was a slow trickling in of spam content into Wikipedia.

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