Wikimania 2012 group photograph
The Wikipedia community is the community of contributors to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Individual contributors are known as "Wikipedians". Oxford English Dictionary added the word "Wikipedian" in August 2012.
The overwhelming majority of Wikipedians are volunteers. With the increased maturity and visibility of Wikipedia other categories of Wikipedians emerged, such as Wikipedian in residence and students with assignments related to editing Wikipedia. A significant controversy was stirred with paid contributors from the Wiki-PR agency to Wikipedia, which even prompted an intervention from the Wikimedia Foundation.
Studies of the size of the community of Wikipedia showed an exponential growth rate of the number of Wikipedia contributors during the early years. By 2009, the growth of the community slowed down. In November 2011, there were approximately 31.7 million registered user accounts across all language editions, of which around 270,000 accounts were active on a monthly basis. In April 2008, writer and lecturer Clay Shirky and computer scientist Martin Wattenberg estimated the total effort to create Wikipedia at roughly 100 million man-hours. As of October 2013, the community of volunteers declined at least by a third since 2007 and is continuing to drop. Some 31,000 editors are active on the project. Despite being fewer in number, these editors continue to increase the number and length of Wikipedia's articles. About half of the active editors spend at least one hour a day editing, and a fifth spend more than three hours.
Various studies have been done with regard to the motivations of Wikipedia contributors. In a 2003 study of Wikipedia as a community, economics Ph.D. student Andrea Ciffolilli argued that the low transaction costs of participating in wiki software create a catalyst for collaborative development, and that a "creative construction" approach encourages participation. A paper written by Andrea Forte and Amy Bruckman in 2005, called "Why Do People Write for Wikipedia? Incentives to Contribute to Open-Content Publishing", discussed the possible motivations of Wikipedia contributors. It applied Latour and Woolgar's concept of the cycle of credit to Wikipedia contributors, suggesting that the reason that people write for Wikipedia is to gain recognition within the community.
Oded Nov, in his 2007 paper "What Motivates Wikipedians", related the motivations of volunteers in general to the motivations of people who contribute to Wikipedia. Nov carried out a survey using the six motivations of volunteers, identified in an earlier paper. The six motivations he used were:
- Values – expressing values to do with altruism and helping others
- Social – engaging with friends, taking part in activities viewed favourably by others
- Understanding – expanding knowledge through activities
- Career – gaining work experience and skills
- Protective – e.g. reducing guilt over personal privilege
- Enhancement – demonstrating knowledge to others
To these six motivations he also added:
- Ideology – expressing support for what is perceived to be the underlying ideology of the activity (e.g. the belief that knowledge should be free)
- Fun – enjoying the activity
The survey found that the most commonly indicated motives were "fun," "ideology," and "values," whereas the least frequently indicated motives were "career," "social," and "protective."
The Wikimedia Foundation has carried out several surveys of Wikipedia contributors and users. In 2008 the Wikimedia Foundation, alongside the Collaborative Creativity Group at UNU-Merit launched a survey of readers and editors of Wikipedia. It was the most comprehensive survey of Wikipedia ever conducted. The results of the survey were published two years later on March 24, 2010. The Wikimedia Foundation began a process in 2011 of semi-annual surveys in order to understand Wikipedia editors more and better cater to their needs.
"Motivations of Wikipedia content contributors", a paper by Heng-Li Yang and Cheng-Yu Lai, hypothesised that because contributing to Wikipedia is voluntary, an individual's enjoyment of participating would be the highest motivator. However, their study showed that although people might initially start editing Wikipedia out of enjoyment, the most likely motivation for continuing to participate is self-concept based motivations such as "I like to share knowledge which gives me a sense of personal achievement."
A further study in 2014 by Cheng-Yu Lai & Heng-Li Yang explored the reasons why people continue editing Wikipedia content. The study used authors of the English-language version of the site and received 288 valid online survey responses. Their results indicated and confirmed that subjective task value, commitment, and procedural justice were significant to satisfaction of Wikipedians; and satisfaction significantly influenced an author’s continued intention to edit Wikipedia content.
Editors of Wikipedia have occasionally given personal testimonials of why they contribute to Wikipedia. A common theme of these testimonials is the enjoyment that editors seem to get from contributing to Wikipedia and being part of the Wikipedia community. Also mentioned is the potential addictive quality of editing Wikipedia. Gina Trapani of Lifehacker said "it turns out editing an article isn't scary at all. It's easy, surprisingly satisfying and can become obsessively addictive." Jimmy Wales has also commented on the addictive quality of Wikipedia, saying "The main thing about Wikipedia [...] is that it’s fun and addictive". Wikipedians sometimes award one another virtual barnstars for good work. These personalized tokens of appreciation reveal a wide range of valued work extending far beyond simple editing to include social support, administrative actions, and types of articulation work. The barnstar phenomenon has been analyzed by researchers seeking to determine what implications it might have for other communities engaged in large-scale collaborations.
Wikipedia has spawned several community news publications. An online newsletter, The Signpost, has been published weekly since 10 January 2005. Professional cartoonist Greg Williams created a webcomic called "WikiWorld" which ran in The Signpost from 2006 to 2008. A podcast called Wikipedia Weekly was active from 2006 to 2009 while a series of conference calls titled Not The Wikipedia Weekly ran from 2008 to 2009. Some topic-specific communities within Wikipedia called "WikiProjects" have also distributed newsletters and other correspondence.
Offline activities are organized by the Wikimedia Foundation or the community of Wikipedia. A WikiMeet is an organized face-to-face meeting of Wikipedia members, sometimes small and informal, sometimes large and formal.
Wikimania is an annual international conference for users of the wiki projects operated by the Wikimedia Foundation (such as Wikipedia and other sister projects). Topics of presentations and discussions include Wikimedia Foundation projects, other wikis, open-source software, free knowledge and free content, and the different social and technical aspects which relate to these topics.
The annual Great American Wiknic is a social gathering that takes place, in major cities of the United States, each year during the summer, usually just prior to the 4th of July. The Wiknic concept allows Wikipedians to bring together picnic food and to interact in a personal way.
Wikipedia has been subject to several criticisms. For example, the Seigenthaler and Essjay incidents caused criticism of Wikipedia's reliability and usefulness as a reference. The complaints related to the community include the effects of users' anonymity, the attitudes towards newcomers, the abuse of privileges by administrators, biases in the social structure of the community, in particular, gender bias and lack of female contributors, and the role of the project's co-founder Jimmy Wales, in the community. Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, described Wikipedians as being like a "crusty old desk guy who knows the style guide backwards." A significant controversy was stirred with paid contributors to Wikipedia, which prompted the Wikimedia Foundation to send a cease and desist letter to the Wiki-PR agency.—Wikipedia relies on the efforts of its community members to remove vandalism from articles. According to Theresa Knott, a Wikipedian, "Vandalism would be difficult to police if there were more vandals, but the ratio of vandal editors to non-vandals is too low." Every year, on or around April Fools' Day, the Wikipedia community prepares itself for the massive vandalism that is expected to take place because of the day's celebrations, which lasts for 48 hours instead of 24 due to its worldwide audience.
Jimmy Wales stated, "We need to maintain and improve our quality standards, while at the same time remaining open, friendly, and welcoming as a community. This is a challenge." Wikipedia's co-founder Larry Sanger characterizes the Wikipedia community as ineffective and abusive, stating that "The community does not enforce its own rules effectively or consistently. Consequently, administrators and ordinary participants alike are able essentially to act abusively with impunity, which begets a never-ending cycle of abuse." Oliver Kamm, of The Times expressed skepticism toward Wikipedia's reliance on consensus in forming its content: "Wikipedia seeks not truth but consensus, and like an interminable political meeting the end result will be dominated by the loudest and most persistent voices."
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