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Is Wikipedia a Victim of Its Own Success?

By Time

September 28, 2009

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The exponential growth of Wikipedia has flattened out since 2007, a development that may signal the limits of crowdsourcing. One explanation is that Wikipedia has reached the threshold of knowledge expansion, and most of the information left to be collated is obscure and thus less alluring to participants.

On the other hand, Palo Alto Research Center scientist Ed Chi views the slackening of Wikipedia's growth as the first implosion of a major online ecosystem. Editors' excitement that the revisions they make will endure has given way to frustration that their contributions are usually undone by an elite cohort of editors with more seniority. "People begin to wonder, 'Why should I contribute anymore?' " Chi says.

The Wikimedia Foundation has been trying to enhance the encyclopedia's appeal by improving its archaic, often difficult to understand editing interface, to name one example. But it has no plan for how to draw more diverse participants. "The average Wikipedian is a young man in a wealthy country who's probably a grad student — somebody who's smart, literate, engaged in the world of ideas, thinking, learning, writing all the time," says Wikimedia Foundation executive director Sue Gardner. This means that there is a significant underrepresentation of people from developing countries.

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Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA

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