[WikiEN-l] The Statistical Decline of the English Wikipedia Community

Robert Rohde rarohde at gmail.com
Tue Oct 9 23:24:54 UTC 2007

I've been taking an extended wiki-break during the last 6 weeks, but during
that time I've also reflected on the state of Wikipedia.  Rather than simply
relying on my own observations, I started asking questions and went looking
for statistical answers.

As many of you are probably aware, the statistics package hosted at
http://stats.wikimedia.org/EN/TablesWikipediaEN.htm has not been updated in
about a year due to the failure of all recent attempts to create a complete
database dump for enwiki.

Given the lack of any recent official stats, I set out to generate my own
using a dump of the Wikipedia log files and by systematically downloading
(over many days) the history page contents for 100,000 articles.

My analysis from doing this gave me a big surprise.  Since early this year,
and for the first extended period in Wikipedia's history, the activity
rate of the Wikipedia community has been declining.  This can be seen in the
rate of editing articles (-17%), the rate of new account registration
(-25%), blocks (-30%), protections (-30%), uploads (-10%), article deletions
(-25%), etc.  Some exceptions are the article creation rate (+25%) and image
deletions (+80%), but overall the community appears to be doing less now
than it was 6 months ago.

Given Wikipedia's long history of nearly exponential growth, any decline in
our editing rate is surprising, but I also find the sharpness of the
turn-around to be remarkable.  Though it may merely be coincidence, the
timing of the change is near the breaking of the Essjay story in the news.

At the same time the frequency of reverts (as a fraction of all article
edits) continues to increase, while administrators now devote more than 1/3
of their article space edits to making reverts.

For charts and additional information see:

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.

-Robert Rohde
aka Dragons_flight

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