[Wikimedia-l] Editor retention (was Re: "Big data" benefits and limitations (relevance: WMF editor engagement, fundraising, and HR practices))

Yaroslav M. Blanter putevod at mccme.ru
Sat Jan 5 12:17:22 UTC 2013

On Fri, 04 Jan 2013 11:56:52 -0600, Mark wrote:
> On 1/4/13 9:57 AM, Yaroslav M. Blanter wrote:
>> On Fri, 04 Jan 2013 16:41:06 +0100, Nikola Smolenski wrote:
>>> I guess I could write much more. But at the end, I have no 
>>> solution.
>>> I could imagine some partial solutions for some of the problems, 
>>> but
>>> nothing that could really bring Wikipedia to days of old.
>> Certainly, it will not. For the very same reason you mention: less 
>> not covered topics, more complexity, higher editing standards.
> Yes, this is the main problem I've run into trying to recruit new
> Wikipedia editors: less low-hanging fruit, at least on en.wiki 
> (things
> are different on smaller wikis). Fewer topics of widespread general
> interest are completely article-less compared to a few years ago, so
> there's less scope to e.g. write a 1-paragraph stub about [[Mahmoud
> Abbas]] and feel you've contributed significantly. *And* you can no
> longer do so just by jotting down a few things you remember off the
> top of your head, since the standards for verifiability have gone up
> considerably.

Concerning the low-hanging fruit, I am ambivalent on this point, and I 
was arguing both ways on this list in the past.

On one side, I personally had no problems finding my topics in English 
Wikipedia. Just several examples:
1. The bulk of my contribution are the topics related to human 
geography and history of Russia. The sources for these topics are 
predominantly in Russian, this is why most of these articles are 
one-line stubs or do not exist. As a Russian speaker, having access to 
Russian sources, I am able to source these articles.
2. Sometimes I write articles about NRHP listings, often to be able to 
use my own photographs. This is not particularly difficult, since some 
of them have the nomination forms online, and others usually have enough 
info. It just requires some time to search for the sources and to digest 
3. I have a number of books on art and artists at home, in all possible 
languages, and sometimes I use them to write or expand existing 
4. I tried my own field, which is nanophysics, and it did not go very 
well. Once I had an incident on Wikiproject:Physics, trying to argue 
that some stuff is textbook material, but was overruled by majority. 
Then I just unwatched the project and never came back. Occasionally, I 
edit the articles in my field, and I have several in my watchlist, but 
ths is certainly not my main activity.

The conclusion is that I never had problems to finding topics (and I 
have more interests and more special sources, even if these get filled 
up at some point), but on the other hand I am not exactly a typical 
person from the street - I speak several languages, have extensive 
academic experience, including writing books and review articles, and I 
have a broad range of interests. Whereas this is kind of our picture of 
a Wikipedian, the reality is much more broad. An American teenager 
speaking only English and only interested in computer games may feel it 


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