Response to sarahnats: What is Causing the Decline in Wikipedia Participation?

On: September 21, 2009
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About Tim van Essen
Built: 1987 Born: Amsterdam Company(s): Co-founder of and Student: MA New Media and LL.B (Law School). Particular interestfields: New Media (gadgets), debate on Piratebay, Intellectual property law, medialaw (internetlaw in particular) and Intelligence Studies. Besides that I play an active role in a local political party [HAP] in the Haarlemmermeer. Hates: People who adore Mac. Leisure time: What's that??


This short article is a response to sarahnats’ article “What is Causing the Decline in Wikipedia Participation”? You can see this short article as a further extension of her argumentation structure and my own experience of adding information to the Wikipedia community.

Sarahnats argues that the rise and power of the editorial management on the site is negative for the active participation on Wikipedia. I couldn’t agree with her more. Today I just went through the exact same experience of this ‘regime’. It was my first contribution (and definitely my last) to the Wikipedia community. First you are enthusiastic and at the end you’re frustrated. I wrote an article about a local political party [HAP] in the Haarlemmermeer. A few hours later (come back to that later) I finally posted my ‘own’ entry. Two minutes after that… it was gone. Too much POV. A guy with a smile on his face (saw his own Wiki entry including photo) removed my whole page, with one click. He’s telling me what to post on the internet??? Don’t think so. I roughly edited some sentences and posted it again (will keep the guy busy for a while). At this particular moment it was still up there. It’ll probably be gone when I take a look tomorrow.

I’m convinced that there is another argument for the decline of Wikipedia participation. If we look for instance at the technological knowledge side of Wikipedia we see that it’s not that ‘open’ at all. I know some programming languages, but Wikipedia uses its own. Okay, that won’t be hard for you, you may think. In fact, I worked on my entry for 3 hours! First read all the ‘conventions’ and rules of writing (Wikipedia Free and Open???), second enter the text and third add some pictures and tables. It’s not that easy at all. You should try it yourself to add a picture to your Wikipedia page. First I thought It was my own ignorance of the usability of Wikipedia. I asked my father, an average computer user, to add something to Wikipedia. He didn’t get much further than a plain text. With help of the tutorials on the website he couldn’t make the Wiki entry either. Strange and unconventional program lines will startle any everyday user.

I think that the technological knowledge gap of Wikipedia discourages ordinary computer users to actively contribute to Wikipedia. So this could be seen as an extra argument for the decline in active Wikipedia participation. No, no more Wikipedia contributions for me in the future. Too much control and troubles for me.

Orignal article sarahnats
My first ‘own’ wiki entry, follow the debate on this one

Edit 8okt: After two weeks my entry has been removed. I’m going to put it back online with a slightly changed content. Let’s see what they do…. Keep you posted.

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