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[flagged] Why Wikipedia is Dying (medium.com)
20 points by andrewjho on Nov 17, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 30 comments

1) Wikipedia is not dying. It is the sixth most popular website on the internet. Traffic to Wikipedia continues to grow at above-average rates.

2) Wikipedia does not have a shortage of editors. It is in fact overwhelmed with editors who have a net-negative impact on Wikipedia's stated mission. By failing to read the rules and failing to accept the rules when informed of them, you have made yourself a net-negative contributor. These rules are not inscrutable, but are publicly available and explained in depth. The admin who removed your content provided a link to the relevant rule.

3) Wikipedia's primary challenge today is quality, not quantity. The overwhelming number of abusive users create an enormous burden of editing. The pedants, petty tyrants and robots of Wikipedia may be a deterrent to new contributors, but they also form the immune system that protects Wikipedia against abuse.

4) In the space of 15 years, Wikipedia has become the largest and highest-quality encyclopedia available. The community has developed a complex set of processes to ensure continued quality. Those processes may be imperfect, but they are demonstrably effective. Your criticism comes from a position of complete ignorance as to the necessity and efficacy of those processes.

I'll charitably assume that you're arguing from a position of ignorance, not malice. Read before writing: https://www.gwern.net/In%20Defense%20Of%20Inclusionism

(1) The metric that matters, active user growth, has been declining since 2007.

(2) Right, the 1 MB of bandwidth I took up and 5 KB of storage space I consumed with userspace pages outweighs the hundreds of minor corrections I've submitted over the course of a decade. By the way, Wikipedia does have a shortage of editors relative to its popularity and potential.

(3) Deletionism destroys more information than it protects. This is easy to establish. Educate yourself.

(4) You are circularly using the status quo to justify itself without having explored alternatives and without having performed any research into the historical evolution of Wikipedia and Wikipedian culture. Again, educate yourself before posting.

Active user growth is categorically not a relevant metric. Spammers and trolls count as active users. A superb editor who spends 30 hours a week on Wikipedia counts the same as someone who makes two bad edits a month. There is no clear evidence that the overall quality and quantity of editing is in decline.

There are many legitimate concerns about deletionism. There is a legitimate debate about what the word "encyclopaedia" means and should mean. There are legitimate concerns about how Wikipedia manages human resources. Your complaints vis-a-vis your personal recipes are emblematic of nothing other than your sense of entitlement to use someone else's server space.

You can choose to present yourself as an innocent newbie who was ambushed by a nasty editor. You can choose to present yourself as a time-served Wikipedian with deep insights into their editorial process. You can't choose both.

> The metric that matters, active user growth, has been declining since 2007.

How do you expect it to continue growing? There aren't enough people to continue active user growth. It's like your expecting it to be a pyramid scheme that makes money as long as you sign up more people than exist on the planet.

You're strawmanning my argument. I did not say, as you imply, that active user growth should continue indefinitely.

Take a look at this graph: https://www.gwern.net/images/2012-henkvd-activewikipedians.p...

First, one would typically expect the number of active users to keep increasing but for the rate of increase to gradually decline, not for the number of active users to actually start decreasing gradually after multiple years of very rapid increase.

Second, if you don't see something wrong with that graph, get your eyes checked out.

There comes a point where everything that should be in wikipedia is.

When you consider the scale of wikipedia, it's easy to see why governance does not take the form of polite exchanges. There simply isn't time. You want a conversation with an admin, but that admin isn't being paid to moderate, so their time is already donated. The tedium involved with politely speaking with every abuser (and OP is most certainly an abuser) would require a full time staff. That doesn't even consider the different languages such users speak.

Wikipedia is no longer a scrappy little community of people who like writing essays. It's a walled garden of information and the only way to moderate is with an iron fist.

Your argument is completely logically incoherent. It amounts to saying that the status quo is circularly self-justifying because... because... just because.

Have you considered, for instance, the possibility that relaxing the moderation (and -- yes -- allowing some real abusers to slip through the cracks) but dealing humanely with those who the admins can interact with would be better for Wikipedia on the whole? (Probably not.)

I haven't considered it because you haven't made a convincing case for me to do so.

That Wikipedia has fewer volunteer editors does not in itself indicate a decline in quality. Maybe all the people that left were shitty editors.

That you disagree with the way they handle enforcement of the rules you broke is not evidence of a deficient system, only that you don't like it.

I have my own misgivings about wikipedia, but the post linked here doesn't mention any of them.

What on earth would lead a person to believe that this might even possibly be a reasonable use of Wikipedia?

Have you seen what the typical Wikipedia userpage looks like? E.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Ser_Amantio_di_Nicolao.

People pretty much DO use them as personal websites -- the differential enforcement seems to come mainly from how established a user is.

That's just a bio (albeit slightly strange) of the guy. I feel like that's within reason as it's a user page (i.e. who the author is).

On the other hand, here, let me list a bunch of my recipes for safekeeping is NOT a description of the user in any way or shape.

Sure. Arguing over what the True and Canonical Purpose of Wikipedia is will go nowhere.

The only relevant fact is that it was consequentially better for the administrator to behave otherwise. Even if we assume that the user was 100% in error and that the pages should be removed, the administrator's actions still served to objectively harm Wikipedia (in net).

How would it be better, in the long run? Almost no people will use their bio page for storage of recipes or any kind of blog. There are explicit roles against doing so, and Wikipedia is constantly inundated with spam.

Off the small fraction of people who do try to do this, most will probably think, "I guess I was out of line, since Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not my personal storage space." Anyone left over who is going to ragequit over someone not being nice enough when they enforce the rules, frankly, probably doesn't have the type of personality that can handle a lot of the often heated discussions that go on on Wikipedia.

Honestly, I imagine the extreme edge cases represented by the productive editors likely to be seriously dissuaded by this are not a real contributing factor in any perceived death or decline of Wikipedia (one of the most successful and widely used products on the internet).

Wikipedia's guidelines explicitly permit both "limited autobiographical content" and a "small and proportionate amount of suitable unrelated material" on user pages. The linked page clearly falls within those rules.


Thanks! Having no idea that any of this existed, the article author's recipe list seemed like blatant abuse, but those rules are so long and so complicated that it's now easier to see how people could reasonably conclude that such a project might be acceptable.

LOL, so wikipedia is dying because this one person thought it would be a great idea to store personal recipe archive on it and admins deleted it. That's not really compelling evidence.

The user's pages on Wikipedia were deleted by an admin because it was used more like a personal blog, which Wikipedia was never meant to be. Of course, perhaps the admin could have given thr user a chance to copy over the content before deletion but then again I don't blame the admin for considering it similar to regular spam and deleting it. Maybe they still have a copy and perhaps the user can request for it.

I still find Wikipedia to be a good source of information and don't consider it dying. Even if it is dying, I don't believe this to be the reason.

You're justifying the administrator's actions based on a priori notions of what Wikipedia is or was "meant" to be.

This allows you to ignore the actual consequences of actions.

What's the point of a rule if it doesn't lead to positive consequences?

Mate, this isn't about abstract philosophical disagreements over what Wikipedia is. Wikipedia is a private platform entitled to make and enforce its own rules about what it is and how it should be used, that you've been using for years and have no excuse for not knowing the obvious basic rules of, one of which is "don't abuse wikipedia by treating it as an all-purpose host for your personal data". You have zero grounds to be pissed, and zero entitlement to the time and effort of a volunteer moderator who saw someone blatantly abusing the site's hosting generosity. Not letting you use Wikipedia's servers as your personal cloud service has absolutely nothing to do with a perceived decline in the character or culture of the site.

Make a Google doc next time.

You seem to have completely missed the argument of the linked article. (Also, saying that something "isn't about X" doesn't magically make it not about X.)

You also seem to be mixing up what "is" with what "ought to be". Feel free to read more about this common fallacy here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Is%E2%80%93ought_problem

It's pretty clear that you are confused about what Wikipedia is (not your personal cloud server) vs what you think it ought to be (your personal cloud server). Getting angry about your clearly-against-the-rules behavior being stopped and using that as a reason to go on a rant about Wikipedia dying of incivility is ridiculous.

Wikipedia may or may not have a problematic culture. You were still obviously in the wrong and no one owes you their time to go into a gentle negotiation about it.

I'll break this down into easy-to-understand parts for you.

> It's pretty clear that you are confused about what Wikipedia is (not your personal cloud server) vs what you think it ought to be (your personal cloud server).

Nice "clever response," but you would realize -- if you had read and comprehended my article & comments -- that I have no such confusion.

> Getting angry about your clearly-against-the-rules behavior being stopped and using that as a reason to go on a rant about Wikipedia dying of incivility is ridiculous.

"Ridiculous" is not a counterargument.

> Wikipedia may or may not have a problematic culture.

Meaningless statement. Waste of space.

> You were still obviously in the wrong

A factual restatement of what the rules are does not even come close to constituting a reply to the linked post, let alone a counterargument.

> and no one owes you their time to go into a gentle negotiation about it.

Normative statement. It's also incoherent. My position is that it is consequentially better for administrators to act otherwise. If you can't reply on consequential grounds and without making appeals to what people "should" or "shouldn't" do, then just don't reply, please.

I read your article and all of your comments, and my consequentialist argument is this: you will be a lot happier, and other people will like you more, if you learn to use rationalist thinking modes and lists of fallacies less as weapons to wield against others, and more as tools for self-examination and ways to question not only what you're thinking but why - sometimes you'll realize that you're over-reacting to a perceived insult, and justifying your angry response with a weakly related argument about why the entity that insulted you is terrible. And maybe you'll stop yourself before you do that publicly where people can see your tantrum.

The positive consequences is that wikipedias resources don't get wasted on useless crap.

If this isn't a joke, you're extremely self-entitled and you need to chill out if you get offended this easily.

Wikipedia does often seem a bit lacking in basic politeness. Something like Hacker News's 'be civil' type guidelines might help.

andrewjho, I can see you are very passionate about this. But you seem to be arguing with everyone in this thread. So, first, let me tell you that I largely agree with you about inclusionism. What you want... yeah, I want that too. However, Wikipedia is a collection of information, as well as an encyclopedia, a process, and a community. You find yourself in the position of disagreeing with the community. This can suck, because it is obvious that you wouldn't feel so passionate if you didn't love Wikipedia.

I recommend that you direct your passion towards expanding the Wikipedia community into a new direction commensurate with your goals. Sometimes communities need to separate in order to make everyone happy. A good city needs both the quiet streets with toddlers on bikes and the hot nightspots with pounding music. Do you have a right to play your music? Damn straight, I say, and play it loud and proud. But your neighbors may be perfectly justified in saying "not here, we believe this is supposed to be a quiet street". That seems to be the nature of your disagreement with the community.

I'm not aware of Wikipedia having any policy against deep linking. There have also been a number of success stories of special interest Wikipedias (e.g. wookiepedia, Conservapedia) which have been successful. In theory, you could start an "everythingopedia" which includes Wikipedia as a subset through deep linking (therefore making it very useful) in addition to your other items which would be deleted in the normal Wikipedia. I don't know if someone has already tried this, but it seems to me that you will find more success making a place for your own type of community than trying to change the minds of a community which does not agree with you.

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