Don't break the community

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
(English) This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some Wikimedians but may not have wide support. This is not policy on Meta, but it may be a policy or guideline on other Wikimedia projects. Feel free to update this page as needed, or use the discussion page to propose major changes.

We need to keep the existing editors in the first place.[1] It is not about some old-timers, but about the bulk of our community. The heart of a top 10 Wikipedia is made by some 300 to 400 editors you cannot substitute.[2]

Since 2010, Wikimedia Foundation has focused on editor retention and sometimes on recruiting editors: after observing that Wikimedia projects still get thousands new registrations every day but few survive compared to the past, the hope is that surviving new editors will reverse the editors decline.

Stress and frustration[edit]

Losing old editors is the biggest cost of MediaWiki changes: everything new the Wikimedia Foundation is currently developing can really frustrate and drive away even more.

Our community has suffered a lot of stress over the past years which results in frustration in many places. Many long-time editors have gone inactive because of that. Some of the stress is self-made and some of the stress comes from San Francisco. The latter stems mostly from new developments in technical terms.

The most organised communities often set up polls or other protests and sometimes manage to drive the technical change to reduce damage. However, many community members are exhausted and tired to fight against the Wikimedia bodies.

Psychology and necromancy[edit]

Both VisualEditor and Flow have the potential of providing another and perhaps final blow to the still active old editor community. There is only one community. We don't have another one as substitute to take over. If a wiki project is dead and broken once it will be broken forever.

Think twice of psychological foundation for participating in such a large project as Wikipedia. It needs tact not to harm an already suffering community when sweeping changes should be introduced.

Many community members think "it is decided over our head, par ordre de mufti". Most insist on community processes taking place for introducing new technology on such a big scale, not in order to deactivate it.

Again, this is all about breaking a community. And we cannot discuss this in terms of what is good or bad because you cannot revert the negative impact new technology will have on old editors. This is not only about technology. It's about psychology. And the latter will prevail.


  1. This essay goes back to three postings on the wikitech-l mailinglist on 7 June 2014 you can read in full here.
  2. This anectodal number, probably coming from observations of how many editors participate in polls and biggest discussions on the German Wikipedia and sometimes English Wikipedia, is similar to the number of users with 250+ edits in a month. Cf. partial totals for all Wikipedias when available.