SECTION 1: EDITING ACTIVITIES: STRONG SUPPORT FOR VOLUNTEERISM
Wikipedia editors are strong supporters of Wikipedia’s underlying philosophy of providing every human being in the world free access to the sum of all knowledge through volunteerism. The strong support among editors for volunteerism to share knowledge draws them to Wikipedia to make their first edit, and drives them further to continue editing. Many volunteers’ first editing experiences come by accident when they stumble upon errors that need fixing, or subjects of personal interest that don’t have an entry in Wikipedia. They continue to edit, though, because they believe it’s fun.
The idea of volunteering to share knowledge drives editors to start contributing to Wikipedia as well as to continue contributing. Among those surveyed, 69% of editors said they started editing Wikipedia because they like the idea of volunteering to share knowledge. Fittingly, 71% of editors then said they continue contributing to Wikipedia because they like the idea of volunteering to share knowledge.
1.2 Many editors start editing by chance
While belief in volunteerism is the number one driving force among editors, many editors in the survey pointed out that they started their editing journey almost by accident when they saw an error or found an article missing. 64% of those surveyed pointed out that they started to contribute because they saw an error and wanted to fix it. Similarly, 27% of respondents started contributing when they saw a red link or found that an article about a subject was missing.
1.3 Younger editors are more likely to start contributing to demonstrate knowledge or learn new skills, older editors because they know a lot about a subject
While younger editors are more likely to point out that they started contributing because they wanted either to demonstrate their knowledge to a wider public or community or to learn a new skill, older editors are more likely to start contributing because they know a lot about a subject that is poorly covered. So we clearly see that age makes a big difference in what drives editors to edit. While older editors who might have accumulated knowledge over the years want to share their knowledge with others, younger editors are more driven by demonstration of knowledge and the desire to learn new skills. 36% of 12-17 year-old editors and 34% of 18-21 year olds started contributing because they wanted to share their knowledge with a larger community or wider public, compared to 27% of 30-39 year-old editors and 25% of those 40 and older. Similarly, 36% of 12-17 year olds and 31% of 18-21 year-old editors wanted to learn new skills, versus only 23% of 30-39 year olds and 24% of those editors who are 40 and older. Conversely, more than half of older editors (52% of 30-39 year olds, and 55% of those 40 and older) started contributing because they knew a lot about a subject that was poorly covered, in comparison to 36% of those aged 12-17 and 34% of those who are 18-21 years old.
1.4 School age editors are more likely to edit Wikipedia for fun
Even in today’s fast-paced world of online and console gaming, Wikipedians believe editing is fun. The fun aspect of editing Wikipedia particularly appeals to editors in the 12-17 age group over any other. A full 70% of school-age editors surveyed edit Wikipedia for fun, compared to 61% of editors aged 18-21, 59% of those who are 22-29 years old, 56% of those 30-39 years old, and 60% of editors aged 40 and older.
1.5 Volunteerism, belief in free information drives editors to continue to contribute
Among those surveyed, 71% continue to contribute because they like the idea of volunteering to share knowledge. In addition, 69% of respondents believe information should be freely available, and 63% pointed out that contributing is fun. A small minority (7%) edits Wikipedia for professional reasons.
We did not find any significant differences based on gender as to why editors either start or continue contributing to Wikipedia.
1.6 Editing and researching are the most common editor activities
Among editors surveyed, 66% pointed out they had very often/often edited existing articles in the last month, and 42% had researched articles very often/often throughout the last 30 days. Many editors in the sample also reported working often/very often on the following activities: writing new articles (23%); patrolling for copyright violations, vandalism, etc. (23%); participation in discussion about articles (22%). Just 15% of editors reported working often/very often on translation work and deletion process, and a very small minority of editors reported participating often/very often in technical work, such as maintaining servers or software (2%) or organizing help-events, meet ups, workshops or the annual Wikimania conference (2%).
We did not find any statistically significant differences among editors in editor activities based on age, tenure, or number of edits or education.
1.7 Most editors believe tools make editing easier
With the aim of increasing contributions, we have been researching how most people contribute online. It is no surprise that most people use platforms like Twitter, Facebook and blogs for sharing and contributing. Our qualitative research has shown that Facebook and Twitter have set the benchmark for an ideal platform for contribution, and many find Wiki markup language intimidating. Most Wikipedia editors who use existing editing tools believe tools make editing easier, rather than harder. Among editors, wide support exists for help pages, policies & guidelines, editing interface, wiki markup, and community forums/discussions. A small minority of editors, however, believe that policies & guidelines and wiki markup make editing harder.
1.8 Time constraint is the most likely reason for contributing less to Wikipedia
Within the Wikimedia movement, we have debated and discussed the recent trend in the decline of active editors. We have also done studies in the past to understand why editors stopped contributing to Wikipedia. In a survey of former contributors, we found that most editors said they had become less active on Wikipedia because they had less time. In this survey, we also found that even 37% of editors pointed out that they might become less active in Wikipedia in the next six months, as they think they will have less time. Despite the rise of social media and varied means of contribution (blogging, tweeting, etc.), only 7% said they might spend more time on other online activities.
When asked how they would allocate money if they had $100 to spend, editors said they would give $55 to technology enhancements on operations/infrastructure and features that support both new and experienced editors. Within technology expenditure, editors allocated maximum dollars to technical operations. There was also support for community work for attracting and supporting new editors, both globally ($11) and restricted to the global south ($8). Editors also believe that some funds should be allocated to support chapters ($7) and grants to chapters, individuals, etc. ($7).