In January 2001, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales typed “hello,” and the first free, online encyclopedia that anyone could edit was founded. In the last ten years, Wikipedia has grown to become the most popular and premier destination for information and knowledge on the web in over 250 languages. With about 400 million unique visitors every month, Wikipedia is the fifth most popular web property, only behind Internet stalwarts like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo.
But what sets Wikipedia apart from the other Internet giants is that volunteers have contributed every word and millions of articles: editors across the world who spend hours contributing to Wikipedia for free. However, despite the enormous contribution of editors to Wikipedia, no comprehensive or longitudinal survey research has been done to understand: why editors contribute; their demographic composition; their technology ecology; how editors interact with each other.
The Editor Survey, April 2011, is one of the first semi-annual surveys that the Wikimedia Foundation is conducting to track the editing community. This survey differs significantly in its methodology from the UNU-Merit study of Wikipedia editors conducted in 2008 because the survey was available only to logged in users of Wikipedia. In addition, each user saw the banner invitation to the survey only once to counter the sample skewing towards more frequent editors. Moving forward, the WMF foundation will be using the April 2011 survey as a baseline for trending data on Wikipedia editors.
The April 2011 survey, following the UNU-Merit Editor survey, explored: what drives editors to edit Wikipedia; what editing activities they participate in; what interactions among editors look like; the technology ecology of editors; how editors assess the work of the foundation and its chapters. The specific research areas that we focused upon are:
- Editing Activities: What drives editors to edit Wikipedia? What are the different types of editing activities? How do the editors assess the different tools that are available to them?
- Demographics: What is the educational background of editors? What is the gender and age distribution of editors? What are the differences and similarities among different groups of editors?
- Women editors: What are the experiences of women editors? Do women editors have different experiences compared to male editors? Can women editors be segmented into different groups?
- Editing community: What kinds of interactions do editors have with each other? What kinds of interactions are conducive to editing and what are deterrents to future editing?
- Location and Language: Where do editors live? How many language Wikipedias do editors edit? Which language Wikipedia gets the maximum attention?
- Technology and Networking: What kinds of technological devices do editors own or have access to? What devices do they use for editing and reading Wikipedia? Do editors use social media tools? How?
- Foundation, chapters and board: What is the assessment of the foundation, chapters and the Wikimedia movement? Do editors participate in board elections? How would the editors like the foundation to allocate resources?