Namespace shift

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(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.

Namespace shift is a phenomenon that occurs as Wikipedians mature. There are many possible stages in a Wikipedian's development process (newbiehood, idealism, intermediate, experienced, jaded, explosive, burned out — explaining these stages is beyond the scope of this page.) When shifting stages, the number of edits by the user also shifts, both in number and by namespace. This phenomenon is usually benign, and should not be worried about (see: edit counting).

For example, true newbies typically make 100% of their edits in the main namespace, either creating or improving (however haphazardly) existing pages. Eventually, they realize that other namespaces exist. The first round of discovered namespaces typically (on Wikipedia) include Talk, User, User talk, Wikipedia, and Wikipedia talk. This is usually the biggest shift. After discovery, users usually spend more time talking about changing articles, and less time actually working on articles.

This first shift often takes a while to settle down. New users just discovering the joys of wiki fluctuate between working on the project and talking about the project. As they discover new pages in the Wikipedia namespace, templates, categories, and so forth, their namespace percentage will fluctuate accordingly. Eventually, new users will typically settle in to a routine, making a certain percentage of edits in the main namespace.

Additional shifts may occur later on as a result of a Wikivacation, arbitration, promotion to sysophood, or any other changes in editing habits. Most of these changes are benign, but some (e.g., substub disease and Wikiwackohood) are not.

Percentages can be easily calculated from pages like en:Wikipedia:List of Wikipedians by number of edits. Percentages for users vary wildly, typically ranging from 20% to 60% of all edits being made in the main namespace. Note, however, that spending too much time calculating — and/or worrying — about namespace percentages is a form of edit counting, which is generally to be avoided. Of course, we're free to speculate. Just keep in mind that it's inappropriate (and unfair) to make judgements about a user based on namespace shift.