Wikimedia Conference 2011/Documentation/Editor Trends Study

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Editor Trends Study: Summary of Findings[edit]

Presenter: Erik Möller
Description: A presentation of the results of the Editor Trends Study.
Graphs: Can be found at Wikimedia commons:Category:Editor trends study


  • An attempt to dig into the numbers of Wikipedia in the last months

Recap: Active Editors declining[edit]

  • alarming trend: flattening participation in the last years. This a problem for all languages.
  • regarding English Wikipedia: significant decline in editors with >10 edits, in fact less than half of what it used to be
    • There are no indicators that the trend is about to change.
  • Only a few language versions are in even a transitional stage regarding growth. Still, the edit numbers remain impressively high.
  • Wikilytics Platform as research basis (python).

Summary of Findings[edit]

  • Wikipedia Communities are aging.
  • No notable drop in retention around 2005-2006
    • The only piece of good news: Whatever has brought the numbers down, numbers are staying at that level.
    • The influx of new Wikipedians cannot compensate the loss of old ones.
    • Data can be useful in the future.
Editor age composition (2001-2010)[edit]
    • In the German Wikipedia the average age is higher, editors are statistically older.
      • Q: Is the German WP healthier due to this
      • A: The troubling thing is the speed of the numbers' decline
  • 30% of people who started editing in 2006 stuck around a year later. Only 12% of those who started editing in 2009 stuck around a year later. Statistically, raising the editing bar to >50 edits didn't change the picture.
    • The likelihood of being reverted increased very significantly over time.
  • The community seems to have become increasingly resistant to influx. That makes sense, since Wikipedia has become important over time. Policies have been made and modified. We know, that first anti-vandalism tools had been brought up in 2005. Today, the likelihood of having a positive first editing experience is small. New Users are no longer staying around.
  • Similar patterns exist across other larger projects, e.g. Spanish, French Wikipedia.
  • 2005-2007 = AGE OF TRANSITION: retention 2004 = 40%, retention 2009 = 12%

Drilling into English Wikipedia Data[edit]

  • The people who are experiencing pain are the people new to the project, not the people we are used to talk to.
  • 1.2% of editors made 500-1000 edits. This group made more than 45% of the total edits. There is absolutely no evidence that we cannot attract very active contributors anymore.
    • As these editors grow older, they tend to remain highly active or inactive. The middle case is wearing out.


  • We have to make sure that new editors have positive first editing experience. We have to focus on this problem first, before we focus on the influx problem.
  • We cannot afford to ignore this! The mathematics of the last few years show us that the trend is going down.
  • We need to work on the basis of the problem.


Q: How/which way do we focus on new users? Should we change the user interface and so on? A: We need to put priority on the interface. However, be it as simple as it may, people might still leave. We're testing different pages and things like videos. What happens, if we invite new users to create a user page. Things like that we experiment with. In the Russian Wikipedia, there are articles that are moved to a special place where they can be improved, instead of being deleted in teh first problem. Mind: Every chapter has their own experiences. WMF will support.

Q (India): We are competing social networks. In how far does this affect the community? A: Follow the strategy wiki. Data shows that 80% of Wikipedia readers also have a facebook account. Other projects like Quora (see Yahoo! answers) are there, too. We don't need to be worried about such services in general, but of those that take attention away from us.

Q (Israel): Editing Wikipedia requires special skills, Facebook does not. Are Wikipedia's glory days over? A: There is no longer an active community. I don't believe for a second, that there is nothing left to write about or improve, not for second. There are people who want to help Wikipedia. They just don't know how to do that!

Q (Netherlands): Where do think chapters can contribute A: See Product Whitepaper for the Great Movement Project. You are all invited to help. Content in a nutshell: e.g. Rich-Text Editor testing and the -1 to 100 project.