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Aaron Swartz

‘Who Writes Wikipedia’

4 Sep, 2006

Swartz writes an article examining the contributions to Wikipedia articles written during his candidacy for the Wikimedia Foundation board election in 2006. In the article Swartz disproves JimmyWales notion that the encyclopedia was created by 500-1000 core writers, and shows it was mainly created by occasional writers, many of whom did not register. He says this knowledge should inform Wikipedia policy:

If Wikipedia is written by occasional contributors, then growing it requires making it easier and more rewarding to contribute occasionally. Instead of trying to squeeze more work out of those who spend their life on Wikipedia, we need to broaden the base of those who contribute just a little bit. Unfortunately, precisely because such people are only occasional contributors, their opinions aren’t heard by the current Wikipedia process. They don’t get involved in policy debates, they don’t go to meetups, and they don’t hang out with Jimbo Wales. And so things that might help them get pushed on the backburner, assuming they’re even proposed. Out of sight is out of mind, so it’s a short hop to thinking these invisible people aren’t particularly important. Thus Wales’s belief that 500 people wrote half an encyclopedia. Thus his assumption that outsiders contribute mostly vandalism and nonsense. And thus the comments you sometimes hear that making it hard to edit the site might be a good thing.