Posted by: Rob Hof on September 4, 2006
Lately, some skeptical folks, notably Nick Carr, have been wondering how democratic a process Wikipedia really has. Even founder Jimmy Wales has noted that a very small number of people do the lion’s share of editing. But Aaron Swartz dug a little deeper and found that’s not the whole story. It turns out, according to his research, that most of the entries are actually written by people who are not in that inner cabal. As Swartz, who’s running for election to the Wikimedia Foundation’s board of directors, writes:
When you put it all together, the story become clear: an outsider makes one edit to add a chunk of information, then insiders make several edits tweaking and reformatting it. In addition, insiders rack up thousands of edits doing things like changing the name of a category across the entire site — the kind of thing only insiders deeply care about. As a result, insiders account for the vast majority of the edits. But it’s the outsiders who provide nearly all of the content.
So, it appears that Wikipedia might be pretty democratic after all, at least when it comes to initial contributions.
Swartz also explains why this matters hugely to the future of Wikipedia:
This fact does have enormous policy implications. If Wikipedia is written by occasional contributors, then growing it requires making it easier and more rewarding to contribute occasionally.
Hat tip to BoingBoing.