What particular factors might have begun to inhibit participation in 2006, when we know it began to stagnate?
This is a really interesting question, and the more data the better. Just to brainstorm some possible explanations: - By 2006, WM had more veterans to claim "ownership" for content, and make it hard for new people to contribute. - By 2006, Wikipedia was relying on "verifiability" to ensure quality (e.g.: featured articles had to be verified top to bottom) and avoid disputes, making it hard for new people to contribute. - By 2006, there were other major competitors for peoples' attention online that were just more fun and usable. (MySpace, Facebook, MMOs, alternative Wikis?) - By 2006, people felt more and more that the major content had been created, and there were fewer gaps in content that were large enough to inspire new contributors - By 2006, there was more infighting (e.g.: religious, ideological, etc.), with no end in sight, and people began to burnout more quickly. - By 2006, Wikipedia's reader traffic began to level off, and participation just followed by becoming less exponential - ... something else.
I think all of these (and then some) contribute to the dropoff somewhat. Some just a few percent, but I think we could confirm every one of these is a factor. Much harder will be to figure out which one is the biggest factor.
These are hard questions. When I first started editing there wasn't really any citation method in place. I just used to gambol around putting in what I "knew" and I wouldn't run into any resistance. My edits would stay even though I provided no citations. Things became more strict but I sort of grew up with things becoming more stringent in such a way that I just adapted as things became more "difficult". So I'm trying to think how I would have responded if, when I made my first few edits, I had been reverted with the summary "unreferenced". It's hard for me to see through the eyes of a newbie. That's something I'm going to have to try to do to come up with good answers for this task force.
As abandoned editor Rahere, there were a number of turn-offs: 1. Admin remoteness and slowness. I know, cost, but you're playing Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs's game a bit too obviously. Something this size needs charismatic leadership as the sine qua non - and that's rare. You must delegate a lot more through the Projects, and require them to get of their bums and lead. 2. Bot flyers - there seem to be more people inside Wikipedia doing it down than actually doing something to fix the problems. Why post a flyer complaining about something when you could get stuck in and fix it yourself? Are standards really that important? Are they really more important than IAR? More than content? If so, why not get specialists interested in that kind of thing to work? Orphaned pages have been beaten to death by the bots, not because of poor inherent value, but because they did not not meet the requisite statistical norm - I now destroy flyers on sight, on the basis that if the fly-poster doesn't have the knowledge or commitment to put his editing where his mouth is, then he lacks the credibility to comment - standards are not one-size-fits-all across all of academia. Who wants to read a page covered in years' worth of stickers? The most valuable bot of all, I think, would be a cleaner, going through pages deleting any bot flyer over two weeks old! I looked after the Albigenisan Crusade page for a bit, putting in citations at the request of a bot, posting totally unnecessary references to the source texts which are already indexed in parallel, being chronologies: when I checked, the bot owner told me I should know what I was doing and then flamed me, not for the quality of the citations, but for daring to ask him if he was satisfied thus far - so I desisted, see full records on the discussion page. I was then complimented by general readership on the quality of my work, and a page whose Good Article status had been withdrawn - and which remained withdrawn because of what is functionally administrative BS - none the less was adopted by the Schools History program with the request that editing should be cautious. You can't have it both ways, folks: if it's good in the eyes of the specialists, then it's good, period, regardless of what some ivory-tower merchant thinks, IAR. That page was orphaned when I arrived, was orphaned again after Admin killed the foster-parent by neglect, and remains adrift, despite its value. That is what happens out there, folks, all too often. Ah, and another thought for something that's getting out of control - Project Bands on discussion pages. All of this belongs in the footnotes - what the reader needs is a superficial intro, a deeper study linking out to more specialist pages, and a summary. 3. Lack of general support and positive feedback. Sign-up-here to projects doesn't really get any reaction, so you're steering your own ship without direction. 4. Lack of "If you need to know more, contact so-and-so". It would be cood on occasion to compare notes in advance. You are welcome to write to me privately on my old address - Rahere also runs an occasional LiveJournal blog, if you've lost that.