Proposal:Stupidity of increasingly smaller crowds

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Every proposal should be tied to one of the strategic priorities below.

Edit this page to help identify the priorities related to this proposal!

  1. Achieve continued growth in readership
  2. Focus on quality content
  3. Increase Participation
  4. Stabilize and improve the infrastructure
  5. Encourage Innovation



Wikipedia is always named as a good example of the Wisdoms of Crowds in action. However, it is my observation that more and more Wikimedia projects are finding it harder to get to the "crowd" size or even maintaining the crowd :)

I see several reasons why we are experiencing more and more problems in maintaining a large number of participants in different projects:

  1. I see a pattern of participants taking "wikibreaks" and after several wikibreaks, some participants tend to "burn out" and stop participating altogether, some return after a longer period, some never do. Reasons for these wikibreaks and departure are often social. There are of course other reasons why participants stop participating which are sometimes unavoidable (ie: looking for new challenges, private circumstances etc)
  2. Barriers to entry for new participants are numerous. On the one hand these are technical (eg: complex templates deter new participants from editing) but more important are the social factors (eg: a lot of wikimedia projects have a culture which is very unforgiving for beginner mistakes)

Although there are several roles for people to encourage new users, and to provide them with guidance these roles don¹t often get the recognition they need. I would personally give more credit to those that help out new participants when comparing this to most other tasks within our communities.

Finally several projects seem to be suffering from the "in-crowd" syndrome, long time participants have spent a significant amount of time learning all (unwritten) rules and acquiring the technical skills needed in order to participate. They feel that new participants have to go through at least the same process in order to participate (something which is not beneficial towards a growing community)

Jan-Bart de Vreede

PS: Just to make sure we all get it: the opinions expressed in this proposal are mine, and not necessarily those of the Wikimedia Board of Trustees


I would propose that we work out a strategy which is focused on increasing the number of participants, while maximizing the effectiveness of their contributions, whatever shape or form these contributions come in.

This strategy should focus on the social aspects of the problem:

  1. make sure that current participants stay motivated
  2. make sure that every project has a welcoming attitude towards new participants and helps them out where possible.

This strategy can then be translated to proposals which we can use to implement this strategy.

An example:

Invent a new role: mentors (or call it what you like). Organize quarterly real life meetings for them (that they can visit for free) to exchange experiences.


Bottom line: No matter how dedicated you personally are as a participant, you are not enough :) One needs to realize that the only way that we are going to reach all our goals is to turn every visitor into a potential editor/participant. It's only those numbers that scale into the future. An increasingly smaller community operating according to a set of increasingly intimidating technology and a larger set of (unwritten) rules is not the way forward.

All other discussions become less relevant with a shrinking community.

Key Questions

  1. How do we keep current participants from leaving?
  2. What deters a visitor from participating?
  3. How can other participants create a culture in which the visitors feel welcome and able to participate

Potential Costs

No indication


Community Discussion

Do you have a thought about this proposal? A suggestion? Discuss this proposal by going to Proposal Talk:Stupidity of increasingly smaller crowds.

Want to work on this proposal?

  1. InfantGorilla 17:51, 2 August 2010 (UTC)
  2. .. Sign your name here!