Newbies or Better information?

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Heavenlyblue, the question of whether complexity is necessary or unnecessary is central to software development (and Wikipedia is an offshoot of software development). See Accidental complexity and Essential complexity. I suspect most of Wikipedia's complexity is not accidental, because Wikipedia's collaborative model is pretty good at trimming cruft we don't need. If a particular rule or procedure has outlived its usefulness, users are pretty good at ignoring it.

I think the biggest barrier to new article creation is not learning wikitext markup, nor most of the common things lumped into the idea of "usability". Usability is about making software better for helping the user reach his or her goal. The problem on Wikipedia is that many new users don't understand or entirely share Wikipedia's goal. Many if not most people look at Wikipedia and think, "Aha! I can use this to share what I care about." Wikipedia's welcoming user interface encourages this mistake. Instead, people need to understand Wikipedia probably does not care about someone's noble cause, a word they made up, their garage band, their procedural knowledge, what they consider useful, or most of what most people value. Wikipedia is a very specialized project, not even remotely an attempt to build "the sum of all human knowledge". Many people who try to edit on Wikipedia would be better off editing on one of the thousands of small wikis that cater to special interests rather than sneering at them as "not notable" as we often do on WP:AFD.

23:02, 11 March 2011