Not a change in Wikimedia, but a change in society
I believe the effect we are seeing is not only attributable to a change in the Wikimedia community, but in society as a whole.
People spend more and more time on social networks and exploring new technologies. While being on Facebook, they do not come edit Wikipedia pages; they might share some of the pages on Facebook or Twitter, to support the discussion, but it does not imply editing. Also, while Wikipedia may be easy to read on a portable device such as a smartphone, it is not necessarily easy to edit on those devices. I remember clearly reading an article about one of Isaac Newton's relatives with my smartphone, noting a problem with it, and writing a note in my agenda to edit it when I got home and had access to my laptop computer.
We also have to realize that a lot of people just READ Wikipedia, and don't want or need to EDIT. So there's no need for them to join. Most of my own visits on Wikipedia are just to read and not edit. We could compare the situation to a hobby club: many people become members in order to learn, but will never go in front of the room to give a conference. Visitors to public libraries read the book, but don't all start writing notes in them (thankfully!)...
Also, there is a saturation level which is eventually reached: it goes with the market -- only so many people will ever drink Coca-Cola, and not more than them; the Coca-Cola Company may do more and more publicity, but it will not affect the number of drinkers. The same applies to Wikipedia and all other Wikimedia projects: once all of the target audience has been reached, there is no possibility of expanding any further.
Creating and editing pages may be difficult for some people. I recently started a MediaWiki-powered website, and one of the visitors told me he "didn't find the way to create a page", even though I explain the procedure clearly on the front page. (My project is now dead, despite an initial high level of interest, because almost nobody edits.)
Finally, we can't force people to join our project... (And here I'm torn between :-( the sad face and :-) the happy face, as I wouldn't want to be forced myself, but I certainly would like to (gently) force some people to join my project and Wikipedia as well!)
That's just my two cents...
CielProfond 15:47, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
Most of time my iPhone is the last place I'd want to edit Wikipedia (give me a big screen and a keyboard anyday). But there is one exception.
I love to travel around Australia, visiting small towns. When I arrive at a place, I pull up the Wikipedia entry for it (I love the mobile version of Wikipedia for reading, incidentally). Often there isn't much of an entry. So when I am standing beside historical noticeboards or plaques etc in the town, I think "I should be adding this info to the Wikipedia entry" but it's too hard to edit on my iPhone.
What I love about Facebook when I'm out and about is its "take a photo and upload to Facebook" in its iPhone app. It's not so easy to enter your status as text on a smartphone but it's easy to do status-by-photo. So I just load a photo of a sign that tells people where I am. If the mobile Wikipedia (or a Wikipedia app) could do something similar, that would be great. I envision something that works like this on my iPhone:
I search for the Wikipedia page I want in the usual mobile reading mode. There is a option then under the "W" button to "take photo". This takes and uploads the photo of the information on the plaque etc and attaches it in some temporary way to the Wikipedia page. Then when I revisit that page on the non-mobile device (i.e. back from holidays or using a PC in an Internet cafe), I get a message "You have uploaded photos for this page" and I can click and see them and then do whatever edits I want to do using them as the source. Note I am NOT saying upload the photos onto the article itself to be visible to others (although I might do that as part of the post-processing). I just want them in a kind of "to do" area and I need some reminder that I have these "To Dos" when I visit a page (or I visit my user page).
Of course, a To Do list would be useful quite apart from out-and-about-with-phone scenario. If there could be a TO LIST for an article-and-user-pair, then when you look at your user page, you could see all your TO DOs for any article. And when you look at the article, you just see your TO DOs for that article (or perhaps see the TO DOs for other editors as well -- useful if many people are active on a article so you could collaborate rather than tread on one another's toes).
Facebook makes uploading photos easy by ignoring copyright law. I wonder how long they can get away with that? Wikipedia (and Wikimedia Commons) have complex and difficult procedures for uploading photos because we account for the dreadful complexity of copyright law. See the links under commons:COM:EIC#Copyright for an introduction to the copyright nightmare and how it impacts a free content project like Wikipedia. Facebook simply pretends none of that stuff exists, therefore uploading becomes easy.
I think that the Coca-Cola example is apt. Are there better examples of what I think might be happening? For example look at the shift in TV comedies between the early 50s and the late 50s as the number of televisions grew in the United States. Early on, television was dominated by comedians from New York City, with New York sensibilities and experience in the Borscht Belt. That changed not because the nature of society changed but because the demographics of the watchers changed. The first television were sold and stations set up were sold and set up in cities, particular New York with more urban sensibilities. As the number of televisions expanded, more rural people started buying TVs, and the percentage made up of New Yorkers and urbanites shrank. The audience was no longer as dominated by the urban. You had a shift from Sid Ceasar to Johnny Carson.
Is the same thing happening to Wikipedia?
Perhaps Wikipedia has reached nearly its maximum market size in the United States and other Western countries. Perhaps there is something particularly American about Wikipedia with its openness and lack of hierarchy. An Asian society Wikipeida ain't. Just look at where Wikipedia is based. Is there any more American place that San Francisco and Silicon Valley? Ameicans have always volunteered more and donated more than others. As Wikipedia expands into different markets, demographics change. People in other places do not volunteer as much but off-line and on. Like changing comedy shows maybe the audience has changed and so there are fewer of the types of people who are attracted to editing.
Or maybe it is like the menu of McDonalds. McDonalds might be a world-wide phenomena but in each country it has adapted itself. It is not the same McDonalds in Hong Kong, Vienna, New York and Smallville. Is some places McDonalds sells lattes, salads and milk shakes, but in others it is fried chicken, rice and spaghetti. In American McDonalds, you clear your own table; nearly everyplace else people are paid to do that.
Perhaps the early adopters, those most likely to be persistent editors, have already been captured by Wikipedia. Perhaps all the low hanging fruit -- uber-volunteering American early adopters -- have been picked.
Bad news from the real world about "market saturation" with Coca-Cola: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/09/us-cocacola-idUSTRE7180OQ20110209
Another point. Are we talking about readers or editors here?