Wednesday, November 29, 2006


More on the number of Wikipedians

Thanks to Erik Zachte (with whom I shared a crowded booth in a Pizza shop at Wikimania last summer), we once again have the Wikipedia statistics needed to answer the question I posed in my previous post, "Can Wikipedia keep growing?" So just how many dedicated Wikipedians are there?

According to Erik's work, my guestimate appears to be too low. In the latest reported period (June, 2006) there were 4250 people who made at least 100 edits a month. Then again, this works out to an average of a little more than 3 edits a day, and that is still not enough to reliably gain attention from other dedicated Wikipedians. My impression, which I've seen often repeated in the discussions over nominations for Administrator, is that 200 edits a month should be the minimum. So this number of dedicated Wikipedians -- the core of the community if you will -- is even smaller.

And remember, even if we accept the 4250 figure, this does not mean these same people are at work every day and every month: there is a lot of turnover amongst Wikipedians. People come, people go, and often serious contributors find that they are kept away from working on the project for other reasons. One reason I've seen mentioned frequently is the pressure of schoolwork, either high school or college. But family, work, and travel are other common reasons, and some days an editor just suffers from writer's block or the need for a short, unofficial break; we're all volunteers, after all, and no one has the right to complain if we stop working. (Which makes the complaints about our work all the more baffling to me.)

It appears that the best I can do is say that the size of this group is "in the thousands". Any numbers we come up with, if honestly used, will only be a starting point for more or less informed guesses.



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