Don’t Panic Yet, but Wikipedia Is Losing Contributors

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Wikipedia’s got a problem: The site’s supply of magical fact-spewing robots — er, volunteer editors and contributors — is dwindling ever so slightly.

For every month of 2011, the online encyclopedia’s volunteer count has declined year-over-year, continuing a downward trend that began in 2010, according to the Wikipedia’s most recent stats. While some fluctuation is expected from a site where anyone can contribute, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales told the Associated Press that the site is having trouble replenishing its ranks.

(LIST: Top 10 Wikipedia Moments)

“It is not a crisis, but I consider it to be important,” Wales said.

Wikipedia’s contributor decay might have a rather straightforward explanation: Editing the site has become a ho-hum job. After 10 years of operation, Wikipedia has entries for pretty much everything of importance. That means less writing and more maintenance.

Wales also thinks Wikipedia’s convoluted editing process is scaring away prospective volunteers. The site is trying to simplify its editing procedures, and has added the ability to rate individual entries in hopes of sparking more participation. Readers may also reward contributors with badges and other decorative icons so the editors know their work is appreciated.

To further expand its roster, Wikipedia wants more professors to assign writing entries to their students, particularly in India, Brazil, Canada, Germany and Britain.

Wikipedia hopes these efforts will result in 5,000 additional active contributors by June 2012. To put things in perspective, Wikipedia has lost roughly a few thousand contributors since last year, compared to nearly 90,000 total active contributors. Certainly, the site isn’t in any immediate danger, even though critics have been predicting its downfall for years.

Besides, there’s one area where Wikipedia is stronger than ever: fundraising. The non-profit’s 2010-2011 drive was its fastest and most successful to date, thanks in part to Jimmy Wales’ mug.

MORE: How Attempts to Rewrite History on Wikipedia Get Quashed

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