Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales has claimed that everything is fine in Wikipedia-land—that despite reports to the contrary, the site isn’t struggling to fill up the ranks of administrators. Yet according to a new report in the Telegraph, Wikipedia isn’t just failing to add new admins, it’s failing to keep the ones it already has.
According to data released on Wikipedia earlier this summer, their numbers have dropped from a high of nearly 1,000 in Dec. 2007 to about 700 in June, 2012. This year alone, the site has lost 64 admins while adding only 20, the Telegraph’s William Henderson reported. “Wikipedia is losing admins faster than it is replacing them, and that cannot be considered as anything other than a significant turning point,” he wrote.
Administrators play an essential role on the free encyclopedia. The volunteers—ordinary users who’ve essentially been promoted to super user status—have the power to lock down edits on a Wikipedia page (important if, for instance, that page is under a vandalism attack) and block other users.
And that’s what’s also troubling in the data, as Henderson observed: The definition Wikipedia uses to describe an active admin—anyone who’s made 30 edits over the past 60 days—hardly seems fitting. For one thing, that’s one edit every two days—hardly “active.” More importantly, anyone can edit a Wikipedia page. What’s more pertinent is how often admins actually take advantage of their privileged status: How often do they lock down vandalized pages or remove spam?
Wikipedia hasn’t released that data yet. But we’re guessing it’s not pretty, either.
Photo by Niccolò Caranti/Flickr