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Wikipedia seeks new writers

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Wikipedia is in need of new writers and believes its future lies abroad, said cofounder Jimmy Wales at the site's annual conference this week.

Launched in 2001 by Wales, a former bond trader and entrepreneur, the user-written encyclopedia wants to get 5,000 more volunteer contributors by June 2012 to help replenish its ranks.

"It is not a crisis, but I consider it to be important,” Wales told the Associated Press Thursday.

What’s equally important is tweaking the site to make it easier for people to post and edit entries, Wales said.

The number of active contributors on the site hovers around 90,000. But newcomers have often been greeted with hostility or indifference by the site’s more established editors, many of whom pride themselves on their mastery of arcane rules, knowledge of obscure abbreviations, and patience for extended arguments over seemingly picayune matters.

So Wikipedia is stepping up its efforts to recruit writers at universities in Canada, India and Brazil. But is this really necessary when Wikipedia could easily double its contributor base by becoming a more inclusive community?

According to a well-publicized study commissioned by the company, about 12.5 percent of the editors are women. The encyclopedia would like to raise that number to 25 percent by 2015, reported the New York Times.

Women feel editors are misogynistic, too argumentative and overtly sexual, wrote Sue Gardner in her February blog post called “Nine Reasons Women Don’t Edit Wikipedia (in their own words.)” Garnder is the executive director for the Wikimedia Foundation. Her list was drawn from a variety of responses on websites like Feministing and MetaFilter.

“One hostile-to-women thing about Wikipedia I have noticed is that if a movie has a rape scene in it, the Wiki article will often say it was a sex scene,” wrote bewilderbeast on MetaFilter. “When people try to change it, editors change it back and note that unlike ‘sex,’ the word ‘rape’ is not neutral, so it should be left out.”

Looking to recruit writers in foreign countries is a novel idea but unless Wikipedia can find a way to address these concerns, growth will be stunted, or nonexistent.

And it’s going to take more than some fancy Facebook-like gifts called Wikilove for women to join in.