Wikipedia:Authors of Wikipedia

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This essay, WP:Authors of Wikipedia (or "Who writes this stuff" ) describes how articles are made.

Some parts of Wikipedia have been copied from very old encyclopedias. However, for the majority of articles, Wikipedia has become a vast "pot-luck dinner".[a] The articles are, mostly, a somewhat random collection of information that many people thought to be worthy of interest. One of the most difficult aspects, for many people to realize, is that Wikipedia is basically "invented out of thin air" and people have retro-forced some rules with little regard to actually working with other people. For those reasons, some Wikipedia articles may seem quite bizarre, and several so-called "official" guidelines are still demanding peculiar rules, years later, with some rules so wiki-spastic they have never been considered in any other multi-user site. The problem is so severe that there is even a policy, "WP:Ignore all rules" (WP:IAR), because many rules might no longer reflect what normal people would willingly follow. What seemed to be a reasonable format limitation, years ago, might no longer apply. Also, as more thousands of users have joined, it has become increasingly difficult to check the quality of new articles, and hence, many partial stubs with misspelled words have been created.

Origins of articles[change source]

Several portions of Wikipedia were created as articles copied from traditional encyclopedias, such as from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, or generated from a long list of town population-data, but those articles now represent, at most, maybe 10% of the current article base. The remaining bulk of Wikipedia contains random articles, added as each subject arises.

As with a pot-luck dinner, each individual brings something to the table, so most articles tend to be a one-person contribution. Many articles are written by each person acting alone, with each article later modified slightly by perhaps 10 other people, but essentially the viewpoint of one person. After an article has stayed a while (after several months), it might be radically expanded by another person, adding perhaps 30%-50% more information. However, oftentimes, a "2-year expansion" is made by the original author, almost doubling the size of an article. Only a fraction of the total articles have been significantly expanded by multiple people. Because there are tens of millions of notable subjects in the world, each person can write new articles each week, without always needing to expand some other, older article. In early 2010, Wikipedia was growing at the rate of over 1,040 new articles, every day (see: en:WP:Modelling Wikipedia extended growth), beyond the sub-standard articles deleted every day.

Groups of editors[change source]

Overall, Wikipedia users are divided into 2 groups of editors: the registered users, and the unregistered IP addresses. The number of registered users, with login names, is 894,202 (roughly 1 million people), with a similar number of unregistered users. However, many of the registered users sometimes edit articles without logging in with their username, instead, just using their IP address. So, the total number of individual people, who edit Wikipedia, is less than -2,000,000. But some statistics have estimated the active editors, during a month, to be less than 300,000 people actively editing articles.

Small groups of editors often band together in Wikiprojects, to edit articles that share a common theme or topic. Each Wikiproject develops its own rules, and many such groups have struggled to keep going, due to the limited time that the various volunteers can spend in editing so many articles.

Uneven in quality or coverage[change source]

Because of the haphazard interest in subjects, some famous book, such as Gone with the Wind, might go 7 years with only a hollow article about the book, while a particular comic book might be described in numerous articles, detailing each volume/issue published in the set of comics. The book/movie The Da Vinci Code was expanded into more than 12 articles about that single subject. Many articles about sports teams have been expanded into entire article-sets, with separate articles for each member of the team or coaching staff, or for each play-off season. However, after a few years, the coverage of many subjects tends to broaden, so now, there are related subarticles, such as "Scarlett O'Hara" or "Rhett Butler" (or other characters in Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel).

Anticipating wiki-rot[change source]

After several months, many articles tend to be hacked or adjusted, multiple times, in ways contrary to the original writing style, or in ways that introduce many errors. Such long-term, multi-hacking of articles is known as "wiki-rot". Some phrases might have been changed or inserted (or duplicated in later paragraphs), and with even just a few "bad-apple" changes, an article can seem chaotic or trashy. In prior years, many people set their personal Wikipedia-watchlists to receive update-alerts when articles had been hacked or changed, so the updates could be fixed or adjusted soon after. However, in general, it is a good idea to re-visit older articles, every few months, to check for quality problems that have been added. It is not critical to make instant improvements, because many readers have come to expect rampant vandalism in numerous articles. Hence, articles should be fixed only as time permits, not in a frantic rush to reach encyclopedic "perfection".

Anticipating text deletions[change source]

Typically, deletion of whole sections, of an article, is considered to be "blanking" (as a form of vandalism). However, such blanking is done, often, and sometimes justified as removing "POV" (slanted point-of-view) text from the article, while effectively axing entire sections. The fundamental problem with justifying deletion, such as by claiming WP:NPOV, is that very few Wikipedia policies actually condone such deletions. Even the most crucial problems, such as avoiding potentially private, or libelous, text about a living person, should be handled by mending or modifying, not deleting, the inserted text, per policy WP:BLP since 2007, as noted in essay WP:BLPMEND. When detecting excessive text removals, feel free to revert any self-righteous deletions, and try to restore text as intended by the writers, but always mindful of discussions on the talk-page. Some of the most severe blanking, in recent articles, has involved removing the related-illness text in some medical articles, perhaps because that text contained "too many technical medical terms" that were actually, the formal names (and wiki-linked) for the related diseases. A full article, possibly expanded by a nurse or medical student, was hacked to become a partial stub, removing all the related information typically found in a medical encyclopedia: a real hatchet job, but not caught until weeks/months later. Expect such rampant deletions and be prepared to reverse them.

Related pages[change source]

 

Notes[change source]

[a] – A potluck dinner is a meal where each member brings some part of the meal, such as an appetizer, vegetable dish or desert.
[ This is a draft to be expanded, later... ]