Is this the decline of Wikipedia? A third of 'staff' have quit the site thanks to dumbed down software and auto-delete tools.

By Aaron Sharp

PUBLISHED: 10:23 EST, 26 October 2013 | UPDATED: 11:48 EST, 26 October 2013




Founder: Wikipedia chairman Jimmy Wales and his Wikimedia Foundation have changed the way the site works in order to attract new contributors

Wikipedia is in decline according to experts after it was revealed that the size of the site's editorial staff has shrunk by a third since 2007.

The crowdsourced information site, which gets at least 10 billion hits every calendar month, depends on the contribution of volunteers to regulate content which is uploaded by the public.

But fewer and fewer people are bothering to manage the online encyclopedia after a raft of changes made by the Wikimedia Foundation, which funds the infrastructure of the site.

In a bid to combat online vandalism and spoof entries, Wikipedia has begun using programs instead of people to automatically delete suspicious content.

As a result, a lot of users' hard work and genuine knowledge was erroneously censored by bots.

According to a new study from the University of Minnesota, the deletion tools are just one aspect of the site's intended modernisation ideas which have disenfranchised loyal 'Wikipedians'.


Another unpopular move by the Wikimedia group came when they changed the way content was uploaded to the site.

Whereas an uploader once had to be familiar with the language of the site, called 'Wikitext',  to properly upload entries, now someone with next to no web editing experience can post articles live.

Bosses at Wikipedia changed the uploading system to something which is similar to a word processor.

Good cause: Wikipedia has tried to empower more people by make the site more user friendly, but the changes have angered loyal 'editors' who feel are frustrated at the lowering of standards

They hoped that new users would be encouraged to contribute as a result, but more experienced editorial staff have become frustrated at the ease with which spoof articles can now be added.

The result is the steep decline in Wikipedia staff, which one expert believes could be the beginning of a perpetual 'decline phase.'


One editor, speaking to the tech website Raw Story said, 'it’s like they keep lowering the bar, then asking us to limbo. At a certain point, you’re tripping over the stick instead of walking under it.'

Aaron Halfaker a university Grad student at the University of Minnesota, who has published extensively on the decline said: 'I categorize from 2007 until now as the decline phase of Wikipedia'.

His report established that when the new controls began to take effect, the likelihood of a new participant’s edit being immediately deleted has steadily climbed.

Biased: A lack of new editors on the site means there are more articles on subjects like computer games and porn then there are women's literature and feminism

Over the same period, the proportion of those deletions made by automated tools rather than humans grew.

Unsurprisingly, the data also indicate that well-intentioned newcomers are far less likely to still be editing Wikipedia two months after their first try.

The problem is one which is harming Wikipedia's credibility as well as their staff levels, a mostly male staff who joined with narrow interests means that there many comprehensive articles on computer games and female porn stars, but entries on female literature remain limited. 

The allegations of a downward spiral has been rejected by Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Ambitious: Wikipedia's aim has been to attract keen young 'reporters', but the plan has backfired (picture posed by model)

She said that dropping 'Wikitext' would attract a new type of uploader to the site, which she called 'eager cub reporters.'

Gardner said: 'The Wikipedians remind me of the crusty old desk guy who knows the style guide backwards'

'But where are the eager cub reporters? You don’t get the crusty old desk guy out at three in the morning to cover a fire.

'That’s for the new guy, who’s got a lot of energy and potential. At Wikipedia we don’t have a sufficient influx of cub reporters.”

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