The most important question currently facing the Wikimedia movement is how we can continue to grow our communities by attracting new editors, while helping current editors stay engaged. With all this talk of stagnating community growth, however, one thing that we haven’t focused on as much is the remarkable fact that every single day, tons of amazing volunteers are still working away on the projects, unseen and often unrecognized.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Star_Trek_William_Shatner.JPG

Should we use this image in our next fundraising banner? (We kid.)

We’ve decided to remedy this lack of recognition by finding and personally thanking Wikipedians who make their 1,000th edit to articles on the project. This may not be their 1,000th edit overall, but we feel that such a milestone merits a barnstar that recognizes their contributions to free knowledge.

The overwhelming size and diversity of the Wikipedia community today means that it’s harder than ever for other contributors to notice and congratulate each other. Many of these editors probably aren’t even aware they’ve made they’ve passed such a milestone, partially due to our community’s (entirely admirable) distaste for “editcountitis“.

Our first step in the process of recognizing these editors depends on the analytical wizardry of Ryan Faulkner, formerly a data analyst for the fundraiser and now part of the team working on editor retention. Using a mirror of the live English Wikipedia database, we built a system of logging every time an editor makes his or her 1,000th edit to the article space.

Another way we’ve described this conundrum — where there’s lots of work being done but not nearly enough recognition for good editors — is that we need more Kirk and less Spock. At the Foundation, we took this somewhat literally, as we decided to mark each 1,000 edit milestone that we log by playing the transporter sound effect from Star Trek in the sixth floor of our San Francisco office. As far as work interruptions go, getting an extremely loud (and yes, nerdy) reminder that people are donating so much of their time and energy to the encyclopedia is a great one.

This experiment likely won’t last forever or work for all 280 languages of Wikipedia. But it’s important for us as staff members to stay connected to our communities, and we have a not-so-secret hope of making this kind of appreciation something that every Wikimedia project does for itself. Look out for future announcements about how community members can take charge of this list of accomplished editors.

Maryana Pinchuk and Steven Walling
Community Organizers, Wikimedia Foundation

P.S. A special thanks to R. Stuart Geiger for helping build our logging system, and Zack Exley for inspiring and supporting this idea.