As we work on new product features to improve various aspects of editing Wikipedia, we asked our editors to share more about their editing experiences. Here are some highlights from the Editor Survey that we found to be valuable:
a. 59 percent of editors edited Wikipedia anonymously before creating an account
59 percent of respondents pointed out that they had edited Wikipedia anonymously before they set up a login account on Wikipedia. (The survey was only announced to logged-in editors.) Portuguese (70 percent) and Spanish (66 percent) Wikipedia editors were more likely to have edited anonymously in the beginning compared to English (60 percent), Russian (58 percent) and German (59 percent) editors. Among editors, the three biggest motivators for setting up a login account are: tracking their edit history (54 percent), creating new articles (54 percent) and having a watchlist of articles to follow (49 percent). Interestingly, while the English Wikipedia makes it mandatory to obtain an account before one can start a new article, respondents there cited this reason less often (39 percent). Among Spanish (67 percent) and Portuguese (68 percent) language editors this percentage was much higher, even though these Wikipedias allow creation of new articles without being logged in.
76 percent of those respondents who had started anonymously said that they had made between one and 50 anonymous edits before they registered a user account. The majority of these respondents (54 percent) saw the benefit of having a user account only after editing Wikipedia anonymously for more than 10 times.
b. Decline in edit activity is more pronounced for experienced editors
When asked about their level of activity in 2011 compared to the previous year (2010), 30 percent of respondents said that they were less active, another 30 percent stated that there was no change in their activity and 41 percent said that they were more active. However, more experienced editors (with 100+ edits) were more likely to point out that they were contributing less often. The most common reasons reported for becoming less active on Wikipedia are: Having less time (59 percent), spending more time on other offline activities like reading (44 percent), spending more time on school or academic work (34 percent), spending more time on other online activities like Facebook or Twitter (23 percent), and rules and guidelines for editing becoming too complicated (17 percent).
c. Edit history influences editors’ views on problems with Wikimedia culture as well as desired solutions
We asked editors to choose the top three problems with Wikimedia culture that have affected them personally, making it harder for them to edit. The most commonly picked responses were: Other editors who feel that they own specific articles and don’t want others to collaborate (46 percent), too many rules and policies (41 percent), editors who are not fun to work with (39 percent) and lack of access to research materials like scholarly articles or books (39 percent).
When we sliced data through edit counts, we found that experienced editors are more likely to identify issues with other editors as the biggest problem that plague Wikipedia culture, while newer editors are more likely to identify complicated policies and software. For example, 45 percent of emerging editors (1-9 edits), 48 percent of aspiring editors (10-50 edits) and 44 percent of new Wikipedians (51-100 edits) said that too many rules and policies were the main problems that they faced in Wikimedia culture. But these numbers were significantly smaller for more experienced editors: 39 percent for active Wikipedians (100+ edits), 36 percent of very active Wikipedians (1000+ edits) and 34 percent of highly prolific Wikipedians (5000+ edits). Correspondingly, 59 percent of highly experienced Wikipedians, 53 percent of very active Wikipedians and 47 percent of active Wikipedians pointed out that editors who are not fun to work with formed one of the main problems that they were facing. But only 22 percent of all newer editors (emerging, aspiring and new Wikipedians) reported this as an issue.
Similarly, when asked about changes that might make it easier to contribute to Wikipedia, newer editors were more interested in simpler policies and rules, and a more user friendly editing interface. On the other hand, more seasoned editors are looking for improvements in editor behavior. All editors, irrespective of their edit history, agree that they need access to better research materials for writing articles.
If you are interested in more information about Wikipedia editors, please check out the topline findings from the survey.
In December 2011, we conducted an online survey of Wikipedia editors in 17 languages. This is the third in a series of blog posts summarizing our findings. If you are interested, you can find out more about the methodology of the survey here.