Wikipedia seeks balance and more female editors

As contributor numbers dwindle, Wiki founder hopes more women will sign up to diversify coverage
Darren Allan

August 9, 2011

Wikipedia is, of course, the font of all internet knowledge. Albeit the often slightly erroneous and defaced font of all internet knowledge.

The site, which celebrated its tenth anniversary at the start of this year, boasts around 400 million visitors per month. But all is not well down at the Wiki offices.

Recently, news broke that contributor numbers – those who actually edit and police the site’s many articles – are dropping.

Founder Jimmy Wales admitted that a number of editors are leaving what can be quite a cliquey and controlled editing world, by all accounts, and their ranks aren’t being replenished.

Wales said he didn’t consider the numbers drifting away to be a crisis, but it was important to him to replenish the staff of volunteers, obviously.

And it seems that one of his ideas is to try and encourage women to adopt positions as contributors to the online encyclopedia.

Speaking at the Wikimania conference in Israel, Wales noted that the site’s editors were primarily, in his words, “geeky” males in their mid-twenties.

And that while content was strong in domains such as science and technology, the encyclopedia could use more diversity and coverage in weaker areas such as biographies of famous women and childcare.

The inference being that this is advice which the female of the species could best provide, perhaps also along with articles about knitting and how to host a fabulous dinner party.

At any rate, the point is a fair one, and Wiki definitely needs more diversity, not to mention more contributors full-stop to prevent numbers of editors from dwindling further.

Other ideas have already been suggested, such as getting professors to task their students with contributing as part of their courses.


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