Editor Survey 2011/Executive Summary

Note: this is a copy of the executive summary included in the original report.

With approximately 81,000 active editors1 in a month2, Wikipedia is one of the most successful examples in online collaboration in the history of the Internet. But precious little is known about Wikipedia editors. Who are they? What motivates them? What are their experiences with contributing to Wikipedia? To answer some of these questions, we conducted the first ever semi-annual survey of Wikipedia editors in April 2011. The survey was conducted on Wikipedia and presented to logged-in users. The study focused on the following key research areas as linked to our strategic plan:


1. Contribution for sharing knowledge freely WITH every single person on the planet: The Wikimedia movement, since the very beginning, has been grounded in the mission of sharing free knowledge with every single human being. The survey shows that our editing community is highly aligned with the core mission of the movement. Editors pointed out that volunteerism to share knowledge is the number one reason for contributing to Wikipedia. This demonstrates that the community, even through all of the growth and changes over the years, continues to share the fundamental raison d'etre of Wikipedia. This is really important as we seek to take new steps and overcome new challenges toward realizing the mission for everyone on the planet.
2. Editing Tools & Infrastructure Improvements: Over the years, Wikipedia editors have created many tools and policies both for editing and performing the day-to-day administrative tasks required to manage huge knowledge resources and activities on the world's fifth largest website. The survey found that there is a general agreement that both the community and WMF can – and should – improve our technology infrastructure and develop new features to make editing and administration easier. WMF has already started work on improvements and will accelerate work alongside the community in the coming months. WMF is also undertaking research work that will help the editor community assess opportunities for improvement of tools and practices. As the survey indicates, interactions among editors are key drivers for a better editing experience. To this end, features like WikiLove provide an easy tool to make the editing experience fun.


1. Demographic characteristics of Editors: Since we haven't had good demographic data about Wikipedia editors, a caricatured profile of Wikipedia editors has emerged over time: a male graduate student who programs, supports open source, plays massively multiplayer online games, and lives in the US or Europe. The data in the survey didn’t support the caricature (or the caricature is out of date) . According to the data, if there is a typical Wikipedia editor, he has a college degree, is 30-years-old, is computer savvy but not necessarily a programmer, doesn't actually spend much time playing games, and lives in the US or Europe. However, the data allows us to see that “typical” doesn't tell the whole story. Our community comes from a widely varied set of backgrounds, and requires thoughtful and sensitive interactions within the community – because the person behind the username is quite likely different from you. As we seek to grow the community further, we will add an even greater amount of diversity to the mix. We'll need to become more sensitive to gender, geography, culture, communication styles and other differences.


1. Increasing Gender Diversity: Our editing community continues to suffer from a lack of women editors. The survey provided an even starker view of this than previous studies (only 8.5% of editors are women). It is a strategic priority to address this imbalance. The survey did find that the total percentage of women Wikipedia editors has increased somewhat in the last few years, but we still have a lot of ground to cover. We can attract women editors partly by introducing tools and features that make editing simple for everyone, though especially for women, since our women editors are less likely to code and program. We have also seen great successes in the participation of women via our Wikipedia in the classroom initiatives. These efforts that are expanding around the world tend to bring in a more representative proportion of men and women contributors. Our survey found that positive feedback is a driver for overall editor satisfaction, and so is the nature of the interactions they have with the community.
2. Harassment: Contrary to the perception of some, our data shows that very few women editors feel like they have been harassed, and very few feel that Wikipedia is a sexualized environment. That said, we as a community should continue to ensure that all female Wikipedians have positive interactions, and that no one is harassed due to their gender, sexuality, ethnicity or nationality.


1. Editor Decline & Community: The Wikimedia movement has made increasing its editor base to 200,000 by 2015 a major priority. But the recently concluded Editor Trends Study discovered an alarming trend of flattening participation across all language projects. Looking closely at English Wikipedia, the study found significant decline in editors with more than 10 edits. It has been hypothesized that edit wars, reverts and acrimony among editors is a contributor to this decline. We found that, overall, editors have a very positive opinion of their peers, but many reported experiencing negative interactions and harassment by others. In addition, negative interactions reduce the likelihood of editing in the future. On the other hand, positive interactions, like helping others in editing and peer recognition, not only make editors have a more positive opinion of the community, but also increase the likelihood of editing in the future.
2. Positive Reinforcement: Acknowledging the effort of editors is important to reverse the editor decline. It is a commonly held view that editors just want to see their articles improve and read by lots of people and they don't care about the opinion of their peers. This is false. The survey finds that acknowledgement of peers via a nice note or a barnstar (or kitten) is valued even more highly than achieving featured article status. To sustain and grow our community, we need to provide each other with positive feedback, and we should create tools to make it easy to do so.
3. Negative & positive interactions: It is also important to encourage new mechanisms for celebrating and rewarding excellent editor contributions within the community. Clearly, maintaining a positive environment on wikis through positive feedback loops is essential both for supporting current editors and attracting new ones. The Wikimedia movement will continue to support current editors through experimental tools like WikiLove that provide a channel for positive and fun interactions within the community. The movement will also support the recruitment and acculturation of new editors by encouraging a welcoming environment on Wikimedia projects. But we would also like to call upon our community to provide positive feedback to others. Negative experiences matter. Editors don't have hearts made of stone. Reverts without an explanation can negatively define an editor’s experience on Wikipedia and make them less likely to continue editing. However, editors are here to learn and improve. A revert with an explanation has no negative impact on an editor's desire to continue contributing and is, in fact, seen as a positive interaction. We need to find ways to reduce negative experiences and refine our automated tools to do a better job of differentiating a good faith edit from vandalism.


1. Increasing Geographic Diversity: The data from the survey shows that the majority of Wikipedians hail from North America or Europe, and to meet our strategic goal of increasing diversity – specifically, attracting more editors from the Global South – we will continue in our efforts to expand Wikipedia’s global footprint. We have a growing number of chapters around the world and WMF has set up an office in India and hired staff to support growth in India. Similar efforts are also beginning in Brazil. Our goal is to support the growth of the editing community with accelerated growth in areas where we are not yet strong.
2. Mobile and the Global South: In some of these regions, like India and Africa, desktop Internet has yet to see broader penetration, though mobile Internet is expanding rapidly, and it is no surprise that the mobile phone is the most popular device among editors. WMF has made it our priority to increase mobile page views, and we are currently revamping our mobile platform to provide better and faster access to smartphones as well as feature phones that don’t typically have apps or can’t be synced with computers. The new platform will have in-built editing functionalities that would allow for paragraph edits, sentence edits and picture uploads to Wikimedia Commons. Lastly, we are looking to establish partnerships with network providers in key strategic geographies like India and Brazil to provide access to Wikipedia at zero or near zero cost. This would help us increase our reach and bring free knowledge to those who can’t afford to pay for data access.
3. Language diversity: Survey respondents edit Wikipedia in over 100 languages. Interestingly, only 38% edit primarily in English, but 76% of all editors edit the English Wikipedia. This is quite shocking and points to the fact that our editor community does not reach far into non-English proficient communities. This poses a challenge for us as we seek to move into new geographies and segments of the population where English literacy is not prevalent. As we work towards increasing our global footprint we are committed to supporting less mature language projects and ensuring quality articles in native languages, especially in the Global South. We believe global partnerships with universities, cultural institutions and other groups who are aligned with our mission will help us create quality content in native languages. In India, as part of the Global Education Program, while most of the students are working on the English Wikipedia, some of the newly appointed campus ambassadors are focused on the Marathi (the native language in the state of Maharashtra) Wikipedia.


1. Social networking: Our data shows that Wikipedia editors use social networking technologies, like Facebook, frequently,. The Wikimedia movement has not systematically utilized social networking platforms as a means of communication, and there has been resistance on philosophical grounds to integration with social networks. The fact that most editors regularly use Facebook, and a significant minority use Twitter, is notable. We also know that women tend to be more active on social networks than men3 and social networks are growing rapidly in priority countries such as India and Brazil4. These facts raise the question of how these pervasive tools might support editor interaction and communications within the movement. The case for leveraging social networking may be important to the growth of the Wikimedia movement.


1. Raising awareness: Most editors are not knowledgeable about chapters or board elections. Since the Wikimedia movement is decentralized, the voices and opinions of community members are pertinent, and the WMF will continue to experiment with new ways of soliciting participation from editors in board elections. There is also a need for chapters to perform outreach within their countries to inform and involve community members in chapter work.
2. Support for work of the WMF & Other Volunteers: While editors were humble in their assessment of their own activities, they valued the work of their peers in the movement as well as the efforts of the Wikimedia Foundation. The WMF was glad to see that editors who sought information about us were generally satisfied, though we continue to find ways to improve.


Executive Summary
Editing Activities
Women Editors
Wikipedia Community
Location & Language
Technology & Networking
Foundation & Chapters




1 An active editor makes 5 or more edits in a month
2 As of Jun 2011: http://stats.wikimedia.org/EN/TablesWikipediaZZ.htm#activitylevels
3 Women spend 30% more time on social web than men http://socialtimes.com/women-more-on-social-web-than-men_b18934
4 BCG report: The Internet’s New Billion http://www.slideshare.net/agarwalvaibhav/bcg-internet-report