Wikimania Talk notes: “Where have all the editors gone?”

I’ll copy and paste my notes for some of the talks at Wikimania 2007 here, in case it’s helpful so that everyone can follow what’s going on. As such they will be in point / summary form, rather than well-formed prose:


Talk:”Where have all the editors gone?” by Seth Anthony. Background in chemistry education. User since 2003 – and has seen people come and go. This raised some questions for him:


Who adds real content to the Wikipedia? Not just correcting typos and wikification.


Not all edits are created equal. Some are negative (e.g. vandalism). Some are positive (e.g. tweaks, spelling, formatting, wikifying), and some are really positive (adding content). Some have possible value (e.g. admin / bureaucracy / discussion).


Made a study using a sample of edits to the Wikipedia. (Size of sample not clear.)

Facts & figures on findings:

  • 28% of edits: outside article namespace.
  • 10% article talk pages.
  • 62% article namespace.

(i.e. 1/3 of the edits are not about the articles)


Breakdown of edits:

  • 5% vandalism
  • 45% of edits are tweaking / minor changes / adding categories.
  • 12% content creation. Of that, 10% is adding content to already existing articles, and 2% is creating new articles.
  • Rest? (Probably discussion?)


So only 12% of edits create fresh content.


Of these 12%, was most interested in this, so broke this down:

  • 0% were made by admins
  • 69% were registered users.
  • 31% were created by anon users, or non-logged in users.


… and only 52% were by people who had a user page. I.e. only half of the people had a name-based online identity.


Editors are not homogeneous.


Content creators, versus admins (for the English Wikipedia, in 2007) :

Admins Content creators

Num Edits 12900 edits 1700 edits (admins edit more)

% main namepsace 51% 81% (admins spend less proportion of time on content)

Ave num edits/page 2.27 2.2 (same)

edits per day 16 5 (admins more active)


Breakdown of each group:


Breakdown of Content creators –

  • Anons – 24% of high content edits are anon users. Drive-by editors. Who are they? One time editors. Are they normal editors who are accidentally logged out?
  • 28% are “dabblers”. fewer than 150 edits. Editing more than 1 month. Not very likely to have a user page.
  • 48% are “wikipedians”. More than 1 edit per day. Almost all have edited within the last week. They create articles. They tend to have a focus area e.g. “Swedish royalty” – great work in a specific area. They are subject area editors. Generally have > 500 edits.


Admins breakdown – have 2 groups – “A” and “B”

  • Admins A: 70% of admins make 20%-60% of their edits in the article space.
  • Admins B: 30% of admins have 60-90% edits in the article space. Only 1/3 of admins are in this class.


Were group “B” admins once “anon wikipedians”? The short answer seems to be “yes”.

  • Admins A: Early edits were less on articles.
  • Admins B: Early edits were more on articles.


So 4 distinct groups of editors:

  • Anons / drive-by editors
  • Occasional dabblers
  • Subject area editors – Anons + Admins B
  • Professional bureaucrats – Admins A.


A possible early indicator: Type A admins create their user page sooner than Admins B :=)

4 thoughts on “Wikimania Talk notes: “Where have all the editors gone?”

  1. Thanks for sharing your notes. This was one talk I wished I could have attended, but due to various reasons I was unable to attend Wikimania this year.

    One point in your notes that I am concerned about: that at one point you say 0% of Admins contribute substantial edits. Well, I’m an Admin, & most of my edits (although not in the last week or two) have been with the intent to contribute content. Over the last 9 months, the articles I started included almost 600 on the local administrative subdivisions of Ethiopia. They may not be Featured Article material, but I tried my utmost to add everything I could find about these woredas — or districts. In fact, so much of my contributions are aimed at improving content that I probably ignored my Admin responsibilities. Some days I wonder if I should resign this priviledge, even though I doubt I would ever gain it back.

    Can you tell us anything about his methodology in arriving at these statistics?


  2. what David said. please fix :(

    BTW these are great notes, I missed this talk, so thanks for posting them.:)

  3. llywrch says: “One point in your notes that I am concerned about: that at one point you say 0% of Admins contribute substantial edits.”

    Nick asked me to address this point, so I’ll try. That set of statistics come from a sample of 250 recent changes edits. Of that 250, 12% (about 30) were “high content” edits, and of those 30 edits, 0 were made by admins.

    Obviously, admins are responsible for a lot of “high content” edits… but given that none showed up in my sample, we can say they probably amount to only a small fraction of the total number of high content edits made to Wikipedia.

    The flip side of the question: what percentage of admin edits are “high content” edits… is something I hope to work on soon; the time-consuming portion of this research is actually classifying individual edits, and to get a really good grasp on editing patterns (and especially on how editing patterns change with time), we’ll need much larger samples of classified edits.

    Hope that answers your question, although if not, feel free to ask me directly ( [[en:User:Sethant]] ) ! Also, if you’re interested, check out the slides from the talk, at

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