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The other way around

By Richard Tylman (Wikipedia user Poeticbent)

Back in 2006 R.I.P. Aaron Swartz, a fellow Wikipedian, attempted to challenge the results of research presented by Jimbo Wales at Stanford – part of his standard talk. Wales revealed that over 50 per cent of the total number of edits in Wikipedia were made by the shocking 0.7% of users; while 73.4 per cent of all contributions, came from just 2% of them … 1,400 people in all. The remaining edits came from “people who [were] contributing … a minor change of a fact or a minor spelling fix.”[1] Skeptical yet curious, Swartz asked himself: “So did the Gang of 500 actually write Wikipedia?” He performed his own quantitative research, analyzing not the number of edits (pride and joy of long-established users); but rather, the actual letters per individual volunteer added into the current body of selected articles amounting to their actual content value.[1] The results were even more shocking. The study by Swartz has shown that, while the “insiders account for the vast majority of the edits,” it was the occasional contributors who provided nearly all of the content value there.[2] Swartz has alluded to the possibility that “newbie masses” may be the real life-blood of Wikipedia, not the “experts”.

Some time earlier Larry Sanger suggested that Wikipedia should stick to its core group of hard working insiders.[3][4][5] Swartz proclaimed exactly the opposite: “Wikipedians must jettison their elitism” and embrace the newbie masses with respect. He quoted Seth Anthony confirming his revelations. “The average content-adder – as Anthony commented – has less than 200 edits: much less, in many cases.”[3]

So did the newbie masses actually write Wikipedia? The fact is … we’re not supposed to know who the logged-in content-adders are. We can only speculate about their motives as if they

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