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Wikipedia’s new editing software gets failing grade

By Gregory Kohs

This article first appeared at Examiner.com

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If you’re not one of the 34,000 or so people who edit the English Wikipedia at least five times per month, you may not have noticed the change that has taken place on the massive encyclopedia, but a highly controversial change has indeed been implemented by Wikipedia’s management team. In the past two weeks, a new “Visual Editor” has been deployed on Wikipedia, which purportedly enables users who want to change text in the encyclopedia to do so more easily and directly, without diving into the arcane “wikitext” markup language that has stymied many users for years. The problem is, the new software is riddled with flaws, and as of yesterday (July 19), the Wikimedia Foundation employee in charge of the deployment, Oliver Keyes, is apparently trying to hide the fact that the “old” platform was more effective at engaging editors than the new platform. Keyes rejects calls from the community to take down the Visual Editor until it can be fixed properly.

For anyone following the Wikimedia Foundation’s management over the past few years, it is clear that reversing the slow decline in editor engagement on the various language Wikipedias has been the top priority. Without volunteers beavering away at Wikipedia’s mountain of information, the Foundation knows that cash donations could be the next thing to suffer. However, rather than admit that the hostile personality culture that permeates the back pages of Wikipedia may be the thing most eroding editor retention, the Foundation has instead fixated on the editing software interface as the key problem. It was believed that a “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) document interface would fatten the ranks of people willing to dive into Wikipedia and

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