Wikipedia Aiming For More Contributors

The online encyclopedia is tapping US colleges for new recruits to boost the number of people who update entries

Online encyclopedia Wikipedia isn't in danger of dying, but an extra dose of contributors would give it a much-needed shot in the arm.

At Wikipedia's annual conference this week, founder Jimmy Wales warned that Wikipedia is slowly losing contributors. He said the issue was an important one that Wikipedia needed to focus on.

Wales blamed the drop in contributions on Wikipedia's editing guidelines, which many users feel have gotten more complex in recent years. While long-time users are busy in edit wars about the minutia of Wikipedia entries, new users are often left in the dark or chastised for not creating articles in the proper format.

The best solution is to make edits easier for new users. Wikipedia also is trying some other fixes.

Among them: Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation non-profit that runs Wikipedia, said the organization is working with college professors to have students assigned Wikipedia articles as class work. Users can now also send each other virtual badges in a program called WikiLove to encourage more participation.

It's unclear how effective these strategies will be, though Wales also was quick to point out that some of the attrition was natural.

The typical Wikipedia user, who Wales described as "a 26-year-old geeky male," is bound to move on to other things eventually and, after 10 years, there simply aren't as many things for new users to add.

Wikipedia has more than 3 million entries, but by March had only about 90,000 active contributors, according to The Associated Press, which reports that Gardner says the goal is to add another 5,000 by June of next year.

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