“What determines the size of the population of Wikipedians?”

Michael Stone, July 4, 2012, , (src), (all posts)

Let \(n\) be Wikipedia’s age in days. Yesterday, \(W(n-1)\) people edited Wikipedia. Today, \(W(n)\) people are editing Wikipedia. Tomorrow, \(W(n+1)\) shall edit. What determines \(W(n)\)? How are \(W(n+30)\) and \(W(n+365)\) related to \(W(n)\)?

Members of the Wikimedia community have been thinking for nearly a decade about questions like these. For example, a quick search for “wikipedia more editors” yielded these historical references:

Year Article
2003 Meta: Wikipedia needs editors
2006 Wikipedia: Recruiting Editors Brainstorming
2006 Aaron Swartz: “Making More Wikipedians”
2011 Sue Gardner: “Nine reasons why women don’t edit wikipedia (in their own words)”
2012 Signpost: “Foundation restructures to focus on editor retention”
2012 NPR: “As Wikipedia gets pickier, editors become harder to find”
2012 Wikipedia: Editor Engagement

Unfortunately, despite the long-standing interest that these questions have engendered, answers that are both convincing and comprehensive remain few and far between.

In the following series of posts, I will suggest several ways that I have been learning to think about systems of questions like these. Some specific perspectives that I hope to touch on include:

and perhaps others as I discover them. :-)