The Wikipedia community is the community of contributors who create and maintain the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Individual contributors are known as "Wikipedians". added the word "Wikipedian" in August 2012.[1]

Almost all Wikipedians are volunteers. With the increased maturity and visibility of Wikipedia, other categories of Wikipedians have emerged, such as Wikipedians in residence and students with assignments related to editing Wikipedia.


Studies of the Wikipedia community's size showed an exponential growth in the number of contributors during the early years. In April 2008, writer and lecturer Clay Shirky and computer scientist Martin Wattenberg estimated the total time spent creating Wikipedia at roughly 100 million hours.[2] In November 2011, there were approximately 31.7 million registered user accounts across all language editions, of which around 270,000 were "active" (made at least one edit every month).[3]

The English Wikipedia, the largest language edition, as of September 2021 had 0 editors who have performed an edit in the last 30 days ("active users"), and an unknown number of contributors without an account. About half the active editors spend at least one hour a day editing, and a fifth spend more than three hours a day.[4]

Gender diversity

Wikipedia editor demographics (2008)

A study published in 2010 found that the contributor base to Wikipedia "was barely 13% women; the average age of a contributor was in the mid-20s".[5] A 2011 study by researchers from the University of Minnesota found that females comprised 16.1% of the 38,497 editors who started editing Wikipedia during 2009.[6] In a January 2011 New York Times article, Noam Cohen observed that just 13% of Wikipedia's contributors are female according to a 2008 Wikimedia Foundation survey.[7] Sue Gardner, a former executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, hoped to see female contributions increase to 25% by 2015.[8] Linda Basch, president of the National Council for Research on Women, noted the contrast in these Wikipedia editor statistics with the percentage of women currently completing bachelor's degrees, master's degrees and PhD programs in the United States (all at rates of 50 percent or greater).[9]

In response, various universities have hosted edit-a-thons to encourage more women to participate in the Wikipedia community. In fall 2013, 15 colleges and universities — including Yale, Brown, and Penn State — offered college credit for students to "write feminist thinking" about technology into Wikipedia.[10] A 2008 self-selected survey of the diversity of contributors by highest educational degree indicated that sixty-two percent of responding Wikipedia editors had attained either a high school or undergraduate college education.[11]

In August 2014, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales said in a BBC interview that the Wikimedia Foundation was "... really doubling down our efforts ..." to reach 25% of female editors (originally targeted by 2015), since the Foundation had "totally failed" so far. Wales said "a lot of things need to happen ... a lot of outreach, a lot of software changes".[12] Andrew Lih, writing in The New York Times, was quoted by Bloomberg News in December 2016 as supporting Wales's comments concerning shortfalls in Wikipedia's outreach to female editors. Lih states his concern with the question indicating that: "How can you get people to participate in an [editing] environment that feels unsafe, where identifying yourself as a woman, as a feminist, could open you up to ugly, intimidating behavior".[13]


Error missing media source
Video which articulates the enthusiasm of the Wikipedia community
Data from April 2011 Editor Survey shows the top reported reasons for continuing to contribute
Data from April 2011 Editor Survey shows the top reported reasons for hating to contribute

Various studies have been done with regard to the motivations of Wikipedia contributors. In a 2003 study of Wikipedia as a community, economics Ph.D. student Andrea Ciffolilli argued that the low transaction costs of participating in wiki software create a catalyst for collaborative development, and that a "creative construction" approach encourages participation.[14] A paper written by Andrea Forte and Amy Bruckman in 2005, called "Why Do People Write for Wikipedia? Incentives to Contribute to Open-Content Publishing", discussed the possible motivations of Wikipedia contributors. It applied Latour and Woolgar's concept of the cycle of credit to Wikipedia contributors, suggesting that the reason that people write for Wikipedia is to gain recognition within the community.[15]

Oded Nov, in his 2007 paper "What Motivates Wikipedians", related the motivations of volunteers in general to the motivations of people who contribute to Wikipedia.[16] Nov carried out a survey using the six motivations of volunteers, identified in an earlier paper.[17] The six motivations he used were:

  • Values – expressing values to do with altruism and helping others
  • Social – engaging with friends, taking part in activities viewed favourably by others
  • Understanding – expanding knowledge through activities
  • Career – gaining work experience and skills
  • Protective – e.g., reducing guilt over personal privilege
  • Enhancement – demonstrating knowledge to others

To these six motivations he also added:

  • Ideology – expressing support for what is perceived to be the underlying ideology of the activity (e.g., the belief that knowledge should be free)
  • Fun – enjoying the activity

The survey found that the most commonly indicated motives were "fun", "ideology", and "values", whereas the least frequently indicated motives were "career", "social", and "protective".[16]

The Wikimedia Foundation has carried out several surveys of Wikipedia contributors and users. In 2008, the Wikimedia Foundation, alongside the Collaborative Creativity Group at UNU-Merit, launched a survey of readers and editors of Wikipedia. It was the most comprehensive survey of Wikipedia ever conducted.[18] The results of the survey were published two years later on March 24, 2010.[19] The Wikimedia Foundation began a process in 2011 of semi-annual surveys in order to understand Wikipedia editors more and better cater to their needs.[20][21]

"Motivations of Wikipedia Content Contributors", a paper by Heng-Li Yang and Cheng-Yu Lai, hypothesised that, because contributing to Wikipedia is voluntary, an individual's enjoyment of participating would be the highest motivator.[22] However, their study showed that although people might initially start editing Wikipedia out of enjoyment, the most likely motivation for continuing to participate is self-concept based motivations such as "I like to share knowledge which gives me a sense of personal achievement."[22]

A further study in 2014 by Cheng-Yu Lai and Heng-Li Yang explored the reasons why people continue editing Wikipedia content. The study used authors of the English-language version of the site and received 288 valid online survey responses. Their results indicated and confirmed that subjective task value, commitment, and procedural justice were significant to satisfaction of Wikipedians; and satisfaction significantly influenced an author's continued intention to edit Wikipedia content.[23]

Editors of Wikipedia have occasionally given personal testimonials of why they contribute to Wikipedia. A common theme of these testimonials is the enjoyment that editors seem to get from contributing to Wikipedia and being part of the Wikipedia community. Also mentioned is the potential addictive quality of editing Wikipedia. Gina Trapani of Lifehacker said "it turns out editing an article isn't scary at all. It's easy, surprisingly satisfying and can become obsessively addictive."[24] Jimmy Wales has also commented on the addictive quality of Wikipedia, saying "The main thing about Wikipedia ... is that it’s fun and addictive".[25] Wikipedians sometimes award one another "barnstars" for good work. These personalized tokens of appreciation reveal a wide range of valued work extending far beyond simple editing to include social support, administrative actions, and types of articulation work. The barnstar phenomenon has been analyzed by researchers seeking to determine what implications it might have for other communities engaged in large-scale collaborations.[26]


Wikipedia has spawned several community news publications. An online newsletter, The Signpost, has been published since January 10, 2005.[27] Professional cartoonist Greg Williams created a webcomic called WikiWorld which ran in The Signpost from 2006 to 2008.[28] A podcast called Wikipedia Weekly was active from 2006 to 2009 and sporadically thereafter,[29][30] while a series of conference calls titled "Not the Wikipedia Weekly" ran from 2008 to 2009.[30] Some topic-specific communities within Wikipedia called "WikiProjects" have also distributed newsletters and other correspondence.


Offline activities are organized by the Wikimedia Foundation or the community of Wikipedia.


Wikimania, an annual conference for users of Wikipedia and other projects operated by the Wikimedia Foundation

Wikimania is an annual international conference for users of the wiki projects operated by the Wikimedia Foundation (such as Wikipedia and other sister projects). Topics of presentations and discussions include Wikimedia Foundation projects, other wikis, open-source software, free knowledge and free content, and the different social and technical aspects which relate to these topics.


United States

Wiknic 2011 in Pittsburgh

The annual Great American Wiknic is a social gathering that takes place in major cities of the United States each year during the summer, usually just prior to the 4th of July. The Wiknic concept allows Wikipedians to bring together picnic food and to interact in a personal way.[31]

There is also a yearly WikiConference North America.


Wikipedia has been subject to several kinds of criticism.[32][33] For example, the Seigenthaler and Essjay incidents caused criticism of Wikipedia's reliability and usefulness as a reference.[34][35][36] The complaints related to the community include the effects of users' anonymity, the attitudes towards newcomers, the abuse of privileges by administrators, biases in the social structure of the community, in particular, gender bias and lack of female contributors,[37] and the role of the project's co-founder Jimmy Wales, in the community.[38] A significant controversy was stirred with paid contributors to Wikipedia, which prompted the Wikimedia Foundation to send a cease and desist letter to the Wiki-PR agency.[39] Wikipedia relies on the efforts of its community members to remove vandalism from articles.

Wikipedia's co-founder Larry Sanger, who later founded Citizendium — a rival project — characterized the Wikipedia community in 2007 as ineffective and abusive, stating that "The community does not enforce its own rules effectively or consistently. Consequently, administrators and ordinary participants alike are able essentially to act abusively with impunity, which begets a never-ending cycle of abuse."[40] Oliver Kamm, of The Times, expressed skepticism toward Wikipedia's reliance on consensus in forming its content: "Wikipedia seeks not truth but consensus, and like an interminable political meeting the end result will be dominated by the loudest and most persistent voices."[41]


A Wikipedia Monument, by Mihran Hakobyan, was erected in Słubice, Poland in 2014 to honor the Wikipedia community.[42]

The 2015 Erasmus Prize was awarded to the Wikipedia community for "[promoting] the dissemination of knowledge through a comprehensive and universally accessible encyclopedia. To achieve that, the initiators of Wikipedia have designed a new and effective democratic platform. The prize specifically recognizes Wikipedia as a community — a shared project that involves tens of thousands of volunteers around the world."[43]

On the other hand, Wikipedia policy states that it is not a democracy.

See also


  1. ^ "Hella ridic new words to make you lolz: ODO August 2012 update". OxfordWords blog. Oxford University Press. 2012-08-23. Retrieved 2012-09-27.
  2. ^ Shirky, Clay (7 May 2008). "Gin, Television, and Social Surplus". World Changing. Archived from the original on 29 December 2015. Retrieved 8 Jun 2014.
  3. ^ List of Wikipedias. Wikimedia Meta-Wiki. Retrieved 2011-11-18.
  4. ^ Simonite, Tom (October 22, 2013). "The Decline of Wikipedia". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  5. ^ "Where Are the Women in Wikipedia? – Room for Debate". February 2, 2011. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
  6. ^ Lam, Shyong; Anuradha Uduwage; Zhenhua Dong; Shilad Sen; David R. Musicant; Loren Terveen; John Riedl (October 3–5, 2011). "WP:Clubhouse? An Exploration of Wikipedia's Gender Imbalance" (PDF). WikiSym 2011. Retrieved October 28, 2013.
  7. ^ Cohen, Noam. "Define Gender Gap? Look Up Wikipedia's Contributor List". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved October 28, 2013.
  8. ^ Chom, Noam (January 31, 2011). "Define Gender Gap? Look Up Wikipedia's Contributor List". The New York Times. p. B–1. Retrieved May 9, 2012.
  9. ^ Basch, Linda (February 6, 2011). "Male-Dominated Web Site Seeking Female Experts" (Letters to the Editor). The New York Times. p. WK–7. Retrieved May 9, 2012.
  10. ^ "OCAD to 'Storm Wikipedia' this fall". CBC News. August 27, 2013. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  11. ^ Wikimedia Foundation (April 2009). "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 18, 2016. Retrieved December 27, 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ "Wikipedia 'completely failed' to fix gender imbalance". BBC News. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
  13. ^ Dimitra Kessenides (December 26, 2017). Bloomberg News Weekly, "Is Wikipedia 'Woke'". p. 73.
  14. ^ Ciffolilli, Andrea. "Phantom authority, self-selective recruitment and retention of members in virtual communities: The case of Wikipedia", First Monday December 2003.
  15. ^ Forte, Amy; Bruckman, Andrea (2005). "Why Do People Write for Wikipedia? Incentives to Contribute to Open-Content Publishing". SIGGROUP 2005 Workshop: Sustaining Community: 6–9. CiteSeerX
  16. ^ a b Nov, Oded (2007). "What Motivates Wikipedians?". Communications of the ACM. 50 (11): 60–64. doi:10.1145/1297797.1297798. S2CID 16517355.
  17. ^ Clary, E.; Snyder, M.; Ridge, R.; Copeland, J.; Stukas, A.; Haugen, J. & Miene, P. (1998). "Understanding and assessing the motivations of volunteers: A functional approach". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 74 (6): 1516–1530. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.74.6.1516. PMID 9654757.
  18. ^ Möller, Erik. "New Reports from November 2008 Survey Released". Wikimedia Foundation Blog. Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  19. ^ Glott, Ruediger; Schmidt, Phillipp; Ghosh, Rishab. "Wikipedia Survey – Overview of Results" (PDF). Wikipedia Study. UNU-MERIT. Archived from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 8 December 2015.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  20. ^ Wikimedia Foundation. "Wikipedia editors do it for fun: First results of our 2011 editor survey". Wikimedia Foundation Blog. Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
  21. ^ Wikimedia Foundation. "Launching our semi-annual Wikipedia editors survey". Wikimedia Foundation Blog. Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
  22. ^ a b Yang, Heng-Li; Lai, Cheng-Yu (November 2010). "Motivations of Wikipedia content contributors". Computers in Human Behavior. 26 (6): 1377–1383. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2010.04.011.
  23. ^ Cheng-Yu Lai; Heng-Li Yang (2014). "The reasons why people continue editing Wikipedia content – task value confirmation perspective". Behaviour & Information Technology. 33 (12): 1371–1382. doi:10.1080/0144929X.2014.929744. S2CID 29742930.
  24. ^ Trampani, Gina. "Geek to Live: How to contribute to Wikipedia". Lifehacker. Gawker Media. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
  25. ^ Griffin, Ricky W. (2011). Management (10th ed.). Mason, Ohio: South-Western Cengage Learning. ISBN 978-1-4390-8099-3.
  26. ^ T. Kriplean; I. Beschastnikh; et al. (2008). "Articulations of wikiwork". Articulations of wikiwork: uncovering valued work in Wikipedia through barnstars. Proceedings of the ACM. p. 47. doi:10.1145/1460563.1460573. ISBN 978-1-60558-007-4.
  27. ^ Phoebe Ayers; Charles Matthews; Ben Yates (2008). How Wikipedia Works: And how You Can be a Part of it. No Starch Press. p. 345. ISBN 978-1-59327-176-3. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
  28. ^ "WIKIWORLD COMICS by Greg Williams". WIKIWORLD COMICS by Greg Williams. Retrieved 2017-04-12.
  29. ^ "Wikipedia Weekly". Wikipedia Weekly. Retrieved 2017-04-12.
  30. ^ a b Lih, Andrew (2009-03-17). "Adminship". The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World's Greatest Encyclopedia. Hachette Books. ISBN 9781401395858.
  31. ^ Hesse, Monica (25 June 2011). "Wikipedia editors log off long enough to mingle". The Washington Post. Retrieved 5 July 2011.
  32. ^ Wikipedia isn't about human potential, whatever Wales says. The Guardian. Published September 25, 2008.
  33. ^ Why you should care that Jimmy Wales ignores reality. The Register. Published March 6, 2008.
  34. ^ John Seigenthaler (2005-11-29). "A false Wikipedia "biography"". USA Today.
  35. ^ Katharine Q. Seelye (December 3, 2005) "Snared in the Web of a Wikipedia Liar" The New York Times
  36. ^ Cohen, Noam (2007-03-05). "A Contributor to Wikipedia Has His Fictional Side". The New York Times.
  37. ^ Cohen, Noam (January 30, 2011). "Define Gender Gap? Look Up Wikipedia's Contributor List". New York Times. Retrieved August 15, 2012.
  38. ^ Cohen, Noam (March 17, 2008). "Open-Source Troubles in Wiki World". The New York Times.
  39. ^ Chang, Andrea (20 November 2013). "Wikimedia Foundation sends cease and desist letter to Wiki-PR". Los Angeles Times.
  40. ^ Bogatin, Donna (March 25, 2007). "Can Wikipedia handle the truth?". ZDNet. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2013-10-23.
  41. ^ Wisdom? More like dumbness of the crowds | Oliver Kamm – Times Online (archive version 2011-08-14) (Author’s own copy)
  42. ^ "Poland to Honor Wikipedia With Monument". ABC News. 9 October 2014. Archived from the original on 11 October 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2017.
  43. ^ "Former Laureates". Praemium Erasmianum Foundation. Retrieved 4 January 2017.

External links