Re: New poll for sikmleaders - Why don't more people edit wikis? #poll #wikis

David Snowden <snowded@...>

I fully endorse this comment.  It is one of the major problems with surveys.  The responses are limited to the range of hypotheses envisaged by the researcher and as a result (i) false conclusions are drawn and (ii) key things are missed.

As an active participant in Wikipedia, accross around 15 articles at the moment I think the reasons are very different.  For example
1 - Keeping a site free from vandalism and stupidity takes time, so you have to value the contents of the site
2 - There are natural limits of any community, and wikipedia pages are no exception, beyond which coherence is impossible.  So for the articles in which I am involved I feel that I know the other main participants

Neither of these reasons comes out in the poll
It is no contribution to knowledge (in fact it is the opposite) to assume that anything can be gained by suggest four simplistic answers to a complex problem.  

Dave Snowden
Founder & Chief Scientific Officer
Cognitive Edge Pte Ltd

Now blogging at

On 25 Apr 2007, at 19:43, Gent, Andrew wrote:

>> A new poll has been created for the sikmleaders group [...] it appears that most of Wikipedia editing is done by a very small group of people. Why do you think this is? Why don't more people take advantage of capturing their knowledge in such a public place?
I'm obviously in a somewhat contrary mood, because I couldn't find a response to the survey that I was comfortable with. After thinking about it for a while, I realized that my problem is with the question itself: it implies there is something wrong with the current situation. Most of the allowable responses to the survey assert a negative cause (too "new", "too difficult...", "too intimidating...") and the only other alternative is that there is "no need".
A more interesting question might be why would we assume more people would participate? Past experiences with community technologies have all demonstrated pretty much the same participant/lurker ratio, whether it is bulletin boards, newsgroups, forums, or the older non-technical vehicles such as town meetings, PTAs, and bake sales. The one exception I can think of is blogs -- where there seem to be almost as many blogs as blog readers -- at least in comparative terms.
So, as a KM practitioner, despite my initial negative reaction, I appreciate whoever posted the survey for raising the question because of the alternatives it brings to light:
  • Why would we think wikipedia should induce more participation than our previous community-building efforts?
  • And if it should, how can we turn that around and apply it to our internal communities (my experiences with wikis inside the firewall have been less than impressive to date)?
Andrew Gent

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