Wikipedia Gets Big Grant To Simplify Contribution Process

    December 4, 2008

Back in March, the official article count for all versions of Wikipedia combined hit 10 million.  It was an impressive moment, but one that might have come much sooner if not for some overly complicated procedures.  So Wikipedia has been given a large grant to make contributing to the volunteer-written encyclopedia easier.

Want to know how difficult contributing is as things stand?  Take a look at Wikipedia’s own 4,600-word piece on editing articles.  Between its length and the markup language, it’s the sort of thing that will cause even English majors to say, "I ain’t reading all that."

Wikipedia Page
 Wikipedia’s Lengthy Editing Guide

Sue Gardner, the Wikimedia Foundation’s executive director, acknowledged in a statement, "Wikipedia attracts writers who have a moderate-to-high level of technical understanding, but it excludes lots of smart, knowledgeable people who are less tech-centric.  One of our key priorities is to attract those people and persuade them to help write and edit the encyclopedia."

And the Stanton Foundation has stepped in with $890,000 to make that happen.  Its money should back a small project team.  According to a release, the team will "commission research to identify the most common barriers to entry for first-time writers, and then work to systematically reduce or eliminate them.  It will specifically focus on hiding complex elements of the user interface from people who don’t need them."

This effort is scheduled to start in January and continue through April 2010.  Improvements should be rolled out along the way, and it’ll no doubt be interesting to see what sort of new interest in Wikipedia comes about as a result.