A couple weeks ago, I attended a session at SXSW Interactive, in which USC Professor of Journalism Andrew Lih talked at length about the declining rate of Wikpedia entry editing. A large part of the problem, as Lih presented it, is that the editorial process itself has become much more complex and confusing over time.
For example, the editorial language has gotten more vague. They also used to flat out ask people to edit articles, and now they just say, "anyone can edit." Editors have to undergo an extensive interrogation process before they are allowed to edit, and the markup on the edit pages, once they get there, is just too complex (even for some of the more tech-savvy editors).
On Friday, the Wikimedia Foundation laid out some changes it has coming in April. Among theses were some adjustments to the editorial process. They said:
- We're reducing the amount of wiki code users see in the edit system and making it possible to change data in tables and information boxes through simple forms.
- We're cleaning up the edit page itself, to use more understandable language and get rid of confusing clutter.
- We're providing a new outline tool to navigate a long article while you’re editing it.
- We're simplifying the search by getting rid of the confusing combination of the "go" and "search" buttons, moving instead towards one search button.
These changes may not instantly boost Wikipedia editing to the ideal rate, but clearly the Wikimedia Foundation has acknowledged the difficulties in editing, and is at least making an attempt to ease the process.