The founders of the wikipedia claim that most of the work is done by a small group of 500 contributors.Â This afternoon I ran across an interesting post concerning, “Who writes wikipedia.“Â Aaron explains,
When you put it all together, the story become clear: an outsider makes one edit to add a chunk of information, then insiders make several edits tweaking and reformatting it. In addition, insiders rack up thousands of edits doing things like changing the name of a category across the entire site — the kind of thing only insiders deeply care about. As a result, insiders account for the vast majority of the edits. But it’s the outsiders who provide nearly all of the content.
And when you think about it, this makes perfect sense. Writing an encyclopedia is hard. To do anywhere near a decent job, you have to know a great deal of information about an incredibly wide variety of subjects. Writing so much text is difficult, but doing all the background research seems impossible.
On the other hand, everyone has a bunch of obscure things that, for one reason or another, they’ve come to know well. So they share them, clicking the edit link and adding a paragraph or two to Wikipedia. At the same time, a small number of people have become particularly involved in Wikipedia itself, learning its policies and special syntax, and spending their time tweaking the contributions of everybody else.
Other encyclopedias work similarly, just on a much smaller scale: a large group of people write articles on topics they know well, while a small staff formats them into a single work. This second group is clearly very important — it’s thanks to them encyclopedias have a consistent look and tone — but it’s a severe exaggeration to say that they wrote the encyclopedia. One imagines the people running Britannica worry more about their contributors than their formatters.
This explaination makes the most sense to me.Â How could 500 people know everything?Â It makes much more sense that tens if not hundreds of thousands of people have something to contribute and an elite group of 500 do most of the formatting.Â Nice work. . .