2015年6月24日 星期三

Can Wikipedia Survive?

Can Wikipedia Survive?
By ANDREW LIH June 24, 2015
酈安治 2015年06月24日

WASHINGTON — WIKIPEDIA has come a long way since it started in 2001. With around 70,000 volunteers editing in over 100 languages​​, it is by far the world's most popular reference site. Its future is also uncertain.


One of the biggest threats it faces is the rise of smartphones as the dominant personal computing device. A recent Pew Research Center report found that 39 of the top 50 news sites received more traffic from mobile devices than from desktop and laptop computers, sales of which have declined for years.

維基百科面臨的最大威脅之一是智能手機的崛起,它已成為佔據主導地位的個人計算設備。皮尤研究中心(Pew Research Center)最近發布的一項報告發現,在前50家新聞網站中,39家網站接收的來自移動設備的流量,超過來自台式機和筆記本電腦的流量。而台式​​機和筆記本電腦的銷量多年來一直呈下滑趨勢。

This is a challenge for Wikipedia, which has always depended on contributors hunched over keyboards searching references, discussing changes and writing articles using a special markup code. Even before smartphones were widespread, studies consistently showed that these are daunting tasks for newcomers. “Not even our youngest and most computer-savvy participants accomplished these tasks with ease,” a 2009 user test concluded. The difficulty of bringing on new volunteers has resulted in seven straight years of declining editor participation.

對向來依靠志願者在鍵盤前弓身查找參考文獻、討論變更並用一種特殊的標記代碼撰寫文章的維基百科來說,這是一個挑戰。甚至在智能手機廣泛普及之前,就有研究一致表明,這些對新人來說是艱鉅的任務。 “哪怕是最年輕、最精通計算機的參與者也無法輕鬆完成這些任務,”2009年的一次用戶測試斷言。難以發展新志願者導致編輯參與程度連續七年下滑。

Mark Pernice
In 2005, during Wikipedia's peak years, there were months when more than 60 editors were made administrator — a position with special privileges in editing the English-language edition. For the past year, it has sometimes struggled to promote even one per month.


The pool of potential Wikipedia editors could dry up as the number of mobile users keeps growing; it's simply too hard to manipulate complex code on a tiny screen.


The nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, which oversees Wikipedia's operations but is not directly involved in content, is investigating solutions. Some ideas include touch-screen tools that would let Wikipedia editors sift through information and share content from their phones.

非營利性的維基媒體基金會(Wikimedia Foundation)負責維基百科的運行,但不直接參與內容編制。該基金會正在研究解決辦法。現在的一些想法包括設置觸摸屏工具,讓維基百科的編輯能在手機上仔細檢查信息並分享內容。

What has not suffered is fund-raising. The foundation, based in San Francisco, has a budget of ro​​ughly $60 million. How to fairly distribute resources has long been a topic of debate. How much should go to regional chapters and affiliates, or to groups devoted to non-English languages​​? How much should stay in the foundation to develop software, create mobile apps and maintain infrastructure?


These tensions run through the community. Last year the foundation took the unprecedented step of forcing the installation of new software on the German-language Wikipedia. The German editors had shown their independent streak by resisting an earlier update to the site's user interface. Against the wishes of veteran editors, the foundation installed a new way to view multimedia content and then set up an Orwellian-sounding “superprotect” feature to block obstinate administrators from changing it back.


The latest clash had repercussions in the election this year for seats to the Wikimedia Foundation's board of trustees — the most influential positions that volunteers can hold. The election — a record 5,000 voters turned out, nearly three times the number from the previous election — was a rebuke to the status quo; all three incumbents up for re-election were defeated, replaced by critics of the superprotect measures. Two other members will leave the 10-member board at the end of this year. Meanwhile, the foundation's new executive director , Lila Tretikov, has been hiring developers from the world of open-source technology, and their lack of experience with Wikipedia content has concerned some veterans.

距今最近的衝突,影響到了今年維基媒體基金會董事會席位的選舉。這是志願者能擔任的最有影響力的職位。此次選舉是對現狀的駁斥。投票人數達到了創紀錄的5000人,幾乎是上次選舉的三倍。謀求連任的三名現任董事全部敗北,被批評前述超級保護措施的人所取代。另外兩名董事將在今年年底離開設有10個席位的董事會。與此同時,基金會的新任執行董事麗拉·特拉蒂科夫(Lila Tretikov)一直在從開源科技界招募研發人員,但他們與維基百科內容有關的工作經驗的匱乏讓一些資深人士感到擔憂。

Could the pressure from mobile, and the internal tensions, tear Wikipedia apart? A world without it seems unimaginable, but consider the fate of other online communities. Founded in 1985, at the dawn of the Internet, the Well, the self-proclaimed “ birthplace of the online community movement,” hosted an influential cast of dot-com luminaries on its electronic bulletin board discussion forums. By 1995, it was in steep decline, and today it is a shell of its former self. Blogging, celebrated a decade ago as pioneering an exciting new form of personal writing, has decreased significantly in the social-media age.

來自移動領域的壓力,以及內部的緊張關係會最終摧毀維基百科嗎?世界沒了維基百科似乎無法想像,但想想其他在線社區的命運吧。自稱“網絡社區運​​動的發源地”的The Well創立於1985年,時值互聯網時代的黎明。在它的電子公告論壇上,曾有一眾頗具影響力的傑出網絡人物出沒。到了1995年,它急劇​​衰落。到今天,它已是空有其名了。在社交媒體時代,十年前被譽為開創了一種激動人心的個人寫作新形式的博客,已大幅衰落。

These are existential challenges, but they can still be addressed. There is no other significant alternative to Wikipedia, and good will toward the project — a remarkable feat of altruism — could hardly be higher. If the foundation needed more donations, it could surely raise them.


The real challenges for Wikipedia are to resolve the governance disputes — the tensions among foundation employees, longtime editors trying to protect their prerogatives, and new volunteers trying to break in — and to design a mobile-oriented editing environment. One board member, María Sefidari , warned that “some communities have become so change-resistant and innovation-averse” that they risk staying “stuck in 2006 while the rest of the Internet is thinking about 2020 and the next three billion users.”

維基百科真正的挑戰是解決管理方面的爭端,即基金會員工、努力保護既得權利的長期編輯和試圖進入權力中心並設計一種以移動設備為導向的編輯環境的新志願者之間的緊張局勢。一位名叫瑪麗亞·塞菲德里(María Sefidari)的董事會成員警告稱,“一些團體變得如此抵制變革、反對創新”以至於面臨著“固步自封在2006年的風險,而互聯網的其他參與者正在考慮2020年和接下來的30億用戶”。

For the last few years, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives and other world-class institutions, libraries and museums have collaborated with Wikipedia's volunteers to improve accuracy, quality of references and depth of multimedia on article pages. This movement dates from 2010, when the British Museum saw that Wikipedia's visitor traffic to articles about its artifacts was five times greater than that of the museum's own website. Grasping the power of Wikipedia to amplify its reach, the museum invited a Wikipedia editor to work with its curatorial staff. Since then , similar parternships have been set up with groups like the Cochrane Collaboration, a nonprofit organization that focuses on evidence-based health care, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

過去幾年裡,史密森尼學會(Smithsonian Institution)、美國國家檔案館(National Archives)和其他一些世界級機構、圖書館和博物館與維基百科的志願者展開合作,以改善準確性、參考文獻的質量和文章頁面上的多媒體深度。這項舉措可追溯到2010年。當時,大英博物館(British Museum)發現,維基百科上有關其藏品的文章的訪問量,是它自己網站的五倍。該博物館清楚地意識到,可以利用維基百科的力量來擴大自己的影響力,於是邀請維基百科的一名編輯和自己的策展員工合作。從那時起,維基百科還和關注循證醫療保健的非營利性組織科克倫協作網(Cochrane Collaboration)及美國疾病控制與預防中心(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)等組織建立起了類似的合作關係。

These are vital opportunities for Wikipedia to tap external expertise and enlarge its base of editors. It is also the most promising way to solve the considerable and often-noted gender gap among Wikipedia editors; in 2011, less than 15 percent were women.

這些是維基百科利用外部專業知識,並擴大編輯基礎的重要機會,也是解決常被提到的維基百科編輯中性別差距巨大這個問題最具潛力的方法。 2011年,其女性編輯所佔比例不足15%。

The worst scenario is an end to Wikipedia, not with a bang but with a whimper: a long, slow decline in participation, accuracy and usefulness that is not quite dramatic enough to jolt the community into making meaningful reforms.


No effort in history has gotten so much information at so little cost into the hands of so many — a feat made all the more remarkable by the absence of profit and owners. In an age of Internet giants, this most selfless of websites is worth saving .


Andrew Lih is an associate professor ​​of journalism at American University and the author of “The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World's Greatest Encyclopedia.”
Copyright © 2013 The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.
酈安治(Andrew Lih)是美國大學新聞系副教授,著有《維基百科革命:無名小卒如何建構世界上最偉大的百科全書》(The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World's Greatest Encyclopedia)。