User talk:Robert W King

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Why is contribution down lately?

Any ideas? Robert W King 17:06, 4 August 2011 (UTC)

Well, the most obvious reason is that by far the most prolific contributor has been banned. And then there are those who have reduced or halted their contributions because they're not happy with the way the site's being run. And others may be able to suggest other reasons. You might like to discuss it at RationalWiki, where they find this site holds a horrible fascination. Peter Jackson 17:33, 4 August 2011 (UTC)
I'd speculate that (i) the financial situation casts a shadow over the future, and (ii) the quality of articles is declining as the number of participants to keep things in review is too small. A snowball effect may be in progress. John R. Brews 18:21, 4 August 2011 (UTC)
Well, then. Robert W King 17:36, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
It was fun while it lasted! Feel free to email me or leave a message on my page if you wish to stay in contact while I pursue my academia. (I am not optimistic.) Robert W King 17:37, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes' we've lost Howard Berkowitz who was very prolific. His abundant edits did tend to make recent changes look impressive, and overall the other contributions are down some as well. A couple of our editors jumped ship when the financial situation caused them concern that their edits wouldn't last. This is a quiet time of year, though, so I am looking for things to pick up once school goes back in session. That could just be my optimistic outlook! The good news is that we now have some case law that can help quell behavior issues before they drive people away this time. D. Matt Innis 03:30, 6 August 2011
I'm concerned that some of the external analyses of the project are accurate and that there are some serious issues with the way things have been run; so much so that I have less reasons to be optimistic. I've vaguely caught up on some of the issues and while I can see why they happened, I don't agree with the methodology. Also I'm troubled by the adoption of... "fringe" subjects and being a staunch atheist and someone who is dedicated to factual representation and presentation, I'm not sure I am motivated enough to continue on (but let it be known: I'm not here to drag the wiki through the mud on these issues, they're just my personal motivations.) Robert W King 18:11, 6 August 2011 (UTC)
I believe the main advantage of CZ over WP is the environment for contributors, which is much less subject to crackpot criticism than WP. I attribute that improvement to having full disclosure of identity, rather than attributing it to the supposed emphasis of CZ upon "experts". Unfortunately, many CZ contributors left anyway and went off to niche wikis like Knowino. It is important to know why this happened. I was too late to actually witness any of these departures, with the exception of Howard. That episode did CZ no good, and showed the so-called "experts" were no better at reaching agreement than the Tea Party. Aside from pissing matches, however, some departures seem to be the result of simple impatience of "expert" contributors with criticism, a tendency to think that their expertise included an undeniable ability at exposition, while actually some long-winded interaction was necessary for the presentation to develop so it could reach a broad readership, as opposed to communication with the more familiar audience of cognoscenti. Some CZ environmental development is needed to help prima donnas to work together. John R. Brews 18:42, 6 August 2011 (UTC)
John states my view well. I also understand your concern about fringe, but I think context is everything. Fringe is out there; if we don't cover it, we won't be complete. The trick is how we cover it. The "external analysis" you mention is likely a one sided view. Surely those sites aren't meant to be the authoritative answer for how to deal with fringe content, but simply a tool for like minded people to drive one point of view. I have no problem with those views, or with web sites whose purpose is to generate and perpetuate those views - they are actually fodder for us to produce the more balanced view. Ultimately, however, neutrality is the direction that we are committed to follow; some don't want that - or at least don't understand how it works. Everyone is welcome as long as they can write neutrally and act professionally - editors and authors alike. That has always been our genre. Nothing wrong with being an athiest, or a devout Buddhist. As for administration, its job is to get the best from everyone. I think we have the tools in place to keep working in that direction now. At least I don't seem to be spending my time holding "prima donnas" at bay! D. Matt Innis 13:51, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
I get what you guys are saying, I really do. However you can't just ignore external criticisms and say that they're a conjecture of crackpots and agenda pushers, because sometimes they aren't (even if they *seem* negative or you just don't like what they have to say). They should absolutely be taken with a grain of salt, but being dismissive of external perception is dangeous, unless you choose to adopt this "We simply don't care and f what the other people say!" kind of totalitarianism.
And sure, it can be a goal to reduce drama or problem users over time; no one wants constant headaches from people who cause issues in your community, but sometimes outright and unprecedented removal isn't the way to go (and I'm not talking about Howard here, just in general now that there *is* a precedent.)
I am also completely aware of the goal of a knowledge wiki to cover the entire gamut of ... well knowledge, but even when you have dubious or contentious issues covered on your site, it is ethically responsible to make sure they are covered in a factual way, and not by people who are experts whose main motivation is continue pushing untruthful and innaccurate information DESPITE their volume of knowledge on the topic. Just because someone is entirely obsessive and "well-informed" (contextual) about boogeymen doesn't mean that boogeymen *actually exist*, and that's the part that worries me. Robert W King 16:00, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
"...it is ethically responsible to make sure they are covered in a factual way, and not by people who are experts whose main motivation is continue pushing untruthful and innaccurate information DESPITE their volume of knowledge on the topic..." I am sure that we are talking about the same thing. I am just confused that you might think that this isn't the case here. D. Matt Innis 16:19, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
(CC) Image: John R. Brews & Aleksander Stos
Page edits from statistics page with superposed trend lines.

outdent Good points, Robert; maybe not so obvious in how to implement. I'm also inclined to point out that contributions to CZ are not just articles and amendments, nor even the important administrative functions. Contribution has to be fun, and commentary can make it more fun. As a particular example, I think a bit of a Procrustean-bed approach to rule-enforcement in the recent bruhaha was a bit myopic, and may be significant in explaining the recent downtrend in page-edit activity. John R. Brews 16:28, 7 August 2011 (UTC)

Another good point, John. Consider the possibility that the recent past (since October 2009) has been preoccupied with the charter process and the subsequent disagreements/conversations and discussions about how to handle behavior. Actual content building (and those that build it - save Howard) took a back stage. Now that that process is complete, the contributions/edits related to that process are no longer necessary - and therefore the numbers of edits are down. D. Matt Innis 16:41, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
RE: The chart - As I pointed out on Daniel's page: Howard started in May of 2008, Larry Sanger took a sebatical in March of 2009, and the charter process started in October of 2009. D. Matt Innis 16:43, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
According to the chart, the most recent decline has happened since Octoberish of 2010. Ideally, we're supposed to have user and article growth; so much so that having people do administrative work isn't supposed to drag down the productivity of the wiki. The overall trend from the graph does not look good and it's indicitive that we're not doing something right. I can't simply believe that summer break is what's killing us; the data doesn't reflect that. Robert W King 16:52, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
I agree with you, Robert. The steady drop in edit activity is long and unprecedented on CZ, and is quite contrary to previous rebounds following setbacks. I suppose the hypothesis is that the steady drop is due to a steadily increasing diversion of edits to administrative matters during recent re-organization and away from the editing of articles. I don't think this distraction is likely to be a steadily increasing matter, especially over such a long period. In any event, that distraction is over, but editing of articles is not on an upswing. John R. Brews 16:58, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
Larry was a driving force for public relations. This is what we are missing. I am encouraged that Larry is back on the MC and I would be surprised if that doesn't make the difference. One of Larry's principles, though, is to hand over activities to citizens. So, it behooves us to learn how to fund raise and interest others in the project (something that has not been done since Larry left in March of 2009). D. Matt Innis 17:13, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
Again, that's fine, except there shouldn't be a mass exodus of edits just because users are changing responsibilities. Whatever it is that needs to be changed or done in order to increase contributions and users should be a priority, whatever that needs to be. Robert W King 17:18, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
I agree. To start, we can do things that encourage discussion and conversation about article content and direction. Larry used to get us all involved in things like "The Big Delete" and "Core Article Development" and things that caused us all to see the loopholes and places that needed filling. Ideas such as red links in articles encouraged people to start new articles. Now they are filled with lemmas... there are many places that we can start. We just need leadership to draw us all back together and allow us to trust each other again, like we used to - regardless of our individual beliefs. We need something and someone that can heal the wounds that were caused by trying to divide us. We also need time. D. Matt Innis 17:32, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
Seconded, but time is not on our side, Matt. Robert W King 18:22, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
I hear ya! D. Matt Innis 20:21, 7 August 2011 (UTC)

For those interested in the TL;DR version: do something about the hole in the boat first while you start pitching out water as fast as you can; it's almost sunk. It would be a shame to lose something with a noble intent and have it completely fail. Robert W King 22:40, 7 August 2011 (UTC)

I do not have the opportunity to fully join this discussion since I am often away from home right now. When talking about low contrbution we should not count edits -- this is not the most important parameter. It is much more serious that CZ lost more active authors (disregarding proficiency) than it gained. Of those still here some contribute less content than before. Often this is caused by being occupied by other issues (administration, etc.) but some may hesitate to invest effort in a project that has a very uncertain future. It is easier to gain contributors for a growing project than for a stagnating one. (I just heard the news that WP also loses editors -- but that does not help CZ much, doesn't it?)
Personally, I feel that new content is now less important than putting effort in shaping the environment for a better future. --Peter Schmitt 23:57, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
I agree on all points there Peter. Content is still important though(people judge sites by it now that WP has set some kind of metric for wiki standards). WP loses editors and authors because the project is reaching or has reached critical mass; the amount of new information able to be documented (without getting into obscure information, which WP frowns upon) is shrinking at a quick pace, and so out of sheer boredom and "completion", people are leaving because they simply aren't needed anymore. I think Communication of the ACM did an article on this some time ago. If only we had that problem here, but the environment required to attract growth (with a certain standard) somehow just isn't here. Robert W King 00:18, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
Actually, the WP edit rate reached a plateau in 2007. Since then the same amount of work has been distributed over an ever-increasing numberf articles. Peter Jackson 10:33, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
Are you sure about that? I distinctly remember reading what I wrote about; maybe it was in IEEE Spectrum magazine instead of Communications of the ACM. Robert W King 14:46, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
The two statements aren't necessarily incompatible. The information I gave was drawn from a graph published on WP itself, in a discussion somewhere. I could track it down if it's important. Peter Jackson 16:59, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
You're right, they aren't, and it's not that important to the scope of this topic.  :) Robert W King 17:05, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
Of course, Robert, content is the most important issue at all and always will be, but CZ must focus on quality instead of quantity. Ideally all present content should be checked if it is acceptable under our claim of reliability. (Some embarrassing material may have to be made invisible.) However, the most important task is finding a sustainable and long-lasting hosting solution, the next important (probably related) task is promoting CZ and making it (again) well-known. Unfortunately I have neither the skills nor the means to help with these tasks -- that's why I concentrate on other issues. --Peter Schmitt 22:36, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
I'd like to give a quick sarcastic kudos to RationalWiki. Thanks for keeping this whole debacle up-to-date, guys. I hope this makes your WIGO:CZ feed. Robert W King 18:53, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
For what it's worth, I intend to return to writing (and editing, if requested) in Computers after the end of this year, if the project is still limping along at that point. I'm teaching now at night (a second job) and so have very little free time. However, I have felt good enough about content here sometimes to send students here to read some things instead of to Wikipedia. Let's don't all quit just yet. I still have hopes that we may revive the project, but I've not been able to do much towards that at present due to my double work life.Pat Palmer 18:18, 13 October 2011 (UTC)