Jimmy Wales himself shared some self-critical thought on this year’s Wikimania by summarzing the development of decreasing newcomers with the words “maybe we lost the spirit of welcoming people”.
In a Facebook posting Geert Lovink talks about his student project that sought for critical Wikipedia research. He reflected “[t]he assignment also to write a new Wikipedia in a preferred language…. Surprisingly, with the exception of 1 or 2, students had never contributed to Wikipedia. As you can read, their experiences were a mixed bag of anger, frustration and enjoyment after initial bewilderment how complicated it all was. The Wikipedia interface seems outdated and overly complicated. And Dutch editors seem particularly rude in comparison to the English.”
At the same time, the German language Wikipedia newspaper Wikimedium reflects critically on the decreasing numbers of ‘newbees’. Next to questions of usability, bureaucracy, also the rough tune in discussions in the German language version is discussed.
How can one explain these differences? Is the English version the more inclusive version because it is the ‘Leitmedium’ of Wikipedia and thus gathers authors with strongly varying degrees with regard to English language skills? Can we thus assume that similar to platforms such as the World Social Forum (WSF), the English language version provides a platform for experimenting with translingual practices of deliberativ talk? Nicole Dörr has found in her research on social movements that translingual spaces such as the WSF or the European Social Forum provide indeed spaces for marginalized groups to develop innovative tactics.
See also the report “Wikipedia Looks Hard at Its Culture” in the New York Times.