Press releases/UNU survey agreement
Wikimedia Foundation and UNU-MERIT announce First Survey of Wikipedians
St. Petersburg, FL and Maastricht, Netherlands, January 24, 2008
The Wikimedia Foundation and the Collaborative Creativity Group at UNU-MERIT [a joint research and training centre of United Nations University (UNU) and Maastricht University] are pleased to announce a collaboration to conduct the first-ever, comprehensive Wikipedia survey. Wikipedia is the 9th most visited website in the world, receiving up to 65,000 hits per second.
"I am thrilled we are doing this, and UNU-MERIT, which has a track record of intelligent research into global volunteer communities, is our perfect partner," said Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. "For the first time, Wikimedia will have solid information about who our readers and contributors are, why they come to us, and what they do here. This will help us figure out how to persuade new people to start contributing, and how to keep existing contributors engaged."
"This is a very exciting participatory space to explore," said Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, who heads the Collaborative Creativity Group at UNU-MERIT. "Surprisingly little data exists so far on why, how and how much Wikipedians contribute, or indeed even who they are. Wikipedia is the world's largest and most successful collaborative reference project: its success is worth examining."
UNU-MERIT has pioneered the use of surveys and other tools to understand the behaviour of Free/Open Source Software such as Linux and Firefox, which also depend on voluntary contributors from individuals around the world. With this survey, which will be conducted worldwide in several languages, the Wikimedia Foundation hopes to build a similar understanding of Wikipedia.
"Wikipedia is an invaluable resource for diffusion of and access to knowledge, especially in developing countries where commercially available resources are scarce. Understanding how Wikipedia functions is very much part of our mission at UNU-MERIT," said Prof Luc Soete, the director of UNU-MERIT, an institute of the United Nations University.
The survey will be conducted over the course of the next several months. Early results are scheduled for presentation at Wikimania, the Wikimedia Foundation's annual conference, which will be held this year at the Library of Alexandria, Egypt.
Wikipedia started in January 2001, and currently offers more than 35,000,000 articles in 291 languages. The largest Wikipedia is in English, with more than 4,900,000 articles; it's followed by the German and French editions, each of which contain more than 500,000 articles. Nine other language editions contain 100,000+ articles, and more than 100 other languages contain 1,000+ articles. Every month, new language editions launch.
Wikipedia is entirely created and maintained by a community of active volunteers. In 2004, Wikipedia won the Webby Award for "Community" and the Prix Ars Electronica's Golden Nica for "Digital Communities." Since the start of the project, more than 100,000 registered users have made at least ten edits each, and more than 3.4 million people have created accounts on the English Wikipedia alone.
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