Crowd-Sourcing The Old Boys Club

Jim Giles examines Wikipedia’s demographics:

The most active editors live in the US and Europe … and this means the supposedly global project is skewed towards Western interests. According to a 2011 study by Mark Graham at the University of Oxford and colleagues, the snowy wastes of Antarctica have more articles dedicated to them than all but one of the countries in Africa. In fact, many African nations have fewer articles than the fictional realm of Middle Earth. These regions, notes Graham, are “virtual terra incognita”.

Then there is the gender issue. Around 90 per cent of Wikipedia editors are men, and it shows. In 2011, Shyong Lam of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and colleagues measured the length of around 6000 Wikipedia articles about movies. This is a good proxy for quality, since longer articles tend to be more thorough. Lam found that movies aimed at a more female audience tended to get short shrift. Relatively threadbare coverage of When Harry Met Sally is not a big issue, but Lam believes the problem is a wider one. Female editors tend to work on topics like the arts and philosophy, but their lower participation may be making these articles shorter than others….

Wikipedia was the place where the radical rethinking of the encyclopedia began. Yet its future may now be threatened by a strain of conservatism and parochialism that its early supporters frowned on in traditional publishing.

Earlier Dish on Wikipedia’s editorial demographics here and here.