Wikipedia is too complex for many people to edit, admits founder

In a revelation I can only describe as being in the “no duh, Sherlock” variety, Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales has recently admitted to the BBC, that the encyclopaedia site ‘that anyone can edit’ is too complex for many people to modify.

“We have to support our old power users because they build the site. But we also need to have a ramp for new users,” he told the BBC. “If you click edit and you see some Wiki syntax and some bizarre table structure – a lot of people are literally afraid. They’re good people and they don’t want to break something”.

Wikipedia currently has an average of 400 million active users on the site, and have lofty expectations to try to make this number reach a billion by 2015. Wales reportedly believes that in order to achieve such growth the site will need a new interface, as the existing one leaves may people ‘afraid’ to contribute to the site because they don’t understand Wiki syntax – and so, when they edit pages and see what appears to be a lot of complicated code inside, they avoid editing it out of fear that they’ll break the page.

Now if you ask me, this should have been apparent to Wikipedia ages ago. Indeed, I know many people who say that they find Wikipedia “too complicated”, and I’m sure you do too. Improving the interface and simplifying editing would definitely be a huge benefit, in my opinion – but I don’t believe that’s the ONLY thing hindering people from contributing to Wikipedia rather than just using it. (Myself, I feel that there is also an off-putting tone from the intense detail expected in some of the articles, and the slightly over-bureaucratic nature of certain decision-making exercises, but others may feel differently). In any case, I think it’s about time Wikipedia acknowledged the need to simplify their website – but what do you think? Comments appreciated as always!

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