If we lived in a world without it, the suggestion that a crowdsourced project anything like this could exist would be met with incredulous laughter. Instead, we today have a sprawling encyclopedia packed full of information about practically every person, place, thing, or idea of some note. And despite increasingly pervasive global distrust towards facts, Wikipedia is relied upon, and grudgingly trusted, across the world. We have given millions—nay, billions—of people free access to high-quality reliable neutral information, the most valuable of all the treasures in this era. What’s more, our project is entirely created, led, maintained, and organized by volunteer editors, a status open to anyone with an internet connection.
Our project comes with great costs. Our project is held together by equal parts good luck and the dedicated work of thousands of volunteers who dedicate hundreds of hours every year to sustain this project. That time is spent on community governance and decision-making, on pushing to reduce systemic bias within our project, on mediating disputes, addressing bias, and correcting inaccuracies. That time is spent addressing spam, implementing anti-abuse mechanisms, and addressing problem users. That time is spent helping newer editors edit on our unusual project and building tools to make it easier.
Often we will need to spend far more time addressing a particular issue than you might expect, because our community governance model lends itself to slowdowns and backlogs. This is an inefficient allocation problem: no one is compelled to contribute in any particular area, so there are some areas of the project with too many volunteers and many others with far too few. Even when things go perfectly, maintaining the project can be Sisyphusian in nature: tomorrow, there will be just as many new problems as there were today demanding attention.
That is the price we pay for the wonderful project we have built, and it’s a bargain I’ll take every time without hesitation.
When I am asked why I volunteer my time, my answer is simple: I believe in our project. I believe in our vision, that of a world in which every person has free access to the sum of all human knowledge. I believe that our work makes the world a better place every day, and as long as I believe that I will dedicate my time and energy to this project.
You may be on my userpage trying to get in contact with me now because our project hasn’t lived up to our ideals in some way: perhaps a page was unjustly deleted, or a user unjustly restricted. Perhaps not enough care was taken in a decision, or perhaps we’ve collectively neglected a problem entirely. Whatever it may be, I want to hear it and I am sorry that it happened on our project. Though we strive to be a thoughtful and empathetic community, we inevitably come up a bit short. Get in touch with me, and I will do my best to help in any way I can.
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Hi, I'm Kevin! It's great to meet you!