Why do they edit: Ego, subject, wiki and language

People do something because they have a motive or motives to do, and any strategic action on improving Wikipedia must consider thoses motives. We also must consider that different motives not only matter to different single Wikipedians, but that they also depend on the kind of Wikipedia.

There are basically four different kinds of motives:

* Ego motives: Someone edits because he likes that kind of work and he seeks for some acknowledgement.

* Subject motives: Someone edits because he likes certain subjects. He wants to provide more information on his denomination, on his favourite sports or the flora and fauna of his home region.

* Wiki motives: Someone edits because he likes the idea of Wikipedia and wants to provide the sum of all human knowledge to every single person on the planet. Such a person is also interested in extra-Wiki promotion work.

* Language motives: Someone edits because he wants a Wikipedia in his favourite language. He wants to show that his language community is good enough for a good Wikipedia language edition. He believes that a good Wikipedia language edition is good for the development of his favourite language.

This variety of motives has some impact on Wikipedia language versions and can explain some of the problems of small Wikipedias.

Imagine a person in the Dutch province of Friesland. He belongs to the small percentage of people who is capable to edit. He like to edit (Ego). He wants to provide information about his home region (Subject). But in what language? A Wiki oriented person might say: I want to reach a lot of readers, provide information. So I write in Dutch because it has more speakers than Frisian. But a Language oriented person says: I want to do something for my beloved Frisian, so I edit in Frisian Wikipedia, not Dutch Wikipedia.

Some time ago an Esperanto Wikipedian asked the Wikimedia Foundation about the possibility of establishing a Wikimedia Chapter for Esperantists. A Wikimedia guy answered that only geographical entities can have a chapter, not a linguistic community, that the Esperanto Wikipedians can simply join the chapters in their countries. The Esperanto Wikipedian said that the Esperanto Wikipedians want to work in the same chapter, and that they want to collect money among Esperantists to improve Esperanto Wikipedia. The Wikimedian replied that they can tell the Esperantists to donate to Wikimedia Foundation or the chapters. So, the Esperanto Wikipedian asked whether the Foundation or a national chapter will pay for a flyer in Esperanto. No, that will be highly unlikely, he was told.

The Wikimedia guy did not understand that some people do not only have Wiki motives, but also Language motives. The same problem as the Esperanto Wikipedians have the speakers of Latin, Yiddish and other languages.

One last example of how motives steer our actions: Imagine a small Wikipedia where the articles on astronomy need a lot of improvement. An astronomer joins and writes about what he is a specialist of: Jupiter, Jupiter phenonemons and moons of Jupiter (Subject). From a more general “Wiki” point of view it would make more sense to start with the articles about Earth, Moon, Sun, important planets and comets. But our astronomer Wikipedian loves Jupiter and writes easily about it.

Actions to improve small Wikipedias must consider this variety of motives. There can be recommendations from above how to improve a Wikipedia, but they will propably work only with Wiki oriented people who do things for the sake of the wiki, not only for their personal fun. Language activists and hobbyists will not follow recommendations without having understood that they are also in their interest, to promote a language, to provide information.


11 thoughts on “Why do they edit: Ego, subject, wiki and language

  1. No, I actually meant “kind of Wikipedia”. In Dutch Low Saxon Wikipedia the motives of many Wikipedians can differ from the motives of most Dutch Wikipedians.

      1. No, thanks to you for pointing that out. I have the impression that sometimes I have to write more specificly.

    1. Hello Castelobranco, I edit at eo.WP and others; we are approximately 50-70 regular editors in eo.WP. I had no idea of that proposal at Strategy Wiki, thank you for making me notice it! Cheers Ziko

      1. I know that, Ziko, and I edit at eo.wp, too. But I never heard a word about that idea about Wikimedia Esperanto. I’m in Wikimedia Brasil and edit in pt.wp, eo.wp and eo.ws, among others, and I’m very interested on improving ways to the eo-projects. I sent you a message in vikipedio. Will you be in Gdanks to Wikimania? If yes, I would like to talk about it there. Dankon.

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