Why I never contribute to Wikipedia, and probably never will

In a comment on his blog about the crisis of Wikipedia, Stefano Epifani wrote:

Social networks allow people to keep their individual contribution distinct and visible. Wikipedia works in exactly the opposite way: who knows the name of any Wikipedia contributor? I believe this is the origin of the problem. It’s not that social networks like Facebook are “stealing authors' time” to Wikipedia. It’s Wikipedia that has been unable to use and valorize those social dynamics that are peculiar of networks and that, taking advantage of motivators like reputation - can encourage people to collaborate

I agree with Stefano in that this is a very important difference between social networks and Wikipedia. This said, I do not believe that this is, for many people, the reason of the “crisis of Wikipedia”. As far as I am concerned, THE (main if not only) reason why I have never contributed to Wikipedia or any other wiki managed in the same way is another, much simpler one. Whenever I can and it makes sense to do it, I already publish what I write online, with licenses that allow everybody to redistribute or reuse it for whatever reason, and without bothering at all if others make money out of it, or if my name as author/contributor gets lost along the way.

However, I have no intention whatsoever, after I’ve written and published something online, to stand watch over it 24/7 to repair vandalism or explain ad nauseam why some correction is wrong even when it’s absolutely obvious that its proponent knows much less than me about that topic. In addition to this, sometimes I have nothing against corrections, but still wish that my own view of some issue remains immediately and easily recognizable as the one I have, also to people who don’t know how to read the “story” of a Wiki page or just won’t do it for whatever reason. Should I discover some day that, in my opinion, some specific Wikipedia page must absolutely be modified, I am almost sure that I would not modify it. What I would do, instead is:

  • copy all its text in one file

  • modify/rewrite it in whatever way seems proper to me

  • put the result online, with the same license as the original and a link to it, on a website I control, where it couldn’t be vandalized or modified in any way by whoever passes by

  • send the URL of my version to the maintainers of the original Wikipedia page, telling them “there, reuse it if you wish, or just ignore it”

  • move along to something else

Why would I do this? For only one, very simple reason: time. As far as I am concerned, I do have, every now and then, time to write and publish something just for the common good, without expecting any money or recognition for it. However, I never have the time to guard it afterwards, and I don’t even try to find it. Thanks a lot and congratulations (seriously!!!) to those who succeed in finding that time. Me, once I am done, I always have other things that I want or just must do as soon as possible, sorry.

Please note one thing: I am perfectly aware that, in general, my own explanation or view or some issue may very well be completely wrong or much less clearer than the ones others may provide starting from my one. I am not saying that I am too good for Wikipedia, that I know the ultimate Truth and nobody should dare rewrite it! I am only saying that, even in those cases in which my version turned out to be wrong, I’d still behave as explained above, just to save time! Should I realize, after reading somebody else’s version of an issue, written without my participation, that my own one is messed up, I could always put mine offline or add to it a note like “this page is wrong and still online only for historical reasons, please read the correct story at…”. Doing so would still take much less of my time than participating to edit wars.

That’s why I do not contribute to Wikipedia: as far as I am concerned, profit, reputation or lack thereof don’t enter the picture at all, due to scarcity of time. That’s it, really. For the record, I have the strong feeling that this is the main reason for not contributing to Wikipedia, if not the only one, also for many academics and other experts.