Sunday, 24 June 2012

Wikipedia is working on a new, simpler text editor

Quite contrary to common belief, the number of people writing and editing information to go up on Wikipedia's online encyclopedia is actually very small. According to Business Insider, the bulk of Wikipedia's text is contributed by outsiders, tens of thousands of them. But each outsider only contributes to one or very few pages. The bulk of the editing, tweaking and fixing is done by a mere 1400 individuals. These, of course, are statistics from three years ago, but Wikipedia still feels that its contributor base is small because their text editor is too complicated. Therefore, the Wikimedia Foundation has worked on a new prototype 'visual editor' for the site. A post on the Foundation's blog says, "The visual editor is a new editing environment that won’t require everyone to learn our special markup language in order to contribute to our projects."

The post says that if you try to edit the English Wikipedia’s article about the Wikimedia Foundation, or the Latin Wiktionary’s entry for “futurus” (about to be), you will get a lot of confusing characters, which are interspersed between recognizable text. While many of Wikipedia's editors know what these characters mean, there is a significant population out there who would like to contribute text to Wikipedia without the technical knowledge needed to just be able to contribute. They write, "We identified the difficulty in learning wikitext as a key inhibitor to growing our editor community in the Wikimedia movement’s strategic plan. We want the process of learning how to edit to be trivial, so our volunteers, both new and experienced, can devote themselves to what they edit." This is why they're building a visual editor so that contributing to a wiki is not too complicated and putting off.

Wikipedia has already built their first prototype since then, based on the feedback that they've received, they've already started making fixes so it's easier still to contribute. They say that they've changed the technical design, how the editor works, rewriting its components, so it can support more editors. They've also integrated it into the MediaWiki platform, so it can now also load and edit wiki articles. Wikipedia worked with Wikia, a collaborative publisher that "operates the largest network of video game, entertainment and lifestyle wikis in the world" to build this first prototype. The new prototype is live on The post says that it’s currently locked down to only work on a self-contained area of the wiki, so that it doesn’t encounter any unsupported content or break anything else. The Foundation wants to start small, releasing updates every few weeks or so. They say they will add features one-by-one till the editor is good enough to be deployed for everyone. What do you think? Will you consider becoming a Wikipedia contributor with the new editor? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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