Which nations don't like reading Wikipedia articles about sex? How does weather influence editing on the world's most popular encyclopedia site?
In a presentation at the Symbian Exchange & Exposition 2009 in London, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales revealed some of the more esoteric aspects of the contributor base for Wikipedia and its commercial sibling Wikia, which lets people develop Wikis on virtually any topic they like.
Here's five that stuck out.
1. The French and Spanish don't want to read about sex. Wikipedia operates in a variety of languages and has widely differing reading patterns for each, but there's some common trends. "Sex is among the most popular articles in every language except French and Spanish. Someone said to me 'That's because the French and Spanish are actually having sex'."
2. Bad weather leads to more contributions. "If you ever wonder why the Dutch Wikipedia is so large compared to Spain despite the smaller population, it's because the weather is quite bad." A similar logic underpins the Finnish language Wikipedia, Wales suggested. (By this measure, Wikipedia's most dominant Australian contributors should come from Canberra.)
3. Being on Wikimedia staff isn't a cushy job. The Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organisation which runs only has 25 staff. The organisation recently moved offices, but only after a visit by the auditors eliminated conference room space and meant that staff members had to hold crucial meetings in their cars. At that point, Wales decided a move was justified.
4. The Germans are coming. The English-language Wikipedia has more than 3 million articles, far outstripping any other language. The next largest is the German version, which will crack the one million article mark in the next few weeks, Wales predicted. (Though, as the French/Spanish example shows, they're not coming, apparently. Sorry.)
5. Wikipedia is not about crowdsourcing. Wikipedia is often lumped in as part of the general trend of "crowdsourcing", designing products and making decisions based on mass participation via the Internet. Wales isn't buying it though. "I think that crowdsourcing is a very misleading and a very demeaning term. That's a really daft way of looking at what's going on. You have to realise that nobody works for free. If it feels like work, I have to get paid for it. In the consumer space, people aren't going to do it for strategic business reasons, they're going to do it because it's fun."