Special report: Contesting contests: Contests have existed almost as long as the English Wikipedia. Contestants have expanded hundreds of articles and made tens of thousands of edits. Although it may seem as though there aren't any negatives to contests, they have occasionally become a divisive topic on the English Wikipedia.
According to the Wikimedia Foundation's evaluation of on-wiki contests, "... contests are ways for experienced Wikipedians to come together to work together to improve the quality and quantity of Wikipedia articles." Contests have existed almost as long as the English Wikipedia. Contestants have expanded hundreds of articles and made tens of thousands of edits. Although it may seem as though there aren't any negatives to contests, they have occasionally become a divisive topic on the English Wikipedia.
So, what's not to like about contests? Well, many contrasting opinions have been flowing around Wikipedia and Wikimedia about problems with contests. Much conversation has materialized about the quality of the edits during contests and whether receiving prizes for winning is paid editing. It seems as though everyone has an opinion, and everyone's is different. Wizardman puts it nicely: "It's a double-edged sword. On the one hand it gets people editing more than they would otherwise, perhaps in areas they otherwise wouldn't touch, but they are very ripe for abuse even if said abuse is planned against."
Some say that contests are very helpful: They provide friendly competition to improve the encyclopedia. Others say that contests cause much unneeded stress, and that Wikipedia should be a relaxing place. However, stress and competitiveness are only a small part of the discussion.
The WikiCup: The most popular contest on the English Wikipedia: This year, 137 users are participating in the Cup.
Although much talk has blasted around Wikipedia and Wikimedia these past few weeks about paid editing, not much focus has been placed on whether or not contest prizes are paid editing. However, discussion on this topic will likely become more heated in the future.
As one user put it, "Contests are a form of declared paid editing, if, indeed, there is a cash reward. However, I would think that the sort of edits contests inspire would've been done anyway, which [is] how it differs from the sort of paid editing that's controversial—the kind that Wiki-PR does/did."*
An argument for rewards in contests is that prizes are just an incentive to work harder: users help out the encyclopedia and are rewarded for it. Even if you participate in the contest, a guarantee is certainly not placed that you'll win, so participating arguably isn't paid editing. You could be editing and helping out Wikipedia in an attempt to win the contest, but end up not winning.
On the other hand, one user puts it bluntly; when asked if they thought contests are paid editing, they said yes. When asked for more information, they responded: "Because it's a payment for editing?". This is a popular opinion; some of the people I've asked say getting prizes for winning contests is definitely paid editing. This opinion states that even if the reward is declared and public, the contestant is still being paid to contribute.
This is a heavily debated topic, and future discussion will without question take place. We may or may not see changes in how the system works for contests.
Quality or quantity?
As Wizardman puts it, "the second some people see the word contest they push as much as they can as fast as they can, which can violate the spirit of a contest if they forget to make their edits actual improvements."
An example of this is in the Stub Contest: the goal of the Stub Contest was to reduce the number of stub-class articles on Wikipedia. However, the contest did not only focus on expanding stubs: it also involved re-rating articles listed as stubs that deserved to be rated as start-class or higher. Overall, 48,830 articles were re-rated from stub to start (or higher)-class during the contest.
One of the contestants in the Stub Contest, Sven Manguard, had a complaint with the contest. As mentioned above, one of the methods to score points in the contests was to re-rate stub-class articles to start-class. Sven noticed that many people were re-rating stubs to starts even though the article did not deserve to be re-rated, thus hurting the project and scoring points unfairly. Sven also touched on a very important point that is often forgotten during contests: "The point of this contest is to improve the quality of Wikipedia's weakest articles, and I fear that a dash for cash has obfuscated that goal for some people."
Like most debatable topics on Wikipedia, everyone has a different opinion on contests. Everyone goes their own ways: some choose to participate, some don't. In the future we may see adjustments to contests in regards to prizes, due to the argument that prizes are paid editing. In the end, almost everyone agrees on one thing. As one user puts it, "Prizes are just incentives, but every contest has a prize - improving Wikipedia".
You can participate in most contests by entering your username onto the 'Entry' page of the contest. If you're looking to join a contest that hasn't yet started, look at the Tyop Contest, which starts at the beginning of February, or the Core Contest, which begins on 10 February. The WikiCup is currently in progress, but signups close soon.
What do you think? Are contests paid editing? Do you participate in contests? Why or why not? Let your voice be heard in our comments section!
Next week, we'll head to Sochi. Until then, rediscover our previous adventures in the archive.
Food for thought:
Here are some thought-provoking quotations from Wikipedia editors:*
"Money can't buy featured articles"
"The editor became interested in Wikipedia first, then found out about the money. Paid editing is the other way around."
"There's enough work to be done without perusing special venues to find work."
"Editing contests on Wikipedia create an environment in which editors have high competitive spirits to create the most beneficial output, greatly increasing the output of many editors. All Wikipedia contests generally have the goal of increasing editing output and thus improving the encyclopedia, so contests are not only competitive but greatly beneficial as a whole."
"And here I thought we edit Wikipedia for the good of the project, not for monetary awards. So much for idealism."
"The prize is knowing you're helping the encyclopedia."
* denotes anonymous comments from Wikipedians obtained through an online survey form.
^To quote exactly, Sven Manguard stated: "I'm seeing a lot of people upgrading a lot of articles based purely on being 1501 readable prose characters or higher, with no consideration to the quality of the prose or even the suitability of the article."