First preliminary results from UNU-Merit Survey of Wikipedia Readers and Contributors available

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From late October to early November 2008, the Wikimedia Foundation and UNU-Merit conducted the first multilingual survey of Wikipedia readers and contributors in 20 languages. In total, more than 130,000 Wikipedia readers and contributors completed the extensive survey questionnaire (out of more than 300,000 people total who took at least part of the questionnaire).* This level of response far exceeded our expectations, and the data that was collected provides a wealth of information about the Wikipedia community. English, German and Spanish were the most responsive Wikipedia editions and together make up two thirds of the responses.

The UNU-Merit team has spent the previous months cleaning and preparing the data, and is now making available first results for some of our priority questions. Key outcomes of this first analysis include:

  • 65% of respondents self-described as readers, and 35% as (mostly occasional) contributors. Former contributors are analysed separately.
  • Respondents came from over 200 countries, ranging from 10 to 85 years completed the survey; their average age is 26 years, and 25% of the respondents are younger than 18 years. Female respondents are a bit younger than the average (24 years)
  • Among these, readers and contributors are on average in their mid-twenties, and predominantly male (75%)
  • Women, with a share of 25% in all respondents, are more strongly represented among readers (32%) and less strongly represented among contributors (13%).
  • Both educational levels and age are slightly higher among contributors than among readers.
  • Regarding their motivations to contribute, respondents mentioned as their top two reasons that (1) they liked the idea of sharing knowledge, and (2) that they had come across an error and wanted to fix it.
  • The concern that they might not have enough information to contribute is the main reason holding back potential contributors, mentioned by 51% of this group. Fourty-eight percent mentioned they were happy readers of Wikipedia, and saw no reason to get involved as contributors.
  • The most common reason why respondents have not donated money to the Wikimedia Foundation, mentioned by more than 42% of respondents, is that they don’t know how. (If you happen to be one of them, we suggest you go to 😉 )

Ruediger Glott and Philipp Schmidt from UNU-Merit have made available additional data in the online workbook of their analysis (PDF file), and we’re planning to give you regular updates with new data every couple of weeks from now on. The survey team also maintains its own website at

This is a landmark moment in the history of Wikipedia and the Wikimedia movement. These and future findings that will result from this data will help to shape our efforts to reach new contributors and new readers.  The Wikimedia Foundation wishes to thank everyone who has made this survey possible, especially the UNU-Merit Team and the community of translators.

Erik Moeller
Deputy Director, Wikimedia Foundation
* In addition to the 130,000 responses overall, we’ve received 40,000 responses from the Russian Wikipedia, which very significantly overrepresents this group in the total response set. The survey team has excluded this group from the data until the possible causes for this overrepresentation can be fully understood.

[UPDATE 4/16] Naoko Komura, who project-managed the survey translation and launch on the Wikimedia Foundation side, sent a list of translators who helped us to run this survey in 20 languages. They are: JeandrĂ© du Toit, Mohamed Magdy, Meno25, Toni Pulido, Jordi RoquĂ© Figuls, Xavier SMP, Zirland, MF-Warburg, Tim Landscheidt, Michael Bimmler, Arno Lagrange, Ariel T. Glenn, Ziko van Dijk, VerĂłnica Rivero, Salvador Espada, SĂ©bastien Beyou, Plyd, Delphine MĂ©nard, Philippe Verdy, Daniel U. Thibault, Maximilian Hasler, Rex Alberto, Morris Mastini, Federico Leva, Hatukanezumi, Henrdrik Maryns, Robin P., Wojciech Pędzich, McMonster, Jennifer Hobbs, Thomas Buckup, Aleksandr Sigachov, Ilya Haykinson, Mayooranathan Ratnavelupillai, BalaSundaraRaman, C.R. Selvakumar, Manop Kaewmoracharoen, Nguyễn Thanh Quang, Tráș§n VÄ©nh TĂąn, Ting Chen, Andrew Leung. Thanks to all of them for their help — it’s wonderful to have so much volunteer support in a project like this. Thanks also to Naoko herself, who helped to create the Japanese translation, and to the UNU-Merit webmasters, Herman Pijpers and Mourik Jan Heupink. :-)<

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I think the “don’t know how to donate” is largely because not everybody has a credit card. Therefore it would help to have the different chapters more visible on the donate page and explicitly direct people who don’t want to use a credit card (or PayPale) to them.

Self-selecting samples, such as the one used in this study, are usually quite skewed. The one piece of data listed here that we might be able to externally verify is the percentage of contributors vs. readers (it could at least be approximated). Has this been done and, if so, what was the result?

Hello. If I am right, just a few of the respondents are regular contributors. Best regards.

I don’t understand why you published the results before you have actually done your investigation. Without those 40 000 answers the statistics cannot be considered correct.
Why did I even bother to answer the questionnaire when I should have know I don’t matter…

This is brilliant. That 2/3 of readers who took time to respond are male is surprising. Many congratulations on completing this phase of the survey. Are there thoughts yet on how to revise questions in surveys to come?