An interesting article at Wikipediocracy makes some interesting points:
Who writes Wikipedia? … In a recent op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times, Wikimedia Foundation executive director Sue Gardner proudly highlighted the fact that the Wikimedia community includes many very young contributors:
The youngest Wikipedian I’ve met was 7 … There’s a recurring motif inside Wikipedia of preteen editors who’ve spent their lives so far having their opinions and ideas discounted because of their age, but who have nonetheless worked their way into positions of real authority on Wikipedia. They love Wikipedia fiercely because it’s a meritocracy: the only place in their lives where their age doesn’t matter.
In fact, many Wikipedia administrators are school-going teenagers. The youngest I personally am aware of was 11 years old when he won administrator rights; at 12, he became a bureaucrat, which means he had the ability to close requests for adminship and appoint other editors as administrators.
Minors have time to edit. They do not have jobs, families and children to worry about.
However, while the experience Gardner describes may be a very validating and confidence-building one to the child or teenager in question, it does not necessarily make for mature decision-making, nor is it likely to attract the most capable writers. A veteran Wikimedian with more than 200,000 contributions to Wikimedia projects recently expressed the following sentiments, illustrating the resulting tensions within the community:
Under the current system, any little ignoramus who has chatted on IRC for ten days can amass enough support to become an admin, and attack long-standing editors of the highest calibre, driving them away from Wikipedia. That these people (who universities would fight to employ) are treated with such disdain by a pack of semiliterate high school kids is depressing, because it spells the writing on the wall for Wikipedia. As a result, the vast majority of currently active sysops appear to be teens who, judging by their lack of interest in contributing content, fail at school and can’t do Pythagoras theorem. Some seem to hate learning and hate knowledge. They spend most of their time chatting on IRC making infrequent appearances on Wikipedia only when rallied by other IRC admins to add their voices to a chorus of support. Hence my contempt for the Wikipedia officialdom.
Regular readers may recall the incident where the academic authors of the Acta Pauli blog were harassed by an administrator whom they discovered was 14 years old.
Another interesting statistic is how many active editors there are in Wikipedia. The answer, curiously, is only about 3,000 as of December 2012. This statistic defines “active” as making more than 100 edits a month, or 4 a day; not hard to exceed, as any Wikipedian will know.
It is impossible to say whether any of this will affect the rise and progress of Wikipedia as the main online reference source used by hundreds of millions. Probably it will not, at least until an alternative is available. But it does highlight on what a fragile base this information source rests; child-administrators and a small hard core of dedicated, but not very educated, people.