Wikipedia:Wikipedia is a work in progress
Will it ever be done?
Imagine that a featured article (FA) represents a finished article, one that does not need any further editing (this, of course, is not true, but a featured article is the closest thing Wikipedia has to a "finished" article). Now imagine that all of Wikipedia's editors take all of the world's academic resources, lock themselves in a room that is impenetrable by light, sound, and even Captain Falcon, and set about bringing all of Wikipedia's existing articles to FA status. Since the introduction of the featured article system, we have been churning out FAs at a net rate of about 37 per month, but we'll assume that the editors are slightly more productive when locked in the editorium and round it up to 50 FAs per month. At the time of this writing, there were 2,825,448 articles in the English Wikipedia and 2,482 FAs. This gives us a total of 2,842,966 non-FAs. Let's assume that the editors also quickly jotted down a list of 34 missing articles on a post-it note. This gives us the convenient numbers of 2,843,000 articles to bring to FA status at a rate of 50 per month. This would take 56,860 months, or approximately 4,738 years. Jeepers!
In that time, many things will have happened:
- Lots of stuff will have happened, some of which will need to be documented on Wikipedia. Take a look at Category:1990s. That category has 729 subcategories. Even if each subcategory has but a single article in it (a fairly conservative estimate, to say the least), that's a lot of articles. At the rate of 729 new things per decade, by the end of the 4,738-year editing period, 345,400 new things will have happened! And don't forget that many man-made features would have disappeared and have been replaced by new ones.
- The English language will have completely changed, and all of the articles would have to be rewritten to conform to the new standards. Take a look at Phineas Gage, which includes quotes from the mid-1800s. See how odd the writing seems when compared with the rest of the article? And that was from less than 200 years ago. Now multiply that language flux by 25 to get the total language flux that would occur in 4700 years. Yipes.
Or maybe it will get almost done:
7 World Trade Center has 2553 revisions, blindly assuming that edits are roughly homogeneous, WP has between 100,000 and 200,000 edits per day, this equates to adding between 40 and 80 featurons (a unit of article quality) per day. Since we are getting better at this, and reducing vandalism / fixing with edit filters etc., let's take the higher number (and we could probably improve massively on that) and 4 million articles, each needing a total of 1 featuron total effort. There have been approximately 350 million edits, assume 250 million are to articles, that corresponds to 10,000 featurons of the required 4 million. At that rate we are looking at a mere century. Alternatively suppose every student at Indiana University was required to bring one article to featured status every year as part of their degree course, then it would only take 30 years. And that is one university, in one country. So yes, those missing puzzle pieces, we'll always need more people to help fill them in. Always. And yes, we are 99% and we're going to stay that way. Forever.
Other major reference works take time too:
- Polish Biographical Dictionary—started 1935, estimated completion 2030
- Oxford English Dictionary—first edition 1857–1928, third edition est. 1993–2037
See what we're still missing!
- Wikipedia:WikiProject Missing encyclopedic articles
- Category:Wikipedia missing topics
- Category:Wikipedia requested articles
- Category:Wikipedia red link lists
- User:Piotrus/Wikipedia interwiki and specialized knowledge test — How many articles are left?
- User:Emijrp/All human knowledge
- Bored? Policy-weary? Write something (Blog post)