|This page in a nutshell: The editors on Wikipedia are mainly volunteers. Editors can contribute as much as they want, and for however long they desire.|
Wikipedia is a volunteer service. But, what exactly does this mean?
- Almost all contributions are made in the free time of their contributors.
- There are no set crews or teams working on articles on any topic, just those who come along and volunteer information at any time they wish.
- Anyone can take a break for any period of time or drop out whenever they like.
- You can always stop working on one group of articles, take up working on another for a while, then resume the previous one, with no expectations from others.
- You have the right to quit and never return, no questions asked, no explanation needed.
- There is no minimum or maximum anyone can contribute.
- There is no deadline.
Reasons why one may not be editing
There are various reasons why one does not immediately improve pages to meet certain standards, or even to prevent deletion. If an editor states an intention to make an improvement that will take more time, this should be respected.
Sometimes, an improvement will require time for researching information on the topic at hand. This may include finding and studying books, newspapers, journals, or websites, choosing the most appropriate sources, or summarizing material in encyclopedic form. Rome was not built in a day; neither is Wikipedia.
Other Wikipedia activities
Many editors are busy with creating or editing a series of articles or other materials, or making other improvements to Wikipedia. Others are happier working in behind-the-scenes areas of the project, such as removing vandalism. An unrelated matter may have to wait.
Some people may be dedicated to Wikipedia as their number one cause in life. For most editors, however, editing Wikipedia is akin to a hobby that ranks lower in personal importance than editors' personal lives and their employment, family, health and other factors. Real life usually takes priority over editing Wikipedia.
Because Wikipedia is completely voluntary, under no circumstances are editors obliged or expected to make any edits, respond to any messages, or to otherwise have any involvement. Please don't presume you have offended a fellow editor who has not responded to your message, or that they are insulting you: assume good faith and remember life might have gotten complicated. By drawing negative inferences from their lack of editing, you might be making it less attractive for them to productively contribute to the project in the future.
Sometimes Wikipedia can be stressful. When this happens, sometimes the best thing to do is take a break. If you're not enjoying editing, then it is time to take a break – don't be a wikipediholic. Remember, if things don't go your way, it's not the end of the world.
Editing Wikipedia is a labour of love, and each editor, more often than not, has more than one hobby or activity competing for their available bandwidth. How an editor chooses to manage their available bandwidth, with respect to time allocation, is entirely up to them. An editor may find themselves editing for hours each day. An editor’s involvement may be sporadic and only transpire when the mood strikes. A healthy "editing-life" balance is fundamentally important. This balance looks different for each individual and is subject to change at any time. For example, an editor who has, for the last several years, been spending an average of 10 hours each week editing Wikipedia, may discover a new hobby they wish to dedicate those 10 hours to. Or, perhaps the unexpected onset of a competing priority(s) takes precedent of an individual’s time. The key takeaway remains the same: Each Wikipedia editor is a volunteer, and it is their collective effort that allows for this model to work. Everyone pitches in when and how they see fit, so long as their efforts are in accordance with the terms and conditions of volunteering their services.
Caveats and exceptions
- Administrators and other users with advanced permissions are generally expected to maintain a minimum level of activity and be available to account for their actions, or to resign the tools.
- Editors sometimes question whether users who disappear suddenly after being brought to ANI may be trying to evade scrutiny ("ANI flu")
- Many editors subscribe to a "clean up your own mess" philosophy, whereby experienced editors who make errors with fallout are expected to participate in the cleanup of those errors.