Wikipedia was started by Jimbo Wales who was influenced by the writings of economist FA Hayek, specifically his paper "The Use of Knowledge in Society." Hayek noted that knowledge in a society is not held by a few chosen ones, but is instead dispersed throughout society. To solve societal problems, it is necessary to use as much knowledge as possible. Wikipedia, by allowing volunteers rather than "experts" to create and edit entries, does just that. With all its warts, Wikipedia brings together that dispersed information in millions of entries and has become one of the most popular encyclopedias.
But as the WSJ reports, Wikipedia is finding some of its volunteers are logging off permanently. An excerpt:
Volunteers have been departing the project that bills itself as "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit" faster than new ones have been joining, and the net losses have accelerated over the past year. In the first three months of 2009, the English-language Wikipedia suffered a net loss of more than 49,000 editors, compared to a net loss of 4,900 during the same period a year earlier, according to Spanish researcher Felipe Ortega, who analyzed Wikipedia's data on the editing histories of its more than three million active contributors in 10 languages.