According to direct (actual, not estimated) measurements from Quantcast, WrongPlanet, which claims to be the largest forum online for people with Autism and Asperger’s syndrome and their relatives, has hit an all-time low count of website pageviews, as measured from January 2008. *
A pageview doesn’t represent a unique user, but rather an instance where an onine user visits a website, so a single user can have several pageviews. This is despite the fact that WrongPlanet’s membership has dramatically increased from 2008 to 2012. Additionally, from the same statistics on a different tab, the unique visitor count has also declined by 50%. This is most likely because more and more users are feeling alienated from the site and its goals, and do not feel represented.
At one time, WrongPlanet’s footer stated that “Asperger’s is not a disease” (https://web.archive.org/web/20120715015511/http://www.wrongplanet.net/ accessed April 26, 2015). Many members presumably joined the website on that basis; however, there is no proof that Asperger’s is always or even beneficial. The statement has since been removed. Additionally, the left-hand sidebar at the top on the archive page showed statistics concerning the total user count and daily user growth; that sidebar has also been removed.
One subforum on WrongPlanet is The Haven, which is supposed to offer advice to members struggling with personal issues. Many members there report feeling hopeless, lost, or even suicidal. However, it is rarely suggested on there that neurodiversity might be problematic.
The biggest problem is that only a small recurring group of people with Asperger’s gets presented on the front page (https://web.archive.org/web/20130716180821/http://www.wrongplanet.net/ accessed April 26., 2015). This group includes Alex Plank, who is WrongPlanet’s founder, John Robison, the designer of several famous guitars and owner of a renowned auto shop, and Jack Robison, John Robison’s son.
The frontpage group is generally in favor of neurodiversity, and the vast majority have achieved professional success. They do not represent many other autistics that struggle with basic needs, have no professional success, and/or would like a cure. In fact, a thread called “The unpopular WP members club” , which started in 2012, claims that WrongPlanet has become a popularity contest like everywhere else. It spans over 300 pages with more than 4,600 posts and is still active today.
WrongPlanet also once ran a web series called Autism Talk TV . The series featured Alex Plank, Jack Robison, and Kristen Lindsmith, Jack’s girlfriend. Again, only a limited number of autistics were featured. The series was partially funded by Autism Speaks, which many WrongPlanet members considered to be controversial. There hasn’t been an update in two years, and the WrongPlanet Youtube channel hasn’t been updated in over a year.
Because there is scant evidence that Autism/Asperger’s leads to special talents, many less-functioning members have abandoned the site in frustration, and the higher-functioning members have lost interest over time, as it doesn’t affect their lives much.
*To view the data on Quantcast, select “all” under “Date Range”, “Month” to the right of “per”, and “Global” under “More Options”. The two tabs used are Page Views and Uniques.
Yuval Levental is a Master’s Student in Electrical Engineering. In his free time, he enjoys learning about different cultures, neuroscience, and philosophy.
Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed by Autism Daily Newscast Contributors are their own.
This article was originally submitted to us on April 27th and subsequently published on WrongPlanet.net . We think that the questions raised by Yuval Lenental are worth exploring. One of the Forum Moderators responded to the post as follows:
“I think you’re trying to apply a narrative to the data without justification.
I would attribute the decline in WrongPlanet’s userbase to three factors:
1) Frustration with technical issues
2) Inadequate moderation
3) A well-documented general trend away from specialised forums and towards social networking, microblogging, and Reddit.”
Founder Alex Plank also had this to say,