Blog Post

Experience Editing Wikipedia

wikipedia globe logo - puzzle pieces with symbols or letters

            Wikipedia has been an invaluable resource because it embodies so many of the best elements of the web. It takes advantage of the internets near zero marginal cost nature to become available to every single individual in the world for free. That is amazing! It has figured out effective community management and engagement strategies to convince thousands of people daily to build a robust and accurate product. Third, its format of simply organized and linked text and articles makes it a breeze to navigate and follow trains of thought. I have spent hours effortless exploring new topics and ideas about arcane history. Every time I come across a person or topic that I know nothing about, I am one click away from an explanation. That is an incredible feature. Rather than reading a book from cover to cover, Wikipedia more accurately tracks my learning process.

            I could gush for days about how much I love Wikipedia. Preceding this exercise, I have been a free rider, contributing nothing to this public good. Worse, the only time I have attempted to edit the article was to change the name of my lower school to “The Far Brook School of Witch Craft and Wizardry.” It has always been evident to me that the amount of work contributed was immense. But how they coordinated and managed thousands of people on the internet was a mystery. The most fascinating part of this project was that it started to expose me to the numerous safe guards, community guidelines and best practices that have emerged. Being able to prevent the internet alone from breaking something is an immense task, let alone harnessing a community to produce such a large amount of polished work.

            The page that directed me towards articles that need further citation was particularly neat. It essentially curated and presented me a list of available tasks in a way where it was exceedingly easy to pick up an article and start contributing. Pages and features like this are critical in attracting new editors and contributors. Thousands of potential editors will be quickly turned off If the experience shows the slightest amount of friction or learning curve,    

            The message boards showed in class that are geared towards reconciling differences on potentially inflammatory topics was one of the few examples where a community on the internet reconciles differences like actual genuine adults. I think that in itself shows how special the Wikipedia community is.

            I made small edits on the supply side Wikipedia page. One of my pet peeves is that lay people focus on creating jobs rather than more economic output. This make-work bias has systemically biased public discussions in economics that have already been solved in the profession. More pressingly, supply-side economics seeks to address this fallacy from the perspective of public policy. Consequently, I edited a few examples of this mistake.

 

Pages I Worked On:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathan_Bedford_Forrest#Posthumous_legacy

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supply-side_economics#Historical_origins

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1 comment

I'm glad you've had such positive experiences with Wikipedia. I guess I'm wondering if our reading by David Auerbach, "Encyclopedia Frown," nuances your response at all? 

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