Blog Post

The Categories of

Do the categories of ?minor? and ?major? have any meaning within the emergent digital and socially edited public sphere? While these terms have specific meaning within the field of literary studies, especially when referring a text?s own relation to the literary canon, their use within other spaces, such as digital texts, remains vague. I?m interested in analyzing these categories through editorial decisions make on Wikipedia. The Wikimedia software developed for, and by, users of Wikipedia makes available these categorical distinctions by enable editors to mark their contributions as either ?minor? or ?major.? What might it mean for an editor of Wikipedia to mark a change as minor?  Is there any such thing as a minor article? Can subversive information modify an article by in a sense, ?becoming minor??

The Wikipedia article ?Wikipedia:How to edit a page? [1] states the policy regarding minor edits: ?A minor edit is a version that the editor believes requires no review and could never be the subject of a dispute.? A minor edit [2], therefore, is a change that the editor (you must be a registered user in order to mark your edits as minor) regards as ?factual? and not contested. The section of this article on major edits describes these as those that affect ?the meaning of an article is major (not minor), even if the edit is a single word.? (italics in original) It is, therefore, not length of text or reorganization of information, but a change in meaning that constitutes a major edit.

I have a few thoughts on how these tags work and more broadly how the concept of "minor" functions in Wikipedia. For example, articles are often deleted for lack of notability[3]. Do any HASTAC folks have experience with marking edits to Wikipedia and thoughts on the category of minor and major?

References:

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:How_to_edit_a_page
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:Minor_edit
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:Notability

 

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2 comments

As I understand it, the minor/major distinction is a bit like the difference between the good citizenship of picking up a piece of litter on the sidewalk and the good citizenship of being an informed voter, serving on the local school board, etc. Minor edits are simply the inverse of vandalism and carelessness (at least in theory).

Decisions about notability, on the other hand, are always political, as lirani has noted in a recent post.

Also, a minor edit is an edit that you needn't be human to make. For me this is one of the most interesting aspects of Wikipedia: the huge community of hundreds of non-human editors constantly checking links, signing talk-page comments, flagging possible typos, etc.

These bots don't live on the Wikipedia servers, and aren't centrally controlled in any way

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Hi, Travis, thank you very much for these thoughts and information. This possible future of scripted, robotic edits seems like it would relegate decisions of "fact" to non-human editors. One of my interests in examining minor edits would be way to counter this so-called "wisdom of the crowds." Notability is indeed very interesting. I've been thinking about how decisions are made *within* an article as well. Thanks again for your comments!

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