My Experience Writing a Wikipedia Article

My contributions to Wikipedia:

I edited the German and English Wikipedia articles on the book: „The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas“ by John Boyne. I chose to edit these articles on this book because it is a novel we discussed at school a few years ago. I enjoyed reading the book and think it is very refreshing seeing this side of history through the eyes of an eight year old boy. Basically it’s an easy read but it offers many discussion points and an insight into history.

The German article had no character descriptions at all and the English character list had a few missing, therefore I wanted to complete them. This resulted in me writing detailed character descriptions of all the characters in the book in German and only adding the characters of “Gretel”,”Herr Liszt”, “Pavel” and “The Fury with Eva” to the English Page.

Writing the article:

Before I started writing, I had a look at various other articles on books and the related characters to see what was included. Do they include analyses, visual descriptions or even relationships? My next step was to recall the core principles and check if random articles, I personally like, respect these principles and to what extent. This gave me an overview how the principles are implemented and a basic idea of what I wanted my part of the articles to look like. After the original overview I didn’t refer to them and therefore have not cross-correlated them.

Having read the English version of the book it was quite easy to add short descriptions of minor characters, however it turned out to be a lot more difficult on the German page. Not only was it difficult to write in a different language from the book I had read, but also my German descriptions turned out to be very similar to the English ones and I didn’t want them to sound like a translation.

I am positively surprised how easy it is to edit a Wikipedia article, from creating an account until uploading the final article. My main worry before writing was that I would have difficulties with the formals of the markup language. Due to the fact that I was only editing and not creating an entire new article, there were some examples in the surrounding text. For instance, showing which markups are required to create headlines, paragraphs or bold letters. If something was not already in the surrounding text I looked for a formatting example in another Wikipedia article.

Response to the articles:

Once I had uploaded the edited articles I didn’t monitor them for a few days. The next time I checked on them the changes on the German page had been deleted completely and the minor changes on the English page remained untouched. I got very little feedback as to why the insertions were deleted and no suggestions for improvement.

Personal opinion:

I can’t deny that I am disappointed to have invested so much time and effort into creating a new part of the articles only to have the bulk of my work erased completely. Comparing my experiences to others I found out that I got away quite lightly The responses often include rude remarks and aggressive comments. The question I now ask myself is: Is it not the biggest insult that nobody even bothered commenting…?

My experience makes it difficult for me to understand people that regularly spend time editing/creating texts on Wikipedia. At the same time I have great respect for them due to their immense patience and willpower to make Wikipedia the encyclopedia it is today.

I personally feel discouraged to try again or even contact other users concerning the reasons why my article was deleted. On the one hand I want constructive criticism, on the other hand I’m not interested in being insulted. I don’t want to have to justify every word I write, or why I wrote it like I did. I may be a little sensitive in this respect but I saw plenty of articles in which authors were forced to add detailed editor comments to avoid their articles being deleted or modified.

Conclusion:

On the one hand I experienced how strict some users are, concerning the information that is uploaded and that people really do take it seriously. On the other hand my addition to the English article is left without any comments. I am not sure if there is simply nothing wrong with it or if it hasn’t been reviewed. This leads me to the conclusion that the quality of articles may vary drastically and it is not always easy to determine their value. I am of the opinion that Wikipedia articles don’t get as much credit as they should because they usually offer an excellent overview of various topics. In future I will use it with caution, as it is easy to insert both valid and invalid information.

All in all I am glad to have experienced how Wikipedia works, the effort that is put into the articles and the peer review process.


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