Experiencing Wikipedia from the other Side

When I had first started the class of “Wikipedia and the Humanities” I viewed Wikipedia more as an easy-search, easy-access lexicon without thinking much about how the entire system behind it works. After a semester spent learning about the history and intricacies of Wikipedia, taking a closer look at the guidelines for writing and in the end of the course becoming a published author on Wikipedia myself, my opinions on the open web lexica have changed drastically.

It is very easy to underestimate how much work goes in a Wikipedia article when you start on one for the first time yourself. Depending on what topic one chooses as subject and whether one is starting an article from scratch or if one edits an already existing one, the amount of research necessary to meet the required standards of Wikipedia ranges from simplistic to enormous. I find that the amount of labour which is poured in a single one, is easily underestimated; therefore, I have a newly gained respect for all established writers on Wikipedia – no matter the language – whose contributions make a student’s life so much easier. For this class I chose to write a completely new article for Nora Zeal Hurston’s book “Their Eyes are watching God” for the German Wikipedia site, an author whose books are sorely under-represented on the site.

☰ The Writing Process

After finishing the first draft of the article in Word and pasting it into the editor on WP, one can be pleasantly surprised on how easily the whole thing handles. After sitting through two years of computer science at my school I can say the editor makes formatting articles easy even for those who never took a closer look at html before. Speaking from personal preferences and experience, editing the already written text with the options given in the bar of the editor is a good choice while immediately writing in the formatting for every change you do after will save you time. It also is terribly convenient that the table of content is immediately generated when hitting a certain amount of headlines. After the formatting is done, the only thing left is moving the article to the actual Wikipedia page and the go from one of the administrators of the site.

☰ On Publishing Standards

On the German Wikipedia the actual publishing standards for a new article set by the admins seems to be extremely low, to the point where it gives off the impression that they will simply wink trough everything that is submitted. Especially considering on how many stub articles I encountered on my search for a topic to write about. Of course, it is rather hard to compare what is customary for the other languages without having written another article for them. It also seems rather logical – going by what I’ve heard from fellow students – that the English Wikipedia being more or less the “main attraction” to be set with higher standards than the others.

☰ Article Reception

After revelling in that short feeling of accomplishment for having published something online on a webpage with such an access rate as WP, one will be sourly tested on how well the article actually holds up in the eyes of the Wikipedia community. It is from utmost importance when publishing on WP that one is able to deal with criticism like a rational human being. Receiving criticism is one of the main instruments for the improvement of an article. The discussion that stems from these usually manages to help point out the core problems of one’s writing, in my case the fact that as an English student I barely write in German anymore and which shows in my spelling and use of grammar. Of course, as much as one would wish for it, not all members of the community posess something we call common courtesy which means from time to time one will be confronted by people who suppress their user name – going anon – to express their opinion in a less than appropriate fashion. Not all that surprising considering that even if it this is Wikipedia it’s still part of the internet. This alone makes me rather curious as to what will happen to my article in the course of let’s say a year. Just to simply check back and see what changed and if writing the article was in anybody else interest and maybe even proofed to be useful.

☰ My Personal Future with Wikipedia

If someone were to ask me if I would ever consider writing another article for Wikipedia, I would be hesitant at first, maybe toy with the idea if I had an actual topic in mind before discarding it again for the time being. I’m not saying that my experiences with the German Wikipedia were so horrible that I would never again write for it but in light of how much work a single article can require of you, it needs to be well planned out in advance and is rather hard to bring in agreement with both the usual workload to be done for university as well as social life. So if I ever were to write another article I would firstly write in English and secondly, would do so in a period in my life that is not dictated by time tables and studying.


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