Wikipedia. The largest online encyclopedia with countless articles in a quantity of languages. How can one find an article that does not exist already? As you can see the first task our instructor, Miss Baillot, gave us was already the most difficult one. It certainly took quite a while to find an appropriate article to write. I chose to write a completely new article about “My Son the Fanatic” by Hanif Kureishi on the German Wikipedia platform.
Finding a Topic and Personal Experience
There were two reasons for me to do so. First, I already had proper sources that I could use. Second, the English platform already had one article about this short story where I could compare and adjust my article´s length and content. I created the whole article but as one could expect a lot of changes have been made by now. The writing itself is in my opinion not as difficult as finding a topic and using the Wikipedia tools for a proper representation of your article. Of course the English article was helping me a lot as I could differentiate between important and unnecessary information. At the same time the Wikipedia core principles expect the article to be completely neutral. After knowing that the article has to be neutral a lot of information and interpretation simply became unnecessary. The Wikipedia core principles are really easy to understand and clearly show you what is allowed and what is not. Holding on to these guidelines a writer has no reason to be afraid of any possible negative feedback by the users of Wikipedia. Still, it is a difficult task to write neutrally without interpreting anything. At least for me it was difficult.
Development of the article and Feedback
When I uploaded my article shortly after I was messaged by an administrator who welcomed me in the Wikipedia community and gave me a short introduction about important elements I have to bear in mind when writing articles for Wikipedia. After that I checked my article and corrected the last flaws in order to fit into the admin´s specifications. By now my article went through more changes. Information I wrote disappeared again while new information emerged. Even though I was disappointed at the beginning I soon realized that this is what Wikipedia is all about. A big community helping and improving articles all the time, which means that my article will be changed frequently. Even though the writing itself was not complex the division into paragraphs with headlines in different styles was quite challenging. In my opinion the most difficult task is the sourcing as you have to distinguish between the references you used and the references you quoted (Literatur/Einzelnachweise). It is also quite impressive how articles in two or three languages can differ from each other even though having the same topic. This is something I often try – comparing articles in different languages.
Wikipedia and Me
Of course this experience changed my opinion about Wikipedia. First of all my awareness of users that spent time to create and improve articles has risen. Sadly the overall reputation of Wikipedia as an academic source is not as good as it should be. While working on my article I quickly realized that Wikipedia also sets a high value on proper sourcing and indexing. Therefore Wikipedia is still the first source I check no matter what kind of information I need. When you just need quick information about a city, country, football team or whatever you like Wikipedia is still the best and fastest option. Nevertheless if you write an academic paper, it is important to check if Wikipedia is approved or not. If not you will have to search for other sources.
In conclusion I have to admit that this course was much easier and more fun than I would have thought at the beginning. A lot of things sound difficult unless you try. When trying und practicing you more and more get a feeling for it and at the end articles are written almost by themselves. For everybody who have not written for Wikipedia by now, I recommend to try it without being afraid or biased. It will be a great experience as it was for me. Writing for Wikipedia also gave me the feeling of contributing something to a big project.