Writing my first own Wikipedia article
First Thoughts and Preparation
When it came to writing my first Wikipedia article, the first question was the subject it should be about. Our requirement was to choose a topic which had to be relevant, liberal arts oriented and there had to be enough literature about it. That led me to check the core principles of Wikipedia again, where notability and verifiability are two important points. For my article I chose the theme of a seminar paper I wrote a semester before, which is a poem of the famous German poet Eduard Mörike: “Der alte Turmhahn”. Due to the German content, I wrote my article in German. Checking the relevance, I had a look at the parent page of Eduard Mörike, where the most important works are listed. “Der alte Turmhahn” was mentioned but not further described and therefore I wanted to fill this gap. To verify my words I needed both primary and secondary literature.
How to start
I started writing my article as a word document. My first fear was not to get enough information but then I realized that in Wikipedia there is a need for the collection of the most important points and so, against my expectations, the difficulty was not to find as much information as possible but to break the issue down into its most salient data. Therefore my article is quite short now but that does not automatically mean that I invested few time but it actually means the opposite and that a lot of work was required. I had to read my text several times to check the style, which firstly needs to fit into Wikipedia and secondly does not debunk myself as a completely new writer. The neutral point of view is another core principle of Wikipedia.
The next step was to edit the document with regard to linking (internal and external ones) and structuring (table of contents, headings and paragraphs). I proceeded based on how other works of Eduard Mörike and other writers were presented. I was very excited uploading the article and thus starting a completely new one. At the same time, I linked it to the running text of the parent page of Eduard Mörike. To my relief both pages were sighted and authorized very quickly. After starting a new article and linking it to the parent page a little paragraph on the parent page could be added as a third point.
Within the same day of uploading my main article it was edited by four different people, which can be seen on the history page of my article. I edited it myself as well again two times the following two weeks. All in all, it was edited 18 times by nine different authors, which can be seen on the information page of the article. It was very interesting to see what was changed and improved by people I don´t even know and who could come from all over the world. That brings up another core principle of Wikipedia, the free content anyone can edit. At the beginning there were simple corrections like commas or dates. Then, further links were added and whole sentences were altered. I even started a little discussion with one of the users about one of my modifications and he explained why he contradicts, which was very helpful to understand the case.
Special features: Picture
Furthermore, I wanted to add a picture to my article. First of all, I checked Wikimedia Commons but there was no matching picture I could have used. Since I wanted to use a picture from another website, I had to ask for the rights. I wrote an email to the responsible person of the Goethezeitportal to ask for taking one of the pictures for my article. Within four days, I got a positive response. When I wanted to insert the picture, I saw that another user had already added one and coincidentally it was a picture exactly from that page.
Solving Problems: Title
Nearly the same happened when I wanted to change the title of the article and at the same time change the link on the parent page. A user already shifted it from what had originally been written on the parent page and which I had used to start the new article, the first strophe or unofficial subtitle of the poem (Zu Cleversulzbach im Unterland), to the actual title of the poem (Der alte Turmhahn). I noted that the old spelling of Mörike’s time has to be considered (Der alte T(h)urmhahn), which was accepted. Hence, one can speak of a good teamwork here. It also encouraged me to go on like I did because even if I am a new user I had the same ideas as some of the experienced users. I was never disappointed when I saw that something of what I wrote was deleted or replaced because I want to improve and I see that the established users have more experience and knowledge in this domain and I am therefore thankful for all kind of tips.
I experienced that writing such an article is always an ongoing process. This constant change and improvement keeps the article up to date and makes Wikipedia a trustworthy source even if anybody can write because there are always mentors checking and sighting with reference to the core principles of Wikipedia. For me, it was very fascinating to put the core principles into practice. I would say the seminar and the project was definitely worth the effort because it was a chance of being productive in a practical way and really creating something, which is unfortunately quite rare in my studies.
Wikipedia is and remains an online encyclopedia, a collection and database that will never be completed but it feels great to have done my part to improve and enrich it a little bit. I am very proud being part of the Wikipedia community now because it feels very good knowing that there are people all over the world reading my article. I am helping them with the existence of this article, for example pupils and students, because when I started searching for information for my term paper a semester before, I wanted to have a look at the Wikipedia article in advance but there hadn’t been one. I will finish with the best accolade and motivation to go on I could have got: A mentor thanked me for my work.
One Reply to “Becoming part of the Wikipedia family”
“Our requirement was to choose a topic which had to be relevant, liberal arts oriented and there had to be enough literature about it.”
I think one important preparatory question is lacking here: Is there a Wikipedia article on the topic (in your chosen language)? If yes, is it any good?
Writing a new article on previously non-existing topic is one thing, but having to change existing articles opens up another world of difficulties.
Hence, for writing your first article, I think it was a good idea to chose a topic new to Wikipedia, but not “novel” (as there is no doubt about the importance and relevance on the works, and as there are many other articles about poems that can be used as models).