Experiencing Wikipedia

In this post I´m blogging about my experiences on contributing my first Wikipedia article.

For the University Seminar on `Constructing Knowledge in the Digital Age: Wikipedia´s Contribution to the Humanities´ I have written a WP article about the dystopian short story Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut in German language which is named Harrison Bergeron (Kurzgeschichte) on Wikipedia. The student´s task for the seminar was to create a complete new article or to complement an already existing article that deals somehow with topics of literature or social sciences. I´ve chosen to create a WP article about the short story because I read it recently and was fascinated on how Vonnegut displays the theme of totalitarianism, and the manipulation of society by a fictional government. Besides that there already existed articles about `Harrison Bergeron´ in English, French, Spanish and Russian but not in German. So this theme fitted perfectly to the assignment – I was about to create a WP article about a literary work with social and political background which wasn´t existing yet in my mother language.

The process of writing

The process of searching through several sources, collecting information and then writing the (basis of the) article were nothing new and so quite uncomplicated. But after this process I read the text again and again and thought more and more about the relevance of the information for the readers of the WP article. Therefore I imagined myself reading an article like this in Wikipedia for the first time with the intention to get to know as much as possible about the topic of the article. Consequently I had to revise my text and add some background information and at the same time cancel some information that seemed expendable to me. For me this underlines the importance of preciseness in the Wikipedia articles which means for the reader to get as much relevant information as possible through the article and less unnecessary information. So I had to balance between adding and cancelling information in my text. Finally my article consisted of about 1000 words ready to put up on Wikipedia, divided into five content points which I thought to be relevant and interesting to know about the short story which are an introduction, the overall theme, some background information, a summary of the plot and further the film adaptations of the story.

Characteristics of a WP article

The process of writing an article basically isn´t that complicated but you have to keep in mind the features and characteristics that especially Wikipedia articles have. For me this means to regard what I expect of a WP article as well as to consider the WP core principles. By writing for Wikipedia the first time and going trough the core principles, they first seem quite hard comprehensible and understandable. So for me it was helpful not only reading through them but to orientate myself by reading other qualified WP articles in order to understand them. So by using other WP articles as models I gained a better feeling on considering the core principles.

Editing the article

A bit more difficult was to edit the text to the proper Wikipedia format or outline which also turned out to be more complex and time consuming than I thought. This contains the setting of the paragraph headings, the links to other sites as well as the links of other sites to mine, the setting of the categories, the linking to the WP articles of the same theme in other languages, to cite the sources properly etc.

By finishing the format and outline step successfully I could publish my first Wikipedia article which felt quite satisfying. It is cool to search the theme of your article on google and there pops up a link to a Wikipedia article that you have created yourself.

 After the publication

After my article was published there were some edits by other Wikipedia contributors such as corrections of typos, adding of categories and links and also some changes of the content. Further there were some suggestions and advices of the other users in the `discussion´ forum which were quite helpful for me in order to see what is missing and what other users might miss in the article , and so I could improve my article afterwards.

The only thing I found unnecessary and annoying were some content changes by one user, who in my opinion didn´t improve the article but just reorganized sentences in a stupid way. I cannot understand such pointless actions of other Wikipedia users or contributors but I guess that’s the way it is and you have to accept it as a writer for Wikipedia.

Thoughts and impressions

Altogether I think it was worth the effort and a quite exciting experience to participate in the Wikipedia community. Additionally I was kind of proud to show my friends my own Wikipedia article.                                                                                                                       Further I enjoyed getting to know Wikipedia from another perspective and witness the process of writing an own article. To see what´s behind WP also changes the perception of the content of its articles and gives them more value in terms of reliability and validity. To this point Wikipedia was a tool for me that provides quick and superficial information without any real depth – everyone can write everything about anything. But this opinion changed since I got to know the core principles and what it takes to edit a qualified article.

Finally I consider the WP course project as a good experience which changed my view of Wikipedia and encouraged me to use it more frequently, maybe either as a writer or editor of articles.

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