Like everyone else I used Wikipedia a lot, but this time I could experience the project from the other side by writing an own article. I edited a Wikipedia article about my father who is also a known artist in the south of Germany. On the one hand it met the course’s requirements as a social-scientific topic and on the other hand I had access to a lot of material, which I could use for the article. Moreover, the artist could improve his public relations and increase his value at the art market.
Writing the article
At the beginning it was very hard to start, because I have never written a Wikipedia article before. You can’t compare this style of writing to anything else that you have learned at school. Furthermore it was strange, but also exciting, to write something which is not only seen by the lecturer, but can be read by the whole world (at least the German-speaking population).
Fortunately I had the advantage that I didn’t have to spend too much time finding enough sources, because my father had collected them all. The most difficult problem was to distinguish between the information which are necessary and important for the article and which I should leave out. It was also hard to structure all the data. A good opportunity to solve these problems was to compare it with articles about a similar topic. So I tried to filter the important points by referring to articles about other artists. This way I could also adjust the structure for my article. I didn’t copy the particular sections but compared several records and chose the most suitable sections for my article.
After editing the article
After I edited the article some small mistakes have been corrected, like misspellings or the addition of missing commas. Moreover the categories, under which the article can be found, have been added. However the really surprising thing was that the article was suggested to deletion. Some other authors of Wikipedia started a discussion whether the article should be deleted or not. Their main argument was the missing relevance, because the article hasn’t fulfilled some criteria’s for the relevance, an artist would need. I hadn’t quite finished the article at that time, so I could accept these first assertions. After that, I continued writing and finished the article by adding exactly these missing information. Within seven days I could try anything to confirm the relevance before the decision about the deletion was made. Although I added information which met the criteria and participated at the discussion to state my opinion, the article was deleted after seven days. I have to confess that I have probably made a huge mistake by registering at Wikipedia with my actual name which equals of course with the family name of the artist I was writing about. This was also the last argument at the discussion, called conflict of interest. This means that the author has a personal relationship to the article’s topic and can’t take up a neutral position. In my opinion I have never given up this neutral position and with another name this discussion probably wouldn’t have come up. The deletion was naturally very depressing after all the work and effort I have put in creating something for the general public. Especially because the criteria have been fulfilled and the other authors only see that the name of the topic equals the name of the author of the article.
A little encouragement was that the article can still be found online on “Marjorie-Wiki”. This is a platform where articles are published which didn’t exceed the relevance line. It’s a supplement for Wikipedia and these two platforms are closely linked. The whole article is taken over, even the version history.
Writing this article has completely supported my opinion about Wikipedia. It is a good opportunity to gain a general overview about a topic very quickly, but isn’t appropriate for more than that. Especially if you need to obtain correct information, for example in order to write an academic paper, you shouldn’t rely on Wikipedia. It is much too easy to publish wrong information on Wikipedia. During my experience I couldn’t prove all the statements I made and no one cared. For example, when I listed the most important exhibitions or prizes, only a few of them were documented. Actually I could have invented some more data, without anyone noticing it.
I think Wikipedia is still a great project. Particularly if you only want to gain an overview about something and you don’t have the time for detailed researching. Moreover topics can be added which would never make it into a classical encyclopedia but are still worth being published. Providing that the relevance is given.
The only suggestion to improve Wikipedia would be that the efforts should be more acknowledged by the other authors. Not only in my case, but also how other members of our course have been treated, after making some mistakes.