For my first experience as a Wikipedia contributor, I edited three articles that include:
Honestly, I was pretty overwhelmed by the Wikipedia editing process because I really did not know where to begin. Once I started to thoroughly read through the articles, though, I found holes and began adding citations, fixing errors in grammar or punctuation and creating hyperlinks. I eventually found myself being able to add new information as well. For example, for the Bethlehem, PA article, I was able to add in a new, short paragraph about a major development in my town, a campus for arts and entertainment called Steel Stacks. I was really surprised that until I edited the page, there was no information about Steel Stacks. That’s when I started to realize not only the unique power of crowd sourcing on Wikipedia but also my individual power in being able to contribute to articles for the benefit of the public sphere.
At times, I was very eager to make edits that I would forget to hit the “Show preview” button, forcing me to re-edit the page once more because I didn’t hyperlink or italicize a word properly. In addition, I sometimes forgot to add a description of my edit in the “Edit summary” box, which I got frustrated with because when I do something, I’m very picky about doing it the right way. Therefore, moving forward, my goals are to slow down and use an internal checklist to make sure that I am writing an edit summary and looking at the preview so that my edits are more clean cut, organized and easy to understand.
As for Wikipedia’s policies, I think NPOV is the most important. Because Wikipedia is usually one of the first sites to pop up in a Google search, a lot of traffic is going to Wikipedia articles, and if that information is biased then a large portion of the population is going to have a misconstrued perspective about a person, place or event. In order to have a neutral point of view, these articles must adhere to most other Wikipedia policies such as reliability of sources (RS), avoiding any conflict of interest (COI) and verifiable information that is transparent (V).
The last policy, notability (N), surprised me. After learning more about it, the policy makes complete sense, but I would never have thought as a rookie editor that there are some articles worth pursuing and have merit, while others are not. Again, this makes sense because if people can’t produce an article that contains third-party sources then the article might as well be propaganda or a personal ad. In learning about all of Wikipedia’s policies, I definitely have more respect for the articles and trust that most contributors have the public’s best interests at heart.
Different from academic writing, Wikipedia writing is quick, being published in a matter of seconds for anyone in the world to see. Also, there is not so much of an emphasis on a particular structure. All articles do not follow the same format; they differ in sections, images used, references provided and how sources are cited. In an academic paper, an individual needs to perform strenuous research in order to write a relatively good analysis of a topic, but with Wikipedia, the idea is that an individual contributes to a topic that he/she is already an expert on. If one does not know the correct citation format or misspells a word, it’s okay because someone else can help make it better.
Overall, I find the Wikipedia editing process to be exciting and challenging (but in a good way). It can be really hard to make sure that information is transparent and cited properly, but once it is done, it feels great to know that I was the one who did it.
As for future Wikipedia articles that need some improvement, I picked the following three:
- Corporate Media: I studied corporate media ownership in my Contemporary Media Issues class last semester, and it is an area of communications that I think is crucial in understanding current dilemmas in the news industry and how these dilemmas can be solved for the future. I found that the Wikipedia article for this subject severely lacks information in all of its sections (with room for more sections to be added) as well as citations, images/diagrams, references to current articles about the issue and external links to other resources on the subject.
- The CNBC show Fast Money: My uncle, Guy Adami, is a panelist on this show, and I’ve seen him in action from the comfort of my own couch as well as live at the Nasdaq building in New York City. Despite this, I still have no clue as to what is discussed on the show; finance and stocks just aren’t my strong suits. As a result, I visited the Wikipedia article about the show, which I discovered lacks a lot of citations, and in my opinion, it is very disorganized and, therefore, confusing to follow and digest. The article could also be updated since a lot of the reference material is from 2009-2011, and the “Segments” section of the article could be revised to include the date of the segments so it is transparent as to when the topics of those segments were discussed.
- National ShamrockFest: Being 21 for the first time around St. Patrick’s Day, I found myself looking for places and events I could visit to celebrate the holiday. Last year, I discovered the National Shamrock festival here in D.C. While the festival’s site provides lots of detail and pictures about the festival, the Wikipedia article needs some major improvements. First, the article definitely needs a picture so that viewers can get a first impression of what the festival is like. It also needs to refer to newspaper or magazine articles written about it; there should be sections that highlight bands who have visited the festival in the past and highlight the setup of the festival (how many stages there are, what they’re called).
The three Wikipedia articles that I edited for Assignment 1 were: the novel Divergent, Bethlehem, PA (my hometown) and muckraker. Since then, other Wiki users have edited the pages, but all of my edits remained untouched by other contributors/bots.
More specifically, for Divergent, my edits to the plot, character descriptions and links to actors for the Divergent film all still exist on the article. Since then, there have been about 30 edits. Some of those were small edits to syntax and grammar. Other edits were Wiki bot responses to vandalism, and another major edit was the removal of a fake character in the character description section. Looking at the page view statistics, there was a jump in mid-November and around February 5. This is probably due to the release of movie trailers for the Divergent movie.
Next, there are the revision history statistics. The image below shows that most edits were complete by IPs, as opposed to actual users. Given that the novel is becoming a movie with high profile celebrities and is a target for vandalism, this makes sense.
In the short years that the article has existed, the most edits were completed in 2013, which may be because it was announced that year that the novel would be made into a movie.
Observing the top contributors for the Divergent article, the top contributor is actually a bot, which I found to be surprising and unexpected. The second contributor, has interests in film and entertainment, Jockzain, is known for his/her contributions to film and entertainment articles as well as skills in editing and vandalism, which he/she sure must have used in responding to vandalism on the Divergent article.
As for the article about Bethlehem, PA, I added information to the “Recreation and entertainment” section and cited it, which has not been changed. Since my edits, there have been only 7 other edits. Most are small additions in information and the deletion of another contributor’s edit. The traffic statistics show consistent views for the article over a 90-day basis.
Different from the Divergent article, the Bethlehem, PA article received more edits from users than IPs; it also, out of the three articles, the least frequently edited.
2006 was the year for the most number of edits to this article. Reviewing the edit history, it appears that most edits during that year were to the section about notable/famous people from Bethlehem, information about secondary education and colleges/universities and the history of Bethlehem.
The number one contributor to the Bethlehem Wikipedia article is PAWiki. Many of the edits performed in 2006, the year with the highest edits, were by this user. He/she is involved with several WikiProjects for Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley Area so I think it is safe to say that this is an area of expertise for PAWiki.
For the article about muckrakers, I made several edits, including changing the name of a book by Nelly Bly to its correct title, adding references to information about Bly and Upton Sinclair and added information about the effect of Sinclair’s The Jungle on public policy. All of my edits remain on the article, though I am the last contributor to make any edits. When observing the traffic statistics for the article in the last 90 days, there was a significant drop in views from mid-December to mid-January. This may be due to the holiday season. Kids as well as college students are out of school and, therefore, are not working on projects about this subject.
Out of the three Wikipedia articles, this last article about Muckrakers has the most revisions to date. Users and IPs are roughly even in their contributions. Because this is a fairly high-profile subject, I’m sure there are plenty of experts not he subject who to volunteer with knowledge. However, because this article is longer than the other two articles and has more contributors, more mistakes probably occur and so the bots probably are needed to clean up the article from simple mistakes or vandalism.
Although there are several years competing for first place, 2009 appears to be the year with the most number of edits. These edits are a culmination of adding additional information to current sections of the article and responding to other contributors’ edits/vandalism.
The top contributor for the muckraker article is Calicocat, who has a lot more edits than even the second contributor. He/she is only a member to the Journalism WikiProject so it is clearly a field that this user is highly interested in and has expertise.