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Still thumbing your nose at Wikipedia?

13 May

Cross posting this from the IABC Blog.

I’m not sure what you think of Wikipedia, but there are many people -communicators and business people – who are still deeply suspicious of it, even though they continue to dip in and out of it to ‘check on something.’Students use it but sparingly, it seems. Most people I asked said they use it a lot. I was curious about this ambivalence, and wanted to find out how distrust can work alongside usefulness. But the more I looked, the more I became convinced that it’s time for serious communicators to put those early notions aside and take a second look at something that has changed knowledge sharing in a remarkable way. This is the topic of my article in the upcoming July-August CW magazine, but before it hits your mailbox, here’s something that might whet your appetite.

  • Did you know that over 50 percent of edits are made by less than one percent of Wikipedia users?
  • Did you know that there are hundreds of articles waiting in a queue to be edited, completed, fact-checked, etc.?

If you’ve been one of those people who have complained loudly that some of the articles are patently written by some 14-year old, then here’s your chance to do something about it. If you’re one of those folks who proudly inserts the term ‘crowd-sourcing’ into a PowerPoint presentation or discussion on social media, then here’s a great opportunity to get some dirt under your fingernails and see how it really happens.

I love the idea of crowd-sourcing myself, and quite frankly, I had stayed off the Wikipedia edit pages for awhile -after some very simple edits many years ago. The coding (wiki syntax) is not easy to remember unless you dabble in some HTML. But you don’t need to know a lot to start. When I got back to it, what I found was fascinating. Even outside the realm of serious ‘collective intelligence,’ one of the great side effects of Wikipedia is that it has turned into a site to go to for event coverage. Like a global team of citizen journalists, passionate editors quickly add detail to a breaking story like some back-room iReporters. Their bylines are cryptic usernames, and they don’t seek recognition. Some news tidbits don’t always show up in the main article –until the edit wars and discussions are settled– but they are a rich source of information. Maybe you could be one of those contributors as well!

But as I explain in the article, there is a lot of serious content you may be able to contribute to. Wikipedia needs more editors, writers, and good content specialists. Even persnickety fact-checkers, punctuation freaks and content curators. In other words, people like you who yearn to inform and are natural collaborators.

If you like to get an idea of where you could start, Wikipedia has some areas for you waiting to be worked on. Check these out:

Requested Articles: these are internal links (known as, and seen as, ‘red links’) that go nowhere, so basically they are articles waiting to be created.  Type WP:RA into the search box to find them. Plenty of topics to choose from.

Articles for Creation: Type in WP:AFC to get started on an article. It takes you thgrough the basic steps and policies, and points to an article wizard.

There’s work to be done in updating small things, if not writing full-blown articles. Consider your local IABC chapter perspective. Of the 100 or so IABC chapters, only 13 have been listed here, with external links, that is. This is up from 10 chapters when my article went to print.

Go for it!

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