Friday, August 17, 2007

More advice on Wikipedia

Here's some more advice on Wikipedia:

6. Sometimes dis-contributors (see earlier posting) will delete entries from Wikipedia newbies just because they have no track record. The best way to overcome this objection is to build a track record. And the best way to build a track record is to edit pre-existing entries. The secret to that is simple: There are truly lots of misspellings and grammatical errors throughout Wikipedia -- so it is not difficult to contribute to an entry without having to have factual expertise on a topic. Just click onto "Edit This Page," and, just like MS Word, Wikipedia software uses a red underline to identify misspelled words. Once you correct them, the page goes into "Your Contributions" page. Of the more than two dozen entries, just six are new material. The rest were copy-editing changes. Which, believe me, Wikipedia desperately needs.

7. The secret to working successfully with Wikipedia and other social networks is frustratingly simple: you need to make the investment of time. Time to check out the site and learn the ground rules. Time to contribute following those ground rules. And time to make sure your contributions remain, and don't get edited out by dis-contributors. Clients who want a quick turn-around and quick results are going to be disappointed because it takes time to be seen as a useful member of these online communities. If you rush into things, you'll make mistakes, and could inadvertently harm your client or cause.

8. Many contributors to Wikipedia seem to be lazy. By leaving the Wikipedia world, and doing a little searching on the Internet, I've been able to find credible sources for correct misinformation. Again, if the dis-contributors did a little digging and more copy-editing, they could actually make a real contribution to the Wikipedia world.

9. Lee Gomes, a Wall St. Journal reporter and "Portals" columnist, makes an interesting point in his recent column, "Forget the Articles, Best Wikipedia Read Is Its Discussions." Discussion pages are "where Wikipedians discuss and debate what an article should or shouldn't be." Gomes discusses issues raised on the Ireland entry (should the entry be called "The Republic of Ireland"?) or the page for kittens (an "editor was objecting to the statement that most people think kittens are cute"). While I understand discussions about subjective perspectives, some discussions about facts get heated, but could be readily solved by further research. For example, there was a debate on the discussion page for Joan Didion surrounding the term "prose stylist." The term was deleted from her entry by someone who felt that all writers could be classified as "prose stylists." (That is not the case with many Wikipedia entries, in my opinion.) Others stated that "prose stylist" is a valid description of Didion. This debate started April 2005 and continued through Aug. 2007. Part of the problem was getting a citation to back up the description of Didion as a prose stylist. I did a quick Google search, and found a reliable citation from the New York Times. Problem solved. That's an example of Wikipedians being too lazy to find information outside the Wikipedia world.

10. There's a lot of movie and entertainment information on Wikipedia, and I found that many of the articles include citations from Internet Movie Database ( So that in some cases, the Wikipedia entry doesn't offer as much trivia or interesting dialog lines as IMDB. While IMDB does have user-generated content, it could do a whole lot more by letting its users know to add content there, and for making it easier to post content onto the IMDB site. I've added information to IMDB before, but it took several days before the information appeared -- which is a benefit of Wikipedia: you can see your information instantly.

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