Wikipedia – background and how it works

Wikipedia started as an online encyclopaedia site that could be edited by teachers and professors and has become the world’s largest online example of user generated content.

 

As any internet user knows any enquiry made via an internet search engine is likely to bring up results from Wikipedia, which is generally regarded as the biggest knowledge source in the world. This online repository was started by Jimmy Wales back in 2001 and is visited daily by 13 million people.

What sets Wikipedia apart from the likes of Google and other online knowledge banks is that it is non-profit. In addition it is sparse in design and without advertising, focusing instead on the transfer of information via articles on its vast range of different topics.

Donations from users globally are what keep the site going along with circa 136,000 volunteer editors or Wikipedians that write and edit the aforementioned articles. At the time of publishing this piece the article count is well on the way to reaching six million and the number of languages on Wikipedia is 285 and growing more and more each day.

However, the issue is that not information is true or correct. The British singer songwriter James Blunt edited his own Wikipedia page claiming he’d played at a royal wedding – this was a spoof, he was testing the system.

 

 

 

Reading the content below, concerning an overweight older man with high cholesterol, the Wikipedia entry stated this meant he was ‘in excellent health’.

Creating Wikipedia Page Content

Writing page content for Wikipedia may not be as straightforward as it sounds due to the huge volume of information that is already there. Creating new pages can be done only by accessing a red link which only appears if the content doesn’t already exist. Through the red link the user is then presented with a blank page by which they can add the content and submit for review.

Content creators on Wikipedia need to have an account and it is considered a good practice to begin small by editing or making changes to content ahead of making new content requests. It is necessary to have an account to edit and make changes as well as create new Wikipedia pages. Using bone fide contact details when registering is recommended.

Once an item has been submitted for review it is likely there’ll be a delay whilst it is approved of anything between a few days to a few weeks. It is therefore worth factoring this in just in case a Wikipedia upload is part of a wider project. Once approved it can be moved to live in the public space and remains editable to the user going forward.

 

Amending or Deleting Incorrect Wikipedia Content

As Wikipedia is made up of content written by volunteers it is somewhat inevitable that on occasion some of that content may be inaccurate or incorrect. In some instances content may have been uploaded maliciously or by ‘vandals’. Fortunately there are steps people can take to ensure that content is amended as swiftly as possible.

  • The first point to note is that Wikipedia is editable by anyone and any page can be altered by simply clicking on the ‘edit’ button which can be located at the top right hand side of each page. The correction can be made directly into Wikipedia and then the person can press ‘publish changes’ to complete the process.
  • There may be cases where someone prefers not to make the changes directly. It is possible to leave a note on the Wikipedia talk page of the specific article outlining what the problem is.
  • If an article has been vandalised then fixing the piece directly is the best approach. If circumstances don’t allow this for whatever reason then a person can email info-en-v@wikimedia.org. They would need to supply the URL address or the title of the article along with a description of the problem.
  • It is also possible to email the Wikipedia Volunteer Response Team at info-en-o@wikimedia.org. They are a small group of volunteers and may be able to help with some though not all enquiries. They would also need the article address or title along with the problem outline.

 

What Sites are Similar to Wikipedia?

There are sites that are similar to Wikipedia though none that can boast the volunteer led and non-profit nature of it. Some of the similar in focus sites are:

Encyclopedia Britannica OnlineFor many people this is the most trusted source of information. Every volume of the printed Encyclopedia Britannica is now online.  The site features a search tool and information is updated by professionals. The site isn’t free however and users are required to subscribe.

Infoplease Part of Pearson Education this site is a free online resource that is put together from reliable sources. Information is more concise than on Wikipedia though it is considered more accurate overall because of the sources used such as the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia.

Scholarpedia – This site is produced using the same MediaWiki software also used by Wikipedia which makes the site appear like a mirror to it. However, the big difference is that articles are produced only by scholars and they are elected or invited to write about specific topics rather than it be a free for all. The site is editable by anyone however any changes require approval before going live.

 

 

 

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