I had heard things here and there about Wikipedia. How people act as gatekeepers for the topics they care about most, or how long-term edit wars erupt around controversial content. I had made an edit or two in the past, but I recently tried to dive right in to see what the whole thing is about. Here are some things I learned as someone new to the world of wikipedia editing.
- Vanity edits are a big deal. You're not allowed to create a page about yourself, and anything said about you needs to be noteworthy. A lot of time is spent making sure people's vanity edits are noteworthy, neutral, and not written by the subject of the article.
- Kerry Killinger really likes editing his own page. Killinger was the CEO of Washington Mutual until 2008, when he was fired from his post during the subprime lending crisis. But it's very important to him that people know he quit rather than being fired. (According to all reporting, this is untrue. He was indeed fired.) Looking at the Wikipedia article, there's one person who keeps polishing the article to be as positive as possible. I have helped the article be more factual.
- There are lots of ways to get involved. Wikipedia editing is daunting at first. But it turns out there are a ton of pages that help you get started. People band together for certain causes, like dealing with vandalism or correcting typos. People create scripts to search through all the articles for certain phrases to address. People create widgets to help with recommended changes. People host cleanup lists for people to pick through. It's pretty impressive.
- It's a glorious mess. I get frustrated when people think of the old web for two main reasons. One, the old web wasn't as amazing as people think. It's like vinyl – fun to rhapsodise about in the abstract, but not worth all the trouble in practical usage. Two, the old web still exists. You can still go to archive.org, look into the gemini protocol, get involved in mastodon, or thousand other "old web" throwbacks. And wikipedia is top of the list. It's messy, chaotic, driven more by ethical principles than the principles of good UX and design, and a total pain in the ass to use. It's right there, waiting for anyone interested.
I may be interested.