Wikipedia: Getting started

Sometime last year I made my first edit to Wikipedia. I was extremely nervous despite many years on the web and having built and run virtualo communities. What if I said something stupid? Or broke one of the rules? Since the whole history is recorded I can’t wipe out my mistakes!
I have forgotten exactly what I edited but it was probably changing a little bit of syntax and hoping no one would notice! Nothing went wrong, and I grew in confidence. I found a few things I know about and perhaps added a link. And after a time got to adding new sentences.
These were probably anonymous (i.e. I was only identified by my IP – and that is dynamic). There is no shame in being anonymous and many prolific contributors stay that way. But some register with WP and take up a username – mine is petermr as I have used that for 15 years on the public web. So I am probably easily identifiable πŸ™‚
As soon as you register you get a “Talk” page where messages can be left. The first thing is a Greeting:

Welcome! Hello Petermr, and welcome to Wikipedia! Thank you for your contributions. I hope you like the place and decide to stay. Here are a few good links for newcomers:

I hope you enjoy editing here and being a Wikipedian! Please sign your name on talk pages using four tildes (~~~~); this will automatically produce your name and the date. If you have any questions, check out Wikipedia:Where to ask a question or ask me on my talk page. Again, welcome! – UtherSRG (talk) 13:02, 5 December 2005 (UTC)

I already knew how to edit Wikis but even if you get it wrong someone will tidy it up. The main thing that worried me was whether I would be able to fulfil the high standards. So I read the five pillars and they are worth reproducing in full:

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia incorporating elements of general encyclopedias, specialized encyclopedias, and almanacs.Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information. It is not a trivia collection, a soapbox, a vanity publisher, an experiment in anarchy or democracy, or a web directory. Nor is Wikipedia a collection of source documents, a dictionary, or a newspaper, for these kinds of content should be contributed to the sister projects, Wikisource, Wiktionary, and Wikinews, respectively.Wikipedia is not the place to insert your own opinions, experiences, or arguments β€” all editors must follow our no original research policy and strive for accuracy.
Wikipedia has a neutral point of view, which means we strive for articles that advocate no single point of view. Sometimes this requires representing multiple points of view; presenting each point of view accurately; providing context for any given point of view, so that readers understand whose view the point represents; and presenting no one point of view as “the truth” or “the best view”. It means citing verifiable, authoritative sources whenever possible, especially on controversial topics. When a conflict arises as to which version is the most neutral, declare a cool-down period and tag the article as disputed; hammer out details on the talk page and follow dispute resolution.
Wikipedia is free content that anyone may edit. All text is available under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) and may be distributed or linked accordingly. Recognize that articles can be changed by anyone and no individual controls any specific article; therefore, any writing you contribute can be mercilessly edited and redistributed at will by the community. Do not submit copyright infringements or works licensed in a way incompatible with the GFDL.
Wikipedia has a code of conduct: Respect your fellow Wikipedians even when you may not agree with them. Be civil. Avoid making personal attacks or sweeping generalizations. Stay cool when the editing gets hot; avoid lame edit wars by following the three-revert rule; remember that there are 1,408,046 articles on the English Wikipedia to work on and discuss. Act in good faith by never disrupting Wikipedia to illustrate a point, and assume good faith on the part of others. Be open, welcoming, and inclusive.
Wikipedia does not have firm rules besides the five general principles elucidated here. Be bold in editing, moving, and modifying articles, because the joy of editing is that although it should be aimed for, perfection isn’t required. And don’t worry about messing up. All prior versions of articles are kept, so there is no way that you can accidentally damage Wikipedia or irretrievably destroy content. But remember β€” whatever you write here will be preserved for posterity.

So how do these rules relate to creating an “Open Data” entry?
First we should ask whether it is necessary. Frequently we see duplicate entries in WP that zealous editors spot and suggest should be merged or otherwise tidied. For example, OD might be seen as part of Open Access. I don’t believe it is and will defend this view with reasoned arguments and historical references.
Secondly we must strive for Neutral Point of View. That means that I and others must not use it to promote OD although we can reasonably list some of our writings if they are substantive to the entry. The entry is not “mine” but “ours”. It would be completely appropriate to collect evidence that there was opposition to Open Data. But the page is NOT a debate between two sides, howerve carefully reasoned, although it could record such debates if they were deemed to be sufficiently important.
Soon we’ll create an entry and follow its progress…

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3 Responses to Wikipedia: Getting started

  1. Peter,
    according to How write Wikipedia only 2 percent of all Wikipedians have edited 74 percent of Wikipedia?

  2. pm286 says:

    I read this differently – that a small number of Wikipedians do a lot of technical editing but that the substantive contributions are made by a much larger number of occasional contributors. For example I have contributed ca. 5 substantive entries and there must be tens of thousands of similar contributors (see Zipf’s law).

  3. Chris Rusbridge says:

    There’s an issue that you allude you briefly, that I have found a problem with editing wikis: understanding the social dynamics of what sort of editing is “OK”. This particularly applies when you want to replace or delete large chunks of content. This has sometimes meant I have not fixed things I thought ought to be fixed. A similar thing happens with part of one of our own project wikis, too. You are probably right that it is to do with confidence… but with the wiki “community”, not one’s subject!

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