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My First Wikipedia Experience

Conrad Aiken as a Boy

Conrad Aiken as a Boy

Music I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread;
Now that I am without you, all is desolate;
All that was once so beautiful is dead. ~Conrad Aiken, Music I Heard

This is the first verse of one of Conrad Aiken’s poems. Aiken’s poetry is some of the well-known and award-winning American work in the 20th century. I stumbled across Aiken’s poetry when researching a topic to edit for my class’ Wikipedia project and was intrigued by his story.

When I searched for Aiken’s page on Wikipedia, I was surprised to find out that the information was very limited and quite disorganized. This is when I decided that his page would be my focus. His page was missing three main things:

  • Selected works
  • Awards and Recognitions
  • “Snapshot” biography box and photo at top right of screen

With some detailed research, organization, and patience, I was able to insert a solid list of selected works and notable awards. Looking at other poets’ wiki pages (e.g., Robert Frost and Maya Angelou) proved to be very helpful in determining a sufficient layout/format. The biography box was a bit more of a challenge; I had to cut & paste the section from those “edit” pages and adjust it with Aiken’s information. Another challenge was keeping track of the references and including the appropriate external links. The final challenge was inserting a picture. With all of Wikipedia’s copyright rules and guidelines, and after many failed attempts, I decided to give up on this one aspect of the page. I do admit that I was a bit disappointed by this, but got over it 🙂

I think that editing a page was much easier than creating a page from scratch, mainly since I did not understand all the formatting tricks. However, despite the challenge, I would definitely edit a page again if I got the opportunity and if I found a topic that I cared enough about!

Wikipedia’s Credibility

wikipedia-logo

Until recently, I was like one of the many who used Wikipedia as just another resource for information. After watching the ted.com video of Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, my already-existing trust in Wikipedia increased tenfold.

It is easy for skeptics and uneducated persons to try and bring down this ever-growing phenomenon. But the one statistic that really jumped out at me was the fact that, according to Wales, only 18% of Wikipedia contributors are anonymous. This number is shocking when you take into the account that the site is open for anyone and everyone to edit. Of course, it is inevitable that fraudulent posts will be made (like the very recent Obama page vandalism). But, as Wales points out, these scammers are outnumbered. The very loyal 600-1000 members of the close-knit contributor community have proven to be quick in eliminating erroneous posts (through reverting to a previous version or “voting for deletion”). This fact in itself should hush the skeptics. For the time being, this is Wikipedia’s best bet in keeping the site accurate.

If Wikipedia was only limited to the experts, it would be just another encyclopedia. In fact, it would lose some of its credibility. That’s not to say that Brittanica and the others should be considered erroneous (although the difference in web traffic is tremendous, according to this Wikinomics blog entry). But the beauty of Wikipedia lays in its open source software…making it a living phenomenon. The controversies that arise actually make the site unique; the scrubbing of false information keeps the site accurate. Additionally, Wikipedia’s core principles of neutrality and good faith solidify its credibility and ensures ongoing quality.

With time, this freedom of information will redefine the future of knowledge and education as we know it.

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