Geek to Live: How to contribute to Wikipedia

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This picture was misplaced a while after publication, however you’ll be able to nonetheless view it here.

by Gina Trapani

Last month I used to be browsing the collaboratively-edited free encyclopedia Wikipedia, as I am wont to do, and I got here throughout a typo. I’ve at all times been solely a Wikipedia reader, by no means a Wikipedia editor. Over the years, Wikipedia has vastly benefitted me with scads of details about each matter beneath the solar. However, the prospect of modifying the factor appeared scary and mysterious – I imply, who’re these folks anyway? How does one change into an encyclopedia editor? – however there it was, a giant honkin’ typo looking at me. I used to be out of the blue seized by the accountability – obligation, actually – to repair it. So I took the plunge and hit that edit button.

So started my love affair with modifying Wikipedia. It seems modifying an article is not scary in any respect. It’s simple, surprisingly satisfying and may change into obsessively addictive. If you have at all times questioned who edits Wikipedia and the way it’s finished, you are in the best place. Today we’ll go over how you can contribute to Wikipedia and provides again to the neighborhood which affords a lot by means of free information.

The Basics

Wikipedia is an editable website online powered by a free software program referred to as MediaWiki. MediaWiki (which is an incredible package deal for private wiki installations, by the best way) permits anybody to edit any web page inside the wiki. To edit a web page, you merely click on on the edit button on the high of a web page, right here:

This picture was misplaced a while after publication.

The textual content of the web page might be displayed inside an editable textarea. You’ll see some sq. brackets and different formatting markup; we’ll go over that in a minute. For a easy typo, you’ll be able to simply change the phrase that is misspelled. To preview your modifications with out saving them, you’ll be able to hit the “Show Preview” button. (I extremely advocate doing this primary, even for a little bit typo correction.) When you are glad together with your modifications, press the “Save this Page” button. Your modifications will seem instantly.

Before you hit the Save button for the primary time, enter a line summarizing it. Are you deleting spam? Linking textual content that ought to’ve been linked however wasn’t? Adding a piece? Say so within the Summary subject.

Also know that it is good follow to test off the “minor edit” button for, um, minor edits. A typo or formatting correction or rearranging of present textual content all qualify as minor edits. (Note: you should be logged in to see the minor edit checkbox. See the “Your Wikipedia person web page” part for more information.)

This picture was misplaced a while after publication.

Once you save the web page, your change might be famous in Wikipedia’s Recent Changes which lists the 1000’s of Wikipedia edits that occur per hour. Also, the change might be listed within the History part of that specific web page. Any revisions might be rolled again and diff’ed in opposition to different variations of a web page. That’s the fantastic thing about Wikipedia: something might be finished and undone and corrected and added to realtime, and there are full logs of all the exercise, time-stamped and obtainable for everybody to view and assessment. Don’t suppose your change will go unnoticed, as a result of it will not. The place is crawliing with readers and writers and your change might be swept away instantly if it is not right or legit.

The fee of content material change on Wikipedia is astounding, nearly real-time as information breaks. For instance, earlier this week, when WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes publicly acknowledged she’s in a same-sex relationship together with her former assistant coach, I headed over to Swoopes’ Wikipedia entry so as to add that notable details about her, solely to search out it had already been added. Some opinionated and homophobic commentary had additionally already been added and deleted. This was actually an hour or so after the story broke. Wikipedians are fast on the draw. Check out the change history on Swoopes’ Wikipedia page here to see the exercise.

To learn extra about modifying a web page, see Wikipedia’s How to edit a page entry. Then, to present it a strive your self, head over to the Sandbox. This is a particular web page arrange for brand spanking new Wikipedia editors who need to follow – however not on an actual article.

Formatting and linking conventions

Links and formatting inside an article is acheived utilizing particular Wikipedia markup. For instance, a piece header is denoted with equal indicators, like so:

== Section Header Name ==


A subsection is:

=== Subsection Name ===

An exterior URL like this – Lifehacker – can be achieved like this:

[http://lifehacker.com Lifehacker]

You’ll discover that exterior hyperlinks off Wikipedia are adopted by a little bit arrow, like this:

This picture was misplaced a while after publication.

Links to inside Wikipedia entries – just like the Shery Swoopes web page – can be achieved like this:

[[Sheryl Swoopes]]

MediaWiki’s User Guide affords a full reference for MediaWiki markup on the Help:Editing page.

Just the information, ma’am

Wikipedia is not a spot for opinions, judgements, self-promotion, spam, rumors or hypothesis. Wikipedia instructs:

Always use a impartial perspective, as Wikipedia isn’t a spot to advertise factors of view. Write as if the data is a non-judgmental information article.

Cite your sources so others can test and lengthen your work. Most Wikipedia articles presently lack good references, and this contributes to Wikipedia’s single best criticism
that it isn’t a dependable supply. Please assist by researching on-line and print assets to search out references for the article you’re engaged on, then cite them in correct type, and think about in-text quotation for contentious information.

At first writing like a reporter could really feel awkward to non-journalists, however presenting cited information and never opinion is core to creating Wikipedia a professional supply. Unfounded opinion or subjective observations in an entry might be deleted. See the Guide to writing better articles at Wikipedia for suggestions and recommendation for enhancing a Wikipedia article.

Your Wikipedia person web page

Once you get began modifying Wikipedia, think about making a Wikipedia person account. A person account is your neighborhood identification, which might be listed subsequent to your modifications, and in flip will record all of the edits you have made all through the location in a single place.

Additionally, logged in customers have entry to superior preferences and modifying choices. While nameless modifications are welcome, typically, you and your modifications might be acknowledged inside the Wikipedia neighborhood solely you probably have a person account. A historical past of worthy edits will construct your popularity as a Wikipedian. See extra about person accounts on the Why create an account? web page.

My Wikipedia user page reveals that the few changes I’ve made over time span subjects from 1970s movies to Brooklyn parks and faculties to WNBA gamers’ private lives.

Everyone’s an knowledgeable on one thing; Wikipedia aggregates that experience and makes it obtainable to everybody.

Be daring however not reckless

Wikipedia’s recommendation to editors is be daring however do not be reckless. (Pretty good life recommendation, as properly.) The introduction to Wikipedia web page says it greatest:

Don’t be afraid to edit pages on Wikipedia
anybody can edit, and we encourage customers to be daring…however do not be reckless! Find one thing that may be improved, both in content material, grammar or formatting, then repair it. Worried about breaking Wikipedia? Don’t be: it could actually at all times be mounted or improved later. So go forward, edit an article and assist make Wikipedia the perfect supply of data
on the Internet!

So poke round and be daring, however not reckless. You by no means know what stray information you will have rattling round in your head which may profit everybody in a Wikipedia article.

Where assist is required

Wikipedians manage round particular efforts to enhance the content material of the location, like Project Punctuation and Too-short pages. Also, lists of the most wanted but not yet created articles is on the market for these of you who need to begin your individual entries. Explore and discover the areas the place assist is required essentially the most. Then pitch in the place you’ll be able to.

If all this linkage is overwhelming, then merely begin right here on the Wikipedia Tutorial, a step-by-step information to modifying, formatting, registration and different wiki performance.

Welcome to the world of contributing to Wikipedia. Happy modifying!

Gina Trapani is the editor of Lifehacker. Her particular characteristic Geek to Live seems each Wednesday and Friday on Lifehacker.

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