I recently found myself chatting with a software engineer friend of mine about the Wikimedian in Residence project at the University of Edinburgh. He proclaimed two things that he felt were ‘acknowledged truths’ which everyone understood about editing Wikipedia.

  1. “You can’t add to Wikipedia. Wikipedia already has EVERYTHING in the entire world within it so there is never any need to add anything more to it.”
Wikipedia's Quality and Ratings scale

Wikipedia’s Quality and Ratings scale – Screengrab from Wikipedia (CC-BY-SA)

As this graphic shows Wikipedia has a ‘Quality and Ratings‘ scale which shows the sheer quantity of English Wikipedia articles (over 5 million) but tellingly only a fraction are deemed of such high quality that they can be the ‘featured article’ (FA) on Wikipedia’s front page. Indeed as the second Pi chart shows (above right), over 50% of the articles on Wikipedia are short ‘stub’ articles (the red ‘stub class’ section).

Hence, while Wikipedia has sought in its first 15 years to achieve the ‘sum of all human knowledge‘ it is not quote there yet. Not quite.

The quantity of articles is there but the quality can certainly be improved. Which is why partnerships between Wikimedia UK and institutions like the University of Edinburgh are so important for both communities. The quantity and quality of Wikipedia’s content is improved by the process of knowledge exchange and the partner institution’s knowledge & expertise is successfully curated & disseminated throughout the world utilising a medium with unparalleled reach and influence.

Screengrab from ‘How to work successfully with Wikipedia’ WMUK GLAM Booklet 2014 (CC-BY-SA)

Screengrab from ‘How to work successfully with Wikipedia’ WMUK GLAM Booklet 2014 (CC-BY-SA)

The second thing my software engineer chum said was:

2. “Editing in Wikipedia using the markup programming language is easy.”

This may well be true. Using the markup language is not that difficult when one considers other programming languages out there but, of course, a software engineer would feel ‘markup’ was easy to use. Other people without the same degree of programming experience may not necessarily feel the same degree of confidence.

This is why Wikipedia’s introduction of the new ‘Visual Editor‘ interface is a HUGE leap forward in allowing would-be editors from all backgrounds to edit with confidence. The new interface has taken years to develop and implement and makes editing so much easier. It is a WYSIWYG interface (What You See Is What You Get) so makes the days of considering the foibles of programming language when creating/editing Wiki articles a thing of the past. Instead, using the Visual Editor makes editing Wikipedia much more like using Microsoft Word or WordPress.

But don’t just take my word for it, here’s a short clip to introduce Visual Editor.