Wikipedia

The internet’s favourite website for information

Wikipedia at 17.

  • The world’s biggest encyclopedia will turn eighteen in January 2019.
  • English Wikipedia has 5.7m articles (full list of all 302 language Wikipedias)
  • 500 million visitors per month
  • 1.5 billion monthly unique devices per month.
  • 17 billion pageviews per month.
  • Completely open process and more reliable than you think
  • All edits are recorded in the View History of a page in permanent links so pages can be rolled back to their last good state if need be. e.g. View History page for Jeremy Hunt.
  • Vandalism removed more quickly than you think (only 7% of edits are considered vandalism)
  • Used in schools & universities to teach information literacy & help combat fake news.
  • Guidelines around use of reliable sources, conflict of interest, verifiability, and neutral point of view.
  • Articles ‘looked after’ (monitored and maintained) by editors from 2000+ WikiProjects.
  • Includes a quality and ratings scale – the two highest quality levels of articles are community reviewed.
  • Information organised in categories using a category tree. These categories can help create dynamic timelines.
  • Knowledge discussed on Talk pages  and at the Wikipedia Tea House where you can ask questions.
  •  87.5% of students report using Wikipedia for their academic work (Selwyn and Gorard, 2016) in “an introductory and/or clarificatory role” as part of their information gathering and research and finding it ‘academically useful’ in this context.
  • Used by 90% of medical students and 50-75% of physicians. (Masukume, Kipersztok, Shafee, Das, and Heilmam, 2017)
  • Research from the Harvard Business School has also discovered that, unlike other more partisan areas of the internet, Wikipedia’s focus on NPOV (neutral point of view) means editors actually become more moderate over time; the researchers seeing this as evidence that editing “Wikipedia helps break people out of their ideological echo chambers
  • It is the place people turn to orientate themselves on a topic.

 

More reading

Did Media Literacy backfire?

“Too many students I met were being told that Wikipedia was untrustworthy and were, instead, being encouraged to do research. As a result, the message that many had taken home was to turn to Google and use whatever came up first. They heard that Google was trustworthy and Wikipedia was not.” (Boyd, 2017)

Don’t cite Wikipedia, write Wikipedia.

  • Wikipedia does not want you to cite it. It considers itself a tertiary resource; an online encyclopedia built from articles which in turn are based on reliable, published, secondary sources.
  • Wikipedia is relentlessly transparent. Everything on Wikipedia can be checked, challenged and corrected. Cite the sources Wikipedia uses, not Wikipedia itself.
Own work by Stinglehammer, CC-BY-SA

Wikipedia does need more subject specialists to engage with it to improve its coverage, however. More eyes on a page helps address omissions and improves the content.

Six in six minutes – 3 students and 3 staff discuss Wikipedia in the Classroom

  1. Karoline Nanfeldt – 4th year Psychology undergraduate student.
  2. Tomas Sanders – 4th year History undergraduate student.
  3. Aine Kavanagh – Senior Hons. Reproductive Biology student.
  4. Ruth Jenkins – Academic Support Librarian at the University of Edinburgh Medical School.
  5. Dr. Jenni Garden – Christina Miller Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Chemistry.
  6. Dr. Michael Seery – Reader in Education at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Chemistry.

Wikipedia has a problem with systemic bias.

A 2011 survey suggests that on English Wikipedia around 90% of editors are male, and are typically formally educated, in white-collar jobs (or students) and living in the Global North.

“if there is a typical Wikipedia editor, he has a college degree, is 30- years-old, is computer savvy but not necessarily a programmer, doesn’t actually spend much time playing games, and lives in US or Europe.”

This means that the articles within Wikipedia typically reflect this bias. For example only 17% of biographies in English Wikipedia are of women. Many articles reflect the perspective of English speakers in the northern hemisphere, and many of the topics covered reflect the interests of this relatively small group of editors. Wikipedia needs a diverse community of editors to bring diverse perspectives and interests.

Wikipedia is also a community that operates with certain expectations and social norms in mind. Sometimes new editors can have a less than positive experience when they aren’t fully aware of this.

“5 Pillars of Wikipedia” flickr photo by giulia.forsythe https://flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/21684596874 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

There are only 80,000 regular contributors to Wikipedia. Of these, only 3,000 are considered ‘very active. That’s the population of a small village like Pitlochry trying to curate the world’s knowledge.

We need to increase the diversity and number of Wikipedia editors.  One way to do that is to run edit-a-thons and other facilitated activities that introduce some of these norms and expectations at the same time learning how to technically edit Wikipedia.

Isn’t editing Wikipedia hard?

Maybe it was a little hard once but not now. It’s all dropdown menus now with the Visual Editor interface. So super easy, intuitive and “addictive as hell“!

Do you need a quick overview of what all the buttons and menu options on Wikimedia do? Luckily we have just the very thing for you.

By Zeromonk (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Search is the way we live now” – Google and Wikipedia

  • Google depends on Wikipedia. Click through rate decreases by 80% if Wikipedia links are removed. (McMahon, Johnson and Hecht, 2017)
  • Wikipedia depends on Google. 84.5% of visits to Wikipedia attributable to Google. (McMahon, Johnson and Hecht, 2017)
  • Google processed 91% of searches internationally and 97.4% of the searches made using mobile devices according to 2011 figures in Hillis, Petit & Jarrett (2013).
  • Google’s ranking algorithm also has a ‘funnelling effect’ according to Beel & Gipp (2009); narrowing the sources clicked upon 90% of the time to just the first page of results with a 42% clickthrough on first choice alone.
  • This means that addressing knowledge gaps on Wikipedia will surface the knowledge to Google’s top ten results and increase clickthrough and knowledge-sharing. Wikipedia editing can therefore be seen as a form of activism in the democratisation of access to information.

 

The Symbiotic Relationship between Wikipedia and Google.

Learn how to edit Wikipedia in 30 mins

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