Why It Took Me Years to Start Editing Wikipedia

Why It Took Me Years to Start Editing Wikipedia

Last week I wrote an entry telling you a bit about how I got involved in editing Wikipedia.  I mentioned that I have been an editor for over 10 years, but it has only been in the past 3 that I got very involved in editing.  Today I want to address the two reasons I think I took so long to start editing and what reasons other people tell me keeps them from editing.

Why It Took Me Years to Start Editing Wikipedia

Reason 1: I Didn’t Know Where To Start Editing

I found the idea of editing Wikipedia to be intimidating for a variety of reasons.  One of those reasons was because I had no idea where to start.  There have been a lot of tools created in the last few years that help editors find their niche, but in the beginning, you had to figure it out for yourself.  I looked to topics I thought I knew a lot about and found the conversations and content was way beyond what I could contribute.  I am not great with copy editing, I didn’t want to spend forever to do research just to make an edit, and adding in-text citations (something I do often now) was not a common aspect of entries.  I let the content intimidate me.

Reason 2: I Didn’t Know How To Edit

I remember being at a Wikipedia conference in 2014 and hearing two editors debating the value of a tool they called the visual editor.  I was at my first edit-a-thon and still spinning my wheels because of reason no. 1.  One person was complaining that new editors should take the time to learn wiki code if they want to edit Wikipedia.  The other argued that wiki code was the barrier to getting more editors.  I agreed with the later because it was one of the things I was struggling with.

It’s not like I’m not experienced at coding.  I learned to code in HTML in college because I was bored with sitting in chat rooms, I was depressed, and making webpages seemed fun.  Wiki code was not foreign to me, it was just another code to learn and make sense of.  I had played with it enough to do some basic editing, but I not feeling the love.  It had been years since I have coded in HTML too.  I prefer visual editors that do the code for me.  The possibility, and eventual inclusion, of a visual editor to Wikipedia was a dream.  Once it was available, I found myself feeling more comfortable with the tool and thus, I got more comfortable with the content.

Reason 3: The Other Wikipedia Editors

I can be pretty aggressive and I tend to push back when intimidated, but a lot of people tell me it’s other editors who keep them from editing Wikipedia.  It’s also old experiences with editors.  So many people tell me stories about how they tried editing or creating a new entry only to get push back or deletion from other editors.  This is not a dead problem either.  Wikipedia has policies about how to treat new editors because people forget that on the other side of their internet connection is someone with feelings.  They forget that people often learn from experimenting.  People are afraid of making a mistake and getting their hand slapped by another editor.  There is some correlation between this issue and the gender gap.  It has been suggested that men dominate the community of editors because new, female editors, don’t want to deal with confrontation so they just walk away.

Reason 4: I don’t have time to Edit

I’m not going to argue with this one.  Wikipedia became a priority for me and thus I got more involved in editing.  I get this, but I often tell people to not feel intimidated to correct spelling or grammar.  You don’t need an account to do it and it is appreciated.

Next week I will tell you more about what changed and how it got me editing Wikipedia.

What about you?  What keeps you from editing Wikipedia?  Do you have a horror story?  Share it in the comments and we can commiserate!


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