What’s the big deal? So what? I edit Wikipedia. There are time when this is what my head tells me. I often have to remind myself that it is a big deal.
Not A Big Deal?
The logic of my brain rests in the way academia and research circles work. In this world contributions to encyclopedias just aren’t a big deal. It doesn’t help you get tenure, promotion, or more money for your research. In the case of Wikipedia, it’s hard to quantify and qualify your participation in ways other academics and researchers can understand. What does it mean that I have made 2,000 edits in 10 years? That doesn’t really seem like much.
While it sounds great to say I edit Wikipedia or that I created 12 entries, you will never see my work as uniquely mine. There will be nothing on the entry that says “Sara wrote this!” In fact, if I tried that crap, I would get in trouble. This is collaborative work in the sense that we all add or subtract what we need from the entry. You have no idea if I am the one making sure vandalism is quickly reversed.
Then there is the comparison to the rest of the Wikipedia editor’s community. This has nothing to do with them, but with the conversation inside my mind. I have met and become friendly with many of my fellow editors. They impress and inspire me to be involved for those personal connections that few people see happening from outside the community. Every single one of my ideas related to Wikipedia has come from seeing other editors do it. When I compare myself to these people, being an editor isn’t a big deal.
But Being a Wikipedia Editor is Actually A Big Deal
It is when I leave the circle of Wikipedia editors that I realize what I do actually is a pretty big deal. Yes, there are people who don’t care and that’s fine. There are far more people who think it’s pretty impressive. I find these are the people who value information. They understand how powerful misinformation can be and that those who make sure information is shared as accurately as possible.
I am reminded this when I talk to people are why they *don’t* edit Wikipedia. There is a sense of the importance of getting it right or not being qualified to get it right. This is especially true for certain generations. Many of us still see information sharing as something done by experts. It’s not even a Gen X and older thing. It goes all the way down the line. We trust so easily with information, but we don’t see ourselves in control of it.
Shift the Perspective
With the damage as Facebook (among other social media platforms) and fake news source did this past year, it is more important than ever that information be accurate and verified. People’s trust in sources has shifted for good or bad. Wikipedia’s values are more important than ever and there needs to be more perspectives represented. Not just gender, but cultural and economic. We need to break down the walls between people and the information. I’m not talking about information consumption, but creation and transitioning. Wikipedia values sourced and verified information. More than that, it values sources that have some type of editorial review. It can be as simple as making sure news reported in quality news sources is added to verify information in Wikipedia.
Libraries are working to bring Wikipedia and the population together, but there needs to be interest by people. No, not everyone is going to want to edit Wikipedia, but hopefully we can bring more diverse perspectives.
This is one of the reasons why I edit Wikipedia: I know the world of information better than a lot of people and I am motivated to make a difference.
My question to you: If you don’t edit Wikipedia, what would have to happen to make you an editor? If you already edit Wikipedia, what motivates you to keep doing it?