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WIKIPEDIA @ 10
“What I teach my students is that online we should look for the
presence of a ‘guarantee.’ We can trust a site when we have
reason to believe that someone would care if it was wrong.
There is no question at all that the Wikpedians care—in fact
they care a lmost too much,” says Goodw in.
Behind every article there lies a History page with a
list of every edit ever made, plus a Talk page (also known
as a Discussion page) where editors—both registered and
unregistered—can discuss the article, work out disputes, and
plan future improvements. Sometimes these meta pages are
the site of pitched battles for more contentious issues, but this
is also where some of the most important work of Wikipedia
gets done. Talk pages can also be key to any individual article’s
claim to accuracy a nd reliability.
“I actually once heard a proponent describe [Wikipedia]
as ‘continuously peer-reviewed,’ which I think is way better
than thinking of it than as some kind of totally unmoderated
random website,” Gathman says.
But who are these “peers”? According to the Wikimedia
Foundation head of communications Jay Walsh, there are
approximately 100,000 active editors globa lly, with between one
and two thousand doing the most edits on a
monthly basis. Registered
editors come from all back-
grounds and global regions,
but Goodwin has a theory
U.S. editors. “Wikipedia . . .
experienced its spectacu lar
expansion just after the ‘Dot
Com’ bust had thrown many
people out of work. So my
personal suspicion is that the
average Wikipedian is in their
mid-20s, u nderemployed or
unemployed in a tech field.”
Goodwin also feels that
those who cou ld reasonably be
considered experts in a given
subject or field don’t engage in
editing asmuch as others, because
they know how much work it would
take to write a good synthesis of
a topic. “It takes a ‘hobbyist’ to
write a good Wikipedia article—
10 Years of Wikipedia
January 15 Wikipedia.com launches. 20,000 articles
are created in the site’s first year.
Contributors to the Spanish language Wiki-
pedia split off to form Enciclopedia Libre.
Wikimedia Foundation estab-
lished to serve as a non-profit
host for Wikipedia.
The first attempt to block
Wikipedia is made by China.
Wikipedia becomes the most popular
reference website, according to Hitwise.
The domain for German Wikipedia (de.
wikipedia.org), the first non-English Wikipe-
dia, is created.
Co-founder Larry Sanger
The current jigsaw logo is first
introduced. The concept and
design is chosen after being
voted on by Wikipedia users.
september Worldwide Wikipedia articles reach the 1
million mark with an article published on
the Hebrew Wikipedia.
The Seigenthaler incident involves an
anonymously written hoax biography that
goes uncorrected for four
months. The resulting
discussion (and backlash)
leads to a number of
policy changes, user guidelines, and new
software developments to combat such
abuse in the future.
that students can benefit from starting on Wikipedia, as it can
help them understand concepts that more scholarly sources
often make more difficult to grasp. Coupled with citations and
easily accessible sources, the site can be a force for good in
academia. “ T he challenge is in teaching that real work is still
required to use Wikipedia effectively as a sou rce.”
an issue of Trust
Goodwin believes that Wikipedia’s biggest issue is not accuracy,
but trustworthiness. In her paper, The Authority of Wikipedia,
she explores why people utilize and trust Wiki articles despite
the nature of the site and the many arguments against it. After
all, the credentials of the various editors are unverified, the
organization is committedtoallowingeditorstobe anonymous
or pseudonymous if they choose, and the culture of the site is
accused of being a nti-expert.
However, people might trust Wikipedia because they’ve
found it reliable in the past or because they understand that the
editors behind the site really care about the topics they edit.
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