Writing your first Wikipedia article

Back in 2008, I wrote up instructions on the WikiProject Oregon blog:

Writing your first Wikipedia article

I just looked it over and — amazingly — I see very little that I’d change in 2015. The only things I can think of:

  • Consider using the Visual Editor (which you can enable in your user preferences) for starting a new article; this will make many technical tasks easier (such as linking other articles, formatting citations, or illustrating the article)
  • To create a draft in your user space (as suggested in the original), there is now a much easier shortcut to create the page — simply click the “Sandbox” link at the top of the screen.
  • If you take that approach, DO NOT submit the article by means of the big blue “Submit your draft for review!” button. Seriously! If you have created a decent article, you will only hurt your chances if you go down that path. Instead, just find the “Move page” link when you think it’s ready to publish, and give it a new title.

Experienced Wikipedians: any other updates on how to create your first article — in 2015? The process is still a pain in the neck, but — at least it’s pretty consistent!

Posted in Beginner how-to, wiki, Wikipedia, Wikipedia and education | 4 Comments

Philip Roth’s lingering stain on Wikipedia’s reputation

Novelist Philip Roth in 1973

Philip Roth was feeling irked.

Wikipedia’s writeup (as of 2012) of his bestselling novel, The Human Stain, was (he contended) inaccurate; and despite Roth’s efforts to correct it through private correspondence, Wikipedia’s cadre of volunteer editors wouldn’t budge. At issue: over the years, writers for the Journal of Higher Education, the New York Times, The Nation, and several other publications had speculated that the book’s main character, Coleman Silk, was based on a man named Anatole Broyard. But according to Roth, that was completely untrue. In his open letter to Wikipedia, Roth went so far as to describe an “alleged allegation” — suggesting, preposterously and incorrectly, that nobody had even alleged that Silk and Broyard were connected.

So yes — Roth had a problem.

But despite his protestations to the contrary — which have proven surprisingly tenacious in the news media’s ongoing effort to make sense of Wikipedia — his problem was not a Wikipedia problem. Continue reading

Posted in journalism, systemic bias, wiki, Wikipedia | Tagged | 5 Comments

Wikipedia and education: How to get started?

I am moderating a panel for the Hewlett Foundation’s Open Educational Resources grantees meeting (2015): The Power of Reuse: Wikipedia in Action

Three panelists will join me as we explore the connections between Wikipedia and education:

  • Jeannette Lee, a high school teacher who has her students engage with Wikipedia
  • Dr. Amin Azzam, a medical school instructor whose students write high quality Wikipedia articles
  • Dan Cook, a journalist with expertise in the editorial processes of both journalism and Wikipedia

This blog post will collect points raised in the session; please visit again for updates, or add to the comments below.

Here are links to a guide to getting started with Wikipedia (available under the CC BY 4.0 license; attribution, Wiki Strategies):


Posted in Beginner how-to, Communicate OER, edit-a-thon, How-to, wiki, Wikipedia and education | Tagged | Leave a comment

Wikipedia program for Oregon universities

I left Oregon in 2009 to design a university outreach program for the Wikimedia Foundation. It was my first opportunity to put my knowledge of the inner workings of English language Wikipedia to use on a large scale. A couple years later, the $1.3 million pilot project I designed had introduced more than 800 students in 47 classes to the process of contributing to Wikipedia, and guided them in generating 5,800 pages of content.

LiAnna Davis presenting at WikiConference USA 2014. Photo by Frank Schulenburg, CC-0 (no copyright restrictions)

LiAnna Davis presenting at WikiConference USA 2014. Photo by Frank Schulenburg, CC-0 (no copyright restrictions)

Tomorrow morning, the fruits of that labor will come home to Oregon, when my colleague LiAnna Davis — a native of McMinnville, and now Director of Programs for the Wiki Education Foundation — presents at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University on the benefits of using Wikipedia as a teaching tool. Continue reading

Posted in Communicate OER, Oregon, wiki, Wikimedia Foundation, Wikipedia and education | Leave a comment

Using Wikisource to make old photos more accessible

Wikipedia is mainly an effort to preserve existing knowledge. One thing Wikipedians like to do is to preserve old photos that have become part of the public domain. This can mean illustrating a Wikipedia article; but another goal is to give everybody direct access to the highest quality version available, to reuse however they see fit. Your local historical society might take these same public domain photos, and sell you a print or a high resolution scan, and might even imply that your reuse is restricted to non-commercial use. Google Books will offer mediocre scans, watermarked on every page with their logo, and again requesting only non-commercial reuse. But Wikimedia’s approach is driven by a desire to empower humanity. In this video, I demonstrate how Wikipedia’s sister sites, Wikisource and Wikimedia Commons, build on the excellent work of Project Gutenberg, the Internet Archive, to make high quality scans of photos from books broadly accessible. Continue reading

Posted in Beginner how-to, Communicate OER, Free licenses, How-to, Oregon, public domain, wiki, Wikidata, Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia and education, Wikipedian in Residence | Leave a comment

Should you use Wikipedia when doing research?

The News Literacy Project, a U.S. organization devoted to middle-and high school students evaluate the various kinds of information they encounter,  just released a seven minute video about Wikipedia. It features two librarians, addressing whether and how to incorporate Wikipedia into research, and — relatedly — how the site is produced. Excellent overview & introduction for all levels.

Posted in Beginner how-to, Communicate OER, Wikipedia and education | Leave a comment

Wikipedia’s support page

Most users of Wikipedia aren’t aware that Wikipedia, like other online services, has a support staff. Granted, it is an all-volunteer staff and it can sometimes take months to get an answer to your question because of the backlog that often exists. But it’s a free service, and no one will try to upsell you to Wikipedia’s premium version. Many who’ve used the service have been quite satisfied with the results.

That said, there are complicating matters and some ethical issues involved that will be discussed in a subsequent blog post. In this post I’d like to focus on how you can access the Wikipedia support system. The following screencast is designed to do just that.

Once you’ve submitted your email request, it is entered in a support ticket system (often referred to by Wikipedians as “OTRS,” the name of the software used to run the system.) Your ticket will eventually be processed by a Wikipedia volunteer. All subsequent communication will be via email between you and the volunteer who, with any luck, will help you with your request.

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Steward elections

My friend Chris, who is an occasional — but not obsessive — Wikipedian,​ recently noted how challenging it can be to track the various elections and so forth in the Wikipedia world. This was, I think, a very astute observation in a discussion that began around “Gamergate,” a particularly controversial case being heard by the English Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee. Much like the politics of government entities, the politics of Wikipedia can be very hard to understand, if you’re not deeply enmeshed in the relevant day-to-day activities…or even if you are! But many people — perhaps all of us — have a stake in the healthy functioning of Wikipedia, so it’s important to engage with these processes.

So, let’s look at a current example. Yesterday, an election for “stewards” began; it will be open until February 28, which gives you some time to get up to speed. Continue reading

Posted in Administrator, Beginner how-to, government, How-to, wiki | Leave a comment

Not for sale: Administrative services

In Part 1 of this blog series on Wikipedia ethics, I explored the general principles that guide our work, and how we advise our clients in Wikipedia engagement; and I gave a bunch of links to our past writings, and various relevant web pages. Today, I’ll explore how I handle my responsibilities as a Wikipedia administrator, as relates to my paid work with Wiki Strategies. Continue reading

Posted in Administrator, navel gazing, Statements of Ethics, Terms of Use, wiki, Wikipedian in Residence | Leave a comment

Using Wikipedia in an unknown language

There are Wikipedia sites in hundreds of languages. Are you ever interested in the contents of an article in a language you don’t know? Or want to reach somebody who works in a language you don’t know? This simple trick will make it much easier to find your way around:

(The video below is embedded from YouTube; if you prefer to view the video on Commons, here’s the link.)

Posted in Beginner how-to, How-to, wiki | Tagged | Leave a comment