New York City Wikipedia“Newbie” Classes: Plunging Into Editing Wikipedia Articles

This second session, I’ll break up into two Wikipedia Editing blog posts so you can follow along step by step. This way, I can answer the ‘Why’ along with the ‘What.’

Lesson 3: Getting Our Article Editing Bearings

I’m going to hit you with a lot of screenshots right now but it’ll cut about an hour off your initial head-scratching when attempting to find a starting place to edit Wikipedia articles. I find pictures are effective when learning to navigate a web site, so for all my examples, we’ll refer to this slightly specialized page which you may recognize from last post [link to NDG3: Seeking Wikipedia Editing Help in NYC] : Wikipedia Article Rat Terrier. Here’s what you see. (you may need to click the images for a full sized view.)

Top navigation bar of Wikipedia page example: Rat Terrier

You should take note of five things here:

  1. Log in/Create account
  2. Article/Read
  3. View history
  4. Discussion
  5. Edit

Log in / Create account: Not strictly Required By Wikipedia Editing Policy

Link Location: Top Right, above all graphics, logos and text.

Why create an account to edit a Wikipedia page? Why log in? Short answer: transparency. Long answer: if you’re interested in the topic, and have made an article edit you firmly think needs to remain permanent, you also need to keep your presence consistent. You need an I.D. from which to defend your position if there is resistance to your contribution. Otherwise, you risk being seen as a “troll” and all your edits AND justifications will be disregarded.

Article/Read: Before & While Editing Pages, Refer To The Current Article

Link Location: [Article] Directly above article title, far left. [Read] On the same line, but on the right side.

The article is what you while surfing Wikipedia. You don’t have to do anything special to see this page. In fact, this is the page from where every other action should radiate. The Article page is your hub. I suggest keeping a second browser window open to this page, while you do your Wikipedia page edits in another. Clicking the Read link leads you to the same page, but if you are concentrating on editing activities, you might be looking for the original article link in the cluster at the top right.

View History: How Active Is The Article?

Link Location: Directly above article title, directly to the left of the “search” field.

Example of the Wikipedia "history page" view

Take a look at this page to see when conversation died out on this article. Is it new? Is it old? Has it gone through pages and pages of Wikipedia edits? Have changes been deleted as often as made? Has the page undergone heavy sabotage? These will give you an idea of how to approach editing this Wikipedia page.  How often do you need to check back to see if there have been any changes afterward?

Discussion: This Is Where the Wikipedia Editing Process Takes Place

Link Location: Directly to the left of “view history” link. That was easy!

Example of Wikipedia article talk page: Rat Terrier

The statement “it’s not personal” has never applied more than in the Wikipedia Editing Process. Until you get into using Wikipedia for business (we’ll revisit this topic). You’ll want to check this out before starting article edits. This is where you watch the rhythm of the Double Dutch ropes before jumping in. If it’s a hotly contested page, you will see the tone you need to use in supporting your edit, as well as how strong of an external reference you’ll have to cite in addition to your change in the article text. Though there is no strict English Wikipedia editing policy, it’s a socially accepted and upheld standard to require a source as justification of changing or adding facts or text in articles that are very active behind the scenes.

I’ve saved the best for last. I hope you’ve got your safety belts fastened, since we’re about to shift into high gear. Next post, I’ll get into what might be considered a loose English Wikipedia editing guideline, as can be inferred from the newbie Wikipedia editing adventure.