Thursday, December 2, 2010

Community of Wikipedia

Wikipedia is one of the most visited sites on the web and it is one of the finest examples of public resourced data sites out there. Every six hours, more than 2,000 user accounts are made on Wikipedia. However, only 8% of those actually remain active. Sadly, there have been very few active contributors from Pakistan.

When an average person visits Wikipedia for the first time, he/she only sees an encyclopedia  – the world’s largest and yet free of cost. But what that reader does not see is a huge community behind that encyclopedia. The members of that community, or Wikipedians, work hard in expanding and maintaining this huge website which actually helps millions of people every day. Now that what I call a ‘global achievement’. When you sign up in this community, other users will warmly welcome you. You will get your own user page. It’s kind of page where you can share stuff about yourself, whatever way you want. There are no limits as there are in other sites like Facebook. You will also get a talk page in which you can talk with other users. You will get to start encyclopedic articles. But you can never own an article. Your contributions will be mercilessly edited by other users. You can always ask for help from dedicated administrators who will surely help you to the end. On this site, personal opinions and advertisement are strictly not allowed. You have to remain neutral and share information that is encyclopedic.

One of the problems with Wikipedia is that its editing requires usage of html – a computer language which can be difficult to comprehend at first by an average user. This is the reason why many females, aged people, residents from developing countries usually do not contribute to this site. However, the language is very easy and can be learned within a few hours. Another thing that netizens fail to understand, that Wikipedia may be free for everyone to read and edit, but that does not mean that you can manipulate its text in any way you want. There are policies and guidelines that wikipedians need to follow. Obviously you don’t own the site but you have the privileges to contribute to it. So, use them for the best.

Some teachers and critics believe that Wikipedia is not a good source of information. They think that most of the information is a product of random editors from around the globe, hence, not reliable enough. First of all, the person should know about these risks while using Wikipedia and remain careful by using his/her own judgment to decide which information to believe or not. Secondly, according to policies laid out by Wikipedia, there are to be no personal opinions and every claim is to be supported (or cited) by a ‘reliable source’ e.g. news, book, government site etc. These citations of reliable sources are called references that could be found at the end of each article. If you do not believe a claim, you can try having a look of the reference. Thirdly, Wikipedia only gives a general view about a topic like an encyclopedia should. But, most of the times, it also gives external links to other sites which can help a reader in exploring the topic further in depth. Teachers and experts are right about one thing that students copy all of the text from Wikipedia page and do not do any research of their own. Well, in that case its not Wikipedia’s fault.

Another reason for which Wikipedia is continuously bashed about is that any person can do whatever he/she wants to. Yes, some people vandalize it. For example, they replace the useful text with jibber jabber. But what they do not realize that there are super-vigilant editors who keep patrolling the newly made anonymous edits. Unconstructive edits are quickly reverted. If the vandalism continues, the bad editor will be blocked. What is even harder to believe, that the good editors work for free. This is one of the things I like about the community of Wikipedia. Unlike, ‘trendy’ networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, most Wikipedians are unselfish and don’t talk rubbish. They are there on a mission. And they take care of that mission seriously. I rather spend time helping spread knowledge, even if a little, than playing Farmville. Besides, Wikipedia has helped me many times in the past. To Wikipedia, every contributor is important. But not every editor is a contributor.

So rather than following the sayings of those critics, most of which haven’t done anything worthwhile for the humanity themselves, I suggest you use your own judgment to decide whether Wikipedians have done a good (or great) work so far. I say that you guys should also become a Wikipedian and contribute to the website, even if a little. You can add information about the topics of your own interest, especially Pakistan-related topics. You can visit my page on Wikipedia by typing User:Farjad0322 in the search bar.

1 comment:

  1. Nicely summarised; I quite agree with one of the reasons why there are less contributors from Pakistan on the website, and that is owing to use of HTML. When I first started, I had no idea of the language either but learnt it gradually. I think we should work towards the promotion of wiki-editing. A good start would be to work on a 'Wikimedia Pakistan' chapter. Several countries have local Wikimedia chapters, India just got one recently. However, there has been nothing like this in Pakistan. We can also host more meetups around various cities. Karachi is the only one that has had a meetup and Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, even once mentioned an interest to visit Pakistan in a media-covered event such as a 'Wikipedia academy.' I think hosting meetups should be one of the first key priorities if Wikipedia culture is to be promoted in Pakistan. Currently, there are 18 million internet users in this country and I am sure thousands of them would be devoted editors if they knew anything about editing on Wikipedia


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