I have had an account on Wikipedia since 2010 when I attempted to add some content to my employer’s Wikipedia page. My knowledge of HTML was limited and I assumed, when looking at the ‘edit’ screen in Wikipedia, that Wikipedia was formatted using HTML tags. I later found that the the HTML tags I used did not format correctly. Furthermore, any edits that I made were quickly contested by the Wikipedia ‘community’. I did not know then how to cite articles and within a few weeks, my additions were deleted. My only successful editing with Wikipedia was a minor edition to the Greensboro, NC page. I added a section on the Glenwood neighborhood (which was not previously mentioned on the Greensboro, NC page).
This exercise has been immensely helpful in learning to edit Wikipedia pages. I learned how to so simple tasks, like a cite a source, link to a Wikipedia article, link to an external hyperlink, and create headers and subheaders. I had the chance to see how HTML works with Wikipedia’s markup language. I feel confident now that I can edit Wikipedia pages in the future.
As a librarian, I have a love/hate relationship with Wikipedia. On on the one hand, it has a lot of rich, authoritative content. On the other hand, Wikipedia is prone to occasional trolling and spreaders of dis-information. I’ve read many pro and con articles about Wikipedia since the mid-2000’s. Now that most people have accepted that Wikipedia is here to stay, I think the initial critics are looking for Wikipedia’s redeeming qualities. And for the initial skeptics like myself, I can find many advantages while still maintaining a critical eye towards the content. Maria Bustillos wrote an insightful essay on “Wikipedia and the Death of the Expert” in 2011. Her analysis of Wikipedia is ‘fair and balanced’ (inside joke). She notes that, among other things, Wikipedia illustrates how knowledge is contested, learners are ‘doers’ and not recipients, and we are living in a post-‘fact’ world. Information is no longer contained in ‘silos’ of printed knowledge. While many people lament the ‘death of the expert’, Bustillos and others look forward to a new age where ‘experts’ and ‘novices’ are proven to be arbitrary labels. Anyone with an Internet connection and a modicum of knowledge on Wikipedia’s markup language can edit a page. The edit page in a Wikipedia article can be a very a telling account of how knowledge is contested, particularly on controversial topics. With my newly acquired editing skills, I look forward to enhancing inadequate pages, filling in citation gaps, and contributing to a community where all of us, not just the ‘expert’, maintain some semblance of accuracy (or whatever that means in a post-modern world), or at least consensus. Oh the places I will go!