Bored? Policy-weary? Write something.

English Wikipedia may have two million articles, but it’s so far off finished it’s ridiculous.

We had a quite notable recent classroom experiment in assigning students missing Wikipedia articles to write. Dig this first edit!

Writing a new article that will stick really isn’t hard: a few paragraphs, some references and some indication that there’s a reason to care will do the trick. (Go on, stretch yourself beyond web comics.) Anyone with an hour or two can produce something well worth keeping with Google Scholar. If you have access to a university library, it’s ridiculously easy.

Rather than just telling your students “go write something,” set them loose on a list of red links, requested articles, missing articles or the missing articles project. Discussion on WikiEN-L suggested Gaelic footballers, Indian and South African politicians (indeed, politicians from anywhere that isn’t the US or Europe), biographies from before the twentieth century (check any public domain biographical dictionary, particularly ones not in English), every scientist in a prominent national academy …

(Don’t forget to tell the school and university projects list.)

Also: add red links as you potter about the wiki. Red links encourage contributors. We’re now saying so expressly at FAC. And pathological red link haters can always be dealt with.

One Response to “Bored? Policy-weary? Write something.”

  1. Excellent advice, David. I’ve always lamented the way too many people don’t look beyond the obvious and realize that Wikipedia is far away from finished, even in terms of article titles.

    Our coverage of the commercial world is lamentable, but I wouldn’t encourage new editors to contribute there; there’s too much of a ‘Commercial! That means spam! Kill it!’ attitude among our admins and would-be admin goldfarmers.

    Also note that there is an astonishing amount of stuff available in copyright-expired books, through e.g. Google Books. Beware that scholarship may have advanced since then in academic subjects, of course.

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