Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit

Despite of having watched last year’s MSWL talks about Wikipedia (part I, part II, part III and part IV), it is always a pleasure for me to listen to such good teachers and experts on this topic as Miguel Vidal and Felipe Ortega. I recommend this year’s video talks as well as last year’s, since they both explain in a very clear way many different aspects of Wikipedia, a paradigmatic project of  free culture and open collaboration.

I this post I will summarize some points that called my attention.

Something (reviewed) is better than nothing

Traditional encyclopedias have a “quality filter” and articles or works not matching their minimum quality standards are discarded and not published. In Wikipedia there are quality control too (anybody can edit, and so, correct or improve the existing articles), but when an article has defects of content or structure, it is not deleted: instead of this, several “warning labels” are attached to the article, alerting the reader about its weaknesses, and encouraging contributions leading to improve the existing information. For attaching this warning labels to articles, Wikipedia uses Template messages that can be easily included in the wiki markup. For example, a reference like {{Unreferenced|date=February 2012}} will produce this warning label:

Wikipedia localization

Wikipedia is not one but a set of encyclopedias, in many different languages. You can find articles about a certain topic with different contents and structure depending on the language, since different people wrote them, and homogeneity between languages is not a requirement (in fact, each “language edition” is an autonomous  community, and defines its internal framework and rules to deploy the five pillars of Wikipedia: (I) Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, (II) Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view, (III) Wikipedia is free content that anyone can edit, use, modify, and distribute, (IV) Editors should interact with each other in a respectful and civil manner, and (V) Wikipedia does not have firm rules). On the other side, translating a good article to other language is allowed (because of the CC license) and recognised as a good and easy way of contributing to Wikipedia, specially if there is no previous article on that topic in the target language.

Wikimedia commons

Other type of resoruces of information different than text may be interesting to have in any encyclopedia, that can be used by many differnt language editions: images, sounds, charts… This is one of the reasons to host centralized multimedia repositories as Wikimedia Commons, available not only to use inside the Wikipedias, but in any place (if you respect the Creative Commons licenses).

Many different motivations to get involved

Wikipedia is not many things but being faithful to its 5 pillars, it still matches with many diverse motivations of many diverse people that got involved in the past and is getting involved each new day.

One thing that I liked very much of Miguel Vidal’s talk is that he tried to go to the roots of the multiple motivations of Wikipedia contributors, connecting them with several, basic needs that we, as human beings, try to satisfy participating in different communities: professional associations, family groups, hobby-related clubs or sport clubs, NGOs… Wikipedia is a cultural community, a internet community, a human, live community with a low access barrier: an internet connection, and just one click:


About larjona

My name is Laura Arjona Reina, I am a libre software user and fan of the free culture. If you want to contact me you can write an email to larjona [at] larjona [dot] net I am @larjona at in the social network. --- Me llamo Laura Arjona Reina, soy usuaria de software libre y fan de la cultura libre. Si quieres contactar conmigo puedes escribir a larjona [en] larjona [punto] net Soy @larjona en el servidor, de la red social
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