Editing Wikipedia…

Yonatan Miller
Jun 26, 2018 · 2 min read

As a child, I was forbidden by my teachers from using Wikipedia for school reports, because it was not “reliable” and more importantly, I would miss out on the valuable experience of visiting a public library (fewer scholarly resources existed online, back then).

Fast forward ten years later, Wikipedia jumped from 9th to 5th most popular website in Alexa ranking. While the rate of article creation has slowed down on English Wikipedia, the number of text added kept growing, which suggests existing articles are being maintained, a promising sign.

Like most people, I read Wikipedia articles from to time. While researching an event about a Fort Meade police shooting, I fell upon a wiki article, only to be shocked by its transphobic language. In the past, I edited articles without an account, which meant using my IP address as my username. Being wary of getting harassed by rogue NSA employees (many of whom, work at Forte Meade) I made an account and my first edit, replacing transphobic language with neutral language as per WP:NPOV. I felt vindicated, but didn’t make any more edits the next two years. I was busy learning how to code, and adding content did not feel like a priority at the time.

I have read how difficult editing Wikipedia is, both from a technical point of view and complying with its vast community rules, which can be daunting and discouraging for new people. Nonetheless, I managed to provide contributions to current events such as Harvey Weinstein, GDPR, Eritrean/Ethiopian war, Abortion in Ireland — to more niche historic topics, such as Johann Kremenezky, Norman Rockwell paintings, Berlin public transit etc..

My hope is to get a more holistic understanding of the shortcomings of editing on Wikipedia (mobile mode is an obvious one) and see what can be changed. Editing info-boxes (arguably as important if not more important than the lede) and nested templates also proved to be cumbersome. In 2017, a feature request was made for info-box Wizard to automatically help with filling in right fields and searching correct template.

My next steps are to explore using and creating bots to help automate or assist with editing. Subscribe to Wikimedia for tech blog posts.

Yonatan Miller

Written by

Programmer 💻🔥 Articles are my own, sorta ☕ Writing for pleasure and advocacy.

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