Wikipedia Editing – Julie McGrath

Wikipedia is one of the most frequently visited sites on the web, and while many of us may use it on an almost daily basis, it is likely that most of us have not actually edited an article. For this assignment, I selected a Wikipedia article on Sir Stephen Edward De Vere, a nineteenth-century philanthropist and poet from county Limerick.

I began by registering an account. Although it is possible to for any visitor to edit an article, by registering with the site, you gain some additional benefits, such as access to a watch list of changes to articles you have previously edited. It also makes it possible to maintain your anonymity by using a username rather than your actual name. The site requests your email address, but this is optional. Contributors and editors of Wikipedia that use their real name in registering their account allow their entire editing history to become publicly available to future employers, colleagues, and any other interested party. I chose to maintain my anonymity in this instance, and was happy to have had the option of doing so, especially when one considers how much information is often sought when registering with websites, or even downloading an app.

As this was my first foray into editing a Wiki article, I decided to only make a minor change. The content that already existed on the page did not include any obvious spelling, grammatical, or citation errors. Issues which are frequently flagged on some Wikipedia pages. The page on De Vere, only referred to one of his siblings. I listed his other brothers and sisters, and gave a reference for my source of information. I choose this article because I had some prior knowledge about the subject. The tone of the existing article was factual, and there was no evidence of any contributors providing their own opinions as factual evidence, something which I wanted to avoid doing myself.

After I completed the registration process, and selected the article I wanted to edit, I was given the option of editing a source, or the main body of text. The site page highlighted the ways in which to insert a link or citation, and made the process as straightforward as possible. After making my addition to the page, I manually entered my chosen citation of a published book, previewed the changes made, and finally saved the page.

I found the process of editing a Wikipedia article to be far easier than I had anticipated. The directions were simple and easy to follow, the layout is uncomplicated, and helpful prompts and step by step instructions are available. The ease and anonymity with which one can make changes is undoubtedly one of the main attractions of Wikipedia. It is also perhaps the secret of its success. In allowing contributions from people across every social and academic field, and with almost any level of digital literacy, it was possible to create what many now view as an invaluable knowledge resource. But open access for contributors is possibly also it’s biggest drawback, as it makes it difficult to maintain a high or uniform standard, and control the quality of articles.

As Wikipedia allows contributions and changes to be made by anyone, it effectively means that each reader has the potential to become the editor. This does raise questions about the place and role of the editor in digital scholarly publishing. Could it be that the role of editor is becoming obsolete? Pierazzo argues that because it has become easier than ever to publish on the Web, and there is now a much greater quantity of textual material available, the guidance of an editor is even more important. It is important to maintain a certain standard, particularly with regard to scholarly publications. But as Pierazzo stated, ‘Any act of publication, of making available something that was not before, requires judgement, evaluation and ultimately interpretation of what is worth publishing and what is not.’[1]

before     after 1after

[1] Elena Pierazzo. Digital Scholarly Editing: Theories, Models and Methods. 2014. <hal-

01182162>, [accessed: 16/11/15].


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