Notes for #tooFEW Edit a thon

In preparation for Friday’s #tooFEW Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, I spent some time watching the great training session that Adrianne Wadewitz did for a Pitzer class taught by Alex Juhasz.
To help those who are coming to our local editing party and those who will be working virtually, I’ve written up a few rather lightweight notes. I really recommend watching the video in full – these notes are intended as reference for those who have already seen the session.

Beginning on the Wikipedia Homepage
Wikipedia has internal peer review processes that assess writing, research, structure; a great article review can lead to showcasing as “Featured Article.”
“Did you know” articles are newly created articles, which are refreshed every couple of hours.

Before you begin editing
Adrianne noted that it’s important to recognize that it’s not just people within our own community reading the articles; Wikipedia has a world-wide audience. Editors need to think about your audience in a very broad sense. For example – the world largely takes evolution as uncontroversial, so the article is not dominated by the largely US debate on evolution. Need to get a sense of the global perspective before you write.

Most people don’t stick around to be editors – an “Established editor” is someone who has been editing for 4 days – people don’t stick around more than four days because it’s hard. The upside of this is that if you have the tenacity to do the work and do it well, then you’ll quickly be an established editor!

Everyone who edits is a volunteer  – including the “Recent Changes Trolls” – they get badges and levels for finding things that are wrong.

Recent changes page – demonstrates how much change is going on at any given moment

Wikipedia editors need to screen through all of this; vandalism is super common so there are scripts that identify the vandalism. If you’re coming just from an IP address, it looks like you don’t know what you’re doing. If you’re logged in, you can explain what it is that you’re doing, which helps the editors parse entry.

What counts as a good source – a secondary source! You can’t make the claim yourself; you can’t cite someone’s personal blog page. You need other people publishing on the topic/person. Among the kinds of things that can work: secondary books, published media accounts (beware the press release for promotional material), book reviews, biographies or published profiles.

Thinking about the structure of your post
Summary: most people never read past this part, so work hard on this section.
Article Contents: set of sections with hyperlinks in TOC

Basic rules: Wikipedia “Five Pillars”

  • Wikipedia is a “tertiary” source (as opposed to first or secondary sources) “summarizes secondary sources,” which means that in a way it is “very conservative” in the sense that it only publishes what has already been published: “verifiability not truth.”
  • Encyclopedia publishes already published knowledge – not truth per se.
  • If you argue, it’s about what the scholars have said – what the sources say.
  • W is written from a “neutral point of view” – derives its pov from the sources. You cannot use own personal experience, opinion, or perspective. You can only cite published material.
  • W is free – anyone can edit, use, modify. Therefore any information that you post is available for free use. Creative commons share and share alike license. What you are writing will appear on other sites as well.
  • W editors should interact with each other in a respectful and civil manner. Remember, however, that it is still an internet community. It is 90% male, mostly 20-30’s and mostly white. Can be very aggressive and argumentative. Adrianne recommends not using your legal name as login, which is partially about not having all of this content appear in a google search for you.
  • W –beyond that, there are no firm rules. You cannot break Wikipedia. All edits are saved. Feel emboldened.

Getting started
To start, login and then go to your sandbox – a space where you can play around and generate text; like a draft area. If you’d like to generate text, you can go to for dummy text.
Practice writing summary, saving, creating section headers (use equal sign =  on both sides to make something a header, different numbers of signs surrounding gives you different sizes of headers). A TOC is automatically created if you have 4 + sections.

Use “show preview” to see how your page looks before publishing and use “edit summary” to narrate the kinds of changes that you’ve made.

Versions are saved, so you can go back in time and you can restore.

Error messages will tell you the nature of the error and will tell you how to fix the error – don’t fear the error message!

Helpful How To Tips

  • To create a section use equal sign = on either side, different number of = gives different weight to section header
  • To create bulleted list: use asterisk * in front of each item in list
  • To create a numbered list: use pound sign # in front of each item in list – will automatically generate numbers for your list based on order
  • To add links:
    • For internal link use 2 [[on each side]] of what you want to link – very important to check the link to ensure that it works
    • For external links use single brackets on either side. You can also use the wisiwig editor to insert link.
    • You can always click on “Help” button if you forget editing details
    • How to add in a reference – put cursor in place and then hit “Reference” button. A new window will appear and you put in your citation there. Note that references will automatically renumber


3 Replies to “Notes for #tooFEW Edit a thon”

  1. […] Watch Adrianne Wadewitz’s extremely helpful video on how to edit Wikipedia here. (NB: It’s an hour long. Jacqueline Wernimont has some useful notes on the video here.) […]

  2. […] Jaqueline Wernimont’s guide for #tooFEW editors […]

  3. […] link, February 2014: Jacqueline Wernimont’s Notes for #tooFEW Edit a thon based on a training session by Adrianne Wadewitz are a useful basic introduction to […]

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