Well, we finally made it – we’ve come to the final whistle stop in our Wikipedia Master Class journey. Along the way, we’ve discovered what it takes to get started, Wikipedia’s process and the various pages you’ll encounter; and the Five Pillars (and the Very Bad Things that happen should you choose to ignore them).
So, what’s left? Well, every good presentation or class ends with a review of what you learned and last-minute pointers to help you succeed. This Master Class series is no different, which means it’s time for us to dive back into the world of Wikipedia one final time.
Wikipedia: The Final Frontier
“Be bold.” One of Wikipedia’s most provocative guidelines, it states that users should to be bold when updating the encyclopedia. You’re probably thinking that this guideline runs counter to everything I’ve shared in previous installments of this series. But, the “be bold” dictate actually dovetails perfectly into what professional editors should be doing.
Be bold about declaring your Conflict of Interest (COI). Make sure it’s visible everywhere a volunteer Wikipedia editor might clap an eye on it. Put it on your Talk page, or the Talk page of the article you’re seeking to edit. Add a line about your COI to your post in Requested Articles. Bravely fly that professional editor freak flag high, proud, and in as many places as possible.
Once you’ve determined that you’re ready to create or edit an article, be bold about it. Do absolutely follow the Five Pillars and Wikipedia’s Manual of Style, but go ahead – be bold in getting your article written and/or edited, and cited. Err on the side of too many third-party references rather than too few. Boldly go where few other Wikipedia articles have gone before by adding as many relevant internal Wikipedia links and categories as fit your article.
Speak up if you need help. Be bold in proactively reaching out to the volunteer editing community with questions. Make a point of visiting the Teahouse, a friendly, judgment-free place where editors of any persuasion can ask any question at all about Wikipedia editing. Or, if you feel like you’re an experienced editor and want to share, become a Host at the Teahouse.
The point is, “be bold” isn’t as counterintuitive as it might seem. Be forward about who you are, what you’re hoping to accomplish, and then in the actions needed to make those goals a reality.
Do This, Not That – Final Thoughts
Before we bring the curtain down on this Master Class, here are a few parting thoughts and tips to help you become a successful, productive member of the Wikipedia community:
- First, do no harm. Your goal as a Wikipedia editor should be to leave the site better than you found it. Wikipedia is a living ecosystem and it’s easy to cause harm. Don’t be the obnoxious tourist who carelessly spoils things for future generations of travelers along Wikipedia’s path. Be careful, considerate, and respectful.
- Remember what Wikipedia is… and what it is not. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a marketing brochure or advertising medium. Stick to the Neutral Point of View (NPOV) in your copywriting, forgo adjectives, and make sure any claims you make are reinforced by legitimate third-party citations.
- Be yourself. Do make yourself known and accessible to the volunteer editing community. Do declare your COI and answer questions as openly as possible. Cite everything and sign your work. Remember – transparency is the name of the game here.
- Don’t use Wikipedia for SEO backlinks – this is because all Wikipedia links used in the citations are by default “nofollow” and no link equity will be passed on from that Wikipedia page to your website. Sure, some (extremely few people) might visit your website, but chances are they won’t hang around for more than a few seconds if the Wikipedia article is good enough to answer their query and oftentimes the effort to remain listed as a source is higher than to actually do propert SEO on your website.
- Don’t be that editor or brand. You know, the one that flouts all the rules and then gets dramatically upset when others call out that bad behavior. Do create and edit articles ethically. No vandalism of competitors’ articles, no sock puppetry or meat puppetry, no stealth editing of controversial articles. Follow the rules and play fair. Don’t get defensive. Wikipedia’s volunteer editors aren’t the enemy; they’re not out to get you. Should you receive criticism or pointed questions from volunteer editors, try to be receptive to their insight rather than puffing up defensively. Unless it’s a personal, ad hominem attack – a relatively rare occurrence – be open to what your fellow Wikipedians have to say, especially if it’s aimed at helping you become better at editing.
And there you have it. You’re now versed in the ways of Wikipedia. There’s no time like the present, so go boldly forth and Wiki. And if you’d like to see the original Internet Summit 2017 presentation this series is based on, drop me a line.
Find the full Wikipedia Master Class series and other related posts here.