Getting Starting with Wikipedia: Seven Essential Steps

This weekend, something special happened. And I’m not referring to the fact that Steve and I got up before 9AM on a weekend.

A group of women (and a couple men) came together voluntarily on their own time to teach and learn how to edit Wikipedia. For 4 hours, 20 of us sat in the kitchen area of JESS3 headquarters and talked and learned and had a genuinely fun time. As I’ve written previously, it’s critical to have a diverse body of people contributing to Wikipedia since it’s key to making it reliable as a neutral knowledge resource.

If you’re interested in contributing to Wikipedia but aren’t sure where or how to start, here is list of key steps to get you going:

1. Do your homework. If you’ve don’t have any experience with programming or HTML, wiki-markup (the syntax used to create and edit Wikipedia articles) might intimidate you. So might the environment. Don’t let it. Learn the lingo and guidelines for engagement: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:Contents/Getting_started

2. Begin on home turf. Start by creating you own User page and play around with formatting there. Most Wikipedians respect individual User pages and won’t touch them.

3. Be bold. No one owns Wikipedia. Your contributions count just as much as everyone else’s. You can’t break Wikipedia. Nothing is ever lost if you change or remove something.

4. Use logic and tenacity. Sometimes edits you make will get deleted (or reverted). It happens. If you believe in your edits, use logic and tenacity to make them stick.

5. Talk it out. If you encounter a conflict or don’t understand why an edit you made is reverted, leave a message on the person’s Talk page to elaborate. You can see who reverts an edit page by the View History tab.

6. Don’t take it personally. Sometimes edits get reverted. It happens. Sometimes people are in pissy moods and take it out in Wikipedia. It happens. Don’t let this deter you from contributing. Learn and grow from it.

7. Find a buddy. Ask friends if they know how to edit Wikipedia. Or check out your local area for Wikipedia:Meetups and go and make some friends. Most Wikipedians are generous with their time and knowledge and will happily help out a beginner. You can also get “adopted” to be mentored via the Adopt-a-user program.

The full agenda and details of the workshop can be found in Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Meetup/DC_WWW1

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