You, too can edit Wikipedia!
Have you ever read a Wikipedia page and wanted to add something relevant to it, or delete something incorrect?
Well, go ahead and do it! It's fun (most of the time), and feels wonderful to add something to the global knowledge resource that is Wikipedia.
I was lucky in my first edits. I wasn't trying to promote myself or a product, or defend a viewpoint. I had verifiable, concrete information that was left out and would improve the pages by its inclusion.
The first was a page for a man I had worked with years earlier, Andrew Fleugelman, who was and still is considered a missing person, believed to have committed suicide. His work from before he wrote PCtalk and created the concept of "shareware" seemed to be unknown. It felt important to add my information to his page, almost as a memorial offering. I quickly learned that all information added needed to be verifiable. Since I wanted to add that he had been a book publisher, I searched for the book titles his company, Headlands Press, published, found the ISBN numbers, etc. wrote a new section for his page, and went ahead and added it, without knowing much about how Wikipedia worked. Of course, the editor for the page questioned me about my edits. We communicated back and forth; in the end my edits stood (with some grammatical editing).
I was lucky that I began with a fairly non-controversial topic, and one that was easily verifiable. It's not always so easy. Amy Senger, one of the presenters at DC Women Who Wiki Workshop began her talk with her introduction to editing Wikipedia, on the page about men. She tried to delete a 1974 description of manly traits, which started a wiki battle, as others re-entered it. Interestingly, this seems to have strengthened her resolve to be involved in Wikipedia and similar projects.
She also told us that Wikimedia Foundation would like to double the number of women editors by 2015. Since Wikipedia grows due to the interests of its editors, it will only grow in content relevant to women if more women contribute. Currently about 13% of Wikipedia editors are women, so there is plenty of room for growth.
During the workshop, we first created our own editor pages and then edited an existing page or created a new page. Since I had already edited two pages, I decided to try to write a new page. I thought for a while, then began to search for a local woman I could add. Luckily I found a woman who's work I admire, Regina Holliday, a local artist, muralist and health care advocate, who did not have a Wikipedia page. I was shown how to create the page in my editing sandbox and began to outline what I knew about Regina.
Then I began to research her online presence. She blogs, so I had somewhere to start. Wikipedia requires that living persons be "notable" for inclusion. So, I began to look for articles written about Regina. And struck paydirt. Regina's story as told in her medical advocacy mural close to the Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington, DC generated news articles in the Washington Post, on CNN, NPR, BBC, etc. I learned that she is has been asked to speak at numerous conferences. So, the article pretty much wrote itself, though the research took quite a while.
I published her page the day of the workshop, knowiing it would need more sections, links and references, but figuring that I'd continue work on it as I had time. Oops, I thought, I haven't asked Regina if she would like a page in Wikipedia. So I emailed her to ask her permission. I figured: "Better late than never!"
Well, I'm happy to report that she was very pleased. I'm continuing to work on her page (I still need to add photos) and feel a wonderful sense of accomplishment each time I look at it. I'm a Wikipedia editor!
So, if you know someone or something that isn't in Wikipedia and you feel it should be, go to it!