www.whyville.net Mar 17, 2013 Weekly Issue

Times Writer

A Defense of Wikipedia

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Hello my friends. Been a while. I'm almost feeling sorry for not going on Whyville as much as I used to. Oh, the feeling passed. Many of you oh-so-devoted followers of mine must be wondering where I went. Did I die? No such luck. Did I finally leave you all alone forever? In some sense, but not entirely. Did I find another island to vacation on? Well, sort of. You see, I have simply found the love of Wikiediting. Over the last few months, I have gone from a anti-wiki, New York Times and CNN hater who eats bran, passed through 3 of the Seven Ages of Wikipedia and are starting to consider Wikipedia as even more invaluable then most other sources, as it combines all the sources into one helpful, non-bias, encyclopedic article.

I know many of you are thinking in your edits about that oh-so-clever rhyme "Wicky is icky." People seem to have this perception that anything goes on Wikipedia. I can go on, find a page, and write about how dumb my English teacher is and never be caught. (I love my English teacher.) Somebody boots up the page, is reading about Nigeria, the population, the climate, how Mr. W always gives out bad gra . . . wait a second! But, in reality, that is not how it works at all. I really feel everyone should have a better understanding of what Wikipedia is, how editing can help you and everyone who uses it, and refute some of the bad things said about the site.

Wikipedia's Wikipedia page (which may be the least bias page on the site) says the site was launched on January 15th, 2001 and since then, nearly 25 million articles have been made by hundreds of thousands of editors, all of whom are volunteers. (I proudly count myself among the tens of thousand of current, active editors, but we'll get to that in a minute.) Wikipedia's very nature, as a Free Online encyclopedia, available for anyone to learn from has raised questions. Many worry that it does not have any credible evidence. Well, I challenge you to find one article on the site that does not have a reference for most of the facts. Found one already? Well, then it's your time to shine. Click the edit button, Google some credible resources, make sure you know what you are doing, and, well - HAPPY EDITING!

Last October, I created my account, and started my journey. My first edit occurred at 3:13pm on the 31st of October, 2012. I edited some random musician's page. Please, no questions. I didn't sign on for about 1 1/2 months. Then, in my AP World History class, I got an assignment to write about Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Well, being me, and seeing I had all of Winter Break to write this short essay, I decided to procrastinate. (I'll save that for a different article.) Instead, I went on to some Wikipedia article about a Portugese king from around the same time period. His nickname was Ferdinand The Handsome. Well, I wasn't just supposed to let that go, was I? So, I wrote a paragraph explaining how ironic his nickname was. I was almost giggling at the idea of all the AP World students who would see that! HAH! Well, I hit the "Save Page" button, and was told my IP address was banned from Wikipedia. Apparently, some freshmen at my school wrote that Barack Obama was fat, and some other things that aren't allowed in the Whyville Times. Plan B) Sign into my account threatening its stability, and make the edit. Within about an hour, my edit was reverted, I was punished (by my teacher and Wikipedia) and no AP World History students were laughing. I was amazed at how quickly my "vandalism" had been reverted. And so, once I had edited my way out of my punishment, I began to contribute.

Most people, when they start, just fix grammar errors. A period here, a misspelling there, oh, and no, our president is not morbidly obese. Not me. I jumped write in. My very next edit was 2 paragraphs or so long, centered around my US Congresswoman. I tell ya, that lady has the best Wikipedia page in the country. I added about a dozen citations to go with what I said, knowing, if I didn't, I could be permanently banned or humiliated. I was careful. I was correct. I was helpful. I was contributing.

Wikipedia has quite a few people who are constantly watching their "Recent contributions" page. That page lists out all of the edits people make to Wikipedia. People are always refreshing, and looking at the edits, ensuring there is no vandalism and that everything is cited correctly. If contentious material is on a page, it is either taken down or a tag is made. Not to say that every little mistake gets corrected, but nobody is going to have to bang their head on the table because some stupid sophomore said that the leader of the free world needed to stop eating those donuts. (No, I am not letting that go.)

You see, my fellow Whyvillians, that Wikipedia really can be considered a reasonable source. Nearly everything you read on there is concise, up to date, and was written by a nerd, checked on by a nerd 4000 miles away from the first one, and added to by a third nerd who is also a giant Whyvillian Cookie. To leave you with a small comparison - open up your science book. No, not that far. In the front. Before the table of contents. Oh? See the copyright date? 2005 . . . Hmmmm. I bet some of that is outdated. Well, guess what source has the information up to date, as it is constantly being updated by hundreds of physicists, psychologists, doctors and just that random sophomore who spent quite a bit of time doing his research? Not your science book.

Off to go edit the Rand Paul page! Or, maybe I'll just filibuster any more changes to it. (Props to anyone who got that reference.)

Anyway . . . Xion2


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