How Hosting an Edit-A-Thon Made Me Trust Wikipedia


The academic community has been wary of Wikipedia since it first came on the scene. Teachers have spent a decade warning their students not trust the online encyclopedia, concerned that because anyone can edit it, it might not be reliable. I’ll admit I first approached Wikipedia with caution, using it for quick reference but steering clear when conducting any serious research. But on Monday, at the first ever ocean edit-a-thon – sponsored by the Waitt Institute, Smithsonian Ocean Portal, and Wikimedia Foundation – my distrust dissolved.

While I still think the site should serve primarily as a jumping-off point for research projects, Monday’s event in honor of World Oceans Day, brought together an excellent group of ocean scientists and enthusiastic editors who together improved the encyclopedia’s ocean-related information.

Let the editing begin! Ocean-loving Wikipedia newbies learning the ropes.

Wikipedia wields tremendous influence in shaping public perception of the ocean science and conservation. That is good reason (as I wrote here previously) “Why Ocean Conservationists Should Care Pay More Attention to Wikipedia.”

The edit-a-thon kicked off with experts from Wikimedia DC explaining the details of how to edit, the requirement of verifiability, and the fierce monitoring of conflicts of interest. Once I had a deeper understanding of the process I gained a newfound respect for the level of vetting and quality control the community insists upon.

Surrounded by ocean science books, computer cords, and snacks as we dig into editing.

And then we jumped in the deep end. I don’t consider myself a particularly tech-savvy person, and at first I found the Wikipedia backend a bit daunting. Thankfully the volunteers from Wikimedia DC provided one-on-one guidance that enabled us to avoid the pitfalls that sometimes result in an edit’s reversal.

Once we got a handle —> Read More