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

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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.

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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

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