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Driving interest by using Wikipedia

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Wikipedia is one of the most popular sources of information on the internet.  This free encyclopedia allows for anyone to submit content.  Entries can be edited with the click of a few buttons.  There are over 36 million pages in 286 languages (according to the Wikipedia Info page).  Community volunteers vet through the postings to check for accuracy, bias, and quality of writing.

Although the practice of open editing raises questions of the information’s accuracy and fairness, Wikipedia can be a great place to flex your expert prowess and knowledge.

Say that you are an expert in hydraulic engineering. You just conducted research that lead to new developments in fluid mechanics.  You can go to the Wikipedia page for Hydraulic Engineering and add these new developments into the corresponding section.  Then you can add your research as the reference.  Any Wikipedia user researching new developments in fluid mechanics will be able to learn about your research.  You have now raised your own profile while helping to further the knowledge of those researching the field.

Speaking as a frequent user, Wikipedia is usually my first stop to find information.  When presented with a question, I type the topic into their search bar and then browse through the results, looking for links to more in-depth posts about the subject area.  Sometimes information is complete and other times there are gaps.  But more often than not Wikipedia is a solid first step for any research project.  I never quote Wikipedia directly; I often use the references found at the bottom of the page as source material. With a few submissions, you can find yourself with a whole new audience.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

Create a user-page with as much professional information as possible. This will help the editors vet through your contributions more quickly and verify your expert status.

Add meaningful information to increase your credibility in the community.

Browse pages of other subject areas to get a feel for the general tone and layout used by other contributors.

Note that Wikipedia does block certain IP addresses that are used on “behalf of a company, group, website or organization for purposes of promotion and/or publicity.”  There is a section on Wikipedia about this type of conflict of interest. There is an exhaustive list of guidelines for that bar users from blatantly promoting a company, organization, or website.

Wikipedia isn’t always wrong

No, academic institutions don’t like Wikipedia. And they have their reasons. It’s an open platform for anyone to update, so the accuracy of the content is often criticised. That said, it’s still being used by students across subject areas, researchers and professionals alike. Wikipedia is great at providing an initial understanding of a new topic or interest, and that’s the primary reason it’s such a good starting point for those on the hunt for knowledge.

Well, that’s all well and good isn’t it? Wikipedia is great, but now what? Its huge index of pages ranging from aerodynamic heating to zoology, will undoubtedly include pages of information relating to your book or journal topic. Your content will benefit these people and it’s a perfect way for you to link them to your work. You can add your journal or book to the page of relevance as a reference for other viewers to visit.

What about the debate over accuracy?

Ok, so it may be maintained by volunteers, but isn’t the internet itself a huge platform of volunteers all adding their bit? The fact these volunteers come from all backgrounds, parts of the world and different professions, means Wikipedia is extremely diverse and un-biased.

According to their website, Wikipedia has the largest number of individuals editing any one site, at a rate of almost 25 edits per second. That’s 2160,000 edits a day! Of course information can be mis-entered or factually incorrect, but newspapers can print mistakes or estimate results and only correct themselves in the next daily paper. Wikipedia’s team of editors and copy-writers, however, are on hand to make sure any false claims or bogus pages are removed within minutes of being created; blocking repeat offenders of malicious content along the way.

This speed of constant updating means the latest news or new developments and discoveries don’t take long to appear on Wikipedia. It’s relevant and current and is able to change in real-time as research progresses, unlike a book or journal that may have been published over 10 years ago.

Its content is well-laid out and easy to follow and although you may go elsewhere to get confirmation of numbers and statistics, as an introduction to say binary code or the life of Elvis Presley, it’s extremely useful.

With all these benefits, it’s no surprise so many people are still using Wikipedia as a source of education. If everyone else is using it, then you should be too. The only rule here is to make sure your input is pertinent to the page. There’s no point randomly throwing in links to your journal or work on entries that aren’t directly related; the reader won’t look at them and chances are they’ll be removed by Wikipedia. Make sure when you reference your work, it really is going to benefit the reader.

If there isn’t a page already available about your journal topic or book’s main themes, why not make one? You can find out how to with Wikipedia’s easy guide: Your First Article. As with any internet presence, the more the better, so you could even think about creating a page on yourself as an author, or on the journal you’re published in.

What is Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is a free web-based encyclopaedia that is openly editable. It is one of the largest reference web sites, and attracts around 65 million visitors per month. Articles on Wikipedia are written collaboratively by an international group of volunteers but anyone with Internet access can write or edit articles.

How can I use Wikipedia to promote my book/article? Anyone is welcome to add information, cross-references, or citations, as long as they do so within Wikipedia’s editing policies and to an appropriate standard. Articles that are featured within Wikipedia will also appear in search engine search results. Open ‘selling’ of products on Wikipedia is forbidden but contributing to a subject page using references of content, theory and research from your books is entirely acceptable. Please note that any ‘substandard’ or ‘disputed’ information is subject to removal. All Terms of Use can be found on the main Wikipedia site.

Get started by creating an account at www.wikipedia.org There are various pages on the site to help you get started. At the bottom of each page there is a link to ‘About Wikipedia’, from there you can be directed through ways in which you can contribute.

Another online encyclopedia that allows contributors is: http://www.britannica.com/