Twenty Years

15 January, 2021

The Wikipedia article for "Anniversary", with a characteristic template notice about uncited words.

Twenty years ago, online encyclopedia Wikipedia was born with surprisingly little fanfare. Starting as an offshoot of the more conventional expert-contributor website Nupedia, it was conceived as little more than a flash-in-the-pan experiment. Nobody would have predicted then that it would turn into one of the web's most essential reference works, a veritable repository of information both informative and interesting - but occasionally inaccurate. [citation needed]

And although it has problems with power-tripping admins and over-zealous editors, I'm happy that it's there. The community is a testament to the power of the common man without the all too frequent handicap represented by the profit motive, and I hope it stays that way for many years to come. Here's to twenty more!

I've been editing on Wikipedia for a much measlier six years, and have been an active editor for about three, first as User:Axisixa and now as User:Mir Novov. Although most of my changes1 have been spelling corrections there and adding citations here - typical for an Wikipedia editor - I have got to create a few articles as well:2

  • ToaruOS - an hobby operating system. Not bad, states the facts but little else, partially due to lack of sources.
  • Simon StÃ¥lenhag - an illustrator focusing on retrofuturistic artwork. Appears in my Art I like page, so this is partially out of personal bias, though I've made sure to make it neutral, as is standard Wikipedia practice. Melds together his personal life and artwork into one section, which is a bad decision.
  • OneShot - an metafictional video game. My favourite out of all the articles I helped create; although it could be improved some more, this is largely due to improper sourcing and bad writing skills.
  • IAmA - a content split from the Reddit article, in particular, the section on its I Am A.../Ask Me Anything subreddit. The content was largely written by others, and it needed to go since it was getting unwieldy. Could probably be transmuted into a more general "ask me anything" article, as the format is very popular outside of Reddit.

More than any donations,3 Wikipedia needs more editors. Maybe you could add information definitions to Wiktionary or free media to Commons or Wikisource if that's more your jam, but unfortunately, they have a far smaller reach. Ignoring that, I found that the official introduction helped me quite a bit when I started.

Even though I started using the web from a young age, I'm still amazed by the stuff that Wikipedia offers - check out my linkroll for some cool things out there. If you decide to become an editor, you'd be contributing to an ever-growing mass of digital information accessible to anyone in the world (with internet). I know it sounds quite cheesy, but I find that quite powerful. Knowledge deserves to be free.

  1. Around 1100 in total, which is actually pretty small for an active editor of my vintage. 

  2. Note that you don't "own" Wikipedia articles that you create. In accord with the wiki ethos, all articles are released into the ether as a public good free for anyone to modify. 

  3. Cup of coffee etc etc. The Internet Archive needs your money more. 

Posted in Computing