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Digital Curation and Wikipedia

February 12, 2014

One of the major assignments for my Digital Curation class is to dive in and edit Wikipedia entries. Chiefly, the assignment specifies that we should be digging into entries pertaining to technology and its history and evolution, and libraries. It’s an exercise in learning Wikipedia’s coding and formatting, as well as the conventions of the Wikipedia editing community. The second part of the assignment is to weigh in on how a library or similar institution could, or should use or react to Wikipedia. Over the summer, I saw an outstanding presentation by Mary Ellen Bates about using Wikipedia as a research tool, covering the ways librarians could retrieve knowledge from it. (Side note: Mary Ellen Bates is a goddess. Moving on.) It makes sense: Adding to Wikipedia means writing, but it also means information retrieval.

All of this makes sense to me. And, as I set up the account and got started, I started to wonder why I hadn’t played with editing before.  I’m starting off cautiously. A few small grammar checks here, a link here and there. Part of the issue is that, given the way the assignment is constructed, I’m learning both the topic and interface at once. I’m learning how to format Wikipedia headings and citations at the same time as I am reading about computer history, and inner workings. Two learning curves at once! Whee!

To get comfortable with Wikipedia, and give myself a break from staring at rather perplexing descriptions of the inner workings of early mainframe computers, I’m browsing for more familiar topics, and have left my mark on entries ranging from Billy Preston to Digital Libraries.

Last weekend,I went to my first Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon. It was at school, hosted by the Linked Jazz Project. It’s a project combining jazz history with linked data to show connections between musicians- collaborations, mentorships, influences. Professor Pattuelli and her team are doing terrific work with it.

One of the products of the project is a long list of names of jazz musicians who don’t have Wikipedia pages of their own. During the Edit-a-Thon, a roomful of us learned how to use Wikipedia by updating entries about jazz musicians. I think I’m getting the hang of it. I even started a Wikipedia entry from scratch! It’s just a humble stub, but it’s a start.

Someone is wrong on the Internet

image from xkcd

Updating Wikipedia entries is addictive. I predict that I will keep poking around entries after this assignment is done.

And after that, it’s only a matter of time until…

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