Understanding Wikipedia

Introduction:

Wikipedia is one of the web’s most visited sites and appears in close to 300 languages. For many corporations and individuals, Wikipedia appears as one of the top results in Google. It has, therefore, become a very important part of how brands are seen by searchers.

Many of the clients who approach Five Blocks do so because of Wikipedia-related issues. Below we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about Wikipedia.

If you have specific questions or want to consult with one of our experts, please contact us at mailto:services@fiveblocks.com.

WIKIPEDIA GOALS, COMMUNITY, AND REACH

What is the goal of Wikipedia?

The ultimate goal of the Wikipedia project is to be a reliable, comprehensive, and unbiased source of information for the general public. It strives to be an encyclopedia in the traditional sense, while relying on the modern concept of crowdsourcing for its creation. Wikipedia and its cadre of editors -- almost exclusively volunteers -- struggle relentlessly to exclude opinions, editorializing or anything resembling paid placement advertisements or ‘infomercials.‘

Who are the Wikipedia editors?

The vast majority of Wikipedia editors are volunteers who have made editing Wikipedia their hobby, or in some cases, passion. Either way, they are volunteers and are not paid for their efforts. Exactly who these volunteer editors are has been a topic of many articles, and has become somewhat controversial, calling into question whether the subject matter and point of view in Wikipedia is broad enough, since the diversity of the editors appears to be limited.

Wikipedia has a highly restrictive policy toward paid editing, which can be reviewed here. Paid editors must reveal that they are being paid, and their edits will be doubly scrutinized for any conflict of interest content. Furthermore, unless an editor reveals that he is paid, it is absolutely not allowed on Wikipedia.

How is Wikipedia authoritative if anyone is welcome to make edits?

The fact that Wikipedia depends on crowd-sourcing is what creates the possibility of objectivity on a level almost impossible to achieve any other way. The philosophy of Wikipedia is that for every person who sees an issue one way, there are an equal number of people who see the issue the opposite, or at least, a different way. If one editor adds information which is false, or cannot be backed up with sources, another editor will invariably come along and remove that incorrect or unsourced information. Through editor collaboration, discussion and arguments, a consensus arises which is as humanly close to objectivity as possible.

It seems to me that Wikipedia has become an important, frequently used, source for information, but does the rest of the world agree? How much traffic does Wikipedia actually get to its large, and constantly growing, site?

In one study published in 2012, researchers looked at 1,000 search terms in Google and examined the resulting rankings for Wikipedia.org. The study revealed that Wikipedia ranked for an incredible 99 percent of the terms. According to Alexa.org, Wikipedia is ranked fifth globally compared to other sites, and also fifth in the United States. The Wikipedia Report Card is a great tool for understanding just how popular Wikipedia has become. The Report Card shows that in January 2018, the number of pageviews for all Wikipedia projects was 17.21 billion.

WHO SHOULD HAVE A WIKIPEDIA PAGE?

Can mid-size companies benefit from having a presence on Wikipedia?

Yes, most companies of all sizes can potentially benefit from a presence on Wikipedia. A company’s or individual’s Wikipedia article will almost always appear prominently on the first page of Google results, frequently in the second or third position, and often right below the company’s own web site.

In addition, and more importantly, searchers will have a well-referenced, timely, and accurate source for pertinent information about you or your company. This highly respected platform is easier to navigate than a typical corporate website; readers feel they can trust the information they find in Wikipedia because its content is carefully reviewed by the large community of editors.

What is notability, and why is it so important for Wikipedia?

To quote Wikipedia’s own definition, “notability is a test used by editors to decide whether a given topic warrants its own article.” Wikipedia does not necessarily base notability on a subject’s fame, importance, or popularity, although those qualities can help. The most important single characteristic of a subject to determine its notability is if it has gained “significant independent coverage or recognition” that is not only of short-term interest or a result of “promotional activity or indiscriminate publicity.”

As a crowd-sourced service based almost exclusively on the work of volunteers, Wikipedia must have strict criteria to determine if an article is of value to the general public. Although your uncle Joe might be a really great guy, very smart, and the best tiddlywinks player you ever met, it is clear that his story does not belong in an encyclopedia. The same holds true for the corner candy store, no matter how nice the owner may be. It is presumed that paid editors are not concerned with Wikipedia’s standards for notability, since their judgement is compromised by their conflict of interest.

Notability is the quality that all Wikipedia articles must exhibit in order to be included in the encyclopedia.

Are there any dangers or pitfalls to having a Wikipedia presence?

There certainly are risks involved in having a Wikipedia presence. Any factual information that can be backed up by a reliable third-party source can, and most likely will, be added to a Wikipedia article by any one of thousands of volunteer Wikipedia editors. For example, an editor can write an article, including sourced information about the company or individual’s history, personal life, achievements in business, sports or elsewhere. Then another editor can, and inevitably will, add an additional layer of information about a lawsuit, scandal, or anything else of a negative nature. As long as there are reliable, third-party sources backing up this information, the information cannot be kept out of Wikipedia.

What is vandalism on Wikipedia, and how is it dealt with?

Any edits to Wikipedia articles which add false, insulting or inflammatory information or language in a deliberate manner, whether with malicious intent or as a joke, are considered vandalism; Wikipedia editors are highly vigilant when it comes to vandalism. Biographies of living persons have a special status and are highly scrutinized for libelous, defamatory, or insulting language. If a user, or a particular IP address, makes more than two or three edits considered vandalism, he, or the IP address he uses, will be blocked from the ability to make further edits on Wikipedia. When vandalism is rampant on a specific page, the page may be locked to further editing.

WIKIPEDIA STANDARDS AND RULES

Can I edit Wikipedia?

Anyone with a computer and internet access can be an editor on Wikipedia. The next time you are reading an article on Wikipedia and see a typo, press edit in the upper right-hand corner of the page, correct the mistake, press “save” at the bottom, and voila! – You are now a Wikipedia editor. This type of edit is an anonymous edit, since only the IP address of this impromptu editor will be recorded in the article’s edit history. Anonymous editors can do almost everything a registered editor can do, but there are some good reasons to become a registered editor. For instance, an anonymous editor cannot upload files, such as photos, to Wikipedia. Also, only a registered editor can create new articles, whereas someone working with only an IP address cannot. It might seem counter-intuitive, but registered editors using pseudonyms are actually able to achieve more privacy and security than editors that sign in only with their IP addresses.

Can I, or anyone else associated with my company, write a Wikipedia article about my company?

Since the ultimate goal of the Wikipedia project is to be a comprehensive source for objective information in the style of traditional encyclopedias, and not a place for self-promotion or advertising, Wikipedia editors are highly suspicious of articles that appear self-serving in any way. Articles about individuals and companies are highly scrutinized, since the potential for self-promotion is higher than in other types of articles, such as those about scientific subjects, geographical locations, and similar. It is therefore in the best interest of the company or individual to have an objective person, relying solely on third-party sources for his information, write the article. Articles which are even slightly self-serving or promotional are almost invariably labeled as such; designated prominently as an article written by someone with a “conflict of interest.“ Articles with “COI” tags are considered lower quality, and therefore less respected as a source of good, unbiased information. If not corrected, these articles are sometimes deleted. The mere fact that an employee or owner is close to the company he is writing about compromises his ability to be objective. Objectivity is a difficult standard to meet and is best tackled by an experienced Wikipedia writer who understands what kind of writing other Wikipedia editors expect. Being unconnected to the company or individual is a large advantage when trying to achieve objectivity.

What is “Conflict of Interest” and how can it be avoided?

‘Conflict of Interest’ on Wikipedia means simply that the person (or persons) that writes or contributes to an article has some self-interest in the article. It is in his best interest that the article contains certain information and does not include other information. The best way to avoid “COI” is to have an experienced Wikipedia editor write the article, based almost exclusively on third-party sources. Company web sites, press releases and blog posts can be used, but only sparingly. An experienced Wikipedia editor/writer can be relied upon to keep an article objective to the standards that Wikipedia requires.

What criteria do Wikipedia editors use to accept an article into the body of the encyclopedia?

A company or individual must be considered ‘notable’ according to the standards set by the Wikipedia community in order to be allowed a presence in Wikipedia. Experienced editors understand the criteria required; they make sure they meet the high standards set by the community when they write an article, maximizing the likelihood of an article’s acceptance into the encyclopedia.

Can a Wikipedia article be deleted once it is up on the site?

Poorly written, inadequately sourced, or frivolous, promotional articles are almost always nominated for deletion, sometimes within minutes of placement on the site. The most common method by which an article is deleted is through evaluation and discussion by editors during a seven-day review period. During the course of that week, all Wikipedia editors are allowed to voice their opinion as to whether an article is deserving of a Wikipedia presence. However, more credence is given to the arguments of editors with more experience on Wikipedia. The final decision to delete or not is made by a respected Wikipedia editor who has volunteered for this task. He bases his decision, not only on the number of editors who vote for or against keeping the article, but also on the force of their arguments. An expert who has experience writing well-sourced, non-promotional, high-quality articles can help a company or individual avoid being nominated for deletion.

BEST PRACTICES

Should I have a picture on my Wikipedia article?

Not only does Wikipedia strive to be informative and objective, it also tries to disseminate information in the most aesthetically pleasing way possible. Illustrative photos can be worth a thousand words. Graphics, to the extent that they make an article more informative and accessible, are highly prized contributions to Wikipedia.

What are the steps needed to place a photograph, logo, or other graphic on a Wikipedia article?

Wikipedia is highly protective of copyright laws. Therefore, placing photos, logos, and other graphics on Wikipedia requires a multi-stepped process which can appear complicated to the uninitiated. An experienced Wikipedia editor can streamline the process of adding informative graphics.

What is an infobox, and why is this an essential element of a Wikipedia article?

In addition to pictures, many Wikipedia articles contain “infoboxes”. Appearing in the upper right-hand corner of an article, the infobox is a clearly organized, concisely presented summary of the most important points contained within the article itself. A bit like an “abstract” found at the top of academic papers, an infobox allows searchers looking for quick answers to their most basic inquiries about a subject to find them here. In addition, Google recently began using infoboxes as a source of information for its index.

Should my article be translated from English to another language or multiple languages?

Wikipedia is available in over 300 languages, with that number constantly growing. As the world shrinks to a “global village,” the notability of a subject is often not limited to a particular location. To the extent that a business, individual or any other subject is of interest to speakers of languages other than English, it is a good idea to promote access to this information via a translated Wikipedia article. When one realizes that fewer than one billion people in the world speak English, leaving about six billion who do not, the importance of translated Wikipedia articles is put in better perspective.

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