Assignment 1 Details and Reporting
For help getting started with Wikipedia see: Help With Wikipedia
- To complete this assignment, you must log in to wikipedia (if you do not have a wikipedia account, you can create one). Note: a wikipedia account is not the same thing as an account for our class wiki. You need both.
- Then, read the description of Wikipedia's policy and guidelines, so you understand the terminology at work.
- Using the list below, select a policy or guideline that most interests you. Read about it. The goal of this assignment will be to learn about and prepare a report on how these rules function, and play a role in the collective operation of the site.
- After you've chosen one of these policies or guidelines, select a single article to focus on. Below you will find a (non-comprehensive) list of suggested articles to edit and observe. Ideally, the article you choose should relate in some way to the themes of the class, but this is not required. There are over 3.1 million Wikipedia entries to choose from.
- Make substantial edits to the article you have chosen. This means that the edits should be more than cosmetic and should actually enhance the substance of the article.
- Add the article to your "watchlist". From the article page, click on the "watch" tab at the top of the article. You can access your watchlist at any time by clicking on "my watchlist" at the very top of any page.
- Report which article you edited, and the nature of your edits below. At the end of your notes, type --~~~~ (two dashes and four tilde's) and the wiki will automatically fill in your name. Note: you must have created an account on our class wiki and be logged in for this to work.
- If changes are made to your article, you may also want to make further edits to go along with those changes. Also be sure to watch the "talk" page on each page, which has discussion from other users about the content on the entry.
- By the assignment due date, prepare a report here that discusses A) the rule you chose, B) which site you observed and the changes you made, C) how this rule played out in practice (if it did), D) how you think this plays a role in maintaining the site, and if it could harm the community on the site in any way.
Target Policies and Guidelines
- Neutral Point of View (NPOV)
- Ownership of Articles
- No Original Research
- Protection Policy
- Polling Is Not A Substitute For Discussion
Choosing an Article
You have several choices in choosing an article.
The most important thing is that you select an article that features the rule that you're looking to explore.
You can choose a topic that is underdeveloped, and add information. Or, you could pick an article that needs substantial cleanup/revision. Wikipedia (English) has 1.6 million entries. As such, it may be difficult to find a completely unexplored topic. Start by browsing the Wikipedia topics that you feel you can best contribute to. Many Wikipedia pages have banners that indicate the article is in need of some specific editing. Banners typically refer to a cleanup categories or controversy. These banners are indexed so that contributors can quickly find pages that are in need of editing.
- Dot Com Bubble
- Network Neutrality
- Public Good
- Creative Commons
- Open Source
- Barak Obama
- Voting Machines
- Great Firewall of China
- Long Tail
- Digital Rights Management
- One Laptop Per Child
Assignment 1 Reporting
My Wikipedia editing efforts have focused on wiki pages addressing Transactional Distance [] and Distance Education. The topic area of my Master’s thesis is the relationship between Transactional Distance and learning outcomes in Distance Education, specifically on-line learning. I felt I had sufficient expertise in the area to be able to provide objective and verifiable editorial additions to the pages. My editing focused on Verifiability. By Wikipedia’s own definition "the threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truthwhat counts is whether readers can verify that material added to Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source”. The policy also requires a citation or reference for any material that is “challenged or likely to be challenged”. All quotations must have a citation as well. Consequences of not citing are removal of posts and edits. I fully support the policy that all references must be verifiable.
The Transactional Distance page had a banner stating the page was an orphan and needed to have more links to other articles. Which to me was code for; this page lacks verifiability. The page consisted of a few lines defining Transactional Distance, two external links and one reference. The reference was to Michael G. Moore, who first formulated the theory of transactional distance. The links were to The American Journal of Distance Education and the Cyber Slang Online Encyclopedia. The encyclopedia expanded a little on Moore’s theory. The AJDE link was to a lone AJDE home page describing the goals of the journal.
I kept half of the first sentence of the original transactional distance definition, posted a more workable definition, with examples, and positioned the importance of transactional distance in Distance Education best practices. I added references to articles that studied transactional distance, and included names of additional Distance Education journals that could be searched for transactional distance studies. As of this writing I have had no reaction to my edits, nor am I expecting any soon. Transactional Distance is not a research area where investigators are likely to source Wikipedia. However, given the mandate that all information, on all pages is to be verifiable, it is incumbent upon page authors and editors to provide citations and references. The goal is information accuracy. Anything less is harmful to the community.
Because Transactional Distance and Distance Education are so interrelated I accessed the Wikipedia Distance Education page. The page, while having a number of relevant citations and references, was somewhat naÃ¯ve in its explaining/defining Distance Education, and provided a very pedantic history of the subject, beginning in 1728. Interesting enough, but not the kind of information anyone researching the subject in the 21st Century would find meaningful. Recognizing I should be limiting myself to one article, I still did a couple of minor edits to the page. I removed the outdated reference to andragogy as an educational focus of Distance Education and introduced pedagogical best practices as the overarching function of teaching in the reference section.
The Distance Education page credits the US Department of Agriculture for its definition of distance education. The DoA may offer distance education courses, and may have published a definition of distance education, and therefore be verifiable; however, in the context of Distance Education, the source does not appear credible. I suggest not only does a page have to have verifiable information; the verification source has to be credible to the topic. To date I have had no reaction to my edits on the Distance Education page.
Maintaining the verifiability of the two sites I edited requires both a time commitment and a certain depth of knowledge of the subject matter. The lack of content management at both sites speaks to a lack of commitment to keep the sites up-to-date with current, relevant and verifiable information. However, the paucity of information at the sites may also be a result of intellectually recognizing the need for verification, but not being willing to put the time and effort into verification.
As an End Note: I am disappointed with the Wikipedia I discovered after drilling deep into its goals, policies and guidelines. Before this exercise I regarded any information from Wikipedia as suspect, as to origin and verification. After my research I believe sincere efforts are being made to verify information; and am now convinced that the strength of Wikipedia lies in its processes, not its end product – information. Wikipedia has created an efficacious and structured form of governance by the people, for the people.
However, if Wikipedia is to be the collaborative community of concerned citizens collectively compiling the “sum of all human knowledge into a Web-based, free content encyclopedia” it must leverage this proven process to provide enterprise wide, accurate, verifiable and timely information. As a global model for verifiable information aggregation and dissemination - they are not there yet. And, I have doubts that they ever will be. However, as a decision making model - it has applications across the Web.
--Charlesscott 05:21, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
And after reading Wikipedia's policy and guidelines description, I took a look at two areas I'm interested in exploring for the class, "Open Government" and "Open Data." My underlying interest is in understanding how greater public access to data generated by the government combined with software tools can improve the operation and transparency of government. The page I edited is on Open Government [].
While transparency in government is not a new topic, the ability of the general public to view and manipulate government data on a broad scale is new. That made me interested in exploring how Wikipedia treats topics that are relatively cutting edge given its "No original research" ]standard. To be more specific, areas of knowledge that are relatively new have very little that is not "original thought" and it's a challenge to find secondary sources as opposed to the common primary sources found that consist mainly of people are expressing their own opinions without research or other factual backup.
This quote from a Jimmy Whales email from a link at the bottom of the Wikipedia page on "No original research" is telling, "Some who completely understand why Wikipedia ought not create novel theories of physics by citing the results of experiments and so on and synthesizing them into something new, may fail to see how the same thing applies to history," []. Cutting-edge topics often have very little history and so are problematic for Wikipedia. At the same time, cutting-edge knowledge can be very valuable. At my last biotech company, we used Wikipedia's information on pharmaceutical compounds and their chemical structures to find new applications for our technology and were greatly helped in our development of a new protease inhibitor for AIDS by the information there on new compounds. That information was not compiled in electronic form anywhere else.
The Open Government page is underdeveloped and has a label of "This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards." This despite a Google search of "open government" yields "about 1,510,000" pages. So I headed off to find secondary sources that I could quote to add some more external links, since there is a lot of Web 2.0 related interest in Open Government, and a bit of information on the relationship between privacy and Open Government since the entry lacked any information on that topic.
As I expected, secondary references were hard to find. There is a very large volume of primary material but I was fortunate to find O'Reilly Press recently published a book "Open Government" [] Template:Citation that formed the basis for a short paragraph of privacy (and reflected in a citation) and I added an additional external link and additional internal link as well. "No original research" provides a valuable throttle for slowing down the addition of information until at least some analysis has been done on the primary information, but clearly this is a frontier that is continuously pulled between providing useful information and providing information that has little evidence to support it.
Amarquis 21:44, 9 February 2010 (UTC)