Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wikipedia: Understanding How It Works – Part 1


Posted by Leah Ludwig

Just this week, I attended a PRSA Philadelphia event titled, “Learn to Speak Wikipedia” featuring Jake Orlowitz, a Wikipedia editor; author of The Plain and Simple Conflict of Interest Guide; designer of The Wikipedia Adventure, a dynamic learning game for new Wikipedia editors; and the list goes on.

The event was held to address the following topics: Wikipedia’s size, scope and PR impact; core policies that keep Wikipedia functioning and reliable; best practices for writing effective Wikipedia copy; and much more. The event was packed with information – in fact, I could write a short thesis on what I learned during this program, but instead I’m going to share the topline tips that I believe will be most helpful to The PR Lawyer readers – in a two-part post.

What is Wikipedia? As stated by Orlowitz, “It is a free encyclopedia that anyone can edit, whose mission is to summarize published reliable sources. It is not a dictionary, a publisher of original thought, a soapbox or means of promotion, a blog or social network, a directory, etc.”

Core Policies of Wikipedia

Orlowitz shared Wikipedia’s four core policies which really are the standards and guidelines that the entire Wikipedia community follows:


Neutral point of view: It is important to know and remember that a neutral point of view is valued and the only view accepted by Wikipedia and the Wikipedia community. Articles (referring to what you and I may consider an entry or profile) mustn't take sides, but should explain the sides fairly and without bias.

Verifiability: Articles published on Wikipedia must reference verifiable and reliable sources. Verifiable and reliable sources mean previously reported information from a fact-checking source such as a newspapers, book, website, radio, journal, etc.

Original research: Wikipedia will only publish analysis or synthesis of published material that serves to advance a position. 

Civility: The Wikipedia community is based on consideration and respect. Everyone’s focus should be on improving the encyclopedia and all users are expected to behave politely and reasonably.

The main gist of the first portion of Orlowitz’s program was really to drive home the importance of understanding Wikipedia, how powerful and empowering the site is, and that it is truly a unique and collaborative community. One must truly embrace the site’s culture before it can fully and effectively collaborate within the space.

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