Note: This blog post is the third in a series of profiles of students’ experiences on Wikipedia when participating in the Public Policy Initiative during the fall term.
Little Falls, New York, native Graham Rogers had used Wikipedia frequently to look up information that he was interested in — but he’d never clicked the edit button.
That changed when Graham enrolled in Syracuse University professor Carol Dwyer’s course, “Wikipedia and Public Policy.” Graham, a sophomore studying public policy and economics, was excited about the opportunity to give back to the site he used so frequently. The opportunity to collaborate with other editors was the best part of the assignment, he says.
“If I had to pick one main advantage of a Wikipedia assignment, it would be the peer editing between Wikipedians that often doesn’t take place with traditional assignments. The feedback from other users and students in my class really helped me improve my articles,” he says. “I really appreciate the peer editing and reviewing that is constantly taking place because it helps articles continue to evolve and improve.”
His fellow classmates and other Wikipedia editors helped as he improved articles about the Fair Sentencing Act, Reorganization Plan No. 3, and Say Yes to Education. Graham says it took a while to figure out the technical side of editing Wikipedia, and he struggled at first with Wikipedia’s neutral point of view policy — as he is often encouraged to discuss his own opinions and explain them in traditional assignments. It took some practice and feedback to be able to present multiple viewpoints on a topic without placing too much emphasis on one of them, he says. He found support on these tasks from his Online and Campus Ambassadors.
“My online mentor, Ssilvers, was unbelievably helpful and informative,” Graham says. “He made the process much easier for a brand new contributor to Wikipedia like me. He would always provide copy editing for any information I added to my articles. He provided suggestions on areas that my articles needed improvements and showed me helpful shortcuts for adding references. Whenever I had a question or asked for help, he responded in a timely manner with thorough and helpful support.”
Campus Ambassador Gabriel Mugar was also a great resource for Graham. Gabriel came to the class meetings and was available via email to help the students with any questions or concerns. Graham says he was very helpful in explaining Wikimedia Commons, how to place images in articles, and the concepts of public domain works.
After his positive experience in the fall term, Graham wants to continue writing for Wikipedia.
“It is really exciting to be published to such a wide audience, and I definitely support Wikipedia’s goal of providing the sum of all human knowledge to anyone with access to the Internet,” he says. “Contributing to Wikipedia is a way to help that cause.”
Communications Associate – Public Policy Initiative