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Editing Wikipedia, a print guide for new contributors

Editing Wikipedia brochure

For newcomers, figuring out how to edit Wikipedia can be challenging. Although help pages abound, many new contributors like to have something to hold on to: printed guidance. That was the motivation for the first Welcome to Wikipedia brochure we created in 2010, and since then it’s made its way into the hands of thousands of people through editing workshops, Wikipedia classroom assignments, and other outreach events. The original welcome brochure was translated into more than 12 languages.

However, Wikipedia has changed a lot since 2010, and that brochure was starting to show its age. Over the last several months, we’ve been working with the Wikimedia community and designer David Peters on a completely rewritten welcome brochure: Editing Wikipedia — A guide to improving content on the online encyclopedia. Featuring volunteers from all over the world, the new brochure covers both the how and the why of editing Wikipedia, with special focus on the things that trip up new editors most often: writing in an appropriate encyclopedic style, using and citing reliable sources, and understanding wiki markup (with an updated markup cheatsheet). Joining the Illustrating Wikipedia guide for contributing content to Wikimedia Commons that we published some months ago, the new brochure is available both online and in print.

We hope this new brochure will see even more local editions than its predecessor. The text is set up for translation, and the design files are also available (for InDesign, with the open source Scribus format coming very soon). Because Wikipedias and Wikipedia communities vary so much from language to language, we wanted to design the brochure to be easy to adapt and localize for different language Wikipedias. Most of the content applies equally well to English Wikipedia — for which this version is written — and other languages. It also includes a section specifically devoted to English Wikipedia; translators are encouraged to localize this section to cover topics tailored to their particular audiences and language versions. The original version’s cartoon character has been replaced with a photo of a real editor from the English Wikipedia who offers advice to newcomers through the brochure; as the brochure is translated, local language communities are encouraged to change the photo to be one of an editor from their community.

For the examples and screenshots, “encyclopedias” is the motif that appears throughout — although that may change for other languages. I’m especially proud of the center spread, which shows an article — “Encyclopedia” — in edit mode with VisualEditor and wiki markup side-by-side. Anyone can learn wiki markup with a bit of practice, but the first time you see a page full of it can be overwhelming. So in this spread, we focus in on some of typical markup in the context of a real article, right across from how that markup shows up when the article is rendered. I’m also excited to see new faces of local Wikipedians in the local editions!

If you work with Wikipedia newcomers and would like printed copies of the new brochure in English mailed to you, please contact Wikipedia Education Program Communications Manager LiAnna Davis.

Sage Ross
Online Communications, Wikipedia Education Program

9 Responses to “Editing Wikipedia, a print guide for new contributors”

  1. Drmies says:

    I disagree with the use of “radical feminist” as a pejorative term; it’s not even clear what the appellation means besides its rhetorical use as a put-down. Wadewitz is an established scholar and a valued contributor (with 36 Featured Articles to her credit) with whose political and theoretical stance one can agree or disagree, but her contributions to the project are beyond reproach and her placement on the brochure more than warranted by those contributions and her dedication to furthering the broader goals of disseminating knowledge. Curious George knows, of course, that many editors subscribe in general to Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines even if they tinker with or disagree with particular ones–it’s part of the project.

  2. Curious George says:

    Thanks for the response. It’s good to know (although surprising) that an editor who agrees with all of Wikipedia’s consensus-driven policies has no value to you. Although then again, there Adrianne is on page 8 of the booklet, extolling all these same Wikipedia policies. Maybe she’s less trustworthy than you thought?

    • Sage Ross says:

      I try to follow Wikipedia’s consensus-driven rules, even while holding critical views of them in cases where they don’t work very well, and trying to improve them. I don’t see a conflict between what Adrianne says in this brochure and what she wrote in the blog post you linked.

  3. Sage Ross says:

    Considering the breadth and depth of Adrianne’s contributions both on- and off-wiki, I can think of no one better to be the face of Wikipedia. Just about any experienced editor will have any number of critical views of Wikipedia’s culture and policies; I wouldn’t trust the judgment of one who didn’t. And considering the gender gap among active editors, it’s especially important for us to recognize and think about the critiques that come from feminist perspectives… as they may help us understand why women editors and topics of particular interest to women are underrepresented on our projects.

    However, if you are uncomfortable with Adrianne, you may wish create an alternative version with another editor on the cover. We designed the brochure to make this as easy as possible.

  4. Curious George says:

    Is Adrienne Wadewitz – a radical feminist who thinks that “Wikipedia’s rules (e.g. NPOV) further masculine ways of knowing” – really the best choice to be the face of Wikipedia? She’s entitled to her opinions, of course, but this seems like an awkward choice.

  5. Hi Sage, hi all,

    I have read the guide and I am pretty impressed. Great job! Very great job! I will recommend it to my colleagues here at Wikimedia Deutschland.

    Best,

    Sebastian

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