Wikipedia editor Addis Wang has developed an approach to spreading awareness of Wikipedia in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). He and several collaborators use an account on Weibo–a Twitter-like social media platform that is the 7th highest trafficked website in China–to promote both Wikipedia’s content and its global community to Chinese readers.
This is no small challenge. For the 20 percent of the world’s population that live in the People’s Republic of China, Wikipedia is a distant runner-up to Baidu-Baike, a for-profit Chinese encyclopedia that hosts 6.7 million articles. Like Wikipedia, Baidu is collaboratively written. But its policies on content licensing, censorship and review are not as open as Wikipedia’s (Wikipedians have also noted that several of its articles are copied from English Wikipedia without attribution).
Baidu’s dominance may be due in part to Wikipedia’s limited availability in the PRC in past years. The domain zh.wikipedia.org could not be visited normally in Mainland China from 2005-2008. Today Wikipedia is approximately the 150th-most trafficked domain in China (according to comScore, Wikimedia projects are the 5th most-visited globally; according to Alexa, Baidu is the most-visited site in China). Many Chinese citizens aren’t even aware that Wikipedia exists in their language, which obviously makes contribution more difficult.
Addis’ idea, which is funded by a Wikimedia Foundation Individual Engagement Grant, aims to tackle these problems using social media to reach China’s huge online audience. Weibo is an ideal platform for giving people a taste of what Wikipedia has to offer. “In Chinese you can fit a lot more information into 140 characters than you can in English,” says Wang. And like Twitter, Weibo allows users to upload images. In April 2013, Wang and his colleagues began posting abstracts for a different Wikipedia article every day through their dedicated Weibo account.