(This is a guest post from Maurizio Codogno, Wikimedia Italia)
On 9 September 2005, the article Choisy-le-Roi, a French town near Paris, was created on the Italian Wikipedia. On 3 October 2008, the article Placca indiana, one of the tectonic plates in the lithosphere of the Earth, was also created. What can these articles ever have in common? Simple. they are, respectively, the 100,000th and the 500,000th article on it.wikipedia.org.
On January 22, at 4:50 am (Rome and Zurich timezone), the millionth article was created! Given the creation and deletion of articles that routinely happens on Wikipedia, it is not exactly clear which one is the actual millionth article. The two most likely candidates are 8mm (a California-based band) and Scautismo e guidismo in Portogallo (Scouting and Guiding in Portugal).
The Italian edition of Wikipedia is the fifth to have reached this milestone. In addition to the English language edition, which had its millionth article on March 1st, 2006 and now has well over four million entries, the “millionaire club” currently includes the Wikipedias in German (since 27 December 2009), French (since 21 September 2010) and Dutch (since 17 December 2011). The editions in Spanish, Russian and Polish are also approaching the milestone.
Surely, in August 2001, when the first Italian article was created, no one would even have dreamed of witnessing the millionth one. In the discussion about the creation of article number 100,000, some people jokingly wrote that they were getting ready for when the half a million goal was reached, a figure which seemed unattainable.
To tell the truth, the first two articles mentioned at the beginning of this post have something else in common. The links above show how the items appeared at their creation, but if you consult them today (respectively here and here), we can see that in these years the content of both articles has been greatly expanded. This is probably the best answer to those who believe that having too many articles is useless, if not harmful, for the encyclopedia: The structure of Wikipedia allows and even encourages the growth of knowledge, because even a slight improvement, when added to many others, can make a difference.
In fact, on the Italian Wikipedia, relative to other editions, the automated creation of pages is strictly limited to the cases where it’s tightly checked by humans and it encourages editor engagement, and has been almost non-existing in last years. Even more noteworthy is the fact that the 500,000th article was created by an unregistered user (a permission removed on the English Wikipedia in 2005), another confirmation of the practical philosophy of Wikipedia, which prefers authority of the text to authority of the writer.
The article Scautismo e guidismo in Portogallo is a product of Progetto:Scout, the combined effort of Wikipedia editors interested in developing and maintaining articles about scouting. The article itself, while entered by User:Lou_Crazy, is the result of a combined effort, in pure wiki style. Its contents come from the article Scouting and guiding in Portugal in the English language Wikipedia, which received contributions from at least ten different users since it was created in 2007. On the English Wikipedia there is WikiProject Scouting, which is analogous to Progetto:Scout. The text was translated by Lou Crazy, and it was adapted using templates written by members of Progetto:Scout to help in this effort. So, despite being only 2175 bytes long at its creation, this article already has a long history behind it, and it has already grown almost twice in size, including the addition of a photo.
Lou Crazy, who volunteers most of his free time as a scout leader, says that he started working on this article a few days ago, because it was missing, and he wants Wikipedia to be a great resource for scouts and guides who want to know more about their brother scouts and guides across the world. He had also prepared an article about Federação Escotista de Portugal, one of the scout associations in Portugal. So, when the counter was close to 1 million, he sent both articles and crossed his fingers.
The second candidate article, 8mm, was written by Nungalpiriggal, a fairly novice Wikipedian, who was awake and online that night, looking at the page counter with the mouse ready to press the Save Page button for the historical moment.
Why that article? First of all, Nungalpiriggal is a fan of that band and that page was missing. Second, he felt the millionth article should have respected Wikilove, thus, no controversial topics or discussed personalities, no football players or politicians, nothing that may cause any disagreement and confusion. So, the choice went to an international band that most people in Italy did not even know about (maybe, now that this article has been published, somebody else in Italy will listen to their music). And, last but not least, as a cameo in this page there is a link to Grey’s Anatomy, the article mostly viewed on the Italian Wiki in 2012.
Of course, no one plans to rest on our laurels and there are at least two new challenges for the encyclopedia. We need to increase the number of active contributors on Italian Wikipedia, which has stayed more or less constant for many months at around 8,000 people. Anyone can lend a hand, even just correcting a typo.
Of course we then have to improve the quality of individual items too. Today there are only 800 entries which are stated featured or good: it is true that the criteria for inclusion in those lists are very strict, but it is certainly possible to do much more. Finally, for those who feared that we are running out of items to be created, no worry! There is a page dedicated precisely to the requests for creating articles on topics not yet covered. Collaboration means that too!
Maurizio Codogno, Wikimedia Italia