Becoming a Wikipedia Editor

When I was in high school, my teachers were Wikipedia skeptics. We were often lectured about how it was unreliable because you can’t trust something anyone can edit.

Well, I guess I’m anyone now.

In the decade (plus) since high school, Wikipedia has become a valuable resource for me. While I visit the site regularly in search of information, I can’t say I’ve ever considered becoming an editor. If not for this class, I don’t think I would have.

While it often made me nervous, this experience was a positive one.


My introduction to the Wikipedia editing process began with a series of training activities. As I started to discover more about how Wikipedia operates, I was intimidated. Wikipedia editors have their own language and practices. I felt a bit like an anthropologist going out into the field for participant observation. I wanted to be accepted into the community, but I had a lot to learn before I could get to that point.

The training activities that involved actual practice were the ones I found most helpful. Practicing drafting in my sandbox and leaving messages on talk pages made it easier when it came time to do those things for real.

Choosing an Article

After I got the hang of the basics, it was time to choose an article to edit. I quickly decided that I wanted to find something related to streaming television. That’s the topic I chose for my blog and it’s one I know a lot about. I also know that it’s regularly covered in reliable sources. Finding good, credible information would not be hard.

When I struggled to think of something specific, I turned to the Article Finder for inspiration. As soon as I saw binge-watching in the results,I knew that would be the one. It’s a topic I have a lot of personal experience with.

The article is listed as a Start-Class article, so it has plenty of room for improvement. Looking at the article itself, I noticed that a lot of the research and information referenced is a bit on the older side. I figured I would be able to add something more current.

Once that decision was made, I started to do some research. I remembered reading about how Hulu was introducing a new ad format for binge-watchers late last year and decided to build on that. I found some good information about the effects binge-watching has on advertising and thought I could turn that into a new section of the Wikipedia article.

Talk Page

Next, it was time to propose my plan to the other editors. This meant that a visit to the binge-watching talk page was in order. Again, I was intimidated by this. I felt good about my ideas, but I was afraid of rejection. People can be very mean online and I feared the worst. Thankfully, there hadn’t been any activity on the talk page in three years, so the odds of that happening were small. Still, I put this off for days.

Finally, with the deadline approaching, I put myself out there and asked for feedback the night before the assignment was due. That was not my smartest decision, but I blame it on nerves.

My post on the talk page

After that moment of courage, I went to bed. In the morning, I checked and found no responses. I waited until late in the afternoon to see if anyone would chime in. Then, assuming feedback wasn’t coming, I decided to go ahead and make my changes.

Drafting and Making Edits

So that I wouldn’t screw anything up, I started by drafting my planned additions in my sandbox. Overall, it went smoothly. I had to tinker with one of the citations because I kept getting an error message regarding the publication date, but I was able to figure it out.

I should note that while I was waiting for a response to my plans, I decided I would also add some new information to the existing section of the article the covers cultural impacts. That watching entire seasons of television in less than 24 hours has become the norm for a lot of people is worthy of note, I think.

Once I felt good about my draft, I started moving it over to the article. This ended up being much easier than I thought it would be. To be honest, I don’t know why I thought it would be hard. It’s really just copying and pasting.

First, I added the new section about binge-watching’s impact on advertising. It has multiple components–a new header, two paragraphs, and three new references–but I thought it would be fine to move it all at once. It was. I used the source editor and everything made it over intact.

Then, I added an edit summary. Looking back, I think my edit summaries might have been too vague. I should have been more descriptive.

Finally, I used the preview to make sure everything looked right and then I published the changes.

A brand new section that I created

After taking a moment to bask in the glory of having made my first real edit, I repeated the process for my next edit.

An addition I made to the existing section on cultural impacts

It was just as easy the second time around.

The part of the References section that includes my additions

I thought I should also include a screenshot of my additions to the References section. Numbers 18, 21, 22, and 23 are mine. I think I used a good mix of research and media coverage from reliable sources.

Endings and Beginnings

As I write this, my edits haven’t been changed or removed. We’ll have to see if that sticks. Either way, I like what I’ve contributed. At times, I had to push myself out of my comfort zone for this one, but I’m glad I did it.

While I went into this assignment assuming that stepping into the role of Wikipedia editor would be a one-time thing, there are more changes I’d like to make. The entire article needs a lot of work. As a newbie, I was hesitant to come in and overhaul it. I didn’t want to step on any toes. But now that I feel emboldened, I might just stick around.