Catching up on my reading, I came across a Wilson Quarterly post about Wikipedia, “In Essence: The Wikipedia Way,” which reports on an article by Richard Jensen, “Military History on the Electronic Frontier: Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812” The Journal of Military History (Oct. 2012).
Richard Jensen is a hardworking historian who does his bit to urge us all to do our bit. Wilson Quarterly uses his article to talk about the Wikipedia article, “War of 1812.” They note that “more than 2,400 self-appointed editors contributed to the 14,000-word article. Some 627 people spilled 200,000 words’ worth of digital ink arguing over its exact content. In April 2012, it garnered 172,000 page views.”
You could see the same pattern in China articles. “Mao Zedong,” for instance, has been viewed 120,0082 times between June 26 and July 23. That’s right: 120,0082, though it will have changed by the time you click this link. The article has had nearly 10,000 edits, more than 400 editors.
Part of the fascination of Wikipedia is going backstage by clicking the “Talk Page” tab. Lots of juicy nonsense mixed in with the occasional words of wisdom1.
The articles on the major events of modern Chinese history are numerous. Most are too long and filled with quirky trivia. Some are useful summaries of what readers should know, some are … well, let’s just say they are not quite so good. You decide:
- Second Opium War That’s right — there are three overlapping articles.
- Boxer Rebellion (shouldn’t this be “Boxer Uprising“?)
- Xinhai Revolution (how many Wikipedia readers will know that this is the “1911 Revolution”?)
- Republic of China (1912-1949) That’s right — there are two overlapping articles.
We could go on.
Moral: Those 100,000 readers need you.
On the internet “nobody knows that you’re a dog,” so don’t let the editing go to them.
- in this case, you have to click on the “Archived” links to see the back discussions). You can look at the individual edits by going to the “View History” tab [↩]