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A screenshot of the first article I created in wikipedia, on Jan. 28, 2003.
Sunday, January 27, 2013

Today is my 10th anniversary on wikipeida ... is that a good thing, or a bad thing?

Ten years ago today (Jan. 28) I created my first wikipedia article: 147 words in three paragraphs about British naturalist/author Gerald Durrell. Durrell's article now has thousands of words, including charts of his expeditions, lists of various books, several photos and, because this is disputatious wikipedia, an ugly note chastising the article for having insufficient footnotes.

I have no idea how many "edits" I've done over this decade. There's a sort of list somewhere, but I can't find it. Many housands, maybe tens of thousands; I do something roughly every other day. Wikipedia is a time-filler for me; I'll take five mintues to fiddle with it during work just to clear my mind, sort of like a soduko puzzle.

Right now I have a brand-new user asking me to oversee his/her work on editing an article title "Wheat and Chessboard Problem", which is too much like my real job to be very appealing.

One edit can be anything from tweaking a typo to creating a new article. I haven't done much of singificance, like create new articles, in years, partly because wikipedia is so filled-out that it's hard to find big holes to fill. This is the main reason, I think, that the number of people actively editing wikipedia has stagnated in recent years - a fact which produces much hang-wringing but, because this is a non-hierarchical organization, not much action.

As I've said many times, I joined wikipedia to watch the interesting ways it would fail, figuring it would wither and die in a few years. It had been around a little over a year at the time and had 100,000 English-language articles; it now has more than 4 million articles in English and milions more in other languages. It is an indespensible resource, and I never, ever, ever expected it to become the valuable, if erratic, resource that it is.