Editing career (Slides, Wikipedia Editathon (Exeter, March 2017))

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Why it's best to learn to edit a little before starting to create from scratch

There are many forms of editing at Wikipedia. Some are technically easier than others, some require subject knowledge, some need a skill such as image editing, some are politically problematic within the wiki-culture.

It is a problem within Wikipedia that many new, well-intentioned editors fall foul of this. Often new editors to try to work in a difficult field first, to go wrong, and then to be castigated for doing so. It is all too common for those editors to then be either discouraged, or driven away altogether.

The hardest areas are obvious by observation. They are:

  • New editors
  • Creating Articles on
  • Obscure topics
  • about Women

So, today's scope is going to be a difficult path!

There is little substitute for experience. Also there are edit counters, both technical and social, which restrict some features until editors have made a certain number of edits. It is most useful for editors to gain experience editing first in non controversial areas.


WP:WikiGnomes are editors who make useful but literally inconsequential edits. Typo fixing, fixing misformatting, updating dependent pages when template parameters evolve and change – the sort of edits which every editor agrees is useful,Template:Sic but are not 'heroic' or highly visible. These gnome edits can be a good way to build experience.

Patrolling recent changes or reverting obvious vandalism are other useful avenues.

Article improvement

Article creation

Article creation becomes difficult. It introduces the question of whether a topic ought to be covered by Wikipedia. It also encourages, unlike the usual gradual approach, a hard look at the current state of an article's quality. Both of these are frequent triggers for an article to be challenged for deletion.

Article creation in difficult fields

If creation is difficult generally, it is especially so in 'difficult' fields. These are not generally owing to any bias against the topic, but because of the technical aspects of supporting the article. Some topics, some historical periods, simply left little referenceable footprint to use when building an article.

One area that is always difficult is that of biography. WP:BLP is rightly strict on its treatment of living people, and these reasons are often extended to non-living people.

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