Interviewee from he-Wikipedia

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December 2009

Tell me your Wiki-autobiography: When did you get involved in Wikipedia and what were your personal reasons for starting to participate in Wikipedia? Please tell me what for you are the most important or compelling aspects of Wikipedia and its mission.[edit]

I was searching on the Internet and found English Wikipedia, which lead me to start reading the Hebrew Wikipedia. There were only 12,000 articles at the time, which I thought was too little. Then a month later I saw that the number of articles grew by an additional 1,000, so I switched to Hebrew. Since then it’s grown at the same rate.

I have a statistics page in Hebrew, and there have been 7 million views on articles I’ve added the last two years.

I’ve had 14 featured articles, but with rising standards for what merits being a featured article, some of my old ones have become unfeatured. So I’m working on them to bring them up to standard.

I like Wikipedia because it’s fun to learn something every day. When I write an article, I start translating English articles, during which time I verify sources, which is enlightening as it leads me to new areas.

I also monitor about 18,000 articles, which is time consuming. But I only check the people I don’t know.

Do you contribute both in [native language] as well as English? Any other languages? What are your activities in each language? Which is the most frequent after [native language], and so on?[edit]

I translate into Hebrew a lot. But I quit writing in English. I’ve written about 4,200 articles in Hebrew. I’ve also uploaded many images to Commons. Also heading up the Elef_millim_project – to upload Commons pictures.

How much time do you now typically spend contributing to Wikipedia each week. In what capacities?[edit]

Each day I spend up to two hours. I try to write two new articles each day. I’m now working on the history of London, which leads to many other aspects, and one thing leads to another subject. It engenders new articles.

Have you ever recruited someone else to become a Wikipedian? If so, what typically convinces them to register and begin editing and writing?[edit]

I recruit all the time, family members, all kinds of people. The issue is to find the right people – folks who love reading encyclopedias. But I also talk with many people who are not so educated, working people, and all kinds – who lack any recognizable commonality. It’s hard to profile, but they must like to read and write. But how do you find them? And so many people don’t know that they can actually edit. Our survey last month put the percentage at 30, who don’t know you can edit, out of 4,000 responses. Three or four years ago, 90 percent didn’t know they could edit. In part, it’s because they’ve landed on Wikipedia after Googling a subject, and don’t even know they are on Wikipedia.

When you talk to people in your country about becoming a Wikipedian, are there consistent reasons they resist converting from a reader to a contributor? Please elaborate. How do you personally address those reasons?[edit]

Usually women are less inclined because they just don’t have the time. But we have a few strong opinionated women who are few but loud. For instance, they are adamant about eliminating gender bias in the Hebrew language.

I’m the secretary of the local chapter, and we try to think about retired people, who are knowledgeable, and who have PCs. In Hebrew Wikipedia it’s 68% men. Age groups: only 8% are over 40. But retirees, if they have the free time but need close tutoring, could be good members. They have the time, knowledge, and passion.

We want to target high schoolers, folks over 65, and university professors. The last group is problematic because they don’t understand the collaborative process. So we’re interested in encouraging professors to assign writing a Wikipedia article, which we’ve encouraged by offering prizes.

We want to present lectures about the ease of editing, and explain to them how they can acquire the knowledge to write, or to write about what they do know, even if it’s about a park or something. Still looking for the right answers.

Refer to this translation of our annual survey: translation of annual survey

What anecdotal stories can you tell me about the experience new Wikipedians have in your [native language] Wikipedia community? Are there typical impressions, common feedback of any kind, positive or negative?[edit]

I give a new editor a welcome sign. But I don’t hesitate to revert the edit if it’s incorrect. And I usually use a template because there’s no time. But no doubt it’s difficult for newcomers sometimes. It’s a mixture of experiences – but incorrect first edits can avoid turning out badly - especially if the new editor listens with an open mind about why he or she got a revert. But if they won’t willingly cooperate early on, then we don’t know whether they will cooperate with the principles and guidelines later on.

Assume good faith was just recently translated in Hebrew. And we only have about 100 main contributors with voting rights in our community. So we qualify the right to vote with a rule that requires a participant must do 100 edits in the 100 days before a vote, which eliminates sock puppets.

You want to be friendly on one hand, but on the other hand, if someone adds a big section to an article that is not up to the same standard as the existing mature article, then that’s bad. I would like to see shorter articles that are better written and formatted. This is the guiding principle for attracting and educating newcomers. They must be able to adhere to wiki standards, and in our experience not all retirees can understand it.

People have trouble participating in a meta or the Commons because of the English language barrier. That’s why the Chapter assisted in creating a Hebrew interface for the Commons, because it’s so hard to upload in English (the Piki Wiki project).

At the highest level, then, my question is: Are there any differences to note between the English-language Wikipedia community and the practices in the [native language] Wikipedia community?[edit]
I understand that mandatory polices – such as the five pillars, verifiability, no original research, and neutral point of view – should not be different. But how about in terms of guidelines, or general culture? For instance, let’s walk through the following and you can verify whether they are consistent in your community compared to the English-language community:

We don’t allow making episodes of TV shows into articles. We also reject articles that are too short; they must be at least a paragraph. The community has its own guidelines on notability, i.e., a writer must have at least two books to be considered. A singer must have issued a CD that has been sold. Contestants in Reality shows are not important enough (unless they do something else). No student movies. Even for pro athletes, there can be an article only if the athlete actually participates in the sporting event at a certain percentage of participation – no bench warmers. Usually these special decisions come up after three deletions and we begin to discuss and vote. We use notability templates to inform authors that they must justify their article. Otherwise it can be deleted providing we have more than 55% majority vote.

We want long articles, so we don’t use bot-generated articles on cities (with only demographic information for instance) and the like. So even if such articles exist in English Wikipedia, it’s not enough for us.

We don’t have an arbitration committee. We use three bureaucrats to close discussion on a protracted argument. And an admin can only block a disruptive user with voting rights for two days – or take it to a bureaucrat for a longer block.

In your community, what are the typical roles available to Wikipedians when helping to write, edit, or generally improve an article? If your community is non-English-language, do you note any differences between your community’s roles and what you know about the English-language Wikipedia community?[edit]
For instance, the following list describes personae a newcomer will run across in the context of content creation (refer to

• Author: Creates new articles, adds sections to existing articles, improves articles
• Copyeditor: Improves the article's language
• Subject matter expert: is involved in a WikiProject; watches article's edit history; does incremental review; reviews the article as part of a formal (internal) review process
• Photographer / mapmaker / table builder: Adds visual aids to the article
• Formatter: Formats articles (community term: "wikifying") according to the style conventions
• Maintainer: Takes care of the article's integrity (community term: "recent changes patrol")
• Consensus-keeper: ensures that editorial consensus is kept.
• Facilitator: Provides guidance on social norms that are conducive to constructive discussion. Moderates discussion on controversial topics to keep focus on neutral point of view, verfiability, etc.
• External reader: Participates in the content improvement by leaving notes on the talk page; doing minor edits
(Most Wikipedians play several of these roles. E.g. someone can be a subject matter expert for an article's topic and at the same time maintain the article's integrity.)
Only 2 percent of registered users in Hebrew are contributors. I think that the other 98% simply think they needed to register just to read. So I think that all new edits should get a welcome. And that the templates should be friendlier than they are now if they must be used to send out to warn of an editing mistake.

We catch bad edits and mistakes fast, especially for important articles. Reaction to a bad edit can happen in seconds or minutes.

In the same vein as the above question, are there any differences in how an article evolves in your non-English-language community compared to the English-language Wikipedia community?[edit]

(Refer to
1 Creation: a new article is born
2 Beginning of incremental improvement
3 Experimentation with collaborative editing software
4 Maintainance: "wikifying"
6 Protecting article integrity
7 Added to WikiProject
8 Editorial discussion on talk page begins
9 Substantial article improvement process begins
10 Second quality assessment
11 Good article process
12 A new development
13 Further incremental improvements

I usually put my article up in one block, and there are many spelling errors, which is fine as others assist in correcting them. Another article I started but didn’t touch after uploading it became a feature article, which I don’t list as mine because I did nothing afterwards. Sometimes one good author is enough. We have contests annually to initiate an article to become featured article – and there are some good writers who can do this. But there will also be discussions about what is good enough, with lots of “de-featuring” occurring because of rising standards. And I agree, that my own feature articles from four years ago are not good enough. Sometimes the English Wikipedia featured articles I translated to Hebrew Wikipedia remain on English Wikipedia, but do not qualify for continued inclusion on the Hebrew version.

One other major guideline that may differ in your community compared to the English-language Wikipedia community is Notability[edit]
Notability seems to be much more controversial and therefore more open to debate than Verifiability, No Original Research, and Neutral Point of View. I understand, for instance, that the bar is much higher in Germany for what is a notable subject than is the case in the United States. Please comment for your community.

Your English Wikipedia typical controversial subject areas do not apply to our community – things like abortion for instance. But we certainly have our own areas of contention, depending on culture.

Have there been any significant Content Disputes and Edit Wars in your region because of regional history or cultural norms?[edit]
(Case Study for Poland: Gdańsk/Danzig - In the case of Gdańsk/Danzig, the particular problem of referring to places now in Poland, but which were in Germany before 1945, dogged the English-language Wikipedia almost from the outset.)

Our talk pages are 7 times longer than the article they pertain to. We love to argue. We even have a city square for arguments that have nothing to do with Wikipedia. The subjects people argue about run the gamut – like what’s the best kind yogurt.

Would you say that the incidence of content disputes and editing wars between editors in [native language community] is any higher, lower, or about the same as you observe in your English-language activities? If so, why is that?[edit]

We have rules for edit wars, reverting to stable version and blocking the page to let them argue in the discussion page. If an administrator is thought to have abused his rights (by the other admins) then there’s a vote. It helps to avoid edit wars between administrators.

I’m going to walk you through a few components that will make up some but not all of the education and recruitment materials the Bookshelf Project is preparing.[edit]
In some of the pieces, the content will include an interpretive approach to present the subject. In other cases, the content is more straightforward and factual. We have resources for them all, but would like your opinion in each case if you have a particularly strong feeling about what needs to be emphasized – perhaps based on your own experience when presenting this information to potential Wikipedians in your community.
Quality (Quality assurance: citing sources, verifiability, why new articles are deleted, avoiding self-promotion and campaigning, why there are reversions and how to write to avoid deletion and reversions, maintaining standards of civility and assuming good faith.)

How do you know articles are quality if everyone edits?

Well it’s better than elsewhere on the Internet, because the open editing policy allows people to correct Wikipedia’s content. The dynamic nature of Wikipedia is an advantage vs. printed encyclopedia. When people bring this up to us (i.e., Wikipedia vs. the supposedly more credible nature of traditional printed encyclopedias), we demonstrate the latter’s shortcoming with an online list of seemingly permanent mistakes in the Hebrew Encyclopedia. So we need to present our reliability argument: which is, Reliability Argument

5 Pillars

We have never translated this to Hebrew, although you can find the principles throughout our site. But never presented the pillars in one place as is the case on English Wikipedia