Interviewee from hk-Wikipedia
December 2009 Interview
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.
Got involved in 2004. Before I was making websites. I was trying to translate the world fact book of the CIA – selected content. But then I found W in Chinese. When I found the Wikipedia page of the British PMs in Chinese – just a list from Churchill to Blair. Not the full list, so I wanted to complete the list of PMs. That was the first contact.
I had just finished a few country translations from the world fact book, so I abandoned that to go to a clear group task. I liked the idea of mass collaboration.
Please describe your progression of involvement:
- How long did you read before starting to edit (what subject?)? What inspired you to go beyond reading/editing and start writing (and beyond)?
I’m not sure when I joined. I started to read sometime in 2003. I was inspired to go editing after first trying to work on those country articles I mentioned. Then I went to new areas, editing historical dynasties into Chinese – also some articles on opera. I translated articles from English W into Chinese, or from the French W. I also contributed English articles on Chinese history.
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?
As I’m heavily involved in chapters and committee works, my writing is now only occasional.
How much time do you now typically spend contributing to Wikipedia each week. In what capacities?
Two – three hours a week. Others in our chapter of 40 people contribute more, I’m sure.
Have you ever recruited someone else to become a Wikipedian? If so, what typically convinces them to register and begin editing and writing?
Yes. But the problem is, in HK we have long working hours and many local distractions. So it’s impossible to write consistently. And my recruits for the most part limited their involvement to doing minor corrections.
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?
The main problem is really contributing and participating in Wikipedia is too much of a time commitment.
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?
I just spotted an essay on the notion of article ownership by the first or primary author. I discovered that the older Wikpedians think they own what they write. So that leads to a lot of reversions in Chinese. It’s a serious problem in our community. Many new users are put off from editing and afraid of the harsh reception. Even I have gone through the “three-reverts” rule, which blocks the page. It’s like the Chinese agrarian tradition of defending your farm plot. No one is supposed to tread on one’s property. Also, Chinese don’t embrace the notion of collaboration in primary writing, although they accept edits that check spelling etc.
There’s peer review to be sure, but everyone tends to simply observe the article and not edit in any substantial way other than correcting past typos. Authors resent a deeper involvement, which is a negative.
In Chinese W there are simply not enough people, and there is a minority controlling articles, which puts off newcomers. I think it’s major reason Chinese W is losing editors. Some folks won’t touch articles, but just tag it. And it stays untouched.
I’d like to ask about what ensures quality articles in your [native language], and whether there are any regional differences for the Bookshelf project to keep in mind.
- Regarding “Policies and Guidelines, There is a distinction between a policy, which is mandatory, and a guideline, which is advisory. :Guidelines are more complex rules that help to keep Wikipedia's quality high. There are three core content policies (V, NOR, NPOV), which are supported by a host of associated guidelines. These guidelines include the concept of notability and various principles defining the boundaries of Wikipedia's coverage.
Notability does cause arguments here.
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?
- For instance, the following list describes personae a newcomer will run across in the context of content creation (refer to http://outreach.wikimedia.org/wiki/Personae_on_Wikipedia):
• 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.)
I know that new editors can sometimes feel as if they’ve been put into a crocodile pool. So I suggest to them that they do other things, small things like typos, or other activities that don’t involve substantive editing. And contributing photos or maps or tables or the like is a good idea to get them more involved.
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?
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
As I pointed out, this kind of collaborative evolution is rare with us. The article remains pretty static after uploading. The only exception might be collaborative editing for news articles – especially if it’s a sensational event.
One other major guideline that may differ in your community compared to the English-language Wikipedia community is Notability
- 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.
This is a key question reason that drives people away – because sometimes people delete subjects with which they are simply not familiar because of an insulated worldview. I write about opera, and when power users don’t understand how important an artist is, they delete it. The incidence of deletion isn’t necessarily higher than in other communities, but the image of the deletions is quite negative. Sometimes the defending rationale against deletion in our community is argued in terms of the number of Google hits a subject gets.
Let’s talk about standards for Community and Communication in your region, which involves how to communicate and how to reach consensus and manage conflict.
- The core tenets of the wiki way, like Assume Good Faith and Please Don't Bite the Newcomers, have been with the community since the beginning. How are they holding up in your community?
In our community, I think people secretly assume that others are acting in bad faith, no matter what public face is put forward in the policies and guidelines.
Have there been any significant Content Disputes and Edit Wars in your region because of regional history or cultural norms?
- (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.)
This can be quite serious with us, because translating non-Chinese place names or people’s names is difficult to standardize. Some try to do it to reflect some underlying meaning in the name. Others try to create a phonetic match to the original foreign name. So many variants result. And even our manual of style is out of date about this.
Have you seen any notable incidence of Wikipedians in your community taking advantage of the corollary of fifth pillar, which can be interpreted as “If the rules prevent you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore them.”?
We have Ignore All Rules here, but it’s hard to do because of all the external pressure from experienced editors.
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?
When there’s no heat or controversy associated with an article and nobody pays attention to it, there’s no problem. But controversial subjects that attract strong views do engender bloodbaths, in discussions or in the edit war. People in Hong Kong also want to gain notoriety through high-profile editing. They use it as an identity to the outside world.
We don’t have arbitration. Our hot spots are about current events, politics, etc. We are also highly localized, not much connected to the outside world community. And the content is localized, so even the breadth of subjects is not too diverse when it comes to non-Chinese subjects. There are just not enough participants.
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.
- 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.
- Welcome Introduction (Inviting the audience in, creating excitement, reasons to contribute.)
Teachers I’ve talked to would like to teach students how to use Wikipedia wisely. The best practices in assigning articles sounds good.
Free Licenses (high-level description of what they are, why they are valuable and how they relate to Wikipedia; to be introductory and NOT technical)
In China, no one’s policing this.