Wikipedia is a web-based encyclopedia which uses many languages and contains free content and which can be edited. The word Wikipedia is coined from two words; ‘wiki’ which comes from a Hawaiian word meaning quick technology of creating websites which are linked, and ‘pedia’from encyclopedia. Wikipedia was founded by jimmy Wales to replace Nupedia, which was also an online encyclopedia owned by Wikimedia Foundation but its articles were slow in coming. All articles in Wikipedia are linked to other sites which provide the users with more information on a particular subject. The contents of Wikipedia can be edited by anyone online except for some articles that are protected to avoid vandalism. The contributors in Wikipedia can either be anonymous or can use their real names. When any contribution is made in Wikipedia, their highly qualified team reviews the article, to check whether the information given is correct and whether it follows the Wikipedia guidelines. If it passes all the checks then the article can be added. Wikipedia has a welcome page for newcomers who want to contribute and they give the five pillars as well as policies to be followed when editing or writing new articles.
There is a process that has to be followed by editors in order to make a post of an article on Wikipedia. Before doing so, Wikipedia highly recommends one to read their rules and policies of writing an article. One needs to be a registered member to create an article. Wikipedia offers a wizard which is an easy guideline on the do’s and don’ts of creating an article. First one should check if a similar article with the one he/she wants to write about is in existence. The check should be made in as many synonyms as possible to avoid deletion of an article because it already exists. If the article doesn’t exist, the next thing would be to add the sources of the information as links. After editing has been done and errors fixed the page is saved and it is now a part of Wikipedia which can be edited by others viewing it. Form there the article is reviewed and new information is given. If successful it becomes a featured article on the good articles page.
This paper therefore seeks to identify one article in Wikipediawhich has undergone substantial revision, how it was entered, and the debates surrounding its revision and how the article has drawn the core principles of the Wikipedia community. The review of this article is expected to shed light on the process through which Wikipedia articles are produced and vetted. I will discuss the article on the history of Hinduism.
The article on Hinduism was first entered in Wikipedia on 7th November 2001 by an anonymous user. Since then, the article has been reviewed and modified by other users. The first reviews only added additional information, re-organized the already existing materials and corrected some formatting mistakes on the history of Hinduism, but as the discussion continued; more mistakes were made on entries and corrected. For example, on 1st February 2003, a user removed a statement which displayed a point of view on the Aryan invasion theory from the previous contributor. One of the principles that must be observed by contributors when entering or reviewing an article is to avoid discussions that show personal points of view.
Another revision that has been done on the article about history of Hinduism is the correction of a certain fact whereby time intervals are assumed. Wikipedia only publicizes facts and any information consisting factual errors is revised. Whenever a post is made on a revision or a new topic, it is subject to criticism from users of Wikipedia. Users are advised to post their feedback, negative and positive and to use the correct language when doing so. The steps for vetting are also carried out publicly whereby one editor proposes another publicly, and then others give their views. If the feedback is positive, then editor who suggested the other asks them to run for admin and officially nominates them. If there are any complains from the others, it is addressed by the one who nominated the candidate and helps them improve. Later they can relist the nominee for the same position. The whole vetting process in Wikipedia ensures transparency by involving everyone on the discussion board.
Another revision that has been done severally on the history of Hinduism is the removal of external links which do not add important points to the ones already discussed. For example on January 13, 2007, one editor removed an external link which did not provide additional information to the one already given. Some editors give examples of links from other sites that may be necessary to the users of Wikipedia. The editor who wants to make a change posts a comment on the talk page of the one who made the contribution first so that they can make a change. Another revision often made in the history of Hinduism article is the citations. Some parts of the article would appear written citations needed. The citations apply in the use of references to cite the sources of the information. To avoid plagiarism, the sources of information being posted on Wikipedia have to be cited. There are many citations styles that a contributor can use to cite the source of information. It is important to give the references of information otherwise, the contents would be considered as personal opinions, which Wikipedia do not publicize.
The above mentioned are the major changes made, but there are also the minor changes usually made to articles. For example, on the history of Hinduism, spelling mistakes are corrected e.g. on the 4th February 2007 and there are reports of vandalism e.g. on the 2nd April 2007. Editors can also remove examples which they think are not appropriate or those that give ambiguous meaning to the article being referred to. The availability of discussion boards which are open to all helps provide users of Wikipedia with the best and newest reliable information. The discussion and review of the article on Hinduism are made every so often by a variety of persons. Changes have also been made to the article ensuring that it keeps up with what is new in Hinduism.
As discussed above, many more articles in Wikipedia are entered and reviewed in a much similar way as the one for Hinduism. Wikipedia has its own team of editors who ensure that the information given on Wikipedia by the different contributors is correct, not plagiarized and that it follows the guidelines and principles of creating an article on Wikipedia. The process is also an open one as Wikipedia discussion board ensures this. The vetting process, which ensures that the articles created are correct, is also an open process.
Wikipedia offers information for research without charge and therefore allows redistribution and commercial use of the information. Although it is reviewed frequently, it is also possible for users of Wikipedia to gather wrong information. This is because if an entrée entered wrong information for example a factual error and no one has yet reviewed the article to notice, then a user may use that information which is not correct. It is therefore advisable to the users to always compare the information on Wikipedia with the one in the links listed. This will help clear doubts about some issues and the user can also gather more information on the related topics. Wikipedia also offers a communication tool between people of different races. For example on the discussion on Hinduism, a non-Hindu can air their views on the much they know about Hinduism. The experts can then clear doubts by adding more information.
All in all, Wikipedia offers the best online information for research purposes. It is estimated that more than 365 million users visit Wikipedia. This can be attributed to the fact that Wikipedia offers its information in many languages therefore many people of different languages can use it. It is even made easier by the fact that it can be translated online by a user. The use of article wizards makes it easy for people to create articles. Their guidelines and rules and core principles are simplified for user to easily understand.
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