Thursday, May 22, 2008

Interview with a young Wikipedian

When discussing the small Southern town where I went to high school, people have asked Was it the buckle of the Bible belt?

I've always answered It was more like one of the holes.

I still remember a particular afternoon when I opened the school newspaper. It was around the time when Madonna's "Like a Virgin" was getting maximum airplay. And although nobody's parents objected to her performance at the MTV Music Awards writhing on her belly while wearing a wedding dress, a brief item in the school paper stated that The Scarlet Letter and The Catcher in the Rye had been removed from the school library shelves due to pressure from a local church.

I did a very slow double take. The Scarlet Letter I'd already read, and I couldn't see how Hester Prynne's embroidery had beaten out Madonna's midriff-baring gryations on a gondola in the inappropriate-for-teenagers department. So...
Huh? Well, that was 1984. We didn't have Wikipedia then so the best I could do was head to a bookstore. I read The Catcher in the Rye that very night. And in some miniscule way I think of myself as a better person for having spent the evening with that book instead of whatever cattiness was happening between Krystle and Alexis on the boob tube.

I would have really enjoyed if someone had asked my opinion of the matter. Nobody did.

So after Chelsea Schilling published "Is Wikipedia Wicked Porn?" in WorldNetDaily where she complained about mature content I asked one of Wikipedia's younger volunteers for an interview. He's an articulate person with a good record as a Wikipedian who edits psuedonymously, and out of respect for his privacy I've removed potentially identifiable details from this interview.

Would his opinions be anything like mine had been? I wasn't sure, but I wanted to give him the opportunity I hadn't had.

Durova says: So you're one of our younger editors. Is that correct?

Young Wikipedian says: I would assume so. There are younger though.

Durova says: Would you share your age?

Young Wikipedian says: 14 years old.

Durova says: And you've written a couple of good articles.

Young Wikipedian says: Yeah, 3 of them.

Durova says: To protect your privacy I won't name the titles. I've read them.

Young Wikipedian says: Okay.

Durova says: Do you think it's fair to say those articles are on serious subjects?

Young Wikipedian says: No they are just about sports.

Durova says: "Good article" has a particular meaning on Wikipedia. Could you describe what a good article is, and how it's selected?

Young Wikipedian says: A good article is, an article of relatively good quality but is not up to the standards of Featured Article status. They are selected through a nomination process called, WP:GAC.

Durova says: What sort of standards apply to good article selection?

Young Wikipedian says: Sorts of standards that apply to good article selection are; good prose e.g. flowing sentences. Fully referenced from reliable sources, that it covers the majority of its aspects. That it isn't biased and doesn't have edit wars regularly, and images are always helpful.

Durova says: Would you say that you learned something about writing composition and research and referencing, when you worked on these articles? Or were the skills you needed at a level you'd already been taught in school?

Young Wikipedian says: Yes, I would definitely say I have learned a lot about referencing. I have learned about passive and active voice through this. Some of the skills such as writing with continuous prose I had learned at school.

Durova says: Have the skills you've picked up from editing Wikipedia helped your school work?

Young Wikipedian says: I would say so, I now write things with better grammar and more focus to the matter. And to research things which I need for homework/coursework.

Durova says: You've seen the recent articles in the conservative press about some of Wikipedia's content. As a young person, do you have any comment about that?

Young Wikipedian says: Yes I have seen the controversy surrounding certain content, and I think that if a child searches for that page, then he holds the responsibility for what he looks at, unless it is determined by Special:Randomarticle, which cannot be helped.

Durova says: How long have you used Wikipedia, as a reader and as an editor?

Young Wikipedian says: I have been registered on Wikipedia since 2006, yet only started editing in late 2007, I had read Wikipedia for research long before registering however.

Durova says: And what sort of topics, generally speaking, interest you?

Young Wikipedian says: Well my main topic is most definitely sports of which I create most of my articles on, though I do try to help other people with articles, which could be anything really. I am also interested in geography of countries, specifically European countries.

Durova says: You've also written some articles that made the "Did you know" selection on Wikipedia's main page.

Young Wikipedian says: Yes I wrote a DYK that got featured on the main page, though I do not generally focus on that area.

Durova says: I'm wondering what opinion your parents have of your participation at Wikipedia?

Young Wikipedian says: My parents don't really know much about Wikipedia, but they now know I'm an editor and just think it's a good place to get information.

Durova says: Have they expressed the kinds of doubts about the site that are in the recent news? I mean, are they worried about what you'll see and read here?

Young Wikipedian says: They very rarely read Wikipedia, so I doubt they would care as they know I am responsible for what I click on, and know I probably won't click anything daft.

Durova says: This interview is going to get published in my blog, as you probably know. Do you have anything that you'd like to say to adults who are concerned about this issue?

Young Wikipedian says: Hmm... I would say that the people that are concerned about the issue don't really trust their children, because chances are they probably won't try to access pages with innappropriate content.

Durova says: Interesting thought. Now sometimes my blog may contain questionable material. I don't think it does right now, but it may in the future. If you ever want a copy of this interview in its published form, you're welcome to contact me directly.

Young Wikipedian says: Cool.

Durova says: Thanks very much for sharing your opinions, and best wishes with your editing.

Young Wikipedian says: No problem, thanks.

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