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An Oral History of Wikipedia, the Web’s Encyclopedia

OneZero/Medium: “…Now 20 years later — Wikipedia’s birthday — nearly 300,000 editors (or “Wikipedians”) now volunteer their time to write, edit, block, squabble over, and scrub every corner of the sprawling encyclopedia. They call it “the project,” and they are dedicated to what they call its five pillars: Wikipedia is an encyclopedia; Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view; Wikipedia is free content that anyone can use, edit, and distribute; Wikipedia’s editors should treat each other with respect and civility; and Wikipedia has no firm rules. Behind the site itself is the Wikimedia Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that takes care of the servers, fundraising, legal challenges, and many initiatives that advance the project. Its most essential task: delicately handling volunteer editors, about 40,000 of whom are most active on English Wikipedia and more than 500 of whom have active “admin” status, which allows them to wield powers such as blocking and editing protected pages. It is not perfect. There is trolling. There are vandals. There is bullying of “newbies” by editors. And there are imposters who edit not for the greater good but to serve the greed, vanity, or ambition of self-interested (sometimes paying) parties. And, yes, there are many, many weak and thinly sourced articles (only about 40,000 out of the site’s 6 million entries meet the higher standard of being “good articles”). There is also a gender imbalance within the domain of Wikipedia — in English Wikipedia, more than 80% of editors are men and just 18% of biographies are about women. Regardless, Wikipedia is now a cornerstone of life online. How many wives did King Henry VIII have?…Why did people wear bearskin shoes? Wikipedia has all the answers. So on the 20th anniversary, OneZero asked the individuals who made Wikipedia what it is today how it all started…”

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