The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Nov 7, 2012


The emotional life of a Wikiperson is sinusoidal. You start diffidently. You may be reading an article when you are at loose end, and you find a statement that you know is incorrect. You correct it and make the appropriate citation to a reliable source. You try to follow the templates already established, and you wince when you see that there is no consistency in their application. You spend some time unifying the styles. You then move on with life.

One day you cast about for something to do - it may be a slow Sunday. You look idly at the Wikipedia page for Mamta Mohandas, and you wonder. Surely pretty actresses are over-represented on Wikipedia? You do have some knowledge about various things and you feel a need to share it. You look up various topics and subjects and you find that whatever you know has already been entered into Wikipedia in far more detail and comprehensibility and completeness than you can ever hope to achieve. You retire to mull things over.

You let a few days pass, and think that there must be some fairly niche topics you can write about. You investigate how to create new articles and you learn about tools and bots and such. You gather links from JSTOR and Google Scholar and the web at large, and you create your first piece. You are informed that the article creation queue is backlogged and you wait expectantly.

The days turn into a couple of weeks, and one day you are heartened to find that your article is now live! Woohoo, you mutter into your coffee, your eyes filled with unshed tears. Then you notice that your article has been classified - despite your thoroughgoing effort and deep investigation - as 'beginner class' and you feel somewhat dished.

While you ponder over the next topic to attack, you realise that one or two of the modifications you had done to some other articles have now been undone. When you investigate, you learn that you have stomped all over some Wikipedia standard. Eh? you ask yourself. What standard is that?

You also learn that there are people who have taken over entire topics under their wing, and every time you try to modify an article - say, about literary prizes - you find that they have beaten you to it, or, if they haven't, they soon will duplicate your change, because, after all, this is their turf and they can't imagine that anyone else would have gotten in ahead of them.

Then a bright light shines above your nose, and you say to yourself - there are articles in other languages  on Wikipedia that do not have English counterparts! Woohoo, you mutter into your coffee, let the translation begin. Then you realise that the quality of coverage in other languages is pretty pathetic, and the quality of citations is even worse, and the enormity of the task you have undertaken begins to wear you down.

How about translating English articles into other languages, you suggest to yourself. You look at Mamta Mohandas again (just to re-energise yourself, of course), and you try to put 'Although the film did not do well at the box office, Mamta attracted attention for her sensitive portrayal of Indira' into, say, Hindi, and your mind boggles because you haven't written or read Hindi in twenty years.

What do you do? What do you do?


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