Wikipedia Isn’t Officially a Social Network. But the Harassment Can Get Ugly.

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Studies on Wikipedia’s contributor base from several years ago estimated that fewer than 20 percent of editors were women. This research backed up an existing awareness in the Wikipedia community that female editors were seriously underrepresented, galvanizing activists who set out to recruit more women to write and edit articles.

Wikipedians also began to discuss the “content gender gap,” which includes an imbalance in the gender distribution of biographies on the site. The latest analysis, released this month, said about 18 percent of 1.6 million biographies on the English-language Wikipedia were of women. That is up from about 15 percent in 2014, partially because of activists trying to move the needle.

Why Do So Few Women Edit Wikipedia?

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In 2008, a survey found that less than 13% of Wikipedia contributors worldwide were women. The free online encyclopedia that “anyone can edit” was outed as being mostly run by men. A follow up survey in 2011 found similar results: globally, 9% of contributors were women; in the U.S., it was 15%. Meanwhile, there appeared to be no significant gender difference in readership rates.

…Two professors, Julia Bear of Stony Brook University’s College of Business and Benjamin Collier of Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, decided to explore the issue from the perspective of women who had been behind the scenes… They found clear differences. Women reported feeling less confident about their expertise, less comfortable with editing others’ work (a process which often involves conflict), and reacting more negatively to critical feedback than men. …

And yet while Bear and Collier’s analysis showed that women reported less confidence in their expertise, greater discomfort with editing, and greater negative response to criticism, their analysis also found that it was the first two (less confidence and greater discomfort) and not the last (negative response to criticism) that was affecting their contributing behavior…

“Wikipedia is a representation of knowledge. If you go there, and you don’t see any female representation or role models, it shows an implicit bias in the way things are ordered and prioritized,” Reagle said. “That can have a significant effect on people.”

Enlisting more women to contribute is the only way to keep women’s interests and needs from becoming afterthoughts.

 

Angola’s Wikipedia Pirates are Exposing the Problems with Digital Colonialism

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Wikimedia and Facebook have given Angolans free access to their websites, but not to the rest of the internet. So, naturally, Angolans have started hiding pirated movies and music in Wikipedia articles and linking to them on closed Facebook groups, creating a totally free and clandestine file sharing network in a country where mobile internet data is extremely expensive.

It’s an undeniably creative use of two services that were designed to give people in the developing world some access to the internet. But now that Angolans are causing headaches for Wikipedia editors and the Wikimedia Foundation, no one is sure what to do about it.

 

Wikipedia Emerges as Trusted Internet Source for Ebola Information

James Heilman, an emergency room doctor in British Columbia, leads Wikiproject Medicine, which monitors the site’s major public health articles, like Ebola Virus Disease.

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amid the fear mongering are several influential sites that are sticking to the facts about Ebola. Millions have come to rely on these sites, including those run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and Wikipedia.

Wikipedia? The online encyclopedia’s Ebola Virus Disease article has had 17 million page views in the last month, right up there with the C.D.C.’s Ebola portal and the W.H.O.’s Ebola fact sheet, as well as the Ebola coverage of prominent health care brands like WebMD and the Mayo Clinic. Once the butt of jokes for being the site where visitors could find anything, true or not, Wikipedia in recent years has become a more trusted source of information — certainly for settling bar bets, but even for weighty topics like Ebola.

“It is because Wikipedia is such a recognized brand — obviously the C.D.C. is still much more authoritative than we will ever be — that people will click on that link,” said Dr. Jacob de Wolff, 37, an internist at Northwick Park Hospital in London, who founded Wikiproject Medicine in 2004 and has seen it go from obscurity to mockery to acceptance.