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19 January 2011

Miscellaneous

Wikipedia's Decade Educating the World

It's gone quickly, but the informative website Wikipedia has been educating us for over ten years now.

The non-profit website still plans on continuing how it has in the last decade - by being the largest encyclopedia on the planet. Not only is it a huge database of information, but it's now the fifth most popular website on the internet.

I heard down the grapevine that it can be complicated to implement information into the website, so I thought, being the website's tenth birthday, I'd give it a go.

Once I opened the editing page, I realised it did look confusing. But luckily I spend most days editing websites, so I have the advantage of being familiar with HTML (hypertext markup language). But to the unacquainted HTML must be a nightmare!

However, after a few minutes I found that Wikipedia is not as difficult as it initially looks, but the HTML must put users off. It looks complicated - but in reality it isn't.

In a recent BBC interview, Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder, summed the situation up neatly: "If you click 'edit' and you see some Wiki syntax and some bizarre table structure - a lot of people are literally afraid. They're good people and don't want to break anything."

Personally, during my little experiment editing Wikipedia, I found that it's merely the structure of the page that causes confusion. But once you see past the strange syntax, the headings are quite simple to distinguish. Then adding information is relatively straightforward if you focus solely on the text and not the code - users just need to try not to be technophobes.

Yes, adding content to Wikipedia could be made easier, but with 400 million current users, and a plan to reach one billion in the next four years, I can see why the site's editors might not want its content so easily accessible by all. That would be quite a mammoth task for the small editing team - all of whom are unpaid.

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