I did my first Wikipedia entry last night. I am constantly giddy about the usefulness and convenience of Wikipedia; it’s just genius that it works so well. But actually adding my own contribution really made me think about the nature of authority. At first you think who the hell am I to be an authority? The entry I wrote was about my neighbor and Clemmie’s “second dad” Mathis Wackernagel, the co-creator of the ecological footprint. I’m certainly not an expert in sustainability, I just know Mathis and thought he should have an entry. And then you think, well who are the other bozos doing this anyway? I guess it’s really about community. Seems like a lot of the authority on Wikipedia comes from having been there a while, demonstrating a willingness to contribute and to engage in civilized debate. Fair enough. Just knowing the markup enough to be able to format your entry properly is a small barrier, but it’s easy enough to just copy it from another entry. You get over that initial hump, and hope your stuff sticks.
Not that it really matters if it does. Because it is a community, having your edits changed or deleted can feel like a rejection from the community, a message that your thoughts are not welcome here. Then you realize a) if you think you really have a point you may have to defend yourself and b) it’s just the way it works. You can’t take it personally. The last time I made a few minor edits they were reversed almost immediately. It seemed actually magical, and happily I was more amazed at the level of quality control than I was dismayed at being reversed. This time, I tried be very accurate and get all the formatting right, and so far no one’s made any changes to my entry so far. Of course, it’s only been 12 hours.