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Wikipedia Reader's Guide: The Missing Manual by John Broughton

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Chapter 1. Reader’s Guide to Wikipedia

In mid-2007, a major survey found that more than a third of Americans regularly consulted Wikipedia. Since then, that percentage has probably grown, just as Wikipedia has—at the rate of several thousand new articles every day, plus the lengthening of articles via more than 100 edits every minute.

In January 2008, O’Reilly published Wikipedia: The Missing Manual. That book is a how-to manual for folks who want to edit Wikipedia articles and become more active in the Wikipedia community. This pocket guide is mostly about understanding and making the most of Wikipedia as a reader. But it also includes most of the first chapter of Wikipedia: The Missing Manual—Editing Your First Article—for when you’re ready to consider the next step: contributing to the largest collective writing project in the world.

So, why do people contribute to Wikipedia? The question is relevant to you as a reader, because a writer’s motivation offers some clues about the writing’s trustworthiness. The reasons vary from person to person, and usually are a mixture of factors, but here are a couple:

  • As a way of helping other people understand the world—and perhaps changing the world as a result.

  • To give back to the community that provides a valuable resource by contributing to it.

  • Clear, factual writing is challenging, interesting, and often fun. Working jointly with others on improving articles in Wikipedia is intrinsically rewarding.

Some Basics

Wikipedia is a collaboratively written ...

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