08-09-2012
Who wants to be a Wikipedia editor?
Eritasard.am’s correspondent sat down for an interview with one of the editors of the Armenian Wikipedia, Vachagan Ghratyan.
Eritasard.am: Vachagan, how did you become a member of the Wikipedia community and what does “Wikipedia community” mean in general? Vachagan Ghratyan: I became involved in 2007 and used to edit in other languages more. At the time the Armenian Wikipedia was not very common and, to be honest, there was no hope and no meaning in editing. Sometimes I would post an article written in a foreign language for the Armenian version for the sake of interest. At the time there were only a couple of edited versions on the Armenian Wikipedia, while there were dozens in a matter of minutes on the developed Wikipedia. Throughout the years, I realized that I was wrong. The Armenian Wikipedia was developing and there were more and more users. Of course, it was far from being good, but there was growth in terms of quality and quantity. Eritasard.am: What about the community? V. G.: When there are many editions, there is a need to discuss different issues with people. When you do that, you automatically become a member of some group, and meeting those people in real life contributed to that. For me, that was one of the most interesting experiences because you meet with people whom you don’t know anything about. It turned out that they were very interesting people and I work with them on editing Wikipedia. It’s hard to say how many members there are in the community. Those who edit Wikipedia at the given moment are considered members of the community, and there are only one or two dozen active editors. Eritasard.am: Who becomes Wikipedia editors and how? V. G.: Different kinds of people and in different ways. For instance, one time I noticed a very bad mistake in one of the articles, couldn’t resist seeing it and made the correction. Until that point I was simply a reader, but I started editing. That is mainly how it works. A person edits, sparks great interest and becomes an enthusiast editor. Eritasard.am: The current objective is to make the Armenian Wikipedia popular. Many people like you think there is not a lot of information there and that there are few users. How does Wikipedia have to work to make people, especially the youth understand that they can use the Armenian Wikipedia as well? V. G.: I think the first thing people have to do is to understand the idea of Wikipedia. It is more of a tool than an encyclopedia, just like social networks are. Wikipedia is a platform, where we exchange our knowledge by the principle of “1 for 1,000, 1,000 for 1”. We simply have to realize how beneficial it is. We organize events such as workshops and hakathons from time to time. In any case, anyone can promote the development of the Armenian Wikipedia by taking just one step. Eritasard.am: The conference was organized to raise the issues on development, which are the issues of primary concern. V. G.: Different people raise different issues. Someone proposes to make the Armenian Wikipedia in two Armenian orthographies (classical and modern), etc. Our main objective is to view Wikipedia as a tool and start using it like we use social networks to exchange knowledge or information with our friends. Eritasard.am: When people start posting articles on Wikipedia, there will be a need for experts in different spheres. On what principles will cooperation with those experts be based on? V. G.: That cooperation won’t be formal. Anyone who has knowledge of any sphere or can procure knowledge can edit. We don’t need to engage special experts. When you post an article on Wikipedia, 1,000 people have the right to make corrections. This makes the article much more reliable than the other articles. Eritasard.am: Today, there are nearly 30,000 articles on the Armenian Wikipedia. Which is the sphere in which there are the most articles? Which sphere has the most amount of information? V. G.: We have several articles about asteroids, but they are very brief. However, I wouldn’t say that sphere is developed. There are several articles related to astronomy, but they are still few in number because only one or two people post articles on that. There are quite a lot of articles about Armenian writers, and I can say it’s not developed. We have no articles on biology and botany at all. There are more articles on the humanities than the exact sciences. There are also articles related to history, but they are far from being considered sufficient. For instance, there are more articles on Armenian history than world history. Eritasard.am: The content of any article can have different interpretations. How should information be posted so as not to offend anyone too much? V. G.: One of the good sides of Wikipedia is that the information has to be neutral. The reality must be presented as it is with the facts. If anything is presented as a viewpoint, nobody gets offended. If we write about Hitler, we don’t say he was a monster. We simply state the historical facts. Interview by Tsovinar Karapetyan