While this sounds like a nice, lofty, all-inclusive notion -- the sort
which would be popular amongst white, male, technically-inclided,
middle class, intellectual-pursuing English speakers -- I'm not so
sure it would be worth the trouble to establish an infrastructure to
How are these participants supposed to know about Wikipedia, much less
be able to read it and integrate their content into it in a useful
way? How are we supposed to solicit their contributions? Do we have
evidence that this is actually a problem that needs to be solved in a
systematic way? Is this a problem looking for a solution or a solution
looking for a problem?
I'm all for inclusivity and being aware of our biases and trying to
encourage working around them.* I'm not sure this is really the best
use of our (human) resources. I'll be frank and say it sounds a little
half-baked to me.
*I'll also say that I think the idea that content is necessarily
determined by the demographics of your contributors is also a bit too
reductionist, and mimics some of the really tragic movements in
academia in the 1960s and 1970s which let in a lot of really bad
scholarship and really wooly thinking under the banner of inclusivity.
I think we should always take care to judge our contributors on the
quality of what they actually produce, not on who they are as
individuals or groups.
On 6/25/06, Andrew Gray <shimgray(a)gmail.com> wrote:
According to the WikiProject Countering Systemic Bias,
Wikipedian on English Wikipedia (1) is male, (2) is
technically-inclined, (3) is formally educated, (4) speaks English to
an extent, (5) is White , (6) is aged 15-49, (7) is from a
predominantly Christian country, (8) is from an industrialized nation,
and (9) is more likely to be employed in intellectual pursuits than in
practical skills or physical labor."
The problem with this is the unfortunate gap in coverage that results
from a lack of interest from the typical demographic of Wikipedians
described above. While this demographic is definitely interested in
contributing to a free, online encyclopedia, that doesn't mean the
others aren't. One particular problem is that in order to contribute
to Wikipedia, you'll need to use a computer. There are others who
would probably be interested in contributing to our global effort,
too, but don't understand technology. We need to allow them to
For that purpose, I would like to start a project where people without
access to computers (or people who voluntarily choose not to use them)
can -write- their own Wikipedia entries and mail them in. The first
phase of this plan, of course, would be spreading the word. The least
expensive way would probably be distributing fliers in frequented
areas. People could then write their own articles, and mail them in to
the Wikimedia Office. Someone at the office (maybe Monica?) could open
the letters, scan them in, and email them to an offline submissions
mailing list. From there, people interested in the project would
transcribe the article into Wikipedia (if applicable, see below) and
mail back a corresponding letter featuring a print-out of the new
article. Very simple process, plus it would allow people from
non-typical-of-Wikipedia-editor backgrounds to put in their word.
What if their entry is redundant? Not to worry. If the written
submission has content the Wikipedia article doesn't, we add it in. If
it doesn't, that's okay. We don't necessarily have to tell them what
made it in and what didn't, but either way, a reply will be sent to
the writer with a print-out of the article.
I'm passing the above on for en:User:Messedrocker, since he's not
subscribed to the list. My thoughts:
a) This has certainly been done before on a local level with minor
languages - was it in West Africa somewhere? My mind is failing me,
but I've certainly seen it mentioned on wikipedia-l before - the
writing was done by a local elder, transcribed and put online by a
b) It might well work, but would probably require careful thought and
planning - who are we targeting? what sort of articles are we
targeting them for? how do we deal with unwanted and inappropriate
submissions without causing more badwill than we started with?
c) Copyrights. This might get fun.
- Andrew Gray
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