The Wikipedia Entry: Birth of a Digital Entity

On: November 10, 2008
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About Marijn de Vries Hoogerwerff
Marijn de Vries Hoogerwerff is a New Media theorist, Web researcher and Internet entrepreneur. In 1999 he started working as IT professional at the broadband Internet Service Provider @home (a franchise of the ISP and search engine company Excite@Home). After working here for over eight years he decided to pursue a study in New Media at the University of Amsterdam. During this study he has been an active member of the Digital Methods Initiative (DMI) research group, working together in a strong team of designers, programmers and theorists to develop new Web-specific methods and tools for doing online research and has written in depth about Internet censorship research, code consciousness and cyber-cosmopolitanism. Next to several stand-alone projects he also started up CYBERLIFE, focusing on building Web-applications, sites and tools, Web hosting and doing Web research. After receiving his Master degree in New Media he continued his contributions to the DMI, has helped organize the Society of the Query conference for the Institute of Network Cultures and has been a thesis supervisor at the University of Applied Sciences (HvA) for Interactive Media. His current company, nochii BV, focusses on utilizing theoretical knowledge and practical experience to help companies get a better understanding about the Web, their network and the space they occupy and its relation to the offline. He holds the strong believe that the Web, both as infrastructure and as concept, can aid in dealing with the increasing complexity of the world (both online as offline) and the relating problematics.


I would like to continue a story I’ve started more then a month ago, my story of the Wikipedia entry. It was not long ago after my beloved Wikipedia entry was removed from the face of the interface that I contemplated some new tactics. While the first time my efforts where focused on a quick-win Wikipedia entry, this time I’ve put some effort in thinking about what might keep my entry alive as digital entity. One of the major concerns of the first edit was its infringements of copyright and thus I needed a way to get around this without having to dive in some hidden well of endless creativity and infinite wisdom. Making up stories is not very suitable for the medium of choice and having all the information on a specific topic I consider to be more a job for…super Google.

One of the key things in a Wikipedia entry, I believe, is a short but strong introduction. Using Google to get some “new” facts here and there, I restyled some of the sentences of my initial intro and added some of the new data I gathered. As most of my remaining information was biographical and bibliographical, I decided to focus more on the form then on the content. My first cunning plan was the transforming of the biographical narrative into an ordered list. In a nice list ordered by date I summed up all the highlights of my encyclopedic victim, Geert Lovink. After this I made another list of written books (which I just copied from my locally saved initial entry). This basically presented the same information in a new way hereby avoiding the bots to consider it as a copyright infringement. Next I looked at some examples of other entries and decided to construct the layout accordingly. This entails the use of particular header styles and names, the adding of an info-box and a content table. By far the most important think to do is to add references. Even if your entry does not, according to you, use information that needs to be referenced, make sure you either include some anyway (however small) or find a way to reference something by for instance referring to a homepage. However you do it, just make sure there are some <ref> tags (and closing tags) in your text and make sure they actually relate to the content referenced. In short, one needs a short and strong intro, some objective low on aesthetics content, a bunch of relevant links, a Wikipedia standard layout and as much references as possible…oh and a topic of course.

Feeling confident and proud, I went into ‘watch mode’, keeping a close eye on my new born entry. I still remember the cold shivers going through my spine when the first bot attacked my precious little gem. “To many external links!”, it yelled. Indeed, I had been quite generous in my linking, so I quickly though of another cunning plan to defend my newborn from the wrath of this wikibot. In a moment of pure clarity, I noticed that some of my links could be transformed into internal wikilinks. What a joy it was to replace external links to things such as nettime, tulipomania, the University of Amsterdam, the Hogeschool van Amsterdam (which seems to be missing some chromosomes) and generic concepts like ‘associative professor‘ and ‘master degree‘ with internal once. Me and my entry where not alone in this world. My actions seemed to have cleared my entry from suspicion, for the only bot paying any attention to it hereafter was a friendly and helpful one, relieving me from the difficult task of moving my entry from ‘Geert lovink’ to ‘Geert Lovink’.

After just witnessing the first “outsider” edit by a friendly chap called YUN229, adding theory and changing some stuff, I believe its save to say my entry has been accepted into the realm of Wikipedia knowledge. It is now time to let go, to free my entry from the ties of parenthood, to give it space to encounter new people and bots on its difficult path to adulthood. I therefor invite everybody to contribute in this process. There is a whole world to discover in the editing of Wikipedia, and Wired magazine has provided some handy howto tips for doing just that. Just follow this link and start your own adventure.

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