My Wikipedia experience: Stewards, Moderators and Hitler

On: October 4, 2010
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About Hanneke Mertens
My name is Hanneke Mertens and I am currently busy combining studying for the MA New Media and working at Capgemini. I am trying to keep my focus on social media, design, marketing and usability in my study and work. But there is so much more what gets me interested, especially since I started my Master at the UvA. For two years I have been working at Capgemini where I have done a lot of project management assistant roles, currently I am working as content manager for BNP Paribas. It was quite interesting for me to start working in business. Before I started working there ,I finished the Master Controlling Creative Design at the PSAU (UU). In this study I developed a videogame with a team of game designers and did an internship at the European Culture Foundation. Definitely more idealistically and creative than business life. That’s why I am happy to study again. For now, I think and feel that I have the perfect combination, studying and getting my curiosity gratified but also working and being a bit more pragmatic.


When I heard the assignment for next week was to write a wikipedia entry, I thought that it would be fun and very easy for me. I was so wrong.

I have written Wiki entries before, so I already new it is harder then you think. It is deffinitely not as easy as a wordpress blog, you really have to get to know the system. For me the difficulty lay in linking to other pages, inserting images etc. But the cheatsheet and sandbox tooling always helped me there.

A year and a half ago I started writing on a wiki that was designed for the company I worked for. These corporate  wikis are mostly  used for knowledge sharing amongst employees. As a young employee with little experience in difficult economic times, updating the corporate wiki was my assignment. So there I started with videotutorials, cheatsheets and bootcamps. It was really frustrating sometimes, but with my growing amount of experience, I started to understand how it works. Last summer, I created a set of beatifull, succesfull wiki-pages with promotional purposes.

So, that’s why I thought I could easily handle this wiki-entry assignment. I started working on the translation of  the page of the European Culture Foundation. While doing this I received an email that there was to much english text for a dutch wikipedia entry. I never received this email whenever working on the corporate wiki, so I thought: let’s continue and see what happens. So, I did and the consequence was that my page got removed.

This made me consider two things:

  • There is a difference in the monitored of a corporate wiki and the general wikipedia page. How can they monitor the general wiki page so fast?
  • Most of  the text on a wikipage needs to be in the language you are writing the wiki for. How is this determined?

This is the chapter were I wasn’t concerned about my entry anymore, I was focussing now on understanding how Wikipedia works. With the two questions in mind, I started looking for answers. I found it shocking (or maybe I was naieve) how much content is written about Wikipedia, and it was difficult to keep myself focused and won’t lose myself in the information overload.

The first question was quite easy to answer. The general wikipedia page is built on a social, hierarchical structure with all kinds of roles. I am not able to describe this Wiki-world in one blogpost, since there is soo much information. To answer the first question: Wikipedia uses moderators who are very passionately about doing their job right. You can find links on how to become a moderator, Introduction in Moderating etc. There is also a lot of lively discussion going on about: how the procedure of approving a request for moderator should be made more efficient,a change of the name moderator etc. Moderators use de kroeg (bar) to discuss these topics. Reading these disuccions, you get the impression that you can’t be  a moderator for fun. It is something to be taken very seriously. Personally, I felt like I was spying in a secret, sacret association.

This lively, social part of Wikipedia is probably the most important reason why content is so fastly moderated. Next, to these online police officers, we as users have strict guidelines to follow. In corporate life, there are no moderators. Employees are supposed to do this themselves. Since, doing something for your boss instead of for yourself is mostly less fun, moderation on the Corporate Wiki is far from strict.

In my quest for answers, I found something very interesting. Wikipedia is trying to give factual information. This goal makes it probably more easy to moderate the texts on objectivity. Surprisingly, I found a more subjective Wiki information sharing. It is called Wiki how and you can find answers on what to do if your child gets lost in an amusement park, or how to maintan a good relationship. These entries are much more subjective and cultural determined. I wonder how this way of sharing knowledge is going to develop.

Next to that I also found, signs of a anti-moderator subculture. For instance the blogpost: Moderators make Hitler look like a hobbyist. Funny to read.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything about a certain percentage of correct language. But this world is large and I have still a lot to explore..

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