Wikipedia:Why to contribute
This is an essay.
It contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. This page is not an encyclopedia article, nor is it one of Wikipedia's policies or guidelines, as it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.
Contribution is what makes Wikipedia a great, informative site. Unfortunately, many users get caught up in Wikipedia's swirling community aspects. This is in no way a bad thing, so long as said user can monitor their progress and keep their eyes on the real reason for contributions.
First off, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a promotional device. It's wonderful to create an article on a favorite band of yours, but improving Wikipedia should be the main desire, not improving the band. Some edit having the band in mind first, and the addition to Wikipedia's knowledge is just a helpful side effect. This is not the way the site was meant to be used. Stop amidst your excitement to add the band, and consider if they're notable. Doing this, which takes little time at all, could save many a Wikipedia editor their time on speedy deletes.
Wikipedia does have a strong bond amongst its members, specifically those most involved, or the regulars. It helps build a better relationship amongst contributors and as such tones down disputes and quarrels, specifically those about trivial issues. However interesting and involved these communities can get, keep in mind that you're on an encyclopedia, not a forum. The point remains to improve public knowledge and better the site as a whole. If a community helps, it helps, but no community within the site should serve as a distraction to building the material itself.
There are social networking sites on the internet. That is their sole purpose. If Wikipedia communities wish to grasp a tighter bond between members, they can meet on another site if they wish. Discussion on talk pages concerning community efforts and projects is good collaboration, but chatter about other members and inner happenings is useless and misplaced.
Wikipedia also has a system of power. Administrators, Bureaucrats and the like. However, if you edit the site for the sole purpose of achieving one of these positions later down the line, what is the purpose? Achieving a position at a site you care nothing for besides the position itself is pointless. Oftentimes, eyes on RfA procedures can get quickly distracted from the goal itself. Keep in mind that the aforementioned positions are here only to help the building process anyway, so there is no need to detract from that goal by striving for administrator and nothing else.
Edit counts, like administrator positions, are something that are perfectly fine but terribly misunderstood. Edit counts are supposed to be informative and just a kind of novelty, not worn like a badge. Edits do show contribution to the encyclopedia, but are not a power gauge. Use them as such. Give others a general idea of how long you've been around, not a testosterone-filled assertion of authority.
List of reasons
There are many good reasons to be involved in Wikipedia:
- It is a self-governing mechanism that creates positive externalities.
- It's fun.
- It's educational.
- It's social.
- You are part of an exciting development making use of the open source idea.
- You can correct other people on the spot without asking their permission!
- It's dynamic. Wikipedia has created more than 5 million articles in 15 years.
- It's interesting to share your knowledge with other people, particularly knowing that others can instantly edit or react to what you've written.
- To contribute is to gain.
- Did we mention, it's fun?
- Ultimately it's yours.
- Most likely your kids will use it. (You get the point. It's like you own a 1,000 volume encyclopedia at instant access.)
- It gives you something to do. (You can probably do it at school/work as well as at home since it remains unblocked at many schools and places of work.)
- It helps others.
- It's not boring. See also why Wikipedia is so great.
- Learning to write in a neutral point of view is a useful intellectual exercise, since it requires cultivating humility and respect for the views of others.
- Wikipedia is a remarkable phenomenon of social organization; learning how things work here provides valuable lessons for many other kinds of organizations.
- Wikis are becoming more numerous; sooner or later your business or organization may be using one. Wikipedia is one of the best wikis on which to learn wiki editing, because of the extensive help articles and the Help desk staffed by friendly volunteers.
In general, there are no problems with being involved with any of the above. The persistent theme is just not to allow them to get in the way. It's wonderful to congratulate another user on performing well, but what is the sense in doing nothing but congratulations? Enjoy your time, be informative, be useful, and contribute!