Wikipedia:Wikipedia for Reporters
This page exists to act as a reference for reporters who may be reporting on Wikipedia.
This is obviously a work in progress. If you have questions, please feel free to list them on Wikipedia talk:Wikipedia for Reporters.
- 1 What is Wikipedia
- 2 How are articles created and edited
- 3 Wikipedia people - Readers, Editors, Administrators, and everyone else
- 4 How does the Wikipedia website work
- 5 Who runs Wikipedia
- 6 Problems and controversies
What is Wikipedia
What is Wikipedia?
Wikipedia is an online internet encyclopedia which anyone can edit. Wikipedia is a wiki—a user-editable website. Wikipedia includes easy tools to hyperlink articles together within the site and provide external links to other websites.
Who owns Wikipedia?
Wikipedia is hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit group which runs the computer servers and encourages the development of free information and content around the world. The content, however, is owned by the contributors, who license it to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA) and in most cases the GNU Free Documentation License.
Are there translations of Wikipedia?
There are versions of Wikipedia in most languages spoken around the world. These are independently written -- some articles may be direct translations from other languages, but most are not.
How much money does Wikipedia make?
None. Wikipedia is run by a 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported primarily by public donations. It does not run ads and makes no money from advertising.
How are articles created and edited
Anyone can edit
Anyone who is reading a Wikipedia article can click on the tab at the top of a page labeled edit this page, or on the little edit tabs on the sides of subsections within a page. That opens up a page editor function and lets you add, change, correct, update, or remove content. Anyone who is making page changes is a Wikipedia Editor, whether they have a Wikipedia account or not.
Particularly sensitive articles can be protected from editing. This is done if there is ongoing fighting over article content, if an article is particularly high visibility, if it's being abused repeatedly by editors who only want to vandalize it. There are two levels of protection: semi-protected articles can be edited by anyone who has a Wikipedia account, but not by anonymous IP editors. fully protected articles can only be edited by Wikipedia's administrators.
Protection is relatively rare, and usually only applied to articles once a problem has occurred. We prefer to let people freely update articles and accept that sometimes people abuse that capability.
Looking up article history
Many reporters want to see who has helped create and edit a Wikipedia page. The basic information is (almost) all public - If you click on the "history" tab at the top of an article, it will show you the date, time, editor, and a summary message about the last 50 edits which were made on a page. You can show more edits (up to 500 on one page) or go back further in article history if you want.
If you want to see the specific version of a page after an edit, you can click on the date and time of the edit in that article history. You can also compare different versions - There's a button above the edit listings which says "Compare selected versions", and you can select which versions to compare using the radio buttons in the column right below that button. That will let you compare any two versions if you want, though usually you compare an edit and the version immediately before.
If you want to know how long a particular edit was our live version of the article, just look at the time and date of the next version of the article. You can tell how many days, hours, or even minutes a particular edit was "live" using those times.
Each edit lists one of two things to identify the person who made a change. If it was an editor who has signed up for a Wikipedia account, that account name will be listed, along with a link to their account's user page (if that link is red, they have not created a user page). If the edit was made anonymously, by someone who doesn't have an account or was not logged in, then that edit will show up with an IP address instead of a username. That IP address can then be traced back to tell what organization or internet service provider the edit came from.
Who is that editor, really?
You will probably have to do a little investigation to find out, and may not be able to tell for sure. Wikipedia will not release identifying information about users, to protect their privacy, unless there is a court order or emergency. Some editors use their real name and can be contacted or identified that way. Many editors can be emailed through the website (on the side of the editor's user page, there is a "Email this user" link if they have given an email address), or can be asked questions on their talk page. IP address editors, otherwise known as "anonymous editors", can be traced to the internet service provider or organization, but that organization may not help identify them further.
Sometimes, particularly bad edits are made, with threats or particularly offensive comments. Usually these are just edited back out again but left in an article history, for future reference and comparison purposes.
If a particularly serious threat is made or mild personal information is posted, an article's edit history can be partially deleted so that it is no longer publicly visible. Wikipedia administrators can still see those edits if they have to, but normal users cannot.
Obviously serious privacy concerns are addressed by a tool called oversight which removes the information from the Wikipedia servers entirely. Nobody, not even administrators or the Wikimedia Foundation, can review the information after it's oversighted.
Wikipedia uses an idea called talk pages - discussion-oriented pages which are associated with each article page. If people have questions, suggestions, or comments about a Wikipedia article, they can click on the tab at the top of the screen labeled discussion, which takes them to the talk page. Anyone can read the discussion, and ask questions or leave comments.
This lets our editors separate discussion about articles and content from the articles themselves.
Wikipedia people - Readers, Editors, Administrators, and everyone else
These can be anybody at all with access to the internet. If they log onto the Wikipedia website and read a page, they are a reader.
The Wikipedians are people who edit Wikipedia regularly, either made to or as a hobby. Some spend most of their internet time here - see Wikiholism.
These are editors which haven't registered an account yet. They are recorded by their IP address.
These are users with special powers to protect and delete pages, and block users. They are voted in at WP:RFA by the community.