How the Wikipedia community works: some reflections.

Writing a page on Wikipedia (see the previous post) was an interesting experiment in order to discover something more about its community and observe how users might react to articles written by newcomers.

In order to deepen these aspects, it is useful to understand how Wikipedia works and which rules and principles govern its community.

There are five main principles on which Wikipedia is based (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Five_pillars). First of all, each article has to be notable enough to be put in an encyclopedia (it should not, for instance, be made for marketing purposes), and it has to be written according to a neutral point of view; furthermore, any content on Wikipedia could be reuse and distribute by anyone. It is then stated that “editors should treat each other with respect and civility”, applying a specific Wikipedia etiquette (the so-called “Wikiquette”), avoiding conflicts and, in case, trying to foster a constructive discussion on a certain article (in a page specific for this purpose) or to solve them following precise dispute resolution procedures that are stated.

We observed these behaviors, and also the fact that interaction among users follows a certain style, in the way some of the articles that me and my colleagues published have been welcomed. In particular, we realized that feedback on a specific page follows standard ways: usually, other users give encouragements to the author and any comments should help discussing the issue. Indeed, in the “Wikiquette” it is stated to “be open and welcoming to newcomers“, as “newcomers are both necessary for and valuable to the community. By empowering newcomers, we can improve the diversity of knowledge, perspectives, and ideas on Wikipedia, thereby preserving its neutrality and integrity as a resource and ultimately increasing its value.”. Indeed they “are responsible for adding the majority of lasting content to Wikipedia” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Please_do_not_bite_the_newcomers).

In the website, policies and guidelines are established: they are developed by the community itself to “describe best practices, clarify principles, resolve conflicts, and otherwise further our goal of creating a free, reliable encyclopedia”. As described in the website, “policies are standards that all users should normally follow, while guidelines are meant to be best practices for following those standards in specific contexts. Policies and guidelines should always be applied using reason and common sense.”. I believe that having a specific set of rules is necessary in order to let the community self-manage and organize. They are also useful in order to improve the encyclopedia itself, even if it is affirmed that “it is not a formal requirement to be familiar with them before contributing” and that these rules and their interpretation can evolve over time. However, we verified that users that edited our articles were very aware of these rules and strict in presenting them to us, the newcomers. For instance, in the case of pages immediately deleted for the suspicious of being not encyclopedic.

Users have a strong sense of community and call themselves “Wikipedians”. For instance, it exists a gazette for the Italian community, that is called “Il Wikipediano”: there users have a collection of news about what happens inside the community (technical communications, news about pages and the users that have a role in the community’s administration, next community’s meetings, and even birthdays of users). It is interesting to notice how people that interact often, but without even knowing each other in person or being physically close, could become a very strong community. Another proof of that, are the many meetings of Wikipedians all around the world, that provide for a place outside the Internet, where the community could be nurtured and strengthened.

The Wikipedia community is therefore largely self-organising, and users can decide to have additional administrative responsibility, but the obtaining of the role is subject to peer approval. The system of self-governance seems to be indeed rather effective. It is interesting to notice that, all through the website, the openness of the platform is often highlighted  (“People of all ages, cultures and backgrounds can add or edit article prose, references, images and other media here. What is contributed is more important than the expertise or qualifications of the contributor.”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:About). This is surely true, but we experienced the fact that, as in any other community, there is a natural distinction between very active members and more passive ones.

Being a newcomer on Wikipedia: write an article about the neighborhood of San Martino in Trento and observe the reaction of the community.

This week, we were asked to write a page on Wikipedia, in order to understand how this free open source encyclopedia works and observe the reaction of one of the most active community on the web.

It was not easy to decide on which topic to write about. At the beginning, I thought about an event that is not so well-know, but to which I feel very tied: “Il Fiume Che Non C’è”, the event that twice a year liven up the neighborhood of San Martino in Trento (Italy).

Nevertheless, I realized that this topic might not have been well accepted by the Wikipedia community, as it might have been considered as a promotional page. Therefore, I decided to broaden the view and write about an argument I consider very interesting and I am familiar enough with to feel confident in illustrating it: the neighborhood of San Martino in Trento. It was also a good opportunity to give visibility to a place in Trento that it is not so popular, but has a very interesting story, and has changed its identity many times during its life. After some research activity, in order to have a sufficient bibliography, I was able to publish the page and the result is at the following link:

https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quartiere_di_San_Martino_(Trento)

In order to better the page and to add materials in support of my research, I also took a picture of an ancient votive fresco of 1587, that is currently visible in the main street of the quarter, and uploaded it on the page. I decided then to insert some references to the event “Il Fiume Che Non C’è” in a specific section of the page.

As soon as my article and those of my colleagues have been published, we had the opportunity to observe how the Wikipedia community react to contents created by new members. I understood that, on average, the so-called Wikipedians are very active and rapid in giving response to a new page (mine has not been edited yet by other users, but some days after the publication a user put the page in the correct section “Quartieri d’Italia”). It was interesting to notice that some of our articles were immediately deleted by other users, as they were not considered encyclopedic enough and that some of them also fostered a discussion among users.

Observing the reactions of long-time users in response to our activity on the website was useful in order to understand how Wikipedia and the underlying community work. Some reflections about this topic are in the following post.

Marta and carpooling: the storyboard.

 marta

NARRATION: “She is Marta.


TRANSITION: Quick Fade-in


MUSIC/AUDIO: piano music

 dna-1811955_960_720

NARRATION: “She studies Biotechnology at the University of Trento.


TRANSITION: overlap


 international_students

NARRATION: “She likes to travel, meet new people from different part of the world and and do charity work.”

TRANSITION: Quick fade-in


MUSIC/AUDIO: people chatting

 pexels-photo-92380

NARRATION: “Oh… and this is Lucy, her dog: Marta loves animals”


TRANSITION: overlap


MUSIC/AUDIO: barking

 8063839208_b9832c170d_b

NARRATION: “This morning, she wakes up early as she has an important test and she wants to arrive on time at the University.”

TRANSITION: fade-in


MUSIC/AUDIO: alarm clock, yawning

 coffee-1832918_1920

NARRATION: “She has breakfast, feeds her Labrador Lucy”


TRANSITION: fade – in



MUSIC/AUDIO: “coffe sound”, barking

 dresses-53319_1280

NARRATION: “, and gets dressed.”


TRANSITION: fade – in

 immagine

NARRATION: “She is ready to go when suddenly the doorbell rings: it’s her neighbor, Mrs. Bertolini that asks for some sugar and bring some sweets in return. Marta wants to help her because she really likes her neighbor and she loves helping people, sharing things she doesn’t need, if she can. She gives the sugar to her neighbor, and start chatting

EFFECTS: sugar bowl appears
TRANSITION: fade – in

MUSIC/AUDIO: doorbell, chatting

 watch-1592164_1920

NARRATION: “when she realizes that she has to hurry up if she wants to take the bus.


TRANSITION: Fade-in


MUSIC/AUDIO: person in a rush

 64372

NARRATION: “Therefore she quickly goes out and moves towards the bus stop, just in time to see the bus leaving.

TRANSITION: Fade- in


MUSIC: bus leaving

 7658305438_5e4b1a898a_z

NARRATION: “How can she reach the University on time? All of a sudden, she reminds that some time ago she downloaded a carpooling App for students of the Trento Athenaeum.


TRANSITION: Fade- in

EFFECTS: zoom on Marta’s face and light bulb appearing


MUSIC: ding

 carpooling1b

NARRATION: “She accesses it and looks if there is a student that is driving from the city center to the University. And there is one!


TRANSITION: Fade-in


MUSIC: app sound

 marta-preoccupata

NARRATION: “She wants to book the lift, but she realizes that she has no money in her pocket…


TRANSITION: Fade- in


MUSIC:

 exchange-system-i-phone

NARRATION: “Fortunately, the payments on the App work without money but with other kind of exchanges, so she decides to offer a coffee to her savior.


TRANSITION: Fade- in


MUSIC: app sound

 7658311866_4a99cfbe46_z

NARRATION: “Luckily her offer is accepted… and the meeting point is near the bus stop! Great!


TRANSITION: Fade- in


MUSIC: cheers

 driving-562613_1280

NARRATION: “The driver arrives: his name is Matteo, he is a student of Physics. He is a very funny guy, and he likes animals too: the journey was comfortable and super-fun:


TRANSITION: fade-in


MUSIC: horn, people chatting

 rating

NARRATION: “when the journey ends, she gives him a good rate on the App! ”


TRANSITION: Fade- in


MUSIC: app sound

 blackboard

NARRATION: “Marta is finally able to arrive to her destination on time, so not to miss the test.”

TRANSITION:Fade-in

MUSIC: applause

 macchinette

NARRATION: “In the lunch break, Marta and Matteo meets again in front of the vending machine and she can return the favor. Maybe it is not the beginning of a new friendship, but for sure Matteo saved her day!

TRANSITION: Fade-in

Marta and the struggle to arrive on time. The solution? Carpooling!

Marta studies Biotechnology at the University of Trento. She has a dog, she loves animals and she is very active in the protection of the environment. She likes to meet new people from different countries, travel and do charity work.

This morning, she wakes up early as she has an important test and she wants to arrive in time at the University. She has breakfast, feeds her Labrador Lucy, and gets dressed. She is ready to go when suddenly the doorbell rings: it’s her neighbor, Mrs. Bertolini that asks for some sugar. Marta wants to help her because she really likes her neighbor and she loves helping people, sharing things she doesn’t need, if she can. She gives the sugar to her and start chatting, when she realizes that she has to hurry up if she wants to take the bus. Therefore she quickly goes out and moves towards the bus stop, just in time to see the bus leaving.

How can she reach the University on time? All of a sudden, she reminds that some time ago she downloaded a carpooling App for students of the Trento Athenaeum. She accesses it and looks if there is a student that is driving from the city center to the University. And there is one! She wants to book the lift, but she realizes that she has no money in her pocket… Fortunately, the payments on the App work without money but with other kind of exchanges, so she decides to offer a coffee to her savior. Luckily her offer is accepted… and the meeting point is near the bus stop! Great!

The driver arrives: his name is Matteo, he is a student of Physics. He is a very funny guy, and he likes animals too: the journey was comfortable and super-fun: when the journey ends, she gives him a good rate on the App! Marta is finally able to arrive to her destination in time, so not to miss the test.

In the lunch break, Marta and Matteo meets again in front of the vending machine and she can return the favor. Maybe it is not the beginning of a new friendship, but for sure Matteo saved her day!

My comeback to University: storyboard.

 question-mark

NARRATION: “What to do with my life? Isn’t it the question everyone of us has to deal with all through the existence? Well, I questioned myself recently and the answer surprised me a lot…


TRANSITION: Quick Fade-in


MUSIC/AUDIO: none

 download-5

NARRATION: “I graduated in 2015 after five long years of studying […]”


TRANSITION: Slow Fade-in from black-page


MUSIC/AUDIO: piano song

 sbarre

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: bars of a cell

NARRATION: “ended with a period of reclusion in order to have my Master’s Thesis done”

TRANSITION: Quick fade-in


MUSIC/AUDIO: sound of a cell closing

 laurea_54_1080

NARRATION: Eventually, I finally reached the much yearned reward! But what you’re not prepared to, at the end of your studies, is to face the REAL world: […]”

TRANSITION: fade-in


MUSIC/AUDIO: audio effect of cheers and applause

 download

NARRATION: “struggling to find a job […]”


TRANSITION: fade – in



MUSIC/AUDIO:

 images-1

NARRATION: “ […] trying to make up your mind about what to do with your life. In the end, I decided to enroll in a Post-Master’s Course. But… would it have been the right decision?

EFFECTS: question marks appearing


TRANSITION: fade – in

MUSIC/AUDIO: bubble-sound” as question marks appear

 happy-excited

NARRATION: “Before starting I was thrilled. In my mind I though that being an university student again would have meant: ”


TRANSITION: Fade-in


MUSIC/AUDIO:

buoni-motivi-per-andare-in-bicicletta

NARRATION: “flexible schedules, time to dedicate to my hobbies and for improving my skills, the chance to meet new interesting people and make new friends.”

TRANSITION: Fade- in
MUSIC: bike bell sound

 party

NARRATION: “Basically “party every day”! But the bitter reality was pretty different:”


TRANSITION: Fade- in


MUSIC: people having fun

 worried-woman-clocks_gal

NARRATION: “a full-time timetable with classes almost every day and all day long. Projects during classes and assignments at home!”


TRANSITION: Fade-in


MUSIC: dramatic music

 student-asking-can-you-write-my-assignment-for-me

NARRATION: “Projects during classes and assignments at home!”


TRANSITION: Fade- in


MUSIC: dramatic music

 Hand with Hammer Smashing Alarm Clock from Bed

NARRATION: “Returning to studies also meant to tackle with the typical everyday life of an university student: wake up early in the morning,”


TRANSITION: Quick Fade-in after “student”


MUSIC: alarm clock sound

 64372

NARRATION: “take the bus (or die trying), fight not to starving, and bid farewell to your free time.”


TRANSITION: Fade- in


MUSIC: many people chatting

 mom-free-time1-e1335880160177

NARRATION: At the end of the day, the only thing I really desire is this… and the question that comes to my mind is: Is it worthwhile?

EFFECTS: Question mark after “worthwhile”.

TRANSITION: Quick Fade-in after the word “this”

MUSIC: people yawning

 images-3

NARRATION: “Surprisingly, the answer is “yes”: returning to school means to put myself to the test, proving to myself that I can achieve more and more challenging goals, learn new things, meet new people and (who knows?!) friends.”

TRANSITION: Fade-in


MUSIC: jumping sound

 shutterstock_184478165

NARRATION: “In the end, I realized the hard truth: you will be a student all through your life.”

TRANSITION: Fade – in

MUSIC: epic music

 

My comeback to studies

What to do with my life? Isn’t it the question everyone of us has to deal with all through the existence? Well, I questioned myself recently and the answer surprised me a lot…

I graduated in 2015 after five long years ended with a period of reclusion in order to have my Master’s Thesis done. Eventually, I finally reached the much yearned reward!

But what you’re not prepared to, at the end of your studies, is to face the REAL world: struggling to find a job, trying to make up your mind about what to do with your life.

In the end, I decided to enroll in a Post-Master’s Course. But… would it have been the right decision?

Before starting I was thrilled. In my mind I though that being an university student again would have meant: flexible schedules, time to dedicate to my hobbies and for improving my skills, the chance to meet new interesting people and make new friends. Basically “party every day”!

The bitter reality was pretty different: a full-time timetable with classes almost every day and all day long. Projects during classes and assignments at home!

Returning to studies also meant to tackle with the typical everyday life of an university student: wake up early in the morning, take the bus (or die trying!), fight not to starving, and bid farewell to your free time.

At the end of the day, the only thing I really desire is to relax on the couch and the question that comes to my mind is: “Is it worthwhile?” Surprisingly, the answer is “yes”: returning to school means to put myself to the test, proving to myself that I can achieve more and more challenging goals, learn new things, meet new people and (who knows?!) friends.

In the end, I realized the hard truth: you will be a student all through your life.

About Storytelling: TEDx talks.

There are many TEDx talks about “storytelling” and here I’d like to present three of them that I found interesting.

The first one is “The power of storytelling to change the world“. Here Dave Lieber, a newspaper columnist and storytelling expert, starts narrating some funny facts about being a New Yorker Jewish moving to Texas. Audience laughs during all his story, and he then explains that it is because our brain is set up to listen to a story because it engages neurons links. Scientists in public lectures usually use a “bullet points” structure and not stories. That’s why sport is more popular than science: sport has a story (a beginning, an ending, an hero and a villain, a winner or loser). He reprises the work of Vonnegut and explains that every story starts with a positive situation, drops to a lower point and then climbs up again. Stories are a ever-present way to communicate among human being, from the men of the caverns, passing through Shakespeare, up to TV. Learning that, it’s important especially for people working in newspapers: indeed, people can skip your article even if you spent days working on it. This behavior depends on the power of the story itself: if it is engaging, they won’t do that. Lieber’s advice is to know about your failure and learn how to turn it in something heroic. The best way to tell a story is using your personal experience: he proves it with the example of how he wrote an article about his marriage proposal, and the relationship with his future step-children and step-dog (!).

I strongly recommend to watch this video, as I liked very much Lieber’s sense of humor and his way of telling stories and his hilarious way to use examples about his own life. I believe that it is an effective way to explain what storytelling is and how it works.

A similar approach is used in the second video I would like to talk about: “The power of storytelling” by Andrea Gibbs (https://youtu.be/sh1-9xMZIfQ). She describes in a funny way her attempt of approach to the guy she had a crush for: the delivery man that used to pass past her office’s front window and to waive at her. She concludes that stories are what our lives are made of, how we remember people, what makes us feeling a little less alone in the world. Even if we can’t always choose the stories that we have in our life, if we take a risk and show that we are human and vulnerable, then that’s where the best stories lie.

According to Jonathan Gottschall in the video “The storytelling animal” (https://youtu.be/Vhd0XdedLpY) stories infiltrate about everything that people do, in a way we are hardly aware of. Indeed, what differentiates a human being from the rest of creation is that man is a storytelling animal. We create stories automatically, unconsciously and even from the same visual stimulus people see different stories. We create fiction effortless, and on the fly. We do that every day, in all situations, even when we dream : we are trying to impose the order of story structure on the chaos of existence. By adult we use scenarios created by other people (novel, movies, etc.). Stories are what human interaction largely consists of, how we connect to each other, how we communicate, and how we learn. Neuroscience shows that what happens in your brain while, for example, watching a movie is that you’re actually experiencing the emotions you see yourself: even if we know that stories are fake, our brain says to our bodies to behave as if they were real. Stories are powerful. For this reason, stories (and TV stories in particular) could move social change.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Shape of Stories: the example of Pinocchio

The Kurt Vonnegut’s model for shaping stories is useful to represent many different kind of stories. Consider the example of Pinocchio.

download-6

At the beginning of the story, since when he’s been created, Pinocchio lives a happy life with his new  father Geppetto.

Things overturn when he meets the Cat and the Fox, as he experiences a descendant parabola ended with the arrive in the whale’s stomach.

The story ends with an happy ending: he is able to escape from the whale’s stomach, meets his father again, and he’s transformed in a real boy by the fairy with turquoise hair.

pinocchio

I believe that Kurt Vonnegut’s model is an effective way to represent the structure of a story, even if it is very simplistic. Not all the stories follow the examined behavior, for example the Greek tragedies, that are very engaging and modern, even if they don’t present the ascending final trend.