Wikipedia: Do Your Bit, Or, Mao Zedong Gets 100,000 Hits

Catching up on my reading, I came across a Wilson Quarterly post about Wikipedia, “In Essence: The Wikipedia Way,” which reports on an article by Richard Jensen, “Military History on the Electronic Frontier: Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812” The Journal of Military History (Oct. 2012).

Richard Jensen is a hardworking historian who does his bit to urge us all to do our bit. Wilson Quarterly uses his article to talk about the Wikipedia article, “War of 1812.” They note that “more than 2,400 self-appointed editors contributed to the 14,000-word article. Some 627 people spilled 200,000 words’ worth of digital ink arguing over its exact content. In April 2012, it garnered 172,000 page views.”

You could see the same pattern in China articles. “Mao Zedong,” for instance,  has been viewed 120,0082 times between June 26 and July 23. That’s right: 120,0082, though it will have changed by the time you click this link. The article has had nearly 10,000 edits, more than 400 editors.

Part of the fascination of Wikipedia is going backstage by clicking the “Talk Page” tab. Lots of juicy nonsense mixed in with the occasional words of wisdom1.

The articles on the major events of modern Chinese history are numerous. Most are too long and filled with quirky trivia. Some are useful summaries of what readers should know, some are … well, let’s just say they are not quite so good. You decide:

  • Xinhai Revolution (how many Wikipedia readers will know that this is the “1911 Revolution”?)

We could go on.

Moral: Those 100,000 readers need you.

On the internet “nobody knows that you’re a dog,” so don’t let the editing go to them.





  1. in this case, you have to click on the “Archived” links to see the back discussions). You can look at the individual edits by going to the “View History” tab 


  1. If you search Wikipedia for “1911 Revolution”, your browser is directed to the “Xinhai Revolution” page, where it says “Redirected from 1911 Revolution”, and the article begins “The Xinhai Revolution, or the Hsin-hai Revolution, also known as the Revolution of 1911 or the Chinese Revolution….” So Wikipedia readers will indeed know that this is the “1911 Revolution”.

    1. A fair point, but still, Xinhai, as the Chinese Wikipedia article says, is the year 1911 in the Chinese traditional calendar. Why not translate it? What’s the advantage?

      The English Wikipedia article “China” is not called “Zhongguo.” Likewise, in the Chinese Wikipedia, the article on United States is titled “美国”

    1. Yes, something like “Chinese Revolution of 1911” would follow Wikipedia policy “Article Titles,” which requires using the Common Name. Sometime when I have a week (or two) to waste… er, “invest,” I’ll make the proposal.

      If you want to see what a train wreck such a proposal can be, just look at the debate on the Talk Page for “Boxer Rebellion” a few years back (two sections, each about halfway down the page). There were good arguments on either side, but a lot of irrelevant stuff which tipped the balance.

      Maybe Alan’s class can jump in and straighten the article out!

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