Insights for Readers, Writers and Publishers
Chapter 12: Phoebe Ayers, Wikimedia Foundation
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Member, Wikimedia Foundation board of trustees,reference librarian at theUniversity of California at DavisInterview: Thursday, September 20, 2012via Skype
Phoebe Ayers, a professional librarian, began editing Wikipedia in 2003 when still a student. She is co-author of a user’s manual (Ayers et al. 2008), with chapters ranging from ‘The Life Cycle of an Article’ to ‘Becoming a Wikipedian’. At the time of writing, she is a member of the Wikimedia Foundation’s board of trustees, elected by the community of users.
A recurring theme of this book is an exploration of how editing, like other practices, tacitly or explicitly develops a culture that helps to sustain it over time. The importance of social practice to Wikipedia is acknowledged by co-founder Jimmy Wales, who says about the guidelines: ‘This is as much “a social technique for getting people to work together” as it is an editorial policy’ (Waldman 2004).
What is perhaps unusual about Wikipedia is the way it acts as the focus of contradictory expectations. It is open to all, but most edits are carried out by a fraction of the millions of registered users. After years of concerted effort, the proportion of women editors remains small.1 It has a structure to overcome disputes, but decisions remain contentious.2 The hierarchy itself—in which some editors are elected to have different levels of access and privileges—is under constant fire and, as in all...
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