Jimmy Wales Really Wants You to Start Editing Wikipedia Articles

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As part of Wikipedia's goal to reverse the decrease in input from the site's editors and actually increase the pool of editors to 200,000 within the next three years, the world's most popular encyclopedia has launched a new and simplified editor that the website hopes will encourage more contributions from users.

The goal of the new "visual editor" lets potential editors circumvent the task of learning the unique wiki markup language necessary to edit pages on Wikipedia and instead get right to the editing. Although Wikipedia's special markup language isn't terribly difficult to grasp, at least compared to other technical languages, having to learn any unfamiliar languages simply in order to make small updates to a site can be heavily preventive if not an interest-killer altogether. As Wikipedia has often embraced inclusion instead of elitism, the new visual editor grants virtually anybody with a computer, a keyboard, and some internets to start editing articles.

The visual editor was built based on feedback from Wikipedians about how to improve the editing process in order to make it as user-friendly as possible. "We want the process of learning how to edit to be trivial, so our volunteers, both new and experienced, can devote themselves to what they edit," Wikipedia said in a blog post that announced the new visual editor.

To build this iteration of our open-source visual editor, we have been working with some of the team from Wikia, a collaborative publisher that operates the largest network of video game, entertainment and lifestyle wikis in the world. We both believe that this kind of tool should be built not just for the Wikimedia wiki projects, but for everyone using MediaWiki software, and when it’s done we look forward to including the visual editor “out of the box” for anyone setting up a wiki with our software.

Wikipedia provided an example of the new editor's interface:

Wikipedia New Visual Editor

The new editor seems to be to wiki text what a rich text editor is to coding HTML for webpages: it's not something that everybody will want to use, especially if you want to be very specific about your markups, but it is a simplified way to make editing accessible to people without a background in the programming language.

More changes are likely to come to the visual editor as Wikipedia works with its community of users to identify any nagging bugs that show up, but in all this is a good direction for the website if it really hopes to cement its legitimacy as a source of information. As Wikipedia co-founder tweeted yesterday, this is "epically important" to the website attaining its goal of increasing editor activity and signals Wikipedia's dedication to achieving some of its other goals, like improving the percentage of female editors and increasing contributions from beyond North America and Europe.

It's too bad that there's not a visual editor that Wikipedia could concoct that would efface the guy-centric culture of the tech world.