About five years ago I worked for a company who didn't have enough work for me. To fill in time I started editing Israeli history related items on Wikipedia. At first I was editing on the Israel page but then I realized that the History of Israel had almost nothing on it. So I started filling the page in and soon found it quite addictive, ending up buying books so that I could learn more about different periods and tracing ancient Jewish history.
I found out some surprising things, for example that a massive Jewish presence continued for centuries after the destruction of the temple; that the 2000 year long Jewish dispersal was really more of a 1500 year dispersal and that during both the Jewish revolt and the later Bar Kochba revolt, the coins issued bore the title 'Israel'. I also discovered that Judean soldiers had saved the lives of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar when they were under siege in Alexandria.
Wikipedia is an incredibly powerful vehicle of education and a first stop for undergraduates and high school students looking for information. A major reason for this is that Google will automatically rank the Wikipedia as the top or one of the top results for any search topic. One of the reasons I know this is that I used to work for Google checking search results.
According to http://stats.grok.se/ the Israel page gets about 450,000 visits a month and is one of the 200 most visited pages in Wikipedia.
The History of Israel by way of contrast gets about 30,000 visits a month, not as much as Israel but still a pretty major readership. Of course many of those probably take one look and then go somewhere else, but other Wikipedia editors also use it and material entered in one article sometimes ends up in other articles and, I suspect, in other languages.
Anyone can edit Wikipedia but it generally takes high-level subject knowledge, a knack for good writing and neutral descriptions as well as persistence to ensure that your edits are retained over time. I have an MA in History from the University of London which focused on the Mandate of Palestine Middle Eastern history and the Holocaust. I also have an MA in Political Science from Tel Aviv University. My BA in Politics from Sussex University generally focused on Africa.
I'm not that young either so I also have a long memory of Israeli history.
What all this means is that most of the material in the History of Israel is my work and that as one of the primary contributors to the page I am in effect one of the world's most influential writers on the History of Israel. The downside is that I get no public recognition and that it is very time consuming.
To view a summary of my edits: http://toolserver.org/~tparis/pcount/index.php?name=Telaviv1&lang=en&wiki=wikipedia
A list of my recent contributions: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Contributions/Telaviv1
My user page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Telaviv1
Thursday, October 4, 2012
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