Friday, January 31, 2014

wikipedians working on the tubes

One of the most popular websites for pneumatic tubes must surely be Wikipedia - it certainly comes up as number one on my Google searches. While information on Wikipedia was once scorned as inaccurate, nowadays it is increasingly becoming the "go to" site for most people who want to find information on anything. Indeed research has shown that Wikipedia is not significantly any more inaccurate than the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Because of the work of many editors and bots, the information can be considered thoroughly reviewed, with errors supposedly picked up very quickly. So, who are these people "behind the scenes" of this ubiquitous internet site?

Early wikipedia adopters were mainly an elite group, however since 2006 the number of novice users increased steadily, gradually forming a Wikipedia community. Sociologists such as René König and Christian Pentzold have studied the practices of Wikipedians very closely, if you are interested in learning more about them. Their work led me to wonder who might be the pneumatic tube Wikipedians?

I have found one so far (and would love to know of any others out there!): Lyle Zapato, who writes about his additions to the pneumatic tube Wikipedia site, on a co-authored blog ZPi (see also his Inteli-Tube Pneumatic Tube proposal). On ZPi Lyle Zapato talks about clarifying ambiguous statements and adding pictures. He also moved a misplaced paragraph and created a separate section on pneumatic tubes in fiction. 

For those interested in the backstage of Wikipedia you can see the Pneumatic Tube page in process by comparing L.Z's original fiction paragraph to the one now on Wikipedia, which has been expanded by other pneumatic enthusiasts to include works by Umberto Eco and Douglas Adams, as well as references to Ghostbusters and videogames. For an even sneakier peak behind the scenes check out the "Talk page" (that other little clicked tab on any Wikipedia article) to see discussions about terminology, better references, and keeping the fiction section to wikistyle.

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