Some time ago I wrote a few Wikipedia articles covering a rather obscure event I was interested in. I did it more or less completely out of interest and was not paid in any way. Although Wikipedia is fundamentally collaborative, most of the text is mine - the other editors have largely only added results tables, logos, and such.

The organizers of the event noticed the articles and have since been forwarding me requests by a professor saying things like:

  • You should cite this article. It's good for publicity!
  • You should write about X, Y and Z. Right now the article doesn't cover them.

However from my point of view, because Wikipedia is fundamentally collaborative, I don't actually own the articles, and if anyone (either the professor or the organizers) want to add those things they are free to do so themselves. That's not to say that the addition will be welcomed - any Wikipedia editor can dispute the addition - but it is something they are free to do. Certainly asking me to do something they can do themselves feels rather improper.

I am wondering if my point of view is reasonable, and if so, how I should communicate with the organizers & professor. I certainly don't want to offend them, since they can make it harder for me to watch the event.

  • 7
    What does this have to do with academia? Dec 4 '20 at 1:26
  • 4
    @AzorAhai-him- why wouldn't it be? It's writing something that resembles an academic article (with citations, verifiability, authorship issues, etc.) I'm certainly getting the impression that the professor is treating it as an academic article - similar to how he might treat his student's thesis.
    – Allure
    Dec 4 '20 at 1:31
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    1. Wikipedia is not a repository of academic research; it is a tool that’s used by researchers, but also by everyone else. So this question is off-topic. 2. I’m a Wikipedia contributor and familiar with the culture. You are 100% not responsible for maintaining articles you contributed to in the past. In fact, any idea that you should be responsible is precisely the antithesis of the collaborative philosophy of Wikipedia. 3. As for considering doing something you aren’t responsible for doing in order not to offend someone... well, I guess that’s a topic for a question on interpersonal.se.
    – Dan Romik
    Dec 4 '20 at 7:40
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    @DanRomik Sounds like this is the answer that's missing. Dec 4 '20 at 8:32
  • Did the professor contact you personally? Or through Wikipedia's interface?
    – Taladris
    Dec 5 '20 at 3:16

If you think the additions are useful, consider adding them. You thought your time well spent building the pages in the first place, so I would think you probably have some interest in improving them.

If the changes seem to you marginal, or time consuming, write a polite letter to the proposer reminding them that you don't own the page so they are free to improve it. If you're polite and appreciative you probably won't cause offense.

  • Or just send them a one line link to [[WP:SOFIXIT]]
    – mmeent
    Dec 4 '20 at 8:29
  • @mmeent That would be a pretty rude way of responding Dec 4 '20 at 20:06

I suggest you open a "Talk" page on one or more of your articles and ask the question there. Note that I haven't done this myself and don't know the mechanism, but it is possible.

I also suggest you use your conscience as to what would be right and proper. You seem to be suggesting that you think it improper. That is probably the right attitude. Skepticism, at least.

Don't feel bad if you just want to ignore the request.

And, no, you don't become an owner or otherwise "responsible" for the things you write on Wikipedia. Nor do you become a maintainer of the page. You need to be accurate and stay within the rules, of course.

  • This seems to be the only answer so far that tries to address the etiquette part. Not that I agree fully with the whole answer, but seems to be generally in the right direction!
    – justhalf
    Dec 4 '20 at 1:43

It is not good practice to have people self-cite in Wikipedia. This may be different in Scholarpedia which has a responsible editor and full disclosure and transparency. So the professors may not want to self-cite. Requesting from you to be cited may be content-wise relevant, but it is self-citation by proxy, so you would be in the right to decline, and it indeed smells slightly off.

As for asking you to write on something else, unless you are on their payroll, they can ask, and you can choose whether you want to do so. You feel it's improper. Indeed, it is a bit intrusive. While you started it, it's not your page and you have not promised maintenance and you shouldn't (and actually cannot be expected to) on Wikipedia.

Since you are looking for how to respond, you may say that you were happy to set up the page, but now you essentially consider it released it into the "wild", i.e. the public domain, and hope for someone else to take over the task of maintaining it further.

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