Where was Donald Trump’s father born? Did he graduate from Fordham University? And if not, can it still be considered his alma mater? Is there such a thing as “Trump ideology”? And what photo best represents him?
These are some of the questions quibbled over by Wikipedia contributors in the 200 edits made to Donald Trump’s page just over the last week.
Wikipedia is a crowdsourced encyclopedia, created and maintained by a cadre of dedicated volunteer editors who day in and day out watch the pages they care about. A list compiled by Wikimedia, the foundation that oversees the encyclopedia, shows the English pages they argued over the most this year, published in a blog post on Dec. 21. It provides a glimpse into the year’s obsessions, as seen through the eyes of the self-appointed keepers of the internet’s collective knowledge.
Donald Trump’s was one such highly edited page. So were pages on the Panama Papers, Kanye West’s album The Life of Pablo, and the number of bad guys in the fictional world of Transformers.
Wikipedia is one of the most popular sites on the web, so presumably what matters to its editors matters to everyone. Pages that get pored over could actually be more balanced, while pages that editors choose not to develop leave us in the dark. For the past decade, the year’s deaths have been the number-one edited pages, followed usually by big or controversial news items of the year: the civil war in Libya in 2011; the Pacific typhoon season in 2013; and Sarah Palin in 2008. In 2014, the Malaysian Airlines flight, ebola, ISIS, and the shooting of Michael Brown made the top-10 list.
The list also provides a window into the rather opaque and hard-to-access culture of the people who edit the largest English encyclopedia the world has. Technically anyone is free to edit the site, but the argumentative and often combative culture can keep new users out. Editors can join anonymously, but the bar to actually making a contribution that sticks is high, so even though there are 29 million registered editors, only about 130,000 are active. About 10% of the English editors were female in the last big survey of the editors conducted by the foundation, in 2012.
The editors tend to gravitate toward certain broad categories: entertainment, sports, and world events. Number 24 on this year’s list, two slots below Brexit, is the Miss Universe contest. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) shows up twice on the list, and indeed is the second most edited topic of all time, right after George W. Bush and before the United States.
Here are the 100 most edited English pages of the year: