So often I hear very smart, capable members of the social media community saying that they use and enjoy Wikipedia, but that (beyond the occasional spelling fix) they never really dive head first in to editing articles. Many more social medians who have created and edited articles are largely inactive within the broader community of the site. There are many valid reasons for this, including the learning curve caused by the MediaWiki software, and the many archane rules and customs of the Wikipedia community.

But catching up on my watchlist (a personal log of changes to the pages I care about) today, I realized that there is a way you all can help Wikipedia out for once without having to deal with the headache of becoming “a Wikipedian.”

Let me explain.

The situation

Most people know that Wikipedia operates on a system of constant peer review. Some are even aware that some of our content is deliberately put through a formal peer review process. One of these processes to assesses articles is the one for Good Articles, which is to say work that is praiseworthy, but doesn’t meet the stringent standards that qualify an article to be named our absolute best content.

Now we come to the part where you can join in.

The article about the Evolutionary history of life is nominated as a Good Article, and is awaiting an experienced editor to review it.

But therein, as the Bard would say, lies the rub. The evolutionary history of life is one of those broad, vital subjects in a specialized field that takes either many hands or one very expert one in order to bring it to fruition encyclopedically. This is why the article has languished, waiting to be reviewed, since October.

How you can help

To make a long story (slightly) short, if you can just take 15 minutes to read the article and contribute your thoughts, I can transmit them to the primary authors of the article with zero need for you to edit anything. You get to help out a key article with little effort, and I can rest easier knowing that an essential topic got a better treatment than I alone could give it.

If you’re willing, you might also take a look at the detailed criteria for Good Articles before you read in order to get a frame of reference. If not, no worries. No matter how small, any feedback you can give will help.

For those interested in helping out, please contact me either through Twitter or simply email me your notes at: steven [at] aboutus.org

Update:

Through a very kind friend, John T. Bonner, a professor at Princeton’s Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, gave us some helpful notes on the article. We’re grateful that he could a little time out of the busy holiday schedule to look at the article, and look forward to including his feedback in the review!

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