Timothy Messer-Kruse’s wrote an excellent Chronicle column on Wikipedia last week. (Word to the wise: The comments section has devolved into nonsense at times, so read at your own peril.)
It reminded me of the discussion that I had with my Jacksonian class last week about my own brief foray into Wikipedia editing. In 2007, I decided to tackle Andrew Jackson Donelson’s Wikipedia page, which needed some corrections. As Messer-Kruse discovered, Wikipedia editing isn’t that simple. One contributor/editor made it his mission to reverse my edits on several occasions. While I’ve made a handful of minor changes to other Jacksonian-related pages since then, my experience with Wikipedia convinced me that it wasn’t worth my time to contribute.
That’s unfortunate, because Wikipedia can be a useful resource. Oftentimes, the “References” and “External Links” sections provide helpful leads to primary and secondary sources.* Kudos to those of you who find success editing the pages, especially those who find a way to incorporate Wikipedia editing into history courses. Keep fighting the good fight!
* The caveat, of course, is that it can be a good starting point for student research.