Wikipedia turns 15 today! So how is the seemingly endless online font of knowledge celebrating? By compiling and sharing the most edited articles in Wikipedia of all time, of course. Wikipedia is essentially a powerhouse of information, though we all probably know it best as the one website we were never allowed to include on a works cited page.
Now, what's really interesting about the data released from Wikipedia is that it refers to the most edited articles on their site, not necessarily the most accessed. The people who edit Wikipedia are just like you and me — literally. Anyone can edit Wikipedia (provided they have Internet access, of course), and you can do so anonymously, with a pseudonym, or with your real name. Confused on where to begin? Wikipedia offers training for new users who want to write and edit articles on the site, which reviews the rules and editing procedures. Pretty thorough for something people do on a volunteer basis, right?
So, what were Wikipedia's most edited articles over the years? Death rates take the top slot, as well as President George W. Bush, Adolf Hitler, and the Lebanon War. Clearly, big, political issues are of a high interest value, which makes sense because there is always new information being released, as well as the individual perspectives and slants people want to express when they create or edit pages.
While I found scrolling through all of the data pretty interesting, I personally, looked for where women fell on the list of most edited Wikipedia articles. Here are some of the most edited Wikipedia articles about women:
In the year of its inception, 2001, one of Wikipedia's top edited articles was on Feminism, with a total of 800 edits. Compared to the thousands upon thousands of edits pages get now, 800 may seem like a small number, but it actually landed feminism as the third most edited page in 2001. It's difficult to know, of course, what draws people to edit what articles, but feminism is a hotly debated subject on the Internet, so I'm not surprised early users had a lot they wanted to establish on the topic.
2. Mother Theresa
That's right: the woman now close to Sainthood was also Wikipedia's eighth most edited page in 2003. The Catholic nun who was famed largely for her devotion to helping the poorest of the poor was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003, which likely contributed to her high number of Wikipedia edits.
3. Britney Spears
Specifically, Britney's Blackout album topped Wikipedia in 2007, coming in as the eighth most edited article of the year, with a little over 5,000. The album was her fifth total, and arrived after a hiatus over a few years. This album was pretty huge in establishing Spears as a more mature, adult artist, with tracks like "Piece of Me" and "Gimme More" making waves on the radio. The album came during Britney's famous meltdown, which I think contributed to the activity on Wikipedia, as well.
4. Sarah Palin
Ah, yes. With over 10,000 edits in 2008, then Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin came in second in Wikipedia's most edited articles. Palin was the Republican party's first female Vice Presidential nominee ever, so she made waves from the start, especially as a self-branded "hockey mom". Beyond that, Palin's conservative values and near anonymity prior to the nomination (she did not make major media splashes as Governor of Alaska) likely urged people to give her Wikipedia page a lot of attention. The now famous SNL skit of Tina Fey impersonating Sarah Palin probably helped, too.
In all, women didn't get a ton of attention in the most edited Wikipedia articles. Apparently (and of course, this number changes regularly) an average of about 13 percent of Wikipedia editors are women, which is a really low number. There may be a lot of reasons women don't edit Wikipedia as much as men, such as a lack of time or interest — but a culture of hostility against women on Wikipedia also exists, with many suggesting that women on Wikipedia often experience harassment that mirrors the kind of harassment they experience on the rest of the Internet. As Wikipedia edits are entirely user based, it's difficult to make solid assessments on what draws users to certain topics more than others, but I'm willing that the more women who edit Wikipedia, the more female-centric articles we'll see top these charts in the coming years.