A bit about me
Full name: Alan Weissman
I have a decades-long interest in jazz and a specialized knowledge of some of it, so I thought I would make a few Wikipedia contributions on that topic. Other contributions, including some on other interests of mine, may follow, time permitting.
After four years....
I joined Wikipedia nearly four years ago (the present comments are being made shortly before New Year's Day 2008). Since that time, while contributing as I could, I have witnessed the incredible growth of Wikipedia and its community. When I joined, there were about a quarter-million articles in the English Wikipedia. Now there are well over two million. Users/editors themselves number over six million. And that's just registered users. Who knows the real total, given all the anonymous editors out there? (For a look at this impressive growth path, see the year-by-year summaries in the Wikipedia history.)
It's impressive. One sterling—and startling—fact that I can't get over is that Wikipedia is now the largest encyclopedia of any kind ever assembled. Ever! Anywhere! It is such an extensive and continuously growing compilation that no single person could possibly read the whole thing in a lifetime. (Unless you expect to be able to read the equivalent of 703 volumes of the Encyclopædia Britannica before you leave this Earth.) And that's just what has been done so far.
Given all this, the part I've played seems modest indeed. That said, I'm reasonably content with the miscellaneous contributions I have been able to make, not only on jazz-related topics but also on topics as varied as wine, supermarkets in America, popular-song writers, the tornado that hit not far from where I live in Brooklyn, oil companies, streetcars, the rather obscure term "ultracrepidarianism", writers, the City College of New York (my alma mater), and all sorts of other things. I've also corrected numerous typos and other mistakes where I've found them.
I've started the following articles:
Frank Butler (musician)
Jackie and Roy
The L.A. Four (group)
Pennies from Heaven (song)
Of these, I'm particularly proud of Shelly Manne. Over the past four years I have built up this article painstakingly, writing probably 95% of it. At last, within the past few days, I have brought it to the point where it has been approved as a "Good Article".
And the next four years? Who knows? Wikipedia is full of surprises, that's for sure.
And another two years....
Or nearly two years, anyway. Wikipedia continues to grow faster than I could ever imagine. As of this writing (October 2009) there are over three million articles and ten million registered users on the English Wikipedia. My own focus has shifted to the literary, in which arena I have—working in my usual plodding way—greatly expanded the article on William Hazlitt and contributed sufficiently to Characters of Shakespear's Plays to justify my adding it to my Good Articles userbox. (Certainly much remains to be done on both articles, though.) Just back from vacation, I can finally bump up the number in my U.S. States Visited userbox to a complete 50. Ah, the little pleasures of being a Wikipedian! OK, back to work....
Another year rolls by....
Over the past year (this is being written at the beginning of 2011), the bulk of my work here has been devoted to expanding and refining the article on Hazlitt's Characters of Shakespear's Plays, a pure labor of love for me. Although it already achieved Good Article status in 2009, it was not yet good enough as far as I, a great admirer of Hazlitt, was concerned. I may never be completely satisfied with it, but finally, after adding another 50% to its bulk, I have, what I feel is more important, hammered it into a shape where anyone dropping by and reading parts of it might get a reasonably accurate idea of what the book is about, how it came to be, why it is important, and how it fits into the body of Shakespearean literary criticism. I dare hope that it may even at times achieve Hazlitt's own ideal of conveying something of the flavor of the work, inducing others to read it. In writing anything major here, an overriding concern of mine has been to keep in mind the question, Why would anyone bother to read this article? It's not always easy to do while simultaneously following all of Wikipedia's guidelines, but I tried to organize the writing, focus it, make it flow smoothly, while drawing attention to what is truly attention-grabbing about the topic.
My other significant contribution for 2010 was, quite unexpectedly to me, adding to and revising a considerable portion of the article on Keats's celebrated poem "To Autumn". It turned out that based on a single very minor edit I had made to that article, my only contribution there up to that time, I was, as it were, dragged into a dispute over the article and its Featured status. Of course no one could force me to stay, but it seemed like I would be able to help, and I ended up putting quite a bit into it. It turned out to be fun, and very interesting, and I'm happy that my work, along with that of Amandajm, helped improve the quality of the article considerably and make it finally live up to its status of Featured Article. At least Amanda and I think it now does.
And the next year? One thing for sure, every day here is, at least potentially, an adventure.
Now it is 2012, and the English Wikipedia has continued to grow, with 3,836,396 articles and nearly 16,000,000 registered users (an interesting statistic, though, is that less than one percent of these are considered to be "active"). My own activity this past year was primarily in the role of helper. Percentage-wise, my biggest accomplishment was in nearly doubling the size of 2-3-4, which was fun, and I do think it's an important album that deserved the extra coverage.
But, in time spent, I expended much more effort in helping others with four articles, on Edmond Malone, William Hazlitt (Unitarian minister), the Spelling of Shakespeare's name, and, primarily, the Shakespeare authorship question. While I put a lot into this last one, and was pleased that I may have helped at least a little bit in getting it to Featured Article status, I was mostly glad to assist others. The labor that some of those editors contributed was truly Herculean. I wonder how many of its 35,000 or so readers when it was on the Main Page took even a moment to consider how much must have gone into it—and just adding thousands of words to the page in hundreds of edits is far from the most onerous task the editors performed. The depth of knowledge implied in those words, is, when you think of it, staggering, and it must have required countless hours of background reading over years. Not that organizing it all, requiring innumerable small decisions along the way, and supporting the text with citations, were trivial tasks either. A tip of the Wiki-editorial hat to those editors. You know who you are.
And now, after nearly eight years on Wikipedia (which I think the Internet—and the world—needs more than ever), let's see what lies just around the next bend in the Wiki-road....
After another year....
I see it is now (May 27, 2013) well over nine years since I've been a Wikipedian. The number of articles on the English Wikipedia has grown to 4,241,619, with over 19,000,000 registered users. More and more, Wikipedia seems an indispensable tool, insofar as the civilized world needs a central repository for its accumulated knowledge. For my part, I am grateful for all that other Wikipedians have helped me learn, and if I can help others by imparting something of what I know, so much the better.
Of my activities this past year, I have continued to help with a miscellany of articles. Of note has been that on Hurricane Sandy, which dealt a terrible blow to the region I live in. I am always glad to help how I can with anything to do with William Hazlitt, and I added a bit to the article on his brother John. Also, as others have continued to tinker with the Shakespeare authorship question article, I have persisted in my efforts to clean up mistakes made in the process, exercising general editorial oversight along the way.
My major project of the year has been the creation and expansion of the article on Hazlitt's 1825 book The Spirit of the Age. This remains a work in progress. I always work very slowly (though carefully). My favorite joke about my work habits (I amuse myself with it, if no one else) is, We know that Rome wasn't built in a day; but if it were my responsibility, it would still be under construction! On reflection in all seriousness, though, isn't this the Wikipedia way? Wikipedia is always under construction, every second of every day, a perpetual work in progress—with whatever advantages and disadvantages that mode of existence may provide.
After three and a half more years....
Wikipedia, now (December 24, 2016) with 5,314,534 articles (in the English Wikipedia alone), hasn't gone away. Neither have I, nor do I intend to. I still consider this one of the most worthwhile projects in the digital world, and the one that suits me best. My personal version of Rome continues to be built.
Reflections after another couple of years....
Now, on the brink of a new year, 2019, the English Wikipedia is still growing, with 5,773,068 articles. And I am pleased to have been able to contribute, however modestly. All here, however is not sweetness and light. Far from it. Others have elaborated on our woes far more insightfully and eloquently than I can, so I won't go into details, but I do fear that some Wikipedia processes are badly broken. Or perhaps some were never too sound to begin with and need repair, badly. As a result, some of our best contributors have abandoned this effort, in whole or in part. This is serious cause for concern. Of one thing I feel certain: the more the brightest, the most capable, and those with the greatest integrity leave, the worse the situation gets. Enough said for now.