All hail Wiki. That much maligned source of reference material for student theses and web copywriters the world over is 10 years old. In an effort to maintain the site as purely a reference source and to avoid the relentless march of advertising, Wiki founder Jimmy Wales has recently appealed for donations from users to protect the site and keep it free of charge and free from advertising. But why should a copywriter donate to Wikipedia?

A global influence

Wiki has often been accused of being inaccurate. Because it is an ‘open source’ site, anyone can write a Wiki page and post it onto the website. But Wiki has taken accusations of inaccuracy very seriously and in recent years has made a concerted effort to clean up the site. Wiki has more than 380million users across it and its sister sites every month. That’s almost a third of the Internet-connected world. It is the 5th most popular website in the world and differs from the top four in that it isn’t maintained with billions of dollars of investment, incessant marketing and a huge multi-national payroll of staff. While the advice is always to cross check any information against a second or even third source, nine times out of ten the information you find on Wiki is accurate, concise and relevant.

Accurate? That’ll be a yes, then…

But, in an attempt to practice what I preach about cross-referencing, don’t just take my word for the accuracy of Wiki. The journal Nature carried out a survey to discover if the accusations of inaccuracy were true by comparing the information on Wiki to that given by the Encyclopaedia Britannica. The results were surprising. Both publications had roughly the same number of errors. According to Nature, Wikipedia had an average of 2.86 errors per article while the Encyclopaedia Britannica had an average of 2.92 mistakes per article.

The survey was carried out in 2005 and since then Wiki has installed a system of employing editors to check the accuracy of pages. Editors now moderate entries and they ensure that the facts on the pages are backed up by linked resources that can be verified. Entries that don’t have accurate resources are clearly indicated as having uncited facts.

Access all areas for UK copywriters

A UK copywriter is under a great deal of pressure to create content, often about a topic that they are unfamiliar with. In this instance, the first port of call is often Wiki to get a general overview of a subject. In that role, Wiki is invaluable to a copywriter – it is an instant access encyclopaedia of knowledge. At Big Star Content we use Wiki frequently, although we always stress to our copywriters the importance of cross-referencing material for accuracy. It is not our only source of information, but it can be a useful starting point from which we create interesting, informative and accurate content for a wide range of clients.

Changing the world

So we’re in favour of the principles of Wiki. We support what Wiki is trying to do – in Jimmy Wales’ words; “[Wikipedia] is a community creation. People like us write Wikipedia, one word at a time. People like us fund it, one donation at a time. It’s proof of our collective potential to change the world.” If you’re a UK copywriter and you use Wiki, perhaps it’s time you showed your gratitude by donating to the appeal. Freedom of information is crucial, but it often comes at a price. And it’s a price we should all be prepared to pay, if only in a small way through a donation to our favourite ‘go to’ site.

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