Czech Wikipedia celebrates its 20th anniversary
The online encyclopaedia Wikipedia has been around for more than two decades – and the Czech language version is not far behind, celebrating its 20th anniversary on Tuesday. We take a look at its humble beginnings, and where it’s got to today.
If you open the homepage of Wikipedia.org, you are greeted by the Wikipedia logo, a globe featuring glyphs from various writing systems, surrounded by some of the languages in which you can read Wikipedia articles – English with close to 6.5 million articles, German with over 2.5 million, Russian with over 1.5 million, and so on.
Czech Wikipedia may only have just over half a million articles, but it has a surprisingly high number of active users. Martin Urbanec, one of the administrators of Czech Wikipedia, explains.
“Active contributors – those are people who make at least one edit a month – number around a thousand on Czech Wikipedia.”
According to the Wikipedia page ‘List of Wikipedias’, which contains numerical data about the different language versions of Wikipedia, the number of active users is even higher than stated by Urbanec – 2518, ranking 18th out of all the different Wikipedia language editions in terms of number of active users, although it ranks only 27th in terms of number of articles.
Czech Wikipedia also kicked off surprisingly early. Wikipedia was launched in 2001 - only in English at first - but the Czech version launched just a year later. It has changed a lot since its humble beginnings, as Urbanec elucidates.
"Wikipedia has definitely fundamentally changed since 2002 in that, back then, no one had heard of it, whereas now a large portion of the population uses it daily. Also, in 2002 people wrote articles about very basic things such as ‘water’ and ‘Prague’."
The fact that it has gone on to produce over half a million articles on a wide variety of topics is largely down to the efforts of its contributors, among whom are students and people working in various fields, including university teachers. Jitka Erbenová, who works at the University of South Bohemia and has been contributing to Wikipedia articles for fourteen years, says that being a Wikipedia contributor is a labour of love.
“It’s definitely a hobby – we’re all volunteers, none of us get paid for it. We all do it after work in our free time.”
Wikipedia sometimes receives criticism for its open policy of allowing anyone to write, contribute to and edit articles, causing some to question its reliability. However, other contributors can flag up problems, and administrators can delete inappropriate or irrelevant articles, as Urbanec explains.
“For example, if someone creates an article with just the letters ‘asdf’, we can delete that immediately. However, if you have an article that, for example, a Wikipedia editor thinks doesn’t conform to the rules of Wikipedia, e.g. relevance, then you have to begin a so-called “Talk” page and explain why you think so.”
With the number of Wikipedia articles written in Czech growing ever larger, it seems that for Czech Wikipedia, the sky is the limit.