Tag Archives: Wikipedia

Wikipedia article overhaul: A bridge too far?

I am looking into the idea of helping to overhaul the Wikipedia page on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as a possible deliverable in a class I am currently enrolled in at the Kennedy School.  While it seems to me to be an idea with a net positive outcome for the public and the Alliance, I have several concerns about this prospective plan of action.  These are:

  • it looks like a huge job, and my time available is extremely limited;
  • the page is semi-protected, and this will make editing difficult as there is a waiting period requiring 10 Wikipedia edits before I can get access to the page;
  • NATO itself has until now had an unofficial policy of ignoring related Wikipedia pages (in part because it believes them inaccurate and difficult to staff, and in part because it felt that correcting even the most obvious errors on the NATO page would be badly viewed in the Wikiverse) and as a result, I am not certain that I will be able to organize any fact-checking support from subject-matter experts there.

Nevertheless, because the Alliance has faced persistent challenges stemming from the relative scarcity of accurate information about itself on online platforms widely used by the public, the indifference of mass audiences to the platforms where NATO does make accurate information available, and long-term concerns about public opinion trends (particularly among younger audiences), it would certainly be a helpful exercise for the Wikipedia page to be fact-checked and updated.

On to a (subjective) evaluation of the current Wikipedia article on NATO.

Comprehensiveness

By comparison to many Wikipedia articles I have read, this one covers a lot of ground.  On the other hand, there is a huge amount of ground to cover, because, like the UN, NATO is a highly complex organization involved in many operations, missions, activities and initiatives (both now and in the past).  It is one whose strategic focus, doctrines and size have changed many times.  So my view is that for the use of the general public, it is comprehensive enough, while for experts and academics, it is almost certainly not as useful as a primary source.  In any case, I would not seek to expand or lengthen the article, but rather to improve quality where possible.  One exception might be to add a section on reform, as NATO is going through a wave of restructuring and reorganization.  I might also add some relevant detail in a couple of areas.

Readability

The language used is clear and concise.  I have no concerns about the readability of the article.  Nevertheless, I would provide a serious copy-edit to ensure correct terminology, as I have noted a couple of incorrect usages.

Illustrations

The article is well-illustrated, with a number of representative photographs, maps and charts from good sources.  I was particularly pleased to note that the photos were representative of the contributions of multiple nations and partner countries, as many US-based, non-NATO owned websites often focus visually on US forces when illustrating NATO.  That said, I could likely source even better photos and maps.

Formatting

It seems that the editorial group has generally followed the Wikipedia standard format. I would not seek to make changes here, although I could make some suggestions about content order.

Sourcing

With 113 citations, a bibliography and a set of external links, it appears to be a well-sourced article.  There is also a good mix of external citations and NATO original source citations.  That said, there are a number of dead links, as well as “citation needed” flags that I think I could improve.

Neutrality

It seems to be an objective enough article to me.  There does not appear to be any spin in it.  It’s good enough for me.

Alternate plans

If I cannot find a convenient way to do a good job on the NATO page, my backups are the Wikipedia articles for Tarifa, Spain and NATO Summits.

My Wikipedia Account

My account username is kprager.

–kp.

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