GF basks in limelight

Grand Forks got to bask in the limelight (or computer monitor glow) of Wikipedia on Tuesday when an article about the city became the popular website's featured article of the day.

Grand Forks got to bask in the limelight (or computer monitor glow) of Wikipedia on Tuesday when an article about the city became the popular website's featured article of the day.

The city's presence on the Internet version of Encyclopedia Britannica already got props from online users around the country, but the latest honor is yet another prize that some local Wikipedia users began pushing for about three years ago.

In 2007, the Grand Forks article became one of only 15 about U.S. cities to earn a coveted "featured article" designation, as determined by Wikipedia editors who review an article's "accuracy, neutrality, completeness" and adherence to the proper style.

About one in every 1,140 articles on the English Wikipedia site was good enough to earn that distinction. That means only 0.088 percent of the more than 3.3 million articles made the cut.

The hard work and frequent revisions paid off Tuesday when Wikipedia users found the Grand Forks article prominently displayed on the website's homepage.


"I definitely think it will help more people find out about Grand Forks," said Julie Rygg, executive director of the Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau.


In some ways, becoming the featured article of the day is like winning an online beauty contest -- only the best-designed, best-written articles become featured in the first place. And then they must be nominated and approved to gain a daylong spot on the homepage.

Mark Schill, an associate with Praxis Strategy Group in Grand Forks, said the honor is both a fun thing for the city and a way of raising awareness of what we have here. And it's "pretty huge" within the Wikipedia community.

But he said residents shouldn't expect the publicity to suddenly cause an increase in Grand Forks' migration rate or a drop in unemployment.

"It's not going to translate into anything direct, but I think every little bit helps," Schill said.

It's an easy way to put user-generated information about Grand Forks in front of millions of Wikipedia users worldwide, he said, but will that article resonate with the readers?

"Maybe not," Schill said. "You never know."


Schill is the managing editor and co-founder of population and economic analysis website, and said his online experience has shown that being linked to on a major site won't necessarily drive up traffic as much as people might expect.

"With the traffic that comes from the big-time sites, if you can capture 1 percent of it, you're doing really well," he said. "Every little bit certainly helps. But whether it translates into anything major is probably a stretch."

Schill said he likes to think of Wikipedia as a good way to see "the popular opinion of any given subject." It's a quick method of finding "society's definition," he said, because the website is entirely user-generated and relies on readers to flag questionable comments and properly cite information to back up what is claimed in an article.

That method gets "torn down" by some people because they see it as a less-reliable source, Schill said. But flipping open an Encyclopedia Britannica set 20 years ago might not have been any more reliable because then "you're relying on maybe a very small group" of editors and a few writers.

"I think for highly trafficked articles, if you look at it and it's been edited quite a bit, Wikipedia is pretty reliable," he said.

Schill said having a well-written article about Grand Forks will have a lasting benefit long after the glory of a spot on the homepage has faded.

When people are interested in learning out more about the community, they often turn to Google or other popular search engines to look up information -- and the Wikipedia article is most likely within the top five results for any community search.

"Quality of Wikipedia articles is one community marketing angle that many leaders in all communities overlook."


Ryan Johnson is a reporter

for the Grand Forks Herald which is owned by Forum

Communications Co.

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