Since 2006, Hillary Clinton has carefully adjusted her positions on major issues like same-sex marriage and the war in Iraq. Through every step of that evolution, one man was there to note each change.
Jonathan Schilling, a New Jersey software engineer, has been a highly-active editor of Clinton’s Wikipedia page since 2006. During that time Schilling logged at least 2,269 edits over 10 years to the former Secretary of State’s popular page.
Clinton’s page gets an enormous amount of traffic, which Schilling estimates was close to 150,000 monthly views before Clinton announced her 2016 presidential campaign last month.
Since 2006, Schilling has kept a watchful eye over Clinton’s Wikipedia entry, eliminating unsubstantiated claims, and clipping out bias and inaccuracy. His edits are usually small: a tense changed, a credible source added, facts tweaked to reflect new reporting.
Wikipedia is a crowdsourced platform, and many users make edits to Clinton’s page. But few have logged the hours that Schilling has. According to Wikipedia’s stats, he has been the top editor of the page for years.
Schilling sees keeping political biases out of entries as a major part of his volunteer job. He told Business Insider a trick to keep out ideologically-motivated editors is to address controversies thoroughly and include the details.
“I intentionally make these things long because then you can include everything: the good, the bad the ugly, the neutral,” Schilling said. “So, everybody who reads it should be able to get some idea, something about it here or there.”
Schilling said he also relies heavily on facts attributed to concrete sources, avoiding trend pieces from news outlets like Politico that he perceives as important, but occasionally suspect.
“You actually have to be careful with using Politico articles as a source on Wikipedia because they’re under so much pressure to churn out stuff,” Schilling explained. “They find trends one day, they find the opposite trend the next day.”
Once a contentious page plagued by trolls and opinionated users making unfounded claims, Clinton’s Wikipedia entry has calmed down significantly.
“Back in 2007, there were more vandals, more troublemakers, more people trying to tilt the article one way or the other,” Schilling said.
Now, Schilling claims, a slightly higher barrier of entry and automatic robots that flag suspect edits make the page a little easier to manage.
According to Schilling, Wikipedia pages generally become less contentious over time. So, while Clinton’s page is “mature,” other presidential candidate’s pages are becoming virtual battlegrounds. Schilling said Carly Fiorina’s page has seen a flurry of activity since her launch, primarily over how her tenure at CEO of Hewlett-Packard should be defined.
In fact, the biggest fight on Clinton’s page isn’t necessarily over the former Secretary of State’s legacy. According to Schilling, the most significant spat on the page is over Clinton’s name itself.
“There has been a huge argument over if the article title should get changed,” Schilling said, from the current Hillary Rodham Clinton to just Hillary Clinton. “During last year’s go-round, Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, actually contacted her office to see what she prefers. … She said Hillary Rodham Clinton.”
Editing can be particularly difficult for pages with a political slant, with opinionated editors and political staffers attempting to change the page. In the wake of recent revelations that lawmakers and Capitol Hill staffers edited Wikipedia pages of high-level members of Congress, Schilling claims that many political operatives have been more careful about what kind of revisions they make.
Though he rarely sees staff edits on the pages he contributes to, Schilling said that it has happened. Schilling noted that when Vice President Joe Biden was a Senator, his office was a repeat offender.
“When I was working on the Joe Biden article, there was a case where it became known that some of his foreign policy supposed achievements had been put in by someone in his office,” Schilling said.
Asked about why he does it, Schilling said that part of his motivation was readership.
“You get incredible visibility,” Schilling said. “The words I’ve written, from this article and others, have been read by tens of millions of people.”
“Where else can you write where you get 2,000,000 readers?” Schilling said.
Schilling vowed he will keep editing through the election and into the foreseeable future, partially because he feels that he’s already put in a lot of work. Last year, the software engineer achieved his goal of getting the page to “featured article” status, a level which denotes the highest level of quality a Wikipedia page can rise to.
“Even if I cut out other Wikipedia stuff, it will be hard to walk away from this one,” Schilling said. “I’ve got over 2,000 edits on the page over 10 years. That’s a heavy personal investment.”
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