Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

07 Jul 2014, 10:10 a.m.

If You Log In To Wikipedia You Can Customize A Bunch Of Stuff

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2014 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

I bet most people reading this often read Wikipedia articles but don't log in. That's fine. I love that you don't have to register to read or edit. But here are a few reasons you should try logging in:

  1. Read how you want. You can fiddle with a bunch of preferences you didn't even realize you wanted. Suppress display of the fundraiser banner. Disable the suggestions dropdown list for the search box. Choose a different skin (page style) that emphasizes information density. Remove images and background while printing.

  2. Beta features. If you log in, you can try out new improvements early. Right now, on English Wikipedia, the beta features include "hovercards" (when you hover over a page link, a little summary pops up) and better search.

  3. Language and font settings. If you're multilingual, note that you can change what language you want all the framing text to be in, on any Wikimedia site. For instance, I can go to Russian Wikipedia and change my preferences to English. All the articles are still in Russian, but stuff like the Random Page link is labelled in English, so I can navigate easier.

  4. Mobile stuff. If you read Wikipedia via your phone's or tablet's browser, you can look for Settings in the site menu and tap to turn on Beta. That'll give you a preview of upcoming improvements.

  5. The VisualEditor. For most Wikipedia editing, the new what-you-see-is-what-you-get interface is more intuitive than messing around with wikitext. So if you rarely hit Edit, it'll be way easier for you if you use VisualEditor. On English Wikipedia, if you log in, you can turn on VisualEditor by checking its checkbox in your Beta features.

  6. Better privacy. If you improve a Wikipedia page while you're logged in, the site associates that edit with your username. If you do it without logging in, the edit is associated with your IP address. And people can tell a lot more from an IP address than they can from a username.

  7. Better trust. If you end up editing, using your username means other people will have an easier time thanking you, suggesting ways to improve your work, cutting you slack when you make a mistake, and scheming with you to improve particular articles or topics. You can build a reputation when you log in.

So try logging in!