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Editing Wikipedia

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For the Postgraduate Editing Skills Module, we were asked to edit a Wikipedia Page,  write a  critical review of the editing experience, acknowledging the theories and methods of digital scholarly editing and post it to a class blog Edit4Credit

I chose to edit the Wikipedia Page ‘Irish Lace’, to look at a few key areas the page was missing: mainly sources, citations and more in-depth history. There was only one paragraph on the origins of Lace in Ireland, and it was inaccurate. I added in 2 paragraphs on the origins of lace, with citations, sources and internal links.

What I found difficult in the editing of the content, was to only include material that could be proved, either through sources and citations. Lacemaking, especially in Ireland, still has a stigma attached to it, that of the old maid with dodgy doily’s. The difficulty was finding ‘different’ sources, to verify information about the history of Irish Lace because so little has been written about it. I didn’t want to break on of the five pillars of Wikipedia. Cite, Cite, Cite! 1. I also added a new section ‘Places to see Irish Lace’. Directly connecting to institutions, either public or private, will help people who would like to see other online resources, or physical collections in Ireland.

Registration for potential editors is recommended and very easy. Provision of a sandbox, an area to experiment and practise proved very useful. A simplified mark-up language (Creole, known as “wiki markup“), and a help of a rich-text editor, Visual Editor (VE) allows for people with very basic knowledge to become a user of Wikipedia: to write and edit pages. By using common tools, such as VE and wiki markup, information is more likely to be preserved, and possibly adapted in the future.It is much more likely that some compatible software will be available in the future, making it possible to open and edit these files.2

I have a basic understanding of html, and so, the principles mark-up language, which proved handy, because although Wikipedia does have a rich text editor, it does not tell you when things go wrong, how they went wrong. Knowledge of the principles of mark-up language is then very useful. To fully understand the workings of Wikipedia before I started to edit, I turned to YouTube. There I found several fabulous tutorials on the different aspects of editing, from setting up a user account, overall format to creating a new page. It also strengthen the feeling of Wikipedia being a community, they want you to learn, and become part of it.

It is incredibly easy to create references. Once you use the tags , it automatically orders them and adds them to the Reference section. I think, without this easy method of citation, a lot of users would be put off, the time-consuming task of making sure citations are correct. There is also a very easy system for internal links, which I think is very important. However, too many links within the text is distracting. Only the major points should have internal links.

Before I began editing, I could only imagine, some of the upset that could be caused through collaborative writing of the articles. There was already some contention on the ‘Irish Lace’ page. In the Talk section there was discussion, content had been removed because “…the edits have been promotional in tone and have linked to only one website…”. I introduced myself, and why I was editing the article. I have had no feedback yet, as to the changes I have made. I decided to restrict my editing of the article, not be too enthusiast on my first go.

I will, however, return and edit more. I have also looked at several other pages related to Irish Lace, and they are all lacking in information and sources. I never would have though previously to become part of the Wikipedia community, but now I have delved into it, I find it fascinating. My over all impression has changed, from one of complacency, to one of awe. At the staggering amount of information that has been shared, of the time given by users, in trying to maintain the site. With over 3 million articles, over half a million registered users, it is worth the annual batch of controversies, edit wars and misinformation, which usually come to light eventually. Through its diligent users.

1. Logan DW, Sandal M, Gardner PP, Manske M, Bateman A (2010) Ten Simple Rules for Editing 2.Wikipedia. PLoS Comput Biol 6(9): e1000941. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000941

2. Wardrip-Fruin, Nick. ‘Acid-Free Bits’. Eliterature.org. N.p., 2004. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.

So, what do you think ?