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July 2009

Wiki Wiki Wiki

Last week I was in the middle of wrapping up a new book in a series I’ve been following and as is common with a large anthology, I got somewhat lost as to what characters were a part of what intrigue. So I set the book down, brushed off my keyboard and went off to Wikipedia to see what was what. To my surprise, I was left wanting. Now don’t get me wrong, I had all sorts of great information about the book, and especially the author and so on and so on.. but nothing close to what I really needed. After a little bit of googling, I finally found a “Wiki” centered around the book series. It didn’t have anything to do with Wikipedia.org either. Apparently there is a whole plethora of wiki’s out there, from Star Wars to cooking recipes. (Check out Wikia.com for example)

So now you’d think that I was satisifed, no? Well…. not exactly. While there were quite a few entries already – lots of substance – it was all written by a single author! This lone individual had gone to a crapload of trouble from what I could see. Also, accomplishing it all in less than a year was nothing short of amazing. However, it definitely wasn’t complete, and he hadn’t even entered anything from the latest book! Rarely am I struck with a the feeling of wanting to just jump into a new project with no idea of where it’ll take me, but struck I was. So I created an account and dove right in.

Or at least thats what the plan was. Hahaha, apparently editing wiki entries is nowhere near as simple as it might seem to an outsider.

A Picture of Israel Smith in a Sylvester the Cat Costume through a Hotel Peep Hole
Entering the Rabbit Hole

At first I thought, well I can’t find any information on this Character so I’ll try adding a new page for it. Which I found out is called an “Article”. Then when the editing screen came up I knew instantly I was in waaaay over my head. In fact, I almost ran screaming like a little schoolgirl in the opposite direction. I quickly decided perhaps a small edit was more in line and I proceeded to a page that I found could use some of my expository skills. Needless to say, the interface was still completely alien to me, but I was at least able to easily figure out that I could put a line of text here and it would end up there. You could say I was very excited when I finished the entry; I set it as a “minor edit” and then took  break to get some chips, hot sauce and cherry Pepsi. You can imagine my surprise when I came back to see that my entry had been negated and critiqued in the time it took me to reach the kitchen, hoard up and walk back to my computer! Surprise, utter bafflement, yes.. even anger.

Man Playing as Gandalf yelling "You Shall Not Pass"
YOU SHALL NOT PASS!

However, rather than be deterred by my perturbment, I embraced this challenge, carefully learning from each mistake. I learned that you can’t just type a whole bunch of stuff up and not back it up without a reference. Makes sense of course, but it was wasn’t intuitive for me, I am used to people taking me at my word! Things got progressively better from there as I learned to make sections, tables, learned about tagging the various entries with “categories”. Eventually I felt good enough to start my own articles from scratch and figured out the difference between minor edits and actual edits, etc. etc.

All in all, I’ve come away from the experience a tad bit more humble than before. I now have a deeper understanding of the incredible amount of work, time, sweat, and swearing that goes into these wiktionaries. I now have a watchlist where I keep tabs on changes made to various articles/entries and feel right at home in my little carved out piece of the wikiverse. Maybe next time you have nothing to do, try a crack at finding a wiki you find of interest and helping out in the effort… and maybe… just maybe…  I’ll see you out there in the wikiverse.