Meet the Boise Wiki on May 4!


Come try out the Boise Wiki, a new website about Boise past and present to which anyone can contribute! Get hands-on help from its founder, Leslie Madsen-Brooks, and learn how easy (and fun!) it is to share what you know about Boise.

We’ll have a couple of computers available for visitors to use, but we encourage you to bring your own device, too.

Noon – 3 p.m., May 4, 2013

Sesqui-Shop, 1008 Main Street, Boise, ID

Questions about the Boise Wiki?  E-mail lesliemadsen-brooks -at- boisestate -dot- edu



Wiki Reflection

I was slightly anxious starting this assignment after our class discussing the possible misogyny I might face on the Wikipedia talks pages.  I also prefer to keep my work private rather than post it somewhere that might receive unwanted criticism.  Despite my personal hesitance, I knew exactly the topic on which I wanted to write and exactly where to get my sources.  Idaho Proposition 1 was an anti-LGBT legislation in 1994 that attempted to prohibit city or state government from granting minority status based on ‘behavior.’  For two years a group called Don’t Sign On – eventually renamed No On One – peacefully fought the Idaho Citizens Alliance who pushed the initiative into being.  It’s an important part of Idaho history and was a part of a number of anti-homosexual initiatives that took place in the 1990s through to present day.  I chose this subject because this was the very subject on which I’m creating an exhibit for the Special Archives in the Albertsons Library. I have access to newspapers that aren’t currently digitized – though I am in that process – and was therefore able to provide sources not yet available to the public thanks to a member of No On One who provided them for the Special Collections.



The subject material also fit perfectly into the requirements for both the Wikipedia article and the Boise wiki.  I decided that writing one article that was appropriate for both venues was a bit of a time saver but would also be an interesting experiment on Wikipedia.  While there were a number of separate pages for the anti-LGBT legislation that has occurred over the years, I wanted to see if the Wikipedia editors considered Idaho’s fight for homosexual rights a ‘notable’ enough subject.  I commented on the talk page of “List of US ballot initiatives to repeal LGBT anti-discrimination laws” and they told me that as long as I have the right sources then it was appropriate for the page.[1]  After spending more than the usual amount of time to find the directions to create my own Wikipedia page, I created a sandbox and submitted it for review.  A sandbox, come to find out, does not accomplish much in a short amount of time.  With no movement on the sandbox I decided to risk it and skip a few steps by creating a page and link to the Ballots page.

I checked out the other Proposals pages and copied their simple formatting.  I included the description, the history of the initiative, and some major players.  I told a couple friends I was WikiFamous and sent them the link so they could check out my work for me.  I also reworded the description of Proposition 1 on the Ballots page so that it more accurately reflected the proposition.  Three days later I noticed that my page has been reviewed by ToastyMallows who cleaned up some of the formatting.  With no trouble my page has passed review.  With all the build up, I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to create a Wikipedia page that passed muster.  I don’t know if I had an easier time because I created my own page or if it was the completely lack of information on Wikipedia on the topic, but I’m happy I didn’t run into any of the problems people have before.


Boise Wiki

Having chosen a topic that was appropriate for both Wikipedia and the Boise Wiki, I wanted to make sure my original formatting would work for both locations.  Looking over the Boise Wiki I found a lack of information on Boise LGBT rights and therefore a perfect location for my article.  There didn’t seem to be a uniform format for the site so I kept the original from Wikipedia.  I currently don’t have access to digitized photographs to add to the article, but I will eventually add a number of No On One photographs of the events leading up to Election Day for Proposition 1.  The only sources available for the event, unfortunately, are the newspaper articles from Special Collections.  I searched online for sources beyond newspaper but found nothing.  With the lack of diverse articles beyond Idaho newspapers, I had to be aware of the bias presented by the articles as well as the bias of the person who preserved specific articles over others.  Purposefully keeping my descriptions as unbiased as possible, I hoped to present a consensus of information on the topic.


For future authors

Posting on the Internet for others to criticize is unnerving.  Those online purposefully spending their time looking for articles and opinions to critic are often unfriendly.  This assignment, however, brought me out of my comfort zone and forced me to put myself out there for criticism.  The lack of negative reaction, or any reaction for that matter, forced me to realize that posting online is not as difficult as it is described.  My advice for future possible posters is to simply follow the rules.  Wikipedia posts their rules and regulations for posting everywhere through their help topics.  While figuring out the language of Wikipedia is not easy, a small amount of ‘googling’ for helpful videos or walkthroughs will eventually get you posting on Wikipedia.  Having posted an article with reliable sources and information, I am reconsidering a historian’s role in online encyclopedias.  The Boise wiki, especially, deserves the influence of locals with good information.  Local wikis are helpful in a number of different venues and deserve the chance to provide for those living in or visiting the city.  Online encyclopedias and local wikis consist of consensus articles.  I would suggest not using them as sources but I truly believe they provide an appropriate starting point.  Locals, not just historians, should work to create as comprehensive of a wiki as possible.  Providing local insight on food, activities, and history can only serve to promote the area for everyone involved.





[1] The response, “Can you find enough reliable source texts to use to help you write a reasonable-length article on the legislation, covering its full evolution, debate, and effect? If so, go for it. If not, don’t. It’s that simple. All notability means is “is there enough source texts to write a decently complete and indepth article?” –Jayron32 00:01, 15 March 2013 (UTC)”

Wiki’s Wiki’s Everywhere

I did not want to do this assignment.  I don’t post to websites often anymore because, frankly, I find that the people who exist on them tend to be ignorant and mean.  Why subject myself to that kind of violence when I don’t have to.  I grudgingly began to search for a topic that would be interesting to me, historical, and not controversial.  For the Wikipedia article I chose to expand the plot of one of my favorite childhood books, Caddie Woodlawn.  This book was based on a real family who lived in a small frontier town in Wisconsin in the 1860s.  It was written by Carol Ryrie Brink, whose grandmother and great aunt told her the stories that would become Caddie Woodlawn.  One of the reasons that I chose this particular Wiki entry is because of the discussion we had in class a couple of weeks ago.  Women are underrepresented on Wikipedia.  The fact that Halo has a story overview that is several paragraphs long while this book had a plot description three sentences long was concerning to me.  Caddie was a great role model.  Strong, stubborn, independent, and fierce, she faced all situations with calm and a determination to survive.   Editing the existing page was time consuming and complicated.  One thing I learned is that Wikipedia does not make editing easy.  Once I did post, it was fun to check it several times a day to see if it was still up.  It was, and is.  I never had a problem with my post being rejected.  I wonder how much of that had to do with the subject I chose.  I am sure if I had attempted to edit the Halo page I would have met with much more resistance.  I will probably never create another Wikipedia article, but this was not as bad as I thought it was going to be.  I like Wikipedia and I am very glad that it exists, but I am not a fan of creating articles for it.

The Boise Wiki was a lot easier to use.  Wikipedia’s editing page was complicated and not at all user friendly, especially when compared to how smoothly the Boise Wiki edit page is.  The directions were very clear on what needed to be done and how it should be done.  For example, I did not know why linking was a big deal until it was explained in the directions.  It was also very easy to understand how to create a proper link.  I enjoyed the Boise Wiki assignment quite a bit and love the fact that Boise’s history is being examined, one subject at a time, by the people who love Boise and it’s past.  This is truly a community driven resource.

For the Boise Wiki I chose to create an article about Billy Fong.  Billy was the last member of Boise’s Chinatown to reside in the old Chinese district.  He was 84 years old when his home was purchased by the Boise Redevelopment Agency and slated for destruction.  Billy had lived in the Hop Sing Tong building for over thirty years, but that was not important to the BRA.  Nor was the historic significance of the Eastman Building, Chinatown, or many of the other old buildings in downtown Boise.  Billy and the old buildings in the area stood in the way of perceived progress.  Despite his eviction, Billy remained in his second floor apartment, refusing to move for several months.  His treatment at the hand of the BRA became a symbol of everything that was wrong with the redevelopment plans for Boise in the 1960s and 1970s.  It was partly due to Billy and the destruction of the Chinese district that several other buildings and districts were saved.  The Egyptian Theater was also supposed to be purchased and torn down but it was rescued, due in part to the efforts of those who were determined not to let another piece of Boise’s past disappear.  Billy was tough to research because there is not a lot known about his early life.  I’m sure that something could be found if I had longer than three weeks, but who he was prior to his move to Boise is unclear.  What happened when he finally surrendered and left his apartment is also unclear.  What is known is that he lived in the same apartment in Boise for thirty years.  He was a member of the Hop Sing Tong and worked for them in many administrative roles.  He was a cook at the Golden Wok and he fought the Boise Redevelopment Agency and lost.  He is also responsible for the Boise curse.  Legend says that as he left his apartment he cursed the ground, a curse that caused havoc at the site and spread to help create the Boise Hole.

Wikipedia & the Boise Wiki

This was an interesting assignment.  Although I have browsed through Wikis looking for interesting topics, new sources or just random trivia, I have never actually attempted to edit a Wiki before.  I have had it clearly drilled into me by numerous professors that Wikipedia is the antithesis of a credible source.  I assumed that the entry for the Boise Wiki would be the easier of the two as there would be less likelihood that someone would come on to that site to either edit or reject my information.  In an effort to streamline the process for each of the entries, I decided to draw upon topics that I already had a working knowledge of and that were lacking in an informative online presence.  For the Boise Wiki, I chose to focus on the artesian and geothermal history of the Boise Valley.  For Wikipedia, I chose to focus on the Minidoka War Relocation Center.


For the Wikipedia section of this assignment, I took some time to try and figure out what topic I might like to expand upon, visiting more Wikipedia pages then I care to count.  I tried to come up with a topic that already had several credible secondary sources online that I could link to.  The Wikipedia page for the Minidoka War Relocation Center had some basic information regarding the location of the internment camp, the numbers of internees who were housed there and the process of making it a National Historic Site.  There was a gap in the information regarding both the actual make-up of the camp as well as the efforts of internees during the war.  I felt that these two areas should definitely be highlighted and then went about trying to determine what information I felt was the most important to highlight.  In the research that I have done on Minidoka and other WWII Japanese-American internment camps I have noticed that there is rarely a good understanding of how massive the facilities were.  The lack of that information alone seriously impacted the utility of the Wikipedia article to provide a baseline understanding of internment.

In an attempt to keep my edits as unobjectionable as possible, I wrote basic descriptions that could be substantiated by documents from the National Park Service.  I also decided to keep my edits relatively short and to the point so that they would be more readily accepted by the Wikipedia editors.

The actual process of editing the Minidoka entry on Wikipedia was relatively easy.  I typed up my entry offline in a plain text editor, including the appropriate links to cite the sources, and then copy and pasted it in the Wikipedia edit box.  Once I completed editing, I submitted the edits and anxiously waited to see if my edits would be able to survive.  I checked several times the first day, fully expecting my contributions to quickly disappear given both the class discussions and the readings on Wikipedia.  I have continued to check at least once a day since I posted and, so far, so good – the edits have not been challenged or changed.

Boise Wiki

The problems I had with the Boise Wiki were not related to technology by any means.  The topic I selected to write about for the Boise Wiki, artesian and geothermal water, was one I researched extensively for another class.  It was a difficult topic to research as there is very little available on the subject and I had to spend quite a deal of time going through old rolls of microfilm and archival materials for the project.  As a result, I was somewhat reticent to put all of the information I had gathered for that paper onto the Wiki.  I would hate to have someone take my hard work and pass it off as their own.  This also concerned me, as the Boise Wiki requires we release our claim to our work.  Additionally, I doubt that the thirty pages that made up my final project would be appropriate for a Wiki designed to provide a brief overview of a topic.

After editing or essentially re-writing my information, the actual process of posting to the Boise Wiki was relatively simple. I doubt that my entry will inspire any edits or changes among visitors.


My advice to others looking to post on a Wiki would be to plan ahead and ensure that you have your sources and information well documented, particularly for Wikipedia.  Also, be prepared with some sort of argument as to why your changes should be permitted.  Having read the assignment regarding Wikipedia and hearing about the previous class that attempted to edit Wikipedia, I was prepared to argue in favor of my changes but, luckily, I have not yet had to.  I also assumed that preparing an argument in advance would prevent me from having an emotional reaction to either a rejection or a substantial edit of my entries.


Boise Wiki:


Reflection on the Wiki Assignment

I chose to write my wiki article on the Boise sesquicentennial happening this year. The sesquicentennial is something that I have been involved with while working for the City of Boise’s Department of Arts & History, and I feel like the commemoration is an important piece of public history at work. The sesquicentennial, or Boise 150, commemoration has made substantial efforts to engage and involve the community through various and creative ways; including a special Boise 150 storefront, grant programs, the Sesqui-Speaks series, and special exhibitions. The Department of Arts & History, through the sesquicentennial is also creating legacy pieces such as the Share Your Story Program, a commemorative book, and the commemorative CD. I have learned quite a bit about how public history can function while working on the sesquicentennial commemoration. I believe that when we look back at the sesquicentennial, Boiseans will consider it an important milestone for the city, especially considering the huge amounts of growth the city is currently experiencing. I thought it was important to include this information on the Boise Wiki, since it is Boise specific. However, as far as Wikipedia, I don’t think the editors would agree that Boise’s sesquicentennial is an important thing to acknowledge. Therefore, on the Wikipedia page I only made a small edit.

This assignment was not entirely enjoyable for me. In comparing the two sites, (the Boise Wiki and Wikipedia) the Boise Wiki was very simple and straightforward. Following the prompts to edit or create a page is easily understood, and I feel that almost anyone with basic computer knowledge could contribute successfully to the Boise Wiki. The Boise Wiki, I feel is also a good way to build community involvement and knowledge. The Boise Wiki does not purport itself to be the expert on all things the way Wikipedia does, which makes it a non-threatening venue to contribute to. I like the fact that the Boise Wiki is community based with community contributors lends to that fact that is less intimidating to edit than Wikipedia. Community users may also feel they have more valuable information to contribute on a local wiki as opposed to the world-wide Wikipedia.

Wikipedia on the other hand is intimidating to edit, and not as simple as contributing to the Boise Wiki. On Wikipedia, even searching for help can be intimidating and onerous. In fact, all of the help links I tried proved entirely unhelpful and lent to even more confusion on my part. It is understandable that only a handful of people would want to contribute to Wikipedia, and that those people that do contribute have a fairly advanced understanding of technology and code. On top of the anxiety of simply figuring out how to edit, there is no guarantee that your edits will stay up on the page; and you may have to answer to the dreaded Wikipedia editors. As we learned from the articles we read in class, the editors can be condescending, vague, and inflexible.

After this experience and after reading about Wikipedia and discussing it in class my opinion of the online encyclopedia has soured. “Truth” on Wikipedia, is defined by Wikipedia editors through a series of rigid and non-flexible criteria. I feel that scholars shouldn’t waste time trying to contribute to Wikipedia or arguing with Wikipedia’s editors. It is my hope that Wikipedia, because of its practices, will not sustain itself and will be replaced by a more concise, peer-reviewed, and academic online encyclopedia. Perhaps, an online encyclopedia could be created that compiles different “truths” and ideas so readers can make up their own minds about a topic instead of relying on Wikipedia editors.

This assignment has confirmed many things for me, including the need for public historians to focus their energy outside of Wikipedia, and outside of traditional ways of disseminating knowledge. Many people use Wikipedia as a quick reference, and they accept the information as valid. Public historians should seek to spark conversations and provide opportunities for people to ask more questions, not just look up little bits of information. With scholars abandoning sites like Wikipedia, I hope that people will begin to see the online encyclopedia as an obsolete and archaic way to view the world. Instead, I hope to see a shift towards asking questions, not only to find answers, but to create dialogue, understanding, and a continued interest in learning about the world.

Wiki Reflection

When I began to write my articles on both the Boise Wiki and Wikipedia, I took very different steps in selecting topics. On the Boise Wiki, there is so much to write on, to create from scratch. I decided I was going to write on an individual who had provided something to the community. Looking online and through the newspapers, I came across Gene Harris; an individual who created an impact in both the educational and musical scenes in Boise. From that point I noticed no article on the Wiki existed for this famous jazz musician; to be fair Gene was mentioned as having played in the Idanha. I had free reign over the information I would get to put into an article for this man. It made me both excited and nervous. On one hand I get the opportunity to create my own article, on the other I was completely unsure of how it would be accepted in the Wiki community. After having both written the article and posted it to the Wiki, I awaited any potential issues to arise that would bring my article down. None came. At this point I was relieved; my article had managed to make a successful contribution to the Boise Wiki. This represented my first wiki article ever.

Having gained confidence from a successful contribution to the Boise Wiki, I moved onto the daunting task of attempting to make a productive input toward a topic on Wikipedia. Unlike the Boise Wiki were I had chosen a famous individual, in order to choose a topic on Wikipedia a new strategy formed within my mind. I looked at the talk pages on each topic. From that point, I gained an understanding of the scale system used by Wikipedia that gauges the importance of each topic. I did not want to choose a topic that was of high importance, but at the same time I did not want to choose a topic of no importance, with this in mind I came to the conclusion that I would write on a small town I had went to high school in. Glenrock, Wyoming, it had a page with all the basic information within it. It told the current population, the climate and other information like that, but it lacked any true sense of the history of the town. More importantly it lacked the historical sites. Having recently read articles for class on Wikipedia, I made sure my sources were only secondary or local government based. I figured my chances were good to make a successful contribution to Wikipedia. I was right. In total, I added roughly between 300 and 400 words of text to the Glenrock page. After I submitted my edit of the page, I waited for the execution of my contribution. After days of waiting, it never came. I was elated. Not only had I successfully made a contribution to the Boise Wiki, but I had now made an effective contribution to Wikipedia. With this experience came new wisdom.

Having not only submitted both my contributions, but have had them both stay up has made me feel as though they were considered fairly. The process was so incredibly simple, the only technological hurdle I faced was figuring out how to put links and sources into my Wikipedia contribution. To figure that out, I merely looked at how others had done it before me. I submitted the changes I wanted to do on Wikipedia through the talk page before I made them and followed the Wikipedian rules. Taking those steps made contributing to Wikipedia incredibly easy. The advice I would offer to future editors of both the Boise Wiki and Wikipedia is research your topic, follow the rules on the wiki, and communicate with the wiki community. I think if most people follow that simple advice, they will probably find success.

Finally, the last thing I need to address is how I feel about wiki’s now that I have contributed to them. Before I provided any sort of contribution, I always viewed a wiki as source to either get a basic idea on something or gather sources from. Now that I have written for two different wiki’s, I still pretty much feel the same way. It is a great feeling to contribute some knowledge to a large online encyclopedia, but both wikis felt different when I went to contribute to them. Wikipedia, with how large it is I felt like my contribution was small, and it was. The Boise Wiki on the other hand felt more significant to contribute to than Wikipedia did. Being so much smaller, creating a whole page felt like a real contribution; not like on Wikipedia where I just added a relatively small body of text to. I am glad I had this assignment. Without, I seriously doubt I would have added to either online encyclopedia.


Morrison-Knudsen Corp. on Wikipedia

Morrison-Knudsen Corp. on Boise Wiki

I significantly edited two articles on Wikipedia and added a page on for this class assignment. On Wikipedia, the Morrison-Knudsen (M-K) Company history was a topic under Washington Group International (WGI). I thought this was unacceptable, considering I had a much higher opinion of M-K history compared to WGI – or to use Wikipedia speak: MK was more notable than WGI. Then again, I’m biased. Nevertheless, M-K had four or five paragraphs of content on the WGI page. It seemed to me the M-K content could stand alone on a new page. I thought this might make some waves in the Wiki-editor community, but alas it did not. I moved the five paragraphs, added content, and did not have a single thing altered by the administrators. Overall, I’m pleasantly surprised about this whole experience. I found it much easier to edit Wikipedia than I expected and creating a page on was also a great experience that I hope to continue.

My editorial choices were much different between Wikipedia and Boise Wiki. On the Boise Wiki I discussed the significance of M-K to Boise. I included links to various places in Boise named after the Morrisons, or M-K, and I wrote an extensive history of Morrison’s early life. I thought these two topics would interest local readers. Place names are probably the first things people will recognize about Morrison-Knudsen, so it was an obvious starting place for this article. In the future, I may add more about the operations of the company, including a more significant list of projects they built and perhaps more about some of the other notable employees of M-K. All of these topics are probably not significant enough for the Wikipedia administrators. For that article I focused on national topics.

For Wikipedia I used the International Directory of Company Histories (IDCH) to find the most neutral information about M-K that I could find. I noticed almost every reference in Wikipedia on the M-K and WGI articles were to websites. I only had access to the paper copy of the IDCH, so I thought this might be an issue when I created citations for my additions to the article. So far, my additions have not been taken down. I hope the public and the Wikipedia editors approve of the static references since they do refer to a neutral and secondary source.

After I finished writing both articles, I took a moment to review the articles on the Boise Wiki and Wikipedia. The two articles are very different and I think that is important. The Boise Wiki article is more personal, colorful, and relative to Boise. The Wikipedia article is sterile, generic, and not relative to any single group. This difference highlights the strengths of both mediums of communication. The Boise Wiki can inform the public while keeping the enthusiasm and passion of the writers, while Wikipedia can hypothetically portray neutral information that is theoretically verifiable through sources anybody can easily check. Of course we know this is not always the case.

Although I’m sure I’ll continue to write for the Boise Wiki, I don’t know if I will ever contribute to Wikipedia again. The Boise Wiki can be a great resource if it catches on – I hope it follows the Davis Wiki example and has significant local input. Wikipedia on the other hand is not suited for historians to rely upon to do history. We are too vested in the topics we want to write about. By the very nature of scholarly historical research, we wish to change, challenge or verify the generally accepted historical narrative. To do so, requires hours, days, or months, of digging in resources that the general public has often never seen. This research is then published to a peer-reviewed article or book that again, the public will probably never see. Often, this is the end of a historian’s work – an article in a scholarly journal so expensive only an elite group of fellow scholars will ever have a chance to read. That is not Wikipedia – it maybe the opposite of Wikipedia. A Wikipedia editor may spend an hour using Google News or a directory to find basic information about a topic, edit a page and then move on.

While I sense there is some issues with access to the traditional historian’s method of doing history, that is archival research to publish in an academic journal, I do not think resorting to Wikipedia is a solution to this problem. Wikipedia is not an avenue for professional historians, mostly because Wikipedia’s policies virtually block the type of research historians do. Writing for Wikipedia was like having my hands tied behind my back. I could not include all the great facts of M-K history I had because I found them in an archive. It simply goes against policy and therefore does not suit the work I do.

Wikipedia/Boise Wiki Reflection

I was a little unsure at first how to go about editing, or writing a new article for the Boise Wiki and Wikipedia. Having never done it before, I observed other posts first before contributing to see how the articles were generally written. For the Boise Wiki I wrote an article on stagecoach robber Talton B. Scott. For Wikipedia, I contributed to the article on La Hire, one of the French military leaders during the Hundred Years War, and one of Joan of Arc’s men-at-arms. I decided to do the one on La Hire because the portion on his military career had about three sentences, and he achieved much more than that so I wrote about the other battles and campaigns he was involved in.


The first thing I noticed about the Boise Wiki was the ease at which one could edit and figure out how to edit an article. It was not difficult at all to figure out. The articles varied in construction style. I noticed some used actual footnotes with a number, others were just sources listed  at the bottom of the page.  The articles I observed tended to be shorter in length than ones I found on Wikipedia. Creating a new article was very simple on there, and I got the feeling that it would be easier to deal with any problems that arose from the article. Overall, it was a good experience and I felt comfortable creating an article for the Boise Wiki.


Wikipedia made me a little more cautious because of the stories I’ve heard from the readings in class, to others who have told me they can be difficult to deal with. I wrote that article thinking it would get removed within a few days. However, so far the article and the changes I’ve made are still up, and I did not have any problems with the Wikipedia staff. The difference between Wikipedia editing and Boise Wiki editing was that Wikipedia’s editor was a lot more confusing. I had to look in the help section of Wikipedia to find how to insert sources. Apparently they use a code to insert the footnote with the sentence, so learning how to write all that and being able to see where the sources were in the article became confusing. It seemed the editing catered to computer savvy individuals, or those with computer code knowledge which makes it more difficult. Editing that article I just made it very descriptive, not analytical, which Wikipedia wants. I included sources from a variety of scholars and once I got the hang of the editing style, it became easy. I enjoyed the Wikipedia experience because I contributed to an article which was lacking in information.

When Wikipedia articles are constructed properly, using sources and accurate facts, I don’t see the problem with it. The article I edited had information that did not have sources attached to it, but the information was still correct. Analysis is not needed to make Wikipedia better, it is designed as a general encyclopedia for the public, and when I see articles with factual information, I think it is a success. While they may not include the most radical and sudden changes to the field of history, they do mention them if a group agrees.

After I completed the article on Wikipedia I kept checking to make sure my edits were still there, and they were. Besides the confusing nature of the editing, I had a hard time seeing how women felt editing Wikipedia excluded them. While it may not be a top priority of spending time, it did not seem to indicate women could not edit. I’d say the biggest turn off was the editing style, which was very confusing at first. Overall I found the process enjoyable and beneficial, almost as if I gave something back to the public. I think contributing to Wikipedia, when they have time, is a good activity for historians to get involved in because it is another form of bringing history to the public. It also brings history in ways the museum never could. The sheer amount of information located on Wikipedia could never be replicated in a museum. Wikipedia, while it is easy to read, does not “dumb it down” for the public like museums do, which in some ways makes Wikipedia (when properly cited and accurate) a more informative outlet for the public.





Wikipedia Reflection

I have always questioned the purpose and usefulness of online, community-edited encyclopedias. Professors have constantly reminded me to question the reliability of such sources. Aware of these initial prejudices, I realized that this assignment would be a good way to gain a new perspective about the role that Wikis play within academia; however, more importantly I also hoped to gain new knowledge about the inner workings of Wikis and the process through which Wikis are created.

Before beginning this assignment I did a quick search on Wikipedia and the BoiseWiki and quickly realized that although both sites are “Wikis” they are completely different in style and subject matter. Realizing this, I then assumed that the process for submitting articles to these sites would be quite different as well. I decided to tackle the assignment separately, focusing first on my contribution to the BoiseWiki. I tried to make an effort to choose a topic that had both historic significance and relevance to my research agenda. I eventually decided to write on the Cecil Andrus Center for Public Policy. After doing my research on the Andrus Center, but before I started writing my article, I went through and reread some of the articles already posted on the BoiseWiki. I wanted my post to fit in with the other articles on the site so I paid special attention to the style, tone, and syntax of the other articles. The more I read, however, the less impressed I became with the overall quality of the articles. At that point, I decided that I should stick with a fairly academic approach in writing my article so that it would sound more authoritative. It was also my hope that by choosing such a style my article would aid in increasing the caliber of the BoiseWiki in a broader sense.

Once I had completed my article I was somewhat apprehensive about posting it to the BoiseWiki. Having never contributed to such a site, I was unaware of the process. I decided to use footnote citations and list my references at the bottom of the article, but I was not sure if these citations would transfer into the post. I was happily surprised to see that not only did the footmarks stay in place, but that the hyperlinks I created also worked. The process for submitting an article to the BoiseWiki was streamlined and very user-friendly. Having realized the simplicity associated with submitting, I would be much more likely to contribute another article to this site in the future.

After my positive experience researching, writing, and posting an article to the BoiseWiki, I began familiarizing myself with Wikipedia. I quickly learned that this part of the assignment was going to be much less enjoyable. I did not have trouble finding a topic, or doing the research, but I noticed right away that the interface of the Wikipedia and the jargon used on the site was very confusing.  Setting aside my apprehensions about the submission process I focused my attention on writing the article. I made a conscious decision to write in the same style I had used for the BoiseWiki. Since the statistics show that women make up less than ten percent of Wikipedia contributors, I decided to repeat my stylistic choices so that as I build my repertoire of Wiki articles, my voice as a Wiki-contributor will remain constant and noticeable. It is my hope that if I decide to continue to contribute to such sites that my contributions will be consistent and uniform.

After finishing my article for Wikipedia on The Center of the American West, I created the necessary account in order to post. I read the Wikipedia FAQ page regarding their suggestions about the notability of the subjects and the restrictions on sources, and although I had read these pages prior to writing my article, I found that I was questioning what I had written. Did my article fit within these parameters and did it meet the requirements? I struggled here but ultimately decided that yes, I had followed the Wikipedia guidelines, but it did make me wonder if the confusing and jargon filled “How To” pages are detrimental to Wikipedia’s attempt to increase the contributions from females. At least, that is the affect that these pages had on me. I do not think that I will be making any more contributions to Wikipedia, and I am sure that other women have reacted to the submission process in a similar fashion.

In an attempt to ensure that my page would be approved by the Wikipedia conglomerate, I took the effort to link my page to pre-existing Wikipedia pages, and I formatted my footnotes and reference list. I then saved my page. I was rather shocked at what appeared on my screen after I submitted my article, however. I was told that it was under review and that there were 2225 articles ahead of mine! I had assumed that the creation of a new page, much like edits to existing pages would appear instantly. (Maybe the digital age has spoiled me and I need to readjust my expectations!) I thought that the page would be live and if any editors were dissatisfied with my work, they would then make changes or remove my page. The excitement of contributing to an online encyclopedia all but disappeared when I realized I would have to wait a few weeks to learn if my hard work would be considered worthy of a Wikipedia page.

The experience of writing Wiki articles made me reexamine the usefulness of Wikis in a general sense. Again, knowing that they are not academically acceptable sources, I have come to appreciate the immense and instantly-accessible amount of information that Wikis provide. And after subjecting myself to the complex and convoluted submission process I will no longer take for granted the fact that Wikipedia has a page for almost anything. I now understand the effort and time involved in creating such an online encyclopedia.

Boise Wiki quirks

I just wanted to point out a couple of things that have made me laugh as I’ve watched you all develop the Boise Wiki.

1. The first three people profiled on the wiki are an assassinated governor (or, rather, his statue), Shawn the Baptist, and Todd Shallat.  What a crew!

2. The most active page right now is about Canada Geese.  (Bob Barker makes a cameo appearance.)

That is all.  Keep up the good work!