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.