Reflection on Wiki Postings

My Wiki contributions may be found at:
Boise Wikipedia page under Culture, the section about Boise City Department of Arts and History
and
Boise Wiki, Garden City page, as well as some edits on the Chinden Blvd. page

For the Wiki Project I wrote on two different subjects, driven in part by content already available and in part based on information that I had available at the time. Overall the process was rather exacerbating, for several reasons. What I had initially planned on writing, and had already written for the most part, was not applicable to both wikis. Too, the great disparity between the two wikis editorial styles, ease of access, tools for editing, forms for finishing and editability would have made even the same article vastly different between the two. Finally, there were the issues unique to each wiki that were significant enough to make it such that even if the article or addition were written the same, it would have to be altered significantly enough to adapt to each. This last issue, fortunately could actually aid in avoiding plagiarism. For these reasons, the project was time consuming and frustrating, I will discuss each a little more in depth.

Initially, I had planned on writing about the Boise Department of Arts and History (BDA&H), creating a page on each wiki. I actually performed some research, and wrote the greater part of the article that I planned on submitting, before I dug too deep on either wiki. In retrospect, I would reverse this order, searching each wiki thoroughly to see if it exists. What I found was that the page for BDA&H actually existed at the Boise Wiki, and some of the content was conspicuously close to what I had written. Because of this, it was also not editable enough to make it a valid edit for the project. I then went to Wikipedia, where I assumed I would be able to create a new page for the department. After performing a search for it on Wikipedia, I did a quick find on the text of the Boise page to see if it was mentioned there. It was not. Upon this discovery, I planned on just copying my text onto a new page template, inserting the appropriate markups for references, and calling it good. What I found was more frustrating.

Wikipedia does not allow new pages for businesses or organizations unless they are considered “significant.” By Wikipedia standards, the department is not a significant organization. I turned to plan B which was to use what I had written as an addition to the Boise Wikipedia page. Most of what I had written, while unique, was not well adapted thematically to the Boise page, could be adjusted to fit under the “Culture” heading. My original article had bullet points, headings, and some content that concerned itself with things that had already been mentioned in the Wikipedia article, due to this I had to alter the structure and flow of my original work. I removed the bullet points, opting for a comma delimited list that fit better within the flow of the existing work. Before editing the page, I thoroughly read through the talk page to determine if there had been any discussion concerning my topic and there had not. Strangely, there has been little discussion on the subject of the Boise Wikipedia page in over two years. After reading the talk, I began the editing process.

I consider myself relatively tech savvy, when I want to be, and I am not a beginner in working with internet applications, however, Wikipedia is an entirely different monster with entirely different markup and usage. This was lesson number one as I approached the editing portion of the assignment. I worked quickly through the tutorials, but it was still a considerable amount of effort toward simply adding 300 words to an article.  Once I did begin editing, I found it useful, though somewhat time consuming, to use more skilled authors tags to encode pop outs for references. In the end, I spent the bulk of this assignment attempting to understand Wikipedia better from the backend. For this reason it was a frustrating assignment. If Wikipedia is not a method to further my career as a historian, or even really as a public historian, I feel as though it was time wasted. If it were universal code and markup that I could apply to more internet applications, it may have had some merit, but in the end it felt frustrating and not like time well spent. And with the Boise Wikipedia page so neglected of late, there was no notice or discussion of my changes.

Wikipedia finished, I turned my attention toward the Boise Wiki. I chose to write a small page on Garden City and its history, as it is relatively new and Boise and Garden City were one and the same until 1949. On the Boise Wiki what I found was less moderation, less “fancy coding”, which in turn led to less fancy pages. On the Boise Wiki I was able to copy and paste my work without a lot of effort and even hyperlinks created in MSWord copied without a problem. The experience was far more efficient, or at least less cumbersome.

Having trudged through the wiki authoring experience, I would summarize by saying that while there is a place for this consensus-based interaction and an attempt at establishing facts, I also believe that if it will not advance my career, I will likely spend little time on it. It appears to be a vault of trivialities that may be helpful for filling out a crossword, but for serious and penetrating research and rogation, it is impractical. Wikipedia, while it looks nice, the amount of knowledge that one would have to keep to just write a simple article and format it neatly, seems to interfere with the message that the article is conveying. Because of this, I wonder who it is that has time to worry about all the technicalities, and whether they have substantive knowledge about the subject on which they are writing.

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