Wikis: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Before this assignment, I had no idea how many Wikis existed online.  I had heard of Wikipedia, but that was about it.  As both a student and an educator, I was not fond of Wikipedia.  Fearful of misrepresentations, falsehoods, and lack of depth, I rarely used Wikipedia when researching topics.  I constantly reminded my students to utilize reputable sources when conducting research.  Inevitably, one of my students would ask about Wikipedia; my answer was always something along the lines of “You can’t trust the information on Wikipedia, because anyone can edit Wikipedia pages,” or “use the links on the bottom of the page to do your own research.”  After going through the process of creating a Wikipedia page, I have gained a sense of respect for this online encyclopedia.  I will still tell my students to take Wikipedia with a grain of salt, as all researchers should approach any source; but, I will stop haranguing the use of Wikipedia as a source.

I spent a few hours clicking through Wikipedia pages, reading the “talk” portions, and seriously wondering if I would ever find a topic worth editing.  Dr. Madsen-Brooks had sufficiently scared me from creating a new Wikipedia page, so I began searching for a “stub” article.  I eventually stumbled across the Wikipedia “page” on the Nevada caucuses.  I say “page” because this article was the epitome of a Wikipedia “stub.”  The entire article read “The Nevada caucuses are held every four years to determine whom Nevada’s delegates will support in choosing Republican and Democratic presidential candidates.  Since 2008, the Nevada caucuses have been scheduled early in the nomination process.”  As is, this article was, in all reality, completely useless.  I set out to remedy this and began extensively researching the Nevada caucuses.  The updated version, a complete article, can be viewed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nevada_caucuses.

In modeled my Nevada caucuses Wikipedia article on the Iowa caucuses page in order to legitimize the article.  I actually posted this information onto the “talk” page in hopes of deterring Wikipedia editors from deleting my article entirely.  As for style and content, I strived to copy the Iowa caucuses page as closely as possible.  The two pages now have similar subsections and look relatively the same.  Creating a Wikipedia article is much harder than it seems.  I thought I would be able copy and paste my article from Microsoft Word and be done within a matter of a few clicks.  I was sadly mistaken.  After much confusion, I ended up opening the Iowa caucuses “edit” page next the Nevada caucuses “edit” page and trying to mirror the symbols as best I could.  Once I began writing in “Wikipedia text language,” I grasped certain things rather quickly; for example, “[[]]” internally links words to other Wikipedia pages.  Creating references and citations, on the other, was much more difficult.  After about two and a half hours of adding “Wikipedia text language” to my article, I was ready to publish.  The links worked and the article looked professional.  I keep checking the article and “talk” page for the Nevada caucuses; so far, no one has edited or deleted the article.

Based off of this experience, Dr. Madsen-Brooks’ explanations of Wikipedia culture, and reading numerous “talk” pages, I now realize that Wikipedia is a fairly reputable source.  Why anyone in their right mind would try and change Wikipedia pages just to add lies and misconceptions is beyond me.  I also realize that many individuals, mostly young, white, males that have nothing better to do, constantly police Wikipedia to fix postings that fail to express general consensus regarding specific issues.  This experience has given me a newfound faith in the information that exists on Wikipedia.  I will no longer harangue my students and colleagues for using Wikipedia.

I had much less apprehension about posting to the Boise Wiki.  I wrote my article on the Boise Architecture Project, a local, student-based project I recently discovered.  Seeing as the Boise Wiki is a local Wiki meant to benefit the greater community, I strived to write accessibly.  Rather than posting a huge chunk of information, I decided to break the information up into readable sections that would entice Boise Wiki users to read the majority of the post.  My Boise Architecture Project article can be found at https://boise.localwiki.org/Boise_Architecture_Project.  At first, I found the Boise Wiki very user friendly.  Initially, I copied my article from Microsoft Word and simply pasted it into the Boise Wiki; this worked perfectly fine.  After browsing through other entries on the Boise Wiki, I realized that most of the entries contained pictures, which prompted me to search for Creative Commons pictures that would tie in with my article.  I found three pictures that I felt complemented the information I posted about the Boise Architecture Project, and proceeded to try and paste them into the Boise Wiki.  This process was extremely frustrating, because there is no usable formatting button.  I tried to format the pictures for about thirty minutes before giving up and simply placing the photos in between paragraphs.  Besides this frustration, the Boise Wiki was fairly easy to use.  My only advice for future Boise Wiki and Wikipedia editors would be to begin as soon as possible because, inevitably, there will be issues you need to conquer.

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