Despite frequently using Wikipedia, this was my first time signing on as an editor.
That process in itself was very straightforward – the option to remain anonymous reassuring to many who would like to contribute, but less publicly.
As a News Editor, I was comfortable with either option, but choose not to include me email because I don’t have any plans to lend a future hand to Wikipedia – I edit enough in work as it is!
The landing page was quite text heavy – which might be intimidating to some – but the editing process was very user-friendly.
The option to edit sample text – in my case the redevelopment of the Centrale (sic) Station in Bologna – before working on my chosen subject removed a lot of the early awkwardness. The use of arrows and bubble text as you stepped through the process make it very straightforward.
The sample selected was a template in how to create a Wikipedia page, by highlighting what not to, flagging the importance of headings, tone, the need for content that is not only factually and grammatically correct, but that is properly structured, short and sharp, interesting, engaging and that makes overall sense. It’s not about your opinion – just the facts.
For that very reason, I choose to edit the page of the former Munster and Ireland star Ronan O’Gara, firstly because I was comfortable with the subject, and secondly to gauge my overall impression of the content. Did it tell me all I needed to know? Was it a fair, balanced and accurate summary? Did it tell me anything new?
Original text read:
O’Gara was born in San Diego, California, where his father Fergal, was working as a post-doctoral fellow in Microbiology. His father also play wing for the UCG club in Connacht. His family moved back to Ireland while he was still young. O’Gara was educated at Presentation Brothers College, and won a Junior Cup medal in 1992 and a Senior Cup medal in 1995. He attended University College Cork an All-Ireland Under-20 medal in 1996. He graduated with a B.A. and a master’s degree in Business Economics in 1999.
I made only a few additions to the ‘Early Life’ section, to try to give a better picture of his early days growing up in Cork. The original entry said O’Gara was educated in Presentation Brothers College, whereas he only attended Pres in sixth class – having spent the vast majority of his time in primary school in Scoil Spioraid Naomh, and also a year in Bishopstown Community School – both very well know GAA strongholds with no rugby background. Adding the relevant references was again pretty painless.
I also included details of his family homes, both on the southside of Cork city, details that allude to his “middle class” upbringing.
The use of pictures on the page was very limited – which again raises the issue of permission and copyright. But that is something that could be easily overcome if the design template allowed for a picture caption, which could be used to properly credit sources.
Finally I included the fact that it was in Pres that O’Gara first came into contact with the former Munster and Ireland coach, Declan Kidney, who was the head of rugby at the school. Kidney was a huge influence on O’Gara’s early career. (see link to edited text) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronan_O%27Gara
And that for me highlights the limitations of Wikipedia and what I dislike about it. For obvious reasons, it can never give the complete picture, but surely it can be more that what amounts to just a detailed CV.
O’Gara is and was a very divisive figure, one of the best number 10s ever to play the game of rugby – as chosen by his peers. He fought the doubters throughout his whole career – he himself was his biggest one.
That’s what mage him the genius that he was – that constant need to prove to himself and others that he could be the best. That self-doubt, that constant quest for perfection, still makes him an intriguing analyst.
But you get no sense of that from his Wikipedia page. Of course the ingredients that make a great player are very subjective, but given the volume of content that O’Gara himself has provided, it’s possible to include that information, and still maintain the objectivity required.
Given that I work in a very finite environment – ever story has a beginning and an end – I like the concept of the ‘living’ story in Wikipedia – it is not yet complete.
Which is why I suggest, relevant pages should carry the footnote ‘More to Follow’.