I had often wondered about writing Wikipedia articles, less the technical side of things (I assumed there would be a simple editing platform) but more regarding their policies. Obviously you can’t have a personal or commercial interest in the topic you’re writing about for example, but then the things we know most about are often more than a hobby for us.
I started by signing up to Wikipedia then racking my brain for a subject I was interested in. I chose the Artist-in-Residence page as it aligns with my MA project (developing a virtual artist residency). This page outlines the function and availability of all AiR programmes, including literature, dance etc, and I thought it might be worthwhile adding some info about Visual Arts specific residencies but I couldn’t see how it could fit into the existing text without being incongruous.
After signing up for an account and verifying it, the first thing I did was read through the existing text, looking for any spelling of grammar mistakes. This was then followed by checking all the references, footnoted at the bottom of the article. This was an interesting exercise in “verifiability” and I look into Wikipedia’s policies on referencing and verifying information:
In Wikipedia, verifiability means that anyone using the encyclopaedia can check that the information comes from a reliable source. Wikipedia does not publish original research. Its content is determined by previously published information rather than the beliefs or experiences of its editors. Even if you’re sure something is true, it must be verifiable before you can add it. When reliable sources disagree, present what the various sources say, give each side its due weight, and maintain a neutral point of view.
All material in Wikipedia mainspace, including everything in articles, lists and captions, must be verifiable. All quotations, and any material whose verifiability has been challenged or is likely to be challenged, must include an inline citation that directly supports the material. Any material that needs a source but does not have one may be removed. Please remove contentious material about living people that is unsourced or poorly sourced immediately.
So it’s pretty much subjective, or at least up to the Wikipedia editing community, what a “reliable” source actually is.
Next, I decided to edit using “classic” editing through wiki markup (wikitext). I tinkered around with the editing platform, and figured out how to make a sub-heading. I found this extremely easy to use, very user-oriented and intuitive. I added Republic of Ireland to the list of countries that offer artist residencies. I then switched to paragraph style text and began listing the artist residency programmes with a hyperlink to the appropriate page (usually a sub-page on the centre’s website).
One this was completed, I saved the page and took a look at the result. The sub-heading was huge! So I went back into the editing space and fixed it. I then saw there was too much space between my new entry and Italy’s list of residences. I fixed this formatting issue and went to save, a message popped up saying that my changes infringed on a previous edit (presumably Wikipedia through I was trying to delete Italy’s entry, not just some space at the end)… and deleted all of my changes. Including the initial entry which I had previously saved. Annoyed, I had to re-type it all (including finding all the hyperlinks).
Realising that I’d only included external links, I linked the title “Republic of Ireland” to it’s own Wikipedia page for anyone unsure about the difference between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Looking at the edited page, I realised that my entry hadn’t automatically appeared in the Page Contents list. I googled how to do this but came up with nothing, I scrolled through WikiHow entries and forums but still nothing. Hmm. I decided to leave it and lo and behold the next day it had appeared. I have no explanation for this!
All in all I enjoyed the editing experience, and as mentioned found it a very simple process. It would be good if non-tech savvy web users could be encouraged to add wikipedia entries (for example I have an omniscient great uncle who’s 90 and would really enjoy the experience of contributing to knowledge but would never think he would have the technical skills to participate).
I have decided to, at a later date, create a visual arts specific AiR page as a linked page to the existing one.