Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Wikinitiation

Posted by BrianJ on June 18, 2007

I did it! I finally took up Robert C’s challenge to contribute to the Feast Upon the Word wiki. Sadly, I’m not referring to the challenge he issued last week, but rather to one implied over four months ago, which I wholly accepted. So, how was my experience, and what would some one else expect if they were to ‘take a stab’ at it as well?

I decided to post something on the commentary page, rather than one of the discussion or user pages. I based this decision mostly on the impression that the commentary pages are the most intimidating to new contributors, but also on the belief that the commentaries are also the most useful to the majority of visitors.

I had already signed up for a user account a few months ago—it was easy and took just a few minutes. But I timed myself this time to see how long it would take me to figure out how to post, format, check, and edit my entry. The entire process took 21 minutes, which included some trips to the help pages to make sure that what I was posting complied with the rules, was in the right section, and so on. In the end, I still wasn’t quite sure—not because the help pages are unclear, but because I was nervous about making a mistake—but I decided to post anyway. “Hey,” I figured, “if it’s wrong, someone will fix it” (more on that below).

I chose to add a question on 2 Nephi 5:18. I went to the wiki page, checked to make sure my question wasn’t already addressed, then clicked on the “edit” link to the right of the heading “Questions.” Here’s what my first page looked like:

first.jpg

The layout of the page makes editing pretty intuitive; I consider myself a novice web editor, which means I know more and am more comfortable than the average web surfer, but my skills amount to just a little bit of html and the ability to copy the other people’s methods. There is a formatting palette at the top of the editing box, and the page you are editing remains in view above that so you don’t lose your reference. The only part that confused me was how to add a link to another scripture—1 Samuel 8—because there were two formatting buttons for links. Normally, I would have just typed in the html, but I wasn’t sure whether the wiki allows that, so I guessed that “Internal Link” meant a link to somewhere else on the wiki, then fiddled around with how to make that work.

Before I published, I clicked “Show Preview”:

second.jpg

The preview has a very nice layout: the preview is shown at the top and the edit box remains open at the bottom.

I made three mistakes in my post. One of them was that I left the “minor edit” box checked at the very bottom. This meant that my changes didn’t show up in the RSS feeds. I tried to go back and uncheck that box, but it apparently didn’t work. I’ll just have to remember not to do that in the future, but because I have a hard time remembering things like that, I wish it would just ask me in a pop-up window.

fourht.jpg (Note that my edit is not listed here, under “Edits,”…)

fifth.jpg(…but it is at least listed here, under “Recent Changes”.)

The second mistake is that my “Internal Link” showed up as a footnote-looking thing instead of an underlined link. (The link still worked, but the aesthetics were wrong.) I thought about going to the “wiki sandbox” and figuring out how to link properly, but I didn’t have time and I guessed (correctly) that someone more experienced (in this case, Matthew) would come along and fix my error. I don’t always want to post that way—i.e. waiting for someone else to clean up after me—but for now it will have to do. (On a side note, the wiki allows anyone to see the history of a page, so if changes are made to your work you can see who made them.)

My third mistake was a grammatical error. Not that interesting, but I’m going for full disclosure here.

One of the really nice features of the wiki is the “watchlist.” When I was about to publish my edit, I noticed a checkbox titled “watch this page.” Leaving that checked let’s me keep it in a file page that looks like this:

third.jpg

Now that is a really nice feature! The blog doesn’t have anything close to that….

Bottom Line:

Contributing to the wiki was fast (~20 minutes) and simple. I made a few mistakes, but the preview screen helped me catch some and another user caught the other. I haven’t seen any discussion of my question (except from Robert C, which is sort of cheating, as it fulfills his own prophecy {smile}), but I didn’t post it on a discussion page so that is no surprise. I’m sure that my next contribution will be even easier. I’m happy knowing that something that stood out to me is easily accessible to others who are studying the same chapter, and that, unlike if I posted it on a blog, they can easily find it anytime.

7 Responses to “Wikinitiation”

  1. Brian, thanks for putting this much work into this post! May it be of great value for many readers/users.

  2. Matthew said

    Hey Brian,

    Cool post. Thanks. FYI, one nice feature of the watchlist is that you can get the wiki to e-mail you when any page on your watchlist changes. This is in the preferences (link at top right) under the user-profile tab. In a little box (aka portlet) named e-mail. There you’ll find the option “E-mail me when a page I’m watching is changed.” This requires that your e-mail address be authenticated.

    Further, I believe people’s preferences have by default the item “Add pages I edit to my watchlist” checked which means that when you go to edit a page it automatically checks the box that you want that page added to your watchlist. But if you aren’t seeing that box automatically checked and you’d like it to be, go to the setting under the “editing” tab of your preferences.

    Have fun (or is it supposed to be work?).

  3. Robert C. said

    Brian, congratulations on finally posting, and thanks for writing up this detailed account of your experience. There are many ways that I’m sure we can improve the help and intro pages, and having your thoughts like this written up will be very helpful in doing so (memo to self, or anyone else willing to help with the help pages: explaining how to do links is probably a good place to start…).

    Anyone else lurking: One great thing about the wiki is that anyone can post any question about any scripture any time, day or night (unlike the very hiearchical power structure of a blog, which allows only editors to write new posts…). Also, we try to be esp. conscientious in answering new users’ questions, about the scriptures or about the wiki. Also, I think the best way to learn about the wiki is to just go ahead and post something, anything. BrianJ strikes me as a bit of a perfectionist (I wouldn’t be surprised if as a baby you didn’t take your first step until you knew you wouldn’t fall, and so you never fell down in your attempts to walk!), so I would strongly encourage new users to just add a question they might have anywhere on the wiki without worrying about making mistakes or reading the help pages first.

    Also, I think this is a great thread for discussing any meta questions or comments about the wiki that anyone has.

    There are currently several new projects underway, so don’t miss out! For example, check out the recent discussion of Mosiah 14-15 (and Isaiah 53) on this page and elsewhere, or about kingship (see the discussion/talk page where BrianJ posted), or some discussion of grace here, or any of the many other fascinating discussions taking place. (The best place to check for recent activity is the recent changes page which is sort of like ‘recent comments’ on a blog…. Also, please bear with this woeful attempt to generate hype—I’m an academic after all…. And I don’t want to oversell what’s going on now—we’ve had much higher quality discussion in the past, so I don’t want to give the wrong impression either.)

  4. BrianJ said

    Joe, #1: That is my hope. Ironically, it took about 10 times longer to write about posting on the wiki than to actually post on the wiki.

    Matthew, #2: I’ll have to spend some time in the preferences section. Thanks for making me aware of the auto-email feature, which is very nice. I don’t know quite how to say this, but…I am learning that the wiki only looks clunky, but is actually quite functional and easy to use (this is true of all wikis, not just FUTW). Blogs are so polished with their pretty templates and soothing colors, and I think that may be why they attract so many users and readers.

    Robert C, #3: “BrianJ strikes me as a bit of a perfectionist”

    I prefer the term “meticulous.”

  5. shelleyj said

    Robert C #3 “BrianJ strikes me as a bit of a perfectionist”
    As someone who has known BrianJ since his birth, I chuckle at the understatement.

  6. BrianJ said

    shelleyj: Remember that I have editorial powers on this blog…. {smile}

  7. shelleyj said

    At least you usually reach the perfection you aspire to.

    this comment has been edited by brianj

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