Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Actually Beginning a Concerted Wiki Project: Alma 14

Posted by joespencer on June 19, 2011

I’ve been quite pleased with the number of people (on and off the blog) who have expressed interest in pursuing a concerted wiki project. I’ve made an executive decision and determined that we will work on Alma 14. In this post, I’ll lay out what I think should be our basic protocol, and we can work from there. If there is any necessary metadiscussion, it can be done here to begin with. Otherwise, follow the instructions below and get started!

1. Something like a schedule.

I don’t want to set up a formal schedule, but something more like the following. At the wiki, Alma 14 is distributed across six different pages (five-verse blocks). I think we should begin, straightforwardly, with the first of these and then move along to the second as we feel things are wrapping themselves up with the first. You can find the first of the six pages here.

2. Using the wiki itself.

If you know how to use the wiki or are happy just to figure it out as you go, you can skip ahead to the next point here. For those who are unfamiliar with the use of the wiki, or who are a bit intimidated by the prospect, allow me to recommend that you take a look at Brian J.’s wonderful “wikinitiation” post from a few years ago. It has screen shots and everything to help you figure out how to use the wiki. Moreover, please don’t feel intimidated. Those of us who are a bit more experienced are more than happy to clean up after any mistakes, to answer any questions, and to work together to make the project work.

3. What kinds of things to put at the wiki.

Remember that the wiki is supposed to be written from a neutral point of view. It is not appropriate to put personal stories there (“I once learned the meaning of this scripture when . . .”) or to write in the first person (“I” or “we”). The idea is just to write about the scriptures in question.

You will see that the wiki divides commentary into four parts: (1) questions, (2) lexical notes (notes about meanings of words, etc.), (3) exegesis (a fancy word for commentary), and (4) links. A good way to get started in contributing is to fill out the three non-exegesis parts of the page. Add some questions about the text (“What does such-and-such a part of verse 2 mean?”). Do a bit of work on a lexical note by looking at how a word in the text is used elsewhere in scripture, in nearby texts, or according to a dictionary (“The word ‘faith’ seems to be important in the Book of Alma. Note how it is used . . .”). Fish out links that might be helpfully added to the bottom of the page, which can include books (a link to amazon.com for example), talks (lds.org), blog posts (look around the ‘nacle), scripture resources (Blue Letter Bible, for instance), or other websites. (“For a good discussion of the issues surrounding verse 3, see . . .”) Those drawing on what is added in these three sections can use the provided resources to produce commentary.

4. Writing commentary in a concerted fashion.

The idea of launching a concerted project is something like the following: someone adds a bit of commentary—however half-baked, semi-thought-through, inconclusive, inadequately written, controversial, etc.—and then others edit, rewrite, build on, or rework what has been posted… and then others do the same to the revamped material. (Note that you can see who has added what to the page by going through the history link; and note also that there is a “recent changes” widget on the main page of the wiki.) From all this, you should conclude the following: “I should feel free to write a little something, even if it only serves to get someone else to write something better!” Even if you add only a single sentence expressing a half-crazy speculation, it is better than remaining silent!

5. Working together with charity.

Let’s do this with great charity. If you find that something another has written simply doesn’t work for whatever reasons, it is best to copy it to the talk page with an explanation of why you’re removing it from the commentary page. Others might feel that it can be worked into something productive. The core principle is: “Build up!” Look carefully at whatever another contributes and see how it can be better, furthered, and turned into something still more interesting and helpful.

Let’s see what we can make of this project. I have high hopes.

31 Responses to “Actually Beginning a Concerted Wiki Project: Alma 14”

  1. joespencer said

    I should mention that I’ll get at least a few questions or some such thing on the first of the six wiki pages tomorrow morning. :)

  2. Jacob said

    This will be most excellent. This is a text I’ve thought over for several years now. All published commentary I’ve read on this narrative is ridiculously trite and unreflective. This post here at BCC (see the comments) indicates that it is usually a text that LDS don’t know what to do with:

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2007/09/14/your-friday-firestorm-12/

  3. jeans said

    Is the link live? I can’t get it to work – server issues, maybe? — 9pm EST Sun Jun 19th; I’ll check back in the a.m.

  4. The wiki website is so hit-and-miss. I can only get on about half the time. Do you know why that is?

  5. jennywebb said

    Joe, this looks great. I’m looking forward to it. I should note, however, like others, that I haven’t been able to access the wiki for several days now (the error message says the server isn’t responding). I’d hate for a technical issue to stall the start of the project.

  6. kirkcaudle said

    Awesome Joe, and thanks for heading this up!

  7. rameumptom said

    I’m looking forward to asking this question:

    Do you think mass human sacrifice was appropriate in this situation? If so, should it be by fire, or more traditionally Jewish, by stoning?

  8. Robert C. said

    Even with the www in front, I can’t access the wiki. I’ve emailed Matthew to see if he can figure this out and get it fixed ASAP….

  9. joespencer said

    Thanks to Robert for initiating the process of getting this fixed. Sorry for the anti-climax, everyone!

  10. joespencer said

    Mike B. just brought it to my attention that the “recent changes” widget is no longer at the wiki. I had not noticed this. Apologies for my misdirection.

  11. joespencer said

    As far as I can tell, the wiki is just a bit of a hit-and-miss thing. It’s up for the moment, and I’m adding some material. Others have also already begun adding some material. Come one, come all!

  12. robf said

    Any chance of getting that recent changes widget back?

  13. joespencer said

    Rob,

    We’ll need to ask Matthew about that. In the meanwhile, everyone should be assured that the wiki should be working like normal within the next couple hours.

  14. kirkcaudle said

    Alright, looks like everything is working. Looking forward to seeing what is already there. I will see if I have anything to add.

  15. Mike Berkey said

    This is the third time I’ve tried to post here. I think maybe the login via facebook thing is stopping my comments from posting…

    Anyway Robert, the recent changes page (see the link on the left in the wiki) has everything the gadget used to have. In fact, it shows more information and it’s customizable.

  16. kirkcaudle said

    Does anyone else have to do the math problem every time posting on the wiki despite having a verified password?

  17. Mike Berkey said

    Kirk, see this discussion… http://www.feastupontheword.org/Help_talk:Authenticating_e-mail_address

  18. […] Actually Beginning a Concerted Wiki Project: Alma 14 […]

  19. NathanG said

    I went to the wiki to see what has already been done and selected “show all notes and commentary on one page” for Alma 14 and was disappointed that there was just one entry in exegesis and nothing else. Then I selected individual 5 verse passages and saw the work that has really been done. Don’t know if other people have this problem or if there are other bugs to work out.

  20. kirkcaudle said

    I have never clicked “show all notes and commentary on one page” before Nathan made his comment. However, he is right. Nothing comes up unless you click on the individual verses.

  21. Mike Berkey said

    Hm… I was able to see all the commentary on one page just fine.

  22. Robert C. said

    I think the page that puts all the commentary on one page has some kind of glitch in it, or something, so that it only updates intermittently. I’ll make sure that this gets on our list of things to work on fixing….

  23. Matthew said

    A quick update on a few items.

    For all those who had problems prior to comment 13, sorry about that. We did have a problem with the site which had been going on for some time but had gotten really bad around that time. That was resolved.

    Kirk & Mike, (16 & 17), I think I have fixed that. See comments on the page linked to in Mike’s comment. Let me know if you continue to have problems.

    NathanG, I’ll check into this. It is a bit resource intensive to gather all the notes into one page so those pages purposefully don’t update on every edit. Let me check though what the current status is.

  24. Matthew said

    NathanG (19), I just checked into this and I believe it is working as designed, but I agree it is a bit confusing. Here’s how it works. If anyone pulls up any of the “entire commentary on one page” pages, it will generate that page and keep it around for about 24 hours. If after that point someone changes an underlying page, it won’t automatically regenerate. The reason this happens is a bit complicated but it ultimately gets down to an inelegant way of saving our tiny server from having to work too hard. There is a trick for forcing the page to refresh if you need it which is to add the following after the url “?action=purge” and then loading the page.

    If you see edits that are over 24 hours still not show up (even without action=purge), or you want the latest and greatest and action=purge doesn’t give ti to you, let me know.

    thanks

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