Wiki Time

Over a week ago, I did some Wikipedia editing for the first time.

The assignment was to chose a page relating to our research interest and edit it. The purpose of this was to encourage our engagement with the community.

I’d like to write my thesis on the relationships between Irish and French literature so I found out about a bishop of Cork who had got a continental education. His name was John Sleyne and he had three different degrees from the Sorbonne: Master of Arts, Bachelor in Theology and Doctorate of Divinity. I had never heard of him, even though he was Bishop of Cork and Cloyne during the Penal Laws.

Since I haven’t got a laptop, I was ready to do it out on my phone. Thankfully, Máirín MacCarron, the lecturer, was kind enough to lend me her laptop once I promised not to erase any of her files. I thought this was a fair contract.

Knowing absolutely nothing about the Bishop, I decided I would mainly be proofreading his entry. Sleyne was a minor figure in a small city late in the seventeenth century, so it’s not like there are a great many editors constantly working on it. By the same token, there wasn’t much I could have added to the page, since there is virtually nothing about him on the internet besides what I could find on Wikipedia. A historian looking for a lesser-known figure on whom to write a thesis could do much better, I’m sure. Luckily, I have always enjoyed editing language itself so I was able to make four separate edits.

Edits like removing unnecessary spaces and capitalising the start of a sentence were benign and barely noticeable edits but I felt some apprehension about wider-reaching structural edits. Basically, I was doubting my instincts and was concerned that maybe more significant changes weren’t justifiable. What I should probably have done was read the Wikipedia style guide, which I’m sure would have allayed my fears.

Because the impact I had on Wikipedia was minimal, I spent most of the session on Twitter, tweeting each of my edits and commenting more on what I had learned about the Bishop than on what I had contributed to knowledge of the Bishop. Consequently, this assignment taught me more about Twitter than it did about Wikipedia.

I did the assignment over a fortnight ago and my edits haven’t been undone, so my concerns were unfounded. The sum total of the edits only go as far back as 2018. Next time I edit a Wiki page on Wikipedia or elsewhere, I won’t be so reticent. Wikipedia is collaborative, after all. Since my edits were so minor, the page didn’t really change that much.

I think this was a good introduction to Wikiing, but hopefully next time I can do more to contribute.


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