Thing 10 of 23 Things on a Stick deals with wikis. Wikis are websites that allow many people to collaborate on building a site by adding and editing information. The best known of the wikis is Wikipedia, which has gotten to be controversial as a source of information precisely because anyone can edit its encyclopedic entries. While Wikipedia gets hacked as unreliable, I’ve found that it is a great place to start research. However, like all starter research resources, you have to be willing to vet the information presented by checking other more reliable sources.
Thing 10 was a walk in the park for me because I’ve had experience with wikis before. I’ve even been know to edit a few Wikipedia entries, specifically the page on Zebulon Pike and the Morrison County page. I added external links on the Pike page to specific articles we have about Pike on our website. I also added the external link to the MCHS website on the Morrison County page.
I was quite shocked when I first read Wikipedia’s Morrison County page because I recognized the history text as my own, written specifically for our website, only I hadn’t added it to Wikipedia. Someone else did. I blustered about copyright infringement because I didn’t think we had been cited as the source. What I didn’t realize until I looked closer was that we were cited – as a blue number at the end of the text. This number is blue because it is a hyperlink and if you click on it, you will immediately be taken to the source website. While we were linked, we weren’t named specifically. Because we have far more Morrison County history on our website, I figured I should add an external link using our name at the bottom of the page.
The links I’ve added to Wikipedia have drawn quite a number of hits on our own website, which is a side benefit of helping to build wikis. Wikipedia, however, does not take kindly to outright advertising, so if you’re tempted to edit pages with that in mind, don’t. Be sure the links or edits you provide on Wikipedia, or any other wiki, are actually ones you think will be useful to the reader. This is how quality is maintained on wikis – by carefully adding or editing information using reliable sources with an eye on being genuinely helpful.
Thing 10 listed one more wiki I’ve been involved with – the MN 150 wiki built by the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) in order to create a book and exhibit around Minnesota’s Sesquicentennial celebration. To be truthful, I didn’t actually enter information directly into the wiki for this. I submitted it via email and someone at MHS entered it. If you enter my name (mary warner) in the search box along the left-hand side of the screen, you’ll get a list of topics that I nominated to MN 150.