Jon Agnew Reflection

History 381: Digital History

Fall 2012

Jon Agnew



I really enjoyed this assignment. At first I was nervous – like always – because I was not quite sure about how to write “good” wiki contributions. The largest concern was the language. I have lost myself quite a few times in the depths of Wikipedia, jumping from hyperlink to hyperlink. One thing I have noticed is that the pages that are trafficked the most, share common characteristics in how they are written. Some example characteristics in the writing are neutrality in tone, being written in the third person, and lacking a bias. These were hard characteristics to exemplify when writing my own contribution – as I will explain later.

I am now going to take up the issue of topic choice. After Philip Browning talked to our class about the project, I immediately wanted to choose a topic that was something food related. Food related contributions seemed quite prevalent when first looking through the wiki. I felt that the utility of the wiki – as it is not very large – was specific in nature. It appeared to me that food was that nature. There are numerous food related wiki contributions and I wanted to create a new food related page so that it would be useful to the current and future users of the wiki. I then started thinking about my favorite restaurants. I even wrote a list. When looking through the wiki, I noticed that most of my favorite places to eat had preexisting wiki contributions. With the exception of Tango’s Empanadas – which is an Argentine restaurant with great food and great service.

A couple of days later I was wandering the depths of Wikipedia. On my expedition I stumbled across the University of Oregon’s page. Something I found surprising on Oregon’s Wikipedia page was a contribution about their speech and debate team. Immediately I knew that I should write about the Talkin’ Broncos. This is something I am a part of and I feel needs to be recognized by my fellow Boiseans. Forensics is such a great activity and anything to increase its visibility is splendid in my book. So, I asked my coach if I could write on this topic. She gave me the go ahead. And alas, I wrote the article.  Afterwards, I asked her to read it over. I wanted to make sure the information was accurate and that the content was ok to publish. She gave me the second go ahead. And alas, I published the article. This brought me great pleasure. I had never posted anything to any wiki. I have surfed many wikis and forums, yet never – not even once – posted. I was so excited about my contribution. I still am. Like honestly, this assignment was awesome. The main reason why, reminds me of something that I heard at a strip club once. “You can look but you can’t touch”. This statement used to describe, quite intimately, my relationship with the numerous wikis and forums I surf. But after this assignment I finally got to touch. Being forced to sign up, read the rules, and educate oneself on the etiquette and ways of wiki contributions is something every college student should be forced to do. I finally made an account for a college debate wikicaselist, reddit, and Wikipedia. My future with wiki contributions looks bright. I have already decided two topics for the extra credit contributions – Tango’s Empanadas & Peter Cennarussa.

One last thing I would like to reflect on is adapting my writing and language to wiki style contributions. As mentioned prior, neutrality and bias are important characteristics of said wiki style contributions. I wanted to make sure that my close affiliation with the speech and debate team did not compromise my wiki contribution. When writing the Talkin’ Broncos blurb I tried to maintain neutrality throughout the whole article. This was difficult to do. I continually wanted to use the words “we”, “I”, “our” or “us”. One way I minimized these words was to edit my blurb multiple times. I not only had my coach read it over, but also my debate partner, and myself – multiple times. When they read it through, I mentioned neutrality and third person as important things to look for; both my peers and I had third person language in mind when reading through the article.

However, I did notice the difficulty in not sounding biased when I was writing about something I was a part of. Not just the word choice, but the tone and content. For example, the earliest draft of my contribution had the clause “The BSU speech and debate team is competitive at a national caliber”. This was a statement I felt was contingent on the reader’s opinion or background knowledge of national forensics competition. I then recollected back to my logic class where the argument was made, that contingent statements require implicit assumptions. And those implicit assumptions were made because of my bias. So, I edited out statements that appeared to be contingently true in nature. Another example of bias, which I did not edit out – whereas the statement did not appear contingent – was the sentence “The last two years BSU has placed in the top five, without even attending the tournament”. After writing and then reflecting on this statement I felt it appeared pompous and somewhat pretentious. But after recollecting back to logic class, I asked myself is their qualitative and quantitative evidence that explicitly makes the case that “The last two years BSU has placed in the top five, without even attending the tournament”? My answer was a definite yes. This meant the statement was not contingent. And thus it did not have implicit assumptions. So I kept this sentence in my final write up.

Essentially, I found it difficult to write wiki style contributions. I felt that if wikis are supposed to resemble encyclopedias. And encyclopedias do not write about themselves. Then writing about the speech and debate team would be difficult to do if I was trying to replicate encyclopedia style writing. Nonetheless, I felt I did a good job in exemplifying these difficult characteristics and I’m very proud of my work.

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