Wiki Article Reflection

By Nicole Bare Kinney

I wrote my Boise Wiki article on animals at the Idaho State Historical Museum.  I realized pretty quickly that I would have to think outside the box to find a subject that had not already been done.  Most basic Boise attractions are covered in the Wiki, which is a good thing.  I also had to find something about which I knew a substantial amount, and something about which I could easily access more information.  The history museum was a natural choice because I am there a lot for work.  I really like the stuffed animals at the museum and people are constantly asking if we still have the two-headed calf, so I chose to focus on that aspect of the museum.

One of the first challenges I faced was making sure that I could write about a slightly funny topic in a respectful but engaging way.  I hope I struck that balance.  Another challenge that arose quickly was the issue of taking photos. I emailed Sarah Phillips, one of the curators, and since the museum allows guests to take photos at the museum, I did not have to jump through any hoops to be able to post photos online.  That was a real relief, and I was not expecting it to be that easy.  The biggest problem I experienced was that I was not able to change my title after I started the article.  I really want to change it to “Taxidermy at the Idaho State Historical Museum” because “taxidermied” is not a word.  This was really frustrating for me.   A final challenge was balancing professionalism in my writing with making my article interesting.  I am not used to this type of writing so it took me several drafts to find a balance with which I was satisfied.

I tried to find good examples of this in other articles, but I found there to be a real spectrum of writing quality on the wiki.  Some articles were really dry, some were not well written, and some were quite excellent.  I think this is one of the main liabilities of writing a local history on a Wiki.  The goal is to make an engaging, interesting, and informative website, but when the editors cannot totally and completely control what gets posted, this becomes a difficult goal to achieve.  Another main liability is, obviously, accuracy.  Anyone can write what they want.  However, the fact that anyone can edit the page also means that if someone writes something inaccurate, another person can potentially catch that and correct it.  In contrast, if an author or journalist writes something inaccurate, readers can complain all they want but they cannot do anything about it.

Overall, I enjoyed this assignment, and I think if I were to continue contributing to the Wiki I would learn from this assignment and could probably do a better job next time.  I would at least make sure I liked my title before posting my article.  After doing this assignment I decided that a local Wiki is a good asset to a city.  If the overall goal is complete professionalism and accuracy, a Wiki will not achieve that, but it is a great tool to give people a feel for a city and a way to spark interest in the history of a city.

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