I would also like to note that I am more than willing to virtually hold your hand through all the edits you feel you need help with. Please contact me here or on Facebook (Susan Gerbic) and I will do what needs to be done. Keep in mind that our correspondence may become fodder for a future blog.
So here are some of the things I've learned in the last eight months of editing. Firstly, you must create an account with Wikipedia. You can edit anonymously, but nearly all of the edits I and other editors revert are from people too afraid to leave their name, just their IP address. Be proud of the changes you make, leave your name.
I am a Wikipedia editor. I was not hired, nor did I apply for the position, nor was I approved. I registered, and that allows me to edit; but I must follow the rules. That's it. You can be an editor, also.
You do not have to start by creating new pages. Start by making simple edits like correcting grammar and spelling errors. Even punctuation improvement helps pages and gives the new editor confidence and skills.
Let's take a good look at a typical page. I'm heading over to the Pet Psychic page for a quick edit. The link you follow in the sentence above is an old version by the time you read this blog. I'm going to be making some changes, so the current page will look differently.
First off, it is just a wall-o-text. How to wade through this? (We are not editing for skeptical readers so much, but for the general reader.) First thing you notice is that there is red writing around the words animal communicators. This means that someone inserted a hyperlink to the phrase, but it does not actually go to a page. I just searched Wikipedia and did not find anything it could link to. So we need to clean this up. Here is how...
Sorry, the picture is kind of small, but you can just see the "Edit" tab in blue. In the middle of "Read" and "View history.” Click on that tab. What you will now see is pretty scary looking—lots and lots of data. Don't be scared off.
You will see this "[[animal communicator]]s" on the seventh line. The [[ and ]] brackets are used to hyperlink to other Wikipedia pages. When the hyperlink appears on the "read" page, it will be in blue writing. What is inside the [[ and ]] brackets must be exactly the page you want it to go to. Notice that the editor put the lower case "s" outside the brackets. They did this because, without it the sentence would not make sense. Here is the original sentence: "while others are more like animal communicators"
I am now going to remove the brackets from around the words. At the bottom of the page you will see this.
First you click on the "Show preview" button.
You will see a bunch of red writing at the top saying that "this is only a preview.” You will also see the change I made. The words "animal communicators" are no longer in red ink.
Next, I am going to click the box next to "Watch this page.” This means that whenever someone edits this page, I will get a notice on my watchlist. This way, I can quickly see if someone has reverted my edit or added anything else to the page.
Next, I will write something in that "Edit summary" area. I'm going to write "took off hyperlink to animal communicators.” Then I'm going to hit the "Save page" button. All of these steps should be performed every time you edit.
Now, I'm going to show you what the watchlist looks like for this edit.
At the very top of the page on the right-hand side are the words, "My watchlist.” I'm going to click on that and show you what I see.
Well, my watchlist page is quite busy-looking, but here is pretty much what you will see on your own watchlist—the date and all the edit info. The "diff" means the difference between before I edited and after. "hist" means the history of the page’s edits. That is a very long list of past edits. The "Sgerbic" is me; if you click on it you will go to my Wikipedia editor page. Other editors leave messages there, it is also a place where editors can get to know each other. Having a page does give you credibility in the editing community, and I suggest you all make your own page (another blog someday). You can see where I wrote the reason for the edit.
Let’s see what else we can do with this page. What about the first paragraph? Wikipedia calls this a "lede.” Changing a lede can be a really big deal; some pages, like Astrology and Homeopathy, have years of work in getting the lede just right. Wikipedia has to be neutral, and the lede needs to reflect that. Don't start changing ledes unless you look at the "Talk page" first. Find that tab on the left-hand side on the top and click on that.
You will see a bunch of pink blobs with kittens and a horse on them. This means that there are Wikipedia editors that are focusing on just the pages concerning cats and horses. Go figure. There is also an area for skepticism project. This is a now-dormant site where skeptics go to find what needs to be done. At the bottom of the page it says "This page was last modified on 12 May 2009 at 05:00." It was over two years ago that anyone wrote anything on the talk page. This does not mean things have not been changed on the page the public views, only the talk page.
In my opinion, this page looks pretty dormant. If you wanted to change the lede somehow, or totally edit the page, I doubt that anyone would notice or care. The Pet Psychic page is probably on several editors’ watchlists, so they will notice anything that changes and may scurry on over to look at your edit more closely. If you click on the "article" tab you will be taken back to the page everyone reads. Here is the lede again:
I'm reading it through and I think the lede is pretty good. Neutral enough. I'm no grammar wizard, so I'm not confident enough to go around and change things. But some wording in this lede might be driving you nuts, feel free to make the changes. Just follow the directions of "preview,” "watch this page,” "edit summary," and then "save.”
I do notice something, two names that stand out, the editor seems to think the reader will know who these people are. I don't. So I'm going to copy the name "Monty Roberts" and put it in a Wiki search bar. (NOTE: I keep several tabs open on my screen so I don't have to close down the project I'm working on) Sure enough, Monty Roberts is the horse whisperer I heard so much about. What about the other guy? This gets a bit more complicated, I will explain later; but first, let’s create Monty's hyperlink.
Remember, we need to go to the "Edit" page and find the reference to Monty Roberts we want to hyperlink to. It is the very last sentence in the paragraph. I am going to put brackets around the words so it looks like this: [[Monty Roberts]]. Then at the bottom of the page I select "Preview" and make sure that it links blue. I have already checked "Watch this page.” Then, I write in the “Edit summary” box what I did. I'll write "hyperlinked to Monty Roberts page.” When that is correctly done, I can then "save.”
We are doing really well, so let’s try the more difficult step of linking the "César Milan" page to the Pet Psychic page. When I copied the name and searched for it on Wikipedia it came up with this...
When I click on the blue "Cesar Millan" above, it is the man we want. Now I have a couple of choices to make. I can change the spelling to Cesar Millan and that will be the end of it. Or I can keep the spelling of "César," which apparently is correct by looking at his page. The last name Millan was spelled incorrectly on the pet psychic page. If I just try to hyperlink to "César Millan" and then hit "Preview," it comes up red again. We need to do something else.
I want to make the reader see the words "César Millan" but link to the page for "Cesar Millan.” I learned by trial and error; here is how I handle it. I scan the page I'm currently on and look for an edit that will help me do this edit. As I look through the edit page, in the middle of the third paragraph I see this [[Skepticism|skeptical]] weird looking thing. This means that the word "skeptical" is showing on the main screen, but it hyperlinks to the page called "Skepticism.” My laptop does not have that little line in between the two words anywhere on the keyboard. So I just copy the weird looking thing, and change out the words I want to use.
[[Cesar Millan|César Millan]]
Now on the edit screen where the name César Milan (with one “l”) was, I'm going to copy and paste in my new edit. The edit looks like the following, first what the edit screen looks like, then what the finished edit looks like to someone reading the page.
The first part of the bracketed text is the correct spelling of the page you want to hyperlink to. The second part is what you want people to read. We don't want to overuse the hyperlinks either; it makes the page too busy-looking. So you really want to only hyperlink once to a term, not every time it occurs. I noticed that in the next paragraph they have hyperlinked to Cesar Millan. I'm going to remove the brackets and change the first name to César to be consistent throughout the article.
First I click "Preview" then add this to the edit summary area, "Changed Cesar Millan hyperlinks" then when I'm sure I like all the changes, I click "save.”
When you have the edit screen open, you will notice the red wavy lines under words, usually meaning something is misspelled. Let’s see if there are some we can change quickly.
"Others claim the animal does not need to be proximally close to the one doing the reading or even alive."
"specialise" should be "specialize" and "proximally" should be "proximately.” I made the spelling changes, then hit "preview" and wrote something in the summary, "spelling," then "save page.”
We are all done!
I know that these changes we made are not earth-shattering Guerrilla Skepticism changes to the Pet Psychic page. But what we did were all simple edits that are done all the time when you are editing. Gaining knowledge and confidence editing were just what I was looking for on this blog. I hope you find this helpful, please comment.