Monday, June 20, 2011

Beginning Editing ~ Step by Step

This blog entry is for Josh Hunt from Cleveland Skeptics who is asking where to start when you are a beginner.  I have no problem really getting into the meat of editing as I'm really a beginner myself (just been doing this a year and I have very few computer skills other than what I pick up here and there)  But this blog might just be a bit to detailed for some, so feel free to gloss over this blog if you feel you must.  But PLEASE write in the comment area places that others can go to on Wikipedia that are in dyer need of cleanup.  I hear it all the time that the entire Wikipedia site needs cleaning up, but that isn't exactly fair.  Start listing some real pages that need rewrites, grammar and spelling help and so on.

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia.  When the writing flows and the page is neatly organized then the page is given more creds.

Josh already has a Wikipedia account, so anyone else following along needs to do the same.  The user name is going to be following you around for awhile so make sure you like it.

Lets take The Stanley Hotel page for our first example.  Read it through once or twice, look for any red writing before you start.   Maybe even read it out loud so you can see how it really flows.  I tend to just put blurbs into articles where ever I think they might fit, I'm not going for eloquence.  When I and other editors do things like this it can really make the article look like several different people wrote the piece and didn't talk to each other first.  (which is what happens).  Once all the information is in the article someone needs to clean it up and remove things that are repeated. Be careful removing quotes because footnotes kinda follow those quotes.

Reading the "Haunting" section over right now I can see that this really does not flow well, I can't tell exactly what the problem is but that it needs work.  Once you think you have some ideas about what needs to be changed go to the top of the page where you see the tab "edit".

The edit page is probably pretty intimidating to most, but take a deep breath and don't change anything right away.  Scroll through the page and you will see it is just the same as the "read" page but with citations and such.  Go to the "haunting" area and you will see this text...

The [[Syfy]] television show ''[[Ghost Hunters]]'' was invited to investigate the hotel.

Whenever you see a word with [['s around it that means it is a "hyperlink" to somewhere else on Wikipedia.  You want to use hyperlinks anytime you are using a word that might need explaining.  Don't use hyperlinks to common phrases/words and be careful not to overuse the hyperlinks.  If there is a hyperlink for the word/phrase within a few paragraphs of the last one, then don't use it again.  Just overkill and cluttered  looking.  This is why when you see the phrase Ghost Hunters in the next sentence it does not have the [['s used.  If you want to italicize a word like a TV show or a book then just highlight the word and click the I icon above in the toolbar.    This makes Ghost Hunters look like Ghost Hunters on the read page and something like ' ' Ghost Hunters ' ' on the edit page. 

This blurb that someone left does not fit into the paragraph that it was left in and needs to be moved or something.

The Stanley Hotel was also the lockdown site for the TV show ''[[Ghost Adventures]]'' on October 15, 2010.

If I were the one cleaning up this page I would add after the name of the organization this (RMPRS) so that when it is referred to again with those initials later in the article the reader has some kind of reference.

Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society conducted a investigation into the various claims made about the property...

This reference has already been used many times in the article.  The Stanley does focus on this Steven King book thing all over the hotel in order to drive tourists into the hotel.  But I think if you reread the entire Wikipedia page there is no reason to force it down people's throats.  I mean no one has claimed to see any ghosts from the book or movie.

[[Stephen King]] got the idea for ''[[The Shining (novel)|The Shining]]'' after staying in room 217 in the almost empty hotel on the night before it closed for an extended period. 

Be really careful not to touch anything that is has a <ref> before or after it because those are the "footnotes" that lead to the citation the reader can follow.  

Look this over a few times and then at the bottom of the "Editing The Stanley Hotel" page you are on you will see some boxes for "Edit Summary" which is where you now need to write what you did in general.  Do this now before you forget.  Say something like "cleaned up haunting article for grammar/spelling".  Then click the "watch this page" box.

Click the "show preview" button.  This will take you to a page where you will be able to see what your changes will look like if you were to have published it already.  Look it over again, read it out loud, how does it flow?  Would you be proud to show this to your High School English teacher?  Don't hit "publish" until you are sure you have finished all the changes you want.  There should be no red writing in the area you have changed.  If there is then you did something wrong (unless the red was there before which is why I said to read the page before you make any changes) You might have [Ghost Hunting]] which would cause an error or something like a [[Ghost Huntin]].  All kinds of things happen.  I have made hundreds of edits and I still am really really careful to hit preview and look everything over before publishing.

When you are confident that you like what you see then "publish" it.  Give yourself a "high-five" (guess that is just a bit odd, maybe a pat on the back then).  Go to the very very top of the page where you see your user name and the words "my watchlist" and click on that. 

You should see today's date along with the edit you just did.  Click on "diff" and you will see side by side the before and after of the changes.  I (and all the editors that have this page on their watch lists) will see the same edit when we look at our watchlist.  And hopefully we will want to see what you did and go in and make more changes (or not).  Don't take offense if someone changes your work, thats just how Wikipedia works.  I'm very pleased when someone cleans up my blurbs.  I like to know someone is reading my work and normally the changes they make are improvements.

Lets get bolder now that you have completed that edit.  Go back to The Stanley Hotel main page.  On the left top part of the page you will see the "discussion tab".  You can read through that page if you like which is where the editors (you are now one, welcome!) discuss the page.  I want you to go to the right upper side where it says "new section" click on that and you will be at a blank page.  Write in the "subject/headline" area something like "cleaned up the Haunting area" and then write one or more sentences of what you did.  Something like "I felt that there have been too many edits under haunting section that editors didn't read what the other editors wrote and the entire section didn't flow well, also removed the Steven King reference as it has been quoted in other places on the site and did not need to be repeated in the haunting section again".  Okay use your own words here but you understand my meaning.

When you are all done then you sign your post with 4 tidies all in a row.  ~~~~ (That's the button under the escape key on your keyboard)

Again you need to leave a reason for editing this "talk" page.  Click "watch this page" and preview what you just wrote.  When done then "publish" the page.  I would again go into your "watchlist" to see the two edits you have just completed.

You don't HAVE TO go into the "discussion page" and leave a message, in fact don't do it often unless you are making a good sized chunk of changes.  But I want you to gain confidence and experience with your edits, and a discussion page is really a great place to do so, plus you look like someone who is serious about doing good work and it gets your name about among the other editors.

This isn't exactly guerrilla skepticism so to speak.  But it is learning the tricks you will need later.   It is Very important work to improving these pages.  Good Job!

Now pick another ghost page and get to work. 


  1. OMG! It was so confusing to figure out how to post a comment on this blog, but I guess I figured it out. I had the same sensation of panic, an adrenalin rush I guess, trying to figure out how to just create an account on Wikipedia. Susan's instructions were really helpful, and made it sound easy, but actually looking at the instructions and following the steps to create just my screen name and a profile of myself was confusing and I was overwhelmed with worry that I wasn't doing it right. But -- I succeeded, and now I am Wendy91602. So - I looked at the Wikipedia page that I want to edit. I wanted to determine if the information I want to add is already on there somewhere.
    Working backward, here is the link with the information I want to add:
    People think the heat from their mobile phones has something to do with the radiation -- but they are different. I understand it enough to not be afraid of my cellular phone, microwave oven and laptop -- but I'm afraid I don't have the words to explain it. The Wikipedia page is very technical, and sounds all scientific. The point I want to make is that some of the beliefs about cellular phones is just urban legends, and in fact, one of the myths, that you can pop popcorn by surrounding unpopped corn with cell phones, was created by a PR team for a company that makes and sells mobile phone headsets. The Snopes page explains it all, complete with YouTube videos. Unfortunately, the Snopes page hasn't been updated in a couple of years, and the YouTubes are marked "private," so they can't all be accessed - but the text is very clear. Now I'm thinking for awhile, to read the Wikipedia page again, and find a good place to slip in this information, and follow the instructions and do it. One step at a time :-)

  2. Well Wendy, I just checked out the page. Very technical as you say.

    I don't know where you would add something like that? So I looked over the "discussion" page and I think you will be challenged with that reference. Some of the editors were discussing not having a "popular media" area because it would invite references to The X-files and all kinds of YouTube videos.

    So I think what you are contemplating is a big tricky and I don't know how you would go about it.

    Also Snopes (one of my favorite sites) is not someplace you can quote on Wikipedia. One of the news articles about the video you mention "might" be.

    Its like the topic I had with wanting to put the IIG nurses project you did up on the nurses site. I just can't seem to find a way to do it without getting the editors all upset. I don't want to force myself on pages and end up burning bridges.

    If the nurses page had some other topics that concerned the IIG investigation then I could see doing so.

    In the same way if the path was already paved for the Cell Phone and Health site to have a "popular media" section then I'm sure we could find a way to add the popcorn video.

    Some pages have editors that are really involved in keeping them cleaned up and they don't like new things added.

    Just keep this project of yours on the back burner and maybe an opportunity will present itself later. Read through all the references Snopes quotes and maybe a different Wikipedia page will be a better place for it. Is there a viral video page? I didn't know there was a cell phone health page.

    Wendy, you are an expert on Power Balance Bracelets, do you want to check out that page and see what needs to be cleaned up on it? It seems to me that the wording does not flow well. I have no idea how or if it should be cleaned up, but being an expert in the topic like you are maybe you will be able to spot what I can't.