Jerz: Writing for the Internet (EL236)

1 October 2004

Wiki Workshop

Today we will complete the Wikipedia tutorial, modify an existing Wikipedia entry, and create at least the "stub" of a new entry.


  1. What's a Wiki? A wiki (from the Hawaiian word for "quick") is a collaborative authoring system. (See Michael Iorio's Introduction to Wikis.) Just like there is no one "book" or "TV show," there are many different wikis that use slightly different methods. There are even wikiblogs. A Wiki is open source -- that is, when you publish something on the wiki, you do so with the understanding that other people can (and will) change what you wrote. The vast majority of changes will be improvements. Since a wiki is relatively easy to learn (no WS_FTP or FPE involved!), a person who knows a tiny detail or observes a minor typographical error can, with very little effort, make the change immediately. If person A makes a change that person B dislikes, person B can put the old version back. Person C might suggest a happy medium between A and B, and so on.
  2. First, I'll briefly show you the Wikipedia sandbox (where you can practice the syntax).

    A wiki uses a simplified syntax to generate HTML. To the reader, a page may look like this.

    Jerz's EL236 Test Area (Friday, 1 Oct, 2004)

    Here are a few links. It's very simple to make links to Wiki pages.

    Seton Hill University

    Internet Weblogs

    If the Wiki page does not exist, the link is red. Rainbow Hector You can create a page simply by clicking on a red link.

    Here's what I wrote:

    == Jerz's EL236 Test Area (Friday, 1 Oct, 2004)==

    Here are a few links. It's very simple to make links to Wiki pages.

    [[Seton Hill University]]

    [[Internet]] [[Weblogs]]

    If the Wiki page does not exist, the link is red. [[Rainbow Hector]] You can create a page simply by clicking on a red link.

    By the way, please don't create a Rainbow Hector encyclopedia entry -- the world is not ready for that yet.

  3. If you have not already done so, go to the Wikipedia sandbox, click the "edit" link to the right of the any secton on the page, and add a few links. Click "Show preview" in order to check your work.
  4. Move on to the Wikipedia tutorial (which lets you move at your own pace.) I'll come around to help anyone who needs it. Note in particular the "Neutral Point of View" discussion (on page 7 of the tutorial). Wikipedia is a consensus builder. If you say something outlandish and unsupportable, other users will tone it down until it is acceptable to the body of Wikipedia users. While Wikipedia aims for a neutral point of view, it's probably the case that people who like technology (and like things like interactive fiction) will probably spend more time on Wikipedia writing about it, as compared to someone who dislikes computers, who would just ignore Wikipedia.

Assignment: Once you have gotten through the tutorial,

  1. Edit: Find an existing page on Wikipedia on a topic that interests you (there's a search box on every Wikipedia page), and make some change to it. (Be sure to save your work when you are finished.)
  2. Create>/b> a new "stub page" on a topic that would be of interest to Wikipedia users. (There are probably few who need to see a page that lists your favorite movies, for example. Leave that sort of thing for your blog or your website.)

    The easiest way to create a new page is to find a red link (which signifies that no page exists for that topic). Click it, and sketch out the beginning of an entry (a "stub").

    The easiest way for you to find a red link that interests you is simply by reading existing wikipedia topics until you come across a red link that interests you.

    If you have a specific topic in mind and can't find a red links to it, add one yourself. Find an existing page on a related topic . Edit that existing page, inserting a bracketed word or phrase in an appropirate place. (For instance, if you want to write an entry on a particular type of cheese, go to the [[Cheese]] page). If the link you added isn't red, then somebody else has already created that topic.

  3. Connect: A wiki is a web; the pages are valuable because they are connected. Find two related pages, and add links from them to your "stub page." Go back to your stub page, and make sure that it has outbound links to the three pages that mention it. (I'm asking you to create at least three links going out to other Wikipedia articles, and three coming right back in.)

    For example, if you created a stub page for your hometown's world-famous apple harvest festival, it might link out to existing pages for your county or hometown, for [[apples]], and for [[harvest festival]]. Edit all three of these pages so that they include links that point to the stub that you just created.

  4. Bonus: Flesh out your "stub" page. Blog about it, and check back from time to time to see what other people have done to it.
  5. Required: Save the URLs of all the pages you worked on. Exercise 1-7 will ask you to check back on them.

Due: Ex 1-6

Play the interactive fiction work "Photopia" (it's the file "photopia.z5"). It will take you about 45 minutes to an hour. If you get stuck, feel free to search the Internet for hints.

Write a one-page response (you are welcome to blog it) to IF in general, and Photopia in particular.