OK, so you're new to the whole concept of a wiki. You don't even know what a wiki is, yet! Not a problem. Fortunately, it's easy to show you what a wiki looks like because you're using one right now. This text, along with every piece of information in the Bloomingpedia, is stored in a very simple computer database called a wiki.
Your next question might be "What a wiki is used for?" Simply put, a wiki is web-based system that allows anyone to easily and quickly create and edit an article about whatever they find interesting. There are lots of wikis on the web. The most successful, by far, is the Wikipedia, with over 2.8 million articles. They've far surpassed the number of articles in the Encyclopedia Brittanica in just a short number of years. There are many other wikis out there, as well. Most are devoted to a more specific areas of interest, such as Engineering, Quotations, or even mixed drink recipes.
Bloomingpedia is one of these many wiki systems with a more specific focus, in this case on Bloomington, Indiana. This kind of wiki is more formally known as a City Wiki. Bloomingpedia isn't the first, nor will it be the last city wiki, but we all hope it will be the best!
Maybe you aren't quite ready to start writing for the Bloomingpedia, but you really want to take advantage of it. Great! That's what it's for. Fortunately, just reading the Bloomingpedia is extremely easy.
The primary method of creating a cohesive set of information is creating links from one page to other pages. A good Bloomingpedia article will have blue and red text links that you can click on to take you to another article. Blue links mean there's already an article written for that particular subject. A red link means that there's no article associated with that link, but the person who wrote the article you're reading at the time thought that there should be one. He or she just didn't get around to writing it and is hoping someone else (maybe YOU!) will take that on. Clicking on these red links takes you to an edit/create page for that article. See how easy it is to write new articles? (See the section below for more specifics on editing articles)
Articles can be placed in one or more arbitrary categories that help organize the Bloomingpedia article base. There can be categories for anything. Some popular categories include restaurants, local restaurants and street addresses.
It's very easy to browse the Bloomingpedia, but each browsing session will be different depending on where you start out. Start out on an article about The Cinemat and you might just end up reading about Elkinsville, Indiana. That's part of the fun! The Bloomingpedia Council (don't worry who they are just yet) has chosen a set of general articles that contain lists of lists to help get you off on your way. These are accessible from the main Bloomingpedia page.
But what if you have a specific interest in mind? That's easy, too. On the left hand side of each page there's a search field. Just type what you're looking for and click "Search". The wiki software will search the system for occurences of your search term in the title and the text of an article and return a list of pages which include your search terms in either or both places. Your searches should be very basic. Examples of good searches include:
- Steve Volan
Avoid asking full questions or putting any extraneous text in the search. These are examples of bad searches:
- "Where do I find ice cream in Bloomington?" (consider just "ice cream")
- "Macri's Restaurant and Deli" (consider searching for just "Macri's")
There's another button below the search bar that says "Go". That simply looks for main articles that have your search term and doesn't search through the body of all Bloomingpedia articles. This is useful if you want to just jump to the main article instead of see every article that references what you're searching for.
Very simply put, a wiki is only as good as the people that create and maintain the articles. As the number of contributors increases, the better and more diverse the information becomes. A wiki on the scale of Bloomingpedia cannot survive without a good user base of contributors that pay attention to their surroundings and feel the need to share their understanding and experience with their Bloomington neighbors.
Who can edit?
To be clear, everyone on the Internet has the same level of editing privileges on Bloomingpedia. As long as they create a username and password they can create, edit and delete pages. That sounds dangerous, right? Well, it turns out that it isn't as bad as it sounds. For each change to a webpage, the differences between the versions are kept in the wiki system. When a page is changed, the previous version doesn't go away. The wiki system keeps a log of each page, all the way back to the day the article was created. If someone comes along and vandalizes a page, fixing it is trivial. There are special pages in the Wiki system that let everyone see what changes have occurred since they last looked. So, as long as people are keeping an eye on those pages (and there are), vandalism isn't a problem.
OK, so blatantly wrong information can easily be culled out, but what about slightly wrong information? For example, an incorrect phone number, or a wrong historical fact about Bloomington. Who catches those? The answer, again, is you. There will certainly be information that will prove to be wrong at given points in time, but the whole point of a wiki is to grow and evolve. This is the primary reason why a large contributor base is essential to Bloomingpedia's success. The more "experts" Bloomingpedia has on a subject, the more accurate the information.
It's always important to keep the following in mind: Bloomingpedia is not a primary reference source. The city is a fluid, changing subject. There will inevitably be inaccuracies and information may become outdated here and there. The beauty of Bloomingpedia's community-based article edit model is that you can fix it. If you notice that a business moves or is closed, fix the article! If some new information about a subject comes up, update the article! Bloomingpedia is all about giving you the power to fix inaccuracies, rather than wait on someone else to do it.
How to Edit
Learning to edit a wiki is simple, but you want to do it right. Since there are no standards that enforce a certain style of writing, you'll want to read a few documents first:
- Bloomingpedia Policies and Direction - gives you an idea of what content Bloomingpedia wants and what content Bloomingpedia wants to avoid.
- Creating new articles - because you're ready to go!
- Editing an article - adding to, or correcting an existing article
- Article formatting quickstart - common wiki markup language so you can see how to properly format an article in the wiki system
- Taking pictures for Bloomingpedia
- Uploading your pictures to Bloomingpedia
- Bloomingpedia Tasks - areas that need work, if you don't know where to start
But the best way to learn how to contribute is to spend some time reading through the existing articles and see how the community has organized and started formatting articles. Remember that there's no system to enforce article format, so you can create an article about a restuarant that looks vastly different from another article about a restaurant. There are some controls to help keep uniformity, such as templates, but you need to know to use them, first! Reading existing articles will give you an idea how to start a new article. And if you don't like something about the way things are organized, speak up! Bloomingpedia is about community consensus, not the opinions of one or two people.