5 Teaching Tips for Web Criticism
In the fast paced world of the Internet, it can be easy to lose track of the fundamentals. We all know the safety guidelines for posting misinformation online; for example, don’t lie, follow the thread, speak the truth. Now is the time to pay close attention to the basic fundamentals of being online, like remembering to switch off your computer, take off your headphones, and try to remember what you just typed. Below are five things I learned while writing a blog post on Wikipedia editing, some tips for practicing basic online skills, and some advice about what to delete or edit on Wikipedia (if you manage to avoid causing that little glint of fear in your eye that comes when you’re writing.)
5 Teaching Tips for Web Criticism
1. Put aside competitiveness. If you want to get high marks on your school essay, you have to work hard to get to where you need to be.
Ask yourself: Am I interested in the subject? Am I interested in the way the author has defined the topic? Do I like his or her style of writing? Do I know how to write like this? What will make it better? Are there any sections that seem awkward or backwards? Am I not making it clear what I need to say?
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you aren’t familiar with a word or section on Wikipedia, there is plenty of help available. Even a small group of community members (like us!) can play a role in helping you understand what you have written.
3. Never have your own idea of what a footnote should look like. You can make one out of a Word document (they are handy when you need to explain a reference that isn’t in a citation) or you can use one in the footnotes. However you go about it, you have to remember that footnotes are for reference. Respect that.
4. Write for yourself, not for the encyclopedia. While Wikipedia’s policies are robust and clear, there are people on the site who are not instructors, who don’t know how to spell or write, who can’t support themselves, who are anonymous and not careful when they edit the site. That means that writers like you might find themselves coming up against the law in your efforts to get your work on the site.
What’s to delete? Do not remove posts that were removed for copyright reasons. (You still can’t edit an article you have created, even if there is an article with the same name.) As for removal of a post without attribution, there are many rules about how to make it work. (Here’s a list of basic rules if you are interested.)
What’s to edit? Do not delete content for poetry, personal criticism, parody, factual errors, or footnotes without proper attribution.
Keep it consistent. Compare and contrast different sections of a page.
If you find someone who is not teaching the basics of content on the site, contact them and ask them if they can point you in the right direction. If they refuse, follow the example of one of our contributors to the site, who frequently promotes an up-to-date education curriculum for younger children on Wikipedia.
5. Like it, or don’t. While you are writing a professional blog post, consider removing some relevant information that might hinder the understanding of what you are trying to say. As in teaching, depending on your goal, there will always be elements that seem redundant.
What’s more important than what you put in your writing? The tools you use, to navigate these ever changing digital waters.
Anya Kamenetz is the CEO of cittva, a start-up consumerist venture and marketing company in Chicago that uses new technologies to connect people together. Cittva is the first democratic polling company, and attracts an engaged young audience via WordPress forums.