Completely lost in wikimedia - part 2 (getting started)

Last time we talked about the phenomena that is Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects associated with it. In this blog I walk through my first steps as I try to contribute to a Wikimedia project.

I went to the Wikipedia main page, and registered to become a contributor. After searching for topics that interested me, I found an entry that could be improved by adding an image that I had made. So I decided to start by adding this image to the site.

Now, this seemed simple at first. Every page has a link at the top that says "edit this page". When you click there you're shown a text box, like those used to enter posts in a forum. But inside the box, the page is written in Wikipedia's own special mark-up code called wikitext. It isn't HTML. It's something that you have to learn.

To add an image to the page, I have to first upload the image to the Wikipedia servers, then I can insert the code referencing the image in the text. First, I click on the link that says "upload file" found to the left of the screen in a little box labeled "toolbox". Clicking here takes me to this scary upload page full of disclaimers.

To upload an image you click a link on the left of the screen.

The upload page allows you to browse your harddrive for an image and upload it. It has a box for adding a summary, and a licensing section. The license options include: found the image somewhere", which I guess means "delete me now!"; the GFDL; Attribution share alike license; public domain; and many others catagories including posters, album covers, and screen shots. I used the attribution share alike license. If you forget to add a license then you will get a message on your personal talk page telling you to do so or the image will be deleted.

So, I filled in the text, added an image, and pushed upload creating a new image page in Wikipedia, but I still needed to insert it into the page. Going back to the Wikipedia article, I clicked on the "edit this page" link. The edit window opened and I tried to figure out what it all means. The bottom of the page, has the buttons "save page", "show preview", "show changes" and a link that says "editing help". The Wikitext is a bit daunting at first. There are many specialized codes, and you have to learn the interface, but you can practice your codes on a page called the sandbox before you enter it for real.

A Wikipedia edit page showing wikitext.

Looking at a Wikipedia edit page the fist time, I realized that I had no idea how to add an image to this page. I needed help. So I followed the link marked "editing help". This link took me to a page that listed some wikitext codes. There are actually many editing help pages. Each one was a bit different. It can get quite confusing if you're looking for how to do something specific. After reading, not understanding, searching for help, and reading some more, I finally entered the code to add my image to the page, and after previewing it, I pushed "save page". I had now officially become a Wikipedia contributor.

Now people all over the world can see my little image. I have become published in a larger work. It feels good to contribute. I guess that this is why Wikipedia works. Because everyone can add whatever bit of knowledge that they know however small so that everyone benefits. People helping people. That's what makes a wiki work. People like to help other people. Contributors to Wikipedia form their own little society of "Wikipedians". Next week, I will talk about the social aspect of posting on Wikipedia, about those who love it, and those who don't.


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