Some of you may have noticed the recent change in the wiki’s background. This change was ushered in to coincide with an update released by Wikia on October 3rd which increased the full page width by 30 pixels. Most of the changes put in place by this update are a bit difficult to notice, however, because of the width increase, it requires most custom wiki backgrounds to be updated.
The width increase was distributed between a few points, including the left and right margins of the article and the wiki activity rail that is positioned to the right of content areas on pages. Basically what this has done is widened the wiki activity rail on all pages and made the wiki background more visible at the center top and bottom.
Several other adjustments have made to how we now see Wikia. The top and bottom toolbars now span the entire length of the screen, as opposed to spanning just the central part of the screen as it appeared before. The bottom toolbar is now capable of collapsing, as well. Another change, which will not affect us on Avatar Wiki, is that the expanded wiki navigation (which has been available since November of 2011) is now the default on all wikis.
Personally, I like this update; it makes things look nicer in general. I especially like the fact that the wiki’s background is more visible and that the toolbars now span the entire screen. As for the content of the new background, I couldn’t be happier with that, being such a fan of Republic City and all its buildings/bridges.
This is an update that Wikia has released that I am particularly happy with, as so far there haven’t been glitches that these tweaks have spawned that have affected me. It is just something simplistic that really doesn’t have any effect on how we contribute to the wiki. Recently Wikia has seemed to go for the more complicated, flashy, and huge changes, but this update is a bit different, and that is more pleasing than any other huge changes that Wikia has recently dished out.
The Joys of Editing
It took me a while to come up with an idea for what to write for my very first column. Maybe an in-depth look at some of the recent issues on the wiki, delving deep into the darkest depressions of despair. No, I'm scared of the dark. Maybe I could explore my own psyche, giving you guys a look at some of my day to day thought processes. Unfortunately, after a good rummage around in there, there wasn't a whole lot to write about.
Exasperated, and under threat of exile from Kettle if this column wasn't good enough, I decided to turn to the wiki for some inspiration. Well, not so much a turn, more a click on another tab; a metaphorical turn if you will. I had a browse through some of the wiki's pages, but alas, nothing inspired me.
Now thoroughly annoyed, I decided to kill some time by browsing the recent wiki activity. As I scrolled through the page, I realised that it was almost entirely comments and messages, with just one single, solitary, lonely edit on the list. Gadzooks, I said to my myself (honest to god, that is what I said), why aren’t there more edits on the page. Editing articles is always such a joyous occasion (you may have realised by now that I speak like an 19th century English gentleman. It's just how I roll). Suddenly, that sentence sparked something in my mind, a possible title for my new column. Editing Joyousness; nah, that's no good. The Edits of Joying; nearly, but not quite. The Joys of Editing; EUREKA, that's perfect.
After that rather
crazy interesting opening, lets talk about a more serious issue. In his final editorial, 888 touched upon what is necessary for a wiki to retain long-term contributors. One of the issues that I think is very important is that to retain long-term contributors, a wiki should, irrespective of whatever else may be going on, ultimately exist as a place for people to edit and improve articles.
For this wiki, discussions on particular aspects of the show are of course an important part of everyday activity, but the issues and topics that are discussed are ever changing. Topics that seem important, and are debated and discussed at length, get replaced over time; discussion in the past was often dominated (and at times overwhelmed) by Kataang and Zutara, but those topics have been replaced by Makorra, Masami, and endless hatred of Mako (I'm sensing a theme here). Even just a few months ago, comments were dominated by "Who is Amon?" discussions, only to fade as Amon's true identity was revealed.
Discussions exist for only a short period of time, and as such, users that devote their time and energy into these discussions often drift with them. But, still standing after those discussions fade into the ether are the articles. A wiki which places too great an emphasis on comments cannot hope to retain long-term contributors. This is why it is so important that a wiki should ultimately exist as a place to edit and improve articles; a wiki which wishes to retain long-term contributors must focus on its more long-term aspects.
So why is this column called The Joys of Editing, and not An in-depth analysis using an idea that I sponged off of someone else. Well, rather than simply lecturing you on why you should edit more for the benefit of the wiki (as a university student, I know how boring lectures can be), I thought it would be better to look at what I consider to be the joys of editing articles on the wiki. An oft given excuse by users for not editing articles is that editing is boring; hopefully, this will change their minds.
Articles exist as the culmination of the hard and dedicated work of many users, each of whom bring their own knowledge and opinions, making every article a testament to the teamwork of the users on the wiki. Being a part of that effort, being able to see your own hard work displayed for everyone to see, is a very rewarding experience. Conversations and discussions will disappear over time, but the articles will stand ever tall. Even if another user comes along and changes what you wrote, they have still built upon the foundations you created. Nobody that edits an article could do so without standing upon the shoulders of those that came before them.
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There are of course inherent differences between leaving comments and editing articles, and one would be foolish to believe that each does not have their own benefits and drawbacks. However, what exists as a benefit of commenting does not have to be a drawback of editing. Interacting with other users is a large part of commenting, and probably one of the main reasons people do so. Whilst editing articles does not in itself facilitate such direct interaction, it does not completely exclude it. I have had many conversations with other users on how certain things should be worded, or whether a certain piece of information should be included, and my getting to know other users on the wiki has often been a direct result of one of these conversations. Whilst conversations that are played out on the comments are often about opinion's held by different users, conversations on edits are often on things that are directly beneficial to the quality of an article. People spend so much time discussing and debating whatever the hot topic of the week is, only for that topic to fade when a new issue becomes "the in thing". Imagine the improvements that would be made to our articles if people channelled that time and energy into editing, and the benefits that would bring to the wiki.
My final point is that editing is flexible to the time you have available. It is often a misconception that edits have to be large changes or rewrites, but a constructive edit is not judged by its length, or the amount of words a user changed; any edit, whether it be a minor grammatical fix, or a massive article cleanup, is welcome. No-one considers those that make large scale edits as being superior to those that make only small fixes. If you have only a few minutes to spare as you consume a coffee and bagel (me, I prefer tea and a croissant), and see a few links that need fixing, then you can do that. If you're on the train home, and want to kill some time because your fellow commuters just don't want to talk about Avatar (some people can be so inconsiderate), you could perhaps make a more large scale rewrite or expansion. However much time you have, there is something for you to do.
Others may disagree, but it is my belief that articles reflect the best of the wiki, and comments often reflect the worst. It has and always will be the goal of this wiki to be the best, but it is my belief that the only way we can do that is if we exist as a place to edit and improve articles. If we wish to retain long-time contributors, we cannot become devoted to comments, and simply leave the job of editing articles to a select few users. If we do, those users that devote their time to comments will drift away as topics fade, and we cannot allow that to happen. Hopefully, this column has opened your eyes to the joys of editing, and perhaps even encouraged you to edit more than you do; if it hasn't, I hope you at least enjoyed the ride.