FamilySearch Research Wiki: Why I ParticipateEdit This Page

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NGS2010 125.png A presentation given by FamilySearch staff at the National Genealogical Society 2010 conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.


Contents

Introduction to wikis and FamilySearch Wiki

A wiki is a Website where anybody can write content without having to know html or other programming languages. The most famous wiki in existence today is Wikipedia.org, the world’s largest encyclopedia which is written entirely by volunteers.


In 2008, FamilySearch launched a wiki at https://wiki.familysearch.org so that the Family History Library and the genealogical community at large could offer free advice about how to find, use, and analyze records of genealogical value. The wiki’s coverage is already massive, with a scope of over 100 countries and 21,000 pages. The idea behind the wiki is that none of us can be expert in all localities, records, languages, or ethnic groups, but if each of us writes snippets about what we know, the resulting content will help all of us learn where to find, how to use, and how to analyze genealogy records anywhere in the world.

Projects we’ll cover today

This lesson will allow members of the FamilySearch Wiki community to present the unique projects they’ve started – projects that offer research advice that is unavailable anywhere else. The presentation will also give some best practices about engaging people in creating great genealogical reference content online. New wiki projects emerge constantly, so we don’t want to lock down on this syllabus the projects we’ll highlight. But the projects we’ll cover might include:


  • Native American research
  • United States census
  • Sweden
  • United States naturalizations
  • Rural records of the Southern United States
  • Scottish records
  • …and others

Why people contribute

People enjoy contributing to wikis for many reasons. As FamilySearch Wiki community members present their projects, they will explain the research problems each project is designed to solve and the types of unique information being created to advise genealogists in overcoming these problems. As these stories emerge, you’ll see that the passion these folks have for their projects echoes feelings expressed all over the Web about why a wiki is an ideal place to create content. If you’ve ever wondered whether a wiki would be a good place to share what you know about research, come hear these stories and read the comments below from wiki users worldwide:

A wiki makes it simple for anybody to write content

“That's what I like about Wikis... the barriers to getting involved are low and the output value is high.”

– Frank Brooks at http://j.mp/9jZpok


“The nice thing about a wiki, of course, is the built-in ability to edit pages without having to know HTML, PHP, Ajax, or any number of nasty coding languages.”

– David Lee King, http://j.mp/czODnw


“One very nice thing about the wiki is it's NOT something that requires a group effort/commitment. Anyone who feels inspired can contribute a little or a lot of info.”

-- Susan, http://j.mp/9RWotO


“The nice thing about the wiki is that any member can update at any time.”

-- Jeff20 at http://j.mp/br83Oo

You can write about what excites you

“That is the nice thing about the Wiki, you start off considering one piece of information and end up researching other interesting characters and events.”

– JulianaAngela, http://j.mp/azE1eg


“The nice thing about a wiki, and this is explicitly stated at Wikipedia, is ‘Wikipedia is not paper’. That means the size and reach (scope) are unlimited.”

– Tom Haws, http://j.mp/br0zkZ

Other wiki members protect your writings

“I like the sense of ownership that a group, not just an individual, can have toward a wiki.”

-- Susan Tschabrun, http://j.mp/cXSDGV

A wiki can be easily fixed

“The nice thing about a wiki is that you can always roll back changes if you don't like what someone modified.”

– Clinton R. Nixon, http://j.mp/b7C363


“But thats the nice thing about a wiki. In, like, 2 minutes I fixed it.”

– Teksura at http://j.mp/9w64CK

A wiki grows organically

On a wiki, you can simply start writing now without having to worry about how it all fits together. As ideas emerge, structure will emerge. So you don’t have to architect all your content from the top down before you begin writing.


“I like how a wiki can grow organically with a project.”

-- Susan Tschabrun http://j.mp/cXSDGV


“The nice thing about the wiki is that we can start work on the page and flesh it in slowly. And you don't have to do all the work, we can spread that out too.”

– Eric Myers, http://j.mp/cHnxAm

On a wiki, you can collaborate without meetings

“One thing I like about the wiki idea is that it seems to avoid a lot (possibly all) of the high maintenance that comes with collaboration across time zones.”

– Clay Burell, http://j.mp/P2DKe

Other contributors make you look like a genius

You can start an article with just a few facts and a call to action, and others will come in and plug in a fact here and a fact there until you have a full-blown, wonderful article. Example: http://j.mp/csHbyX


“Nice thing about a wiki, is that it's a real-time manifestation of the peer review process. Bad entries are improved, good entries are improved, and vandalism is evident and easily corrected.”

-- Dave Hinz about the FamilySearch Wiki, http://j.mp/dAWxTQ

Conclusion

In general, a wiki is a wonderful gathering place where each user can contribute what they know. Users can discuss the knowledge they share and collaborate on great projects that can help many others. FamilySearch Wiki, a site built by the community for the community, is growing at an enormous rate because people like you are sharing what they know about where to find genealogical records and how to use them. Join us today at http://wiki.familysearch.org and share your learnings with other people who wish they knew what you know. Become part of this helpful community team that really believes that “We are smarter than me!”

 

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