Barn Raising on FamilySearch Wiki
What is a barn raising?
On a frontier homestead, the largest and most complex structure was usually the barn. Because barns were built with massive posts and beams that depended on each other for strength, their heavy walls had to be built separately and then raised by a crowd. Settlers who wanted a barn needed a barn raising -- a party or social event in which the community would help complete the heavy work quickly. Wikis have barn raisings too -- short, focused community efforts to create or revise content relating to a single topic such as "genealogical research in Maryland."
Challenges of working in isolation
Wiki contributors sometimes experience the same feelings homesteaders did. For one, working in isolation can be lonely. Sometimes the lone worker wishes for a partner, a friend who will help brainstorm ideas or simply provide another human voice. Sometimes the work feels overwhelming, as if it just takes too long to get to the point where a sizeable portion of the work seems finished. Wiki contributors who feel overwhelmed and isolated think about what the work would be like if they had some community help. When they think of community help, for some reason a lot of them think of a barn raising and wonder whether the principles of a physical barn raising can be applied to a wiki project. Those who tried it found that it works: one really can stage a community event that makes the writing process more rapid, fun, social, and satisfying.
Benefits of a barn raising
According to Meatball Wiki, the benefits of a barn raising are:1
- The event generates a significant sense of accomplishment in a short period of time.
- Participants learn about how to do a barn raising, making them more effective in leading their own barn raisings later.
- "Barn raising is fun, as a social event! Having a barn to raise does more than just get people together and let them talk. It gives them something to talk about."
- "When the tables are turned, the barn owner does the same for anyone else." So a good way to raise volunteers for your own barn raising is to help others with theirs.
- People helping other people strengthens relationships and social bonds.
- When community members get their problems solved quickly through barn raisings, it gives them more time to devote to the community.
Expert and beginner contributors needed
A barn raising is accomplished with volunteers of all expertise levels -- from total beginners to master craftsmen. Of course a barn raising needs an architect and an engineer -- people who know how to design the building and what materials to use to make it durable. The project also requires master craftsmen who know how to read the plans and craft the joints that will hold the posts and beams together. Some less-skilled carpenters are needed for things like flooring, siding, and roofing. Many strong, cooperative people are needed to raise the walls with ropes and pikes. Finally, a crowd of people are needed to provide the flow of food, drink, and other items that will help sustain the laborers as they work.
Like a physical barn raising, a wiki barn raising needs a variety of people. While it requires experts who can design the information architecture, the look and feel of the content section, the elements of a good article, and the way in which the various pages will interlink, it also needs folks who can do research for good record sources, find information already on the Internet regarding a topic, correct spelling mistakes and grammar, add headings to articles, transfer information from other sources to the wiki, and many other tasks. Whatever your expertise level, there's a place for you in a wiki barn raising.
Our first barn raising
Our first barn raising on FamilySearch Wiki focuses on the state of Maryland in the United States. To see the list of tasks we need to do to complete the Maryland barn raising, click here.
Our second barn raising will focus on research basics for the country of England in the United Kingdom. A list of tasks to complete for phase I of the England barn raising is being compiled. To see the preliminary list, click here.
- Running a Barn Raising
- "Barn Raising" at Wikipatterns.com
- For more information on barn raising on the frontier, see Wikipedia's article "Barn Raising."
- "Barn Raising," Meatball Wiki.