Since December last year, my organisation, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), has been working with the Wikipedia community in an ongoing conversation about how the PR profession might work effectively with Wikipedians and Wikipedia.
Last week, the first action of this dialogue materialized with Wikimedia UK hosting draft guidelines (written by the CIPR’s social media panel) for the public relations profession on using Wikipedia, for comment from Wikipedians and the public relations profession. The guidelines are intended to provide clear and detailed advice on how we as PR professionals should edit pages and engage with the Wikipedia community. Since the draft guidance launched there has been considerable engagement with this process, with over 120 edits and a vibrant discussion page. It is our hope that at the end of this consultation we will be able to produce a set of guidelines for our community (a practical handbook if you will) to draw on in day-to-day practise.
This draft document provides an opportunity for you to be part of the debate, to discuss your views, your opinions and your experiences of the Wikipedia editing process. It also provides an opportunity to show that we can work together with Wikipedians, to build mutual understanding, and produce an evolving resource that will shape the way our profession interacts with a resource of such influence.
It is a shared concern that one potential barrier preventing our community from contributing in this consultation is that the ‘wiki’ platform isn’t inherently intuitive. In the next few months we look forward to producing an on-demand webinar to accompany the publication of the guidance, whilst on Thursday 21 June we will be hosting a Social Summer session with Paul Wilkinson, CIPR Fellow and a long-standing Wikipedian.
In the meantime, if like me, you’ve never previously used the wiki platform, but you’re eager to have a say, in the spirit of mutual understanding, the team at Wikimedia UK haveassisted me in creating the following quick three-step guide to explain how you can be part of this collaborative process.
Create a user account
It is easy to create yourself a user account and you are not required to provide any personal information:
1. Navigate to the Create accountpage or click Log in/create account, located at the top right side of the page
2. Choose your Username
3. Select your Password
4. Entering your E-mail address is optional, but is needed for password resets, should you forget your password.~
5. Click Create account.
Creating an account allows you to create new articles (pages), upload images, and rename pages across the Wikipedia site. You also get access to special features such as My watchlist. A watchlist lets you follow the articles that you are editing and bookmark other interesting pages. To add an article to your watchlist, click the star icon at the top of any article.
More importantly, since all your edits are assigned to your account username, you have an identity on Wikipedia. The CIPR recommends that PR practitioners choose a username that is transparent and identifiable to you as a corporate representative. Avoid using just a company, group or product name, or sharing a username (see username guidelines).
The CIPR also recommends that new users add information about yourself to your User page. Maintaining your User page is a good way to build trust and provide authenticity to your edits. Your User page is accessed by clicking on your username. Click Edit to write about yourself. Then click Save page at the bottom of the screen when you are finished writing.
Note: You can edit Wikipedia without having an account. However, without an account, your edits are assigned to your computer’s Internet protocol (IP) address; some consider this a deliberate masking of identity in order to hide the impartiality of edits. Remember a core principle of editing Wikipedia is that editing articles where it might be hard to remain impartial is considered a conflict of interest on Wikipedia.
Once you are signed in you are ready to edit your article.
To make changes to an article, click Edit at the top of an article (just beneath where you have clicked to signed in).
This will bring you to a page with a text box containing the editable text of that page. The text editor allows you to freely input text; advanced formatting options are further described in Step Four.
It is often more convenient to copy and paste the text first from your word processing program into the Wikipedia text editor. You are free to type suggested edits, however please make sure that you cite your sources so others can check and extend your work. The CIPR recommends that all users post a timestamp when using the edit function; this can be done by clicking on the fourth icon along in the text editor.
If you want to simply make spelling corrections, formatting, and minor rearranging of text you can click the This is a minor edit box before clicking Save.
After you have finished your edits, click Save page. (it can be helpful to summarise the edits you have made in the Edit Summary). Please note that it is best practice to click the Watch this page box so you can monitor the progress and development of the page in My watchlist.
Your edits are now visible to anyone who visits the page. If you have more information to add or need to correct a mistake, make another edit. Do not be afraid – you cannot accidentally make permanent deletions. All previous versions of an article are saved under View history and contributors can revert to an earlier version by simply clicking undo.
Contributing to a discussion
Discussion appears at the top of each article. Discussion pages, commonly known as talk pages, are a place for you and other contributors to plan article structure, discuss and build consensus on article content, and ask for help from one another.
You will see that the discussion on the ‘Draft best practice guidelines for PR’ is varied and at times polarized in opinion. Feel free to state your opinion of the document on the discussion page. The CIPR recommends that all users post a timestamp when using discussion pages; this can be done by clicking on the fourth icon along in the text editor. You can also Add topics for discussion by clicking Add topic to the right of the edit button.
Provided below is a handy cheat sheet of shortcuts that are frequently used in marking up wiki’s that will help you when you edit Wikipedia articles:
(Source: Wikimedia UK)