I’m talking to you. Yes, you, the person who reads my blog, or clicks on the links I post on Twitter, who is involved in contemporary theatre and performance. I need you. All of you, to help me solve a pretty big problem. We’re invisible. On wikipedia.
This is important. Because this is one BIG way in which laypeople (in any subject area) discover. It’s how I find out more – in a reasonably unbiased way – about countries in the news, about complex physics discoveries, about the history of Henry V who it turns out got short in the actual face by an arrow when he was only 16, about the peasants’ revolt, about a TV series and when a previous episode was broadcast. Wikipedia is fundamentally part of most people’s first pages on google searches. It is an entry point. And contemporary performance is all but invisible on there. Consider this outreach. Mainly because that’s exactly what it is. This is a really important way of putting contemporary theatre and performance where people are. Of helping them find out about us.
We’re small community, and it appears very few of us are on there updating and creating articles. So, here’s what I propose: we all sign up to wikipedia today, and commit to creating an article every week or two weeks. Just one, on an aspect of contemporary performance/theatre of which you feel like you can contribute something. This is our lives, don’t tell me you can’t tell me something.
So far (and a while back) I’ve done an article on Dan Rebellato, but I quickly got overwhelmed by how many other artists and companies were missing and just let it fall by the wayside. So I want your help, I want to know I’m not alone, and I want to commit, along with a few other people, to doing at least one article a week/every fortnight.
I even made us a hashtag so we can share new articles, and so others can know they’re out there, create new ones or help develop current entries. You don’t make hastags. Shut up, Hannah. Use #wikitheatre, if you like.
And, to help us all out, and because it can look a little daunting, I’ve put together a few tips, a how to get started, and a how to format guide in below.
Where to start.
To sign up, go here. Then the next step is to learn how to create and format an entry. The first thing you might feel is a little daunted, think about it as someone looking at backstage for a show that you’ve been working on for a while, or at a lighting desk for the first time, this is the backstage area – to someone without the knowledge it can look impenetrable, but really you just need to know a couple of things and then it’s really easy.
First off, here’s some rules and principles about editing wikipedia that you should know:
- it shouldn’t be someone with whom you have a potentially biased relationship, not a close friend, or a company that you’re on the board of, or that you collaborate with often. This is why we need a lot of people, because so many of us work together.
- when you reference a source, good practice means that it shouldn’t be anything biased, and should be from a reputable source – this means no referencing the personal websites of the subject of the article (this article on Rotozaza, for example, is incredibly bad practice, and has been highlighted as such); sources that are preferable are things like the Guardian, the Times, the BBC, performance journals. Referencing venues for show information should be acceptable, look for interviews, reference books if you have them (linking to google books is useful).
- look at other pages. Find something that will have been well edited and often checked over and model your entry on that! Go and look at the entry on Shakespeare, or Chekhov, or something. Work out what your main headings should be, and start researching content!
- search first! Make sure the article doesn’t already exist.
- edit first. Try editing a bit before you jump into creating a whole page, if you feel a little nervous.
Things to write about:
Writers, dancers, dramaturgs, auteurs, performers, companies, theatre buildings, festivals. There’s probably more. You get the idea.
You know how sandpits are places where you can play at building things? Americans use the term ‘sandbox’ and because US english is the standard of the web, that’s why you can make a bit of the site where you can try things out before making something live is called the ‘sandbox’. I can’t remember if I created it, or if it was already there, but you can get to it from the little menu bar, top right, if you want to play. This is what it looks like for me:
Try your editing out here, before you head over to create an article, if you like.
Creating an article.
Type the title of the article you want to write into the site search box, if it’s not already there, it should show you “You may create the page” on the search results page, in red. CLICK THIS. Begin to edit. Job done begun.
When you are done with an edit (next up is how to do editing), you can hit “Show preview” to see what it all looks like, and fix any bits of formatting that you want. When you’re happy with the article, just hit ‘save page’ and it will be live on Wikipedia, where other people can join in editing it.
This is the wikipedia guide to creating an article: clicky.
Editing an article, or:
HANNAH’S GUIDE TO HOW SHE PROMISES IT’S EASY TO FORMAT A WIKIPEDIA ENTRY.
To make things like headings, and to add in links, references, and formatting like bold, italic, underlined, you’ll need to use a bit of wikipedia’s code. THIS IS NOT HARD. I promise you. It’s a bit weird looking because they have to use combinations of symbols that wouldn’t occur in normal typing, otherwise thing would happen accidentally. That’s the only reason it looks confusing. It isn’t. Here’s some examples:
The main text formatting is done with a ‘, to make something italic, you use two: ‘ ‘ italic ‘ ‘, to bold it you use three: ‘ ‘ ‘ bold ‘ ‘ ‘, to make something bold and italic, you add them together; five: ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ bold and italic ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘
To link to another wikipedia page you simply use square brackets, like so: [[ wikipedia page name ]] and to make it link, but read as an alternative bit of text, just add a divider in: [[Name of page|Text to display]]
You’ll want to have headings, heading sizes go from 2 upwards, 2 being the big underlined ones, and the larger the number, the smaller the heading (the levels go down, think of level 1 as the main top heading (the ground floor) and the rest as sub-basement. Equals signs make headings happen.
Bullet points are made with *, and you can indent them with a double **
Regular indents are done with a :, the more : the more it indents ::: is like hitting ‘tab’ three times.
And finally, the all important REFERENCING. This is a really simple bit of code: <ref> turns the reference on, and </ref> strikes it, turns it off. Simple as. So, if, for example I was linking to a BBC article on The Passion I would do the following:
Sheen returned to Port Talbot a year following The Passion to reflect on the project, and to launch a film about the project<ref>http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-17652887</ref>.
OR if I wanted to reference something hard copy I’d just do this:
“At the end of the twentieth century, it is evidently still necessary to insist on the obvious: we are embodied creatures” <ref>Hayles, N. Katherine, “Embodied Virtuality: Or How to Put Bodies Back into the Picture” in Immersed in Technology: Art and Virtual Environments (MIT Press, Cambridge MA: 1996)</ref>
Those <ref></ref> tag turn into the little    references that you see, and then all you need to do is paste the following in at the end of the article:
And it will list all of your sources, in order. Clever, really.
Don’t worry about bookmarking this post, though, there’s all this stuff, and more formatting options over at the Wikipedia formatting Cheat Sheet: clicky
So there you go.
I can’t think of anything else you need to know, but if you have any questions I’ll try and answer them in the comments below (I’ve only done one article, so try and google it first, that’s all I’ll do).
And please, please let me know if you’re going to get involved. In the comments, on Twitter (#wikitheatre), and spread the word. Contemporary performance on the internets needs you!
// edit - some useful things I’ve discovered, or that people have pointed me towards since writing this article, first off Wikipedia’s inclusion criteria – what is actually Wikipedia-worthy. Definitely read that. And secondly, the referencing is actually a lot more thorough than linking in the way I mentioned above, that will get you tagged as linkrot! Referencing, where possible, should be a proper academic format I’ve fixed all the links on my first #wikitheatre post (Non Zero One) now, but there’s a handy guide to that over here. Read that, too.