So this week's wiki-themed blog is about something that affects me every day on this wiki. The community's aversion/apprehensions about just getting right out there and editing something.
This is a phenomenon I call "Fear of Editing".
The way that I deal with it daily is the numerous questions I get every day from all kinds of users that are things like "can I change this?" or "Can I edit this page?" And guess what! Even as an admin, I don't have any authority to tell you yes or no! Editing is a community job, and admins are only supposed to stop edits by blocking pages when the issue is decided or is causing trouble. We are not the people who need to approve every edit.
I've found that these questions come from all kind of users, but that they also fall into one of two groups:
1) New or inexperienced editors that are unsure of how things work here or on any wikia.
2) Longtime editors who believe that their edit may cause controversy.
The main fear for both of those groups comes from one thing: Fear that their edit will be undone, or worse.
Now I've been thinking for awhile about this, and I've come to the conclusion that this "Fear of Editing" is yet another problem our wiki has that sets us apart from other more thriving communities. This fear holds not only specific users back, but it seems to create a certain "tension in the air" around editing that makes us all hesitant to go through with edits. When one user feels this tension, we all kind of feel it, and it becomes a part of our atmosphere And when I say "us all" I mean myself too. I've definitely experienced this fear myself, and it really only went away after I had been an admin for 3 or 4 months.
So how does one get over a fear of editing? Confidence. If we all were more confident in our edits, the "tension in the air" would go away!
But since that's such a cop-out answer, here's how you get confidence:
- Shoot first, ask questions later, but aim well.
What the fuck does that mean? I just wrote it, and I need to think about it... But here's what it means to me: If you want to make a change, do your research first ("aim well"), and when you make your edit ("shoot"), show that you did your research. If your edit includes a reference, then it's already 80% less likely to be undone. Or if you include a link to a discussion where an issue has already been decided, nobody will touch your edit. Ultimately, if your edit makes sense, nobody will dispute it. And going around asking admins is actually quite an ineffective way to find out if people will like your edit.
That brings me to the last part of the metaphor: "Ask questions later".
Let's say you fall into group 1:
- What if your greatest fear is true, and your edit is wrong or flawed? This is totally ok! This is a community dedicated to getting everything right, so people will help make your edit correct! They will not hate you for it. They will work to help make it right.
Let's say you fall into group 2: What if you make an edit, and it is undone and/or causes controversy? Well, guess what, that's still totally ok! Discussions are a part of this wiki, and they aren't something to be feared.
I know what you're thinking "Oh, that JSD guy has a hard-on for discussions, and they always suck here!" Well, if you are thinking that, you're half right! But you won't find out which half until part 2!