I talk to local history groups which often have a cross-over with family 
history (often their ancestors lived in that local area).


I agree with you re Trove obits (I’ve created or expanded articles with these 
many times). The main problem is that the language is a bit flowery and needs 
to be toned down. Also, reflecting the times they were written, those obits 
tend to be  somewhat sexist, e.g. it is commonplace to refer to the wife/widow 
and female daughters without any mention of their names (or as Mrs Fred Smith), 
whereas male relatives are generally named. I try to ensure that both men and 
women are described more equally.The obits can also very insensitive to 
Indigenous occupation of Australia prior to European settlement. Words  like 
“pioneer” and “discovered” usually need to be qualified in that regard, e.g.  
“European settler” or “discovered by the British” or similar. Direct quotes can 
(in moderation) retain politically incorrect language, but I’d tend to do this 
only a view to making a point about the different attitudes of those times. 


I agree entirely that articles written by family historians about family 
members  can be problematic. While they often have copious sources and those 
sources are often reliable, those sources tend to be comprehensive by their 
nature  (everyone has a birth certificate, everyone buried in a cemetery is 
listed in the burial register, etc). And in country towns, everyone gets an 
obit in the local newspaper. So it’s a situation where the general principle of 
having a lot of reliable sources doesn’t always equal being notable.  The claim 
to fame is often pretty marginal – the first settler in Smallville, the 
secretary of the Smallville football club for 30 years, etc. I try to divert 
them into adding these claims into the [[Smallville]] article, usually in the 
History section. It’s also worth pointing out that your ancestors are a 
Conflict of Interest situation and that is a good reason not to create articles 
about them (admittedly it’s more a Conflict of Interest in the sense of “your 
ancestor is more interesting to you than to everyone else”). 


Regarding your 1.5 hour timeplan, I would suggest you are overly ambitious 
about how much you can cover in that time. Firstly there are always a lot of 
basic facts about Wikipedia that people want to know and need to know. In 
particular, “if anyone can edit it, isn’t going to be full of rubbish?”. You 
will need to spend a little time explaining how Wikipedia manages the vandalism 
and incorrect information problem. Do not assume that they know how Wikipedia 
“works” behind the scenes, because they don’t. Secondly it takes a lot of time 
to teach them the basics of editing.  You do not say whether you will be 
teaching the source editor or the new Visual Editor. Having taught using the 
source editor many times and once with the VE, I think people will learn the VE 
much faster and it’s my plan to teach the VE going forward. There are some 
gotchas to teaching the VE – you can’t edit a Talk page with VE, you never want 
them to open an infobox (they will be exposed to source editing) and just about 
every piece of documentation in Wikipedia assumes you are using the source 
editor :( BUT they will be able to make basic edits much more quickly.


I assume you are talking about hands-on editing. If not, I think give up now on 
teaching them how to edit and just give them a talk on Wikipedia instead. It’s 
hard enough to teach them to contribute with a computer in front of them; I 
doubt you can do it with slides alone.


A family history group is an older group of people (so are local history 
groups). You will also have some people whose idea of “basic computer skills” 
and yours will be very different. A lot of older people send and receive email 
and use Google to search the web and write newsletters for their golf club in 
Microsoft word without managing to learn how to do something like 
copy-and-paste. It’s hard to make a citation without some copy-and-paste, 
particularly copying the URL for web citations. Don’t expect them to know what 
a URL is either (try “web address” while pointing to it on the screen in the 
browser). Many are not accustomed to using multiple applications/windows at the 
same time, so having the Wikipedia article open for editing in one window and 
the source material in another may be a new experience for them.


With any group, you will have issues with copying material from other websites 
and wanting to upload photos of unknown provenance. Most do not understand 
copyright at all. Some will not have had a level of education where they were 
expected to use citations and won’t know what they are and why they matter. 
Even those with university degrees may be completely unfamiliar with inline 
citation, being accustomed to just listing their sources at the end without 
linking them to the claims (particularly true for those in the humanities).


What I tend to suggest when I get asked to do a “short intro” to Wikipedia is 
now offer two sessions. The first one is just a talk about Wikipedia aimed at 
reading Wikipedia with realistic expectations based on knowing how it all 
works. Then have a second hands-on session for those interested to want to 
learn to edit; this will be a much smaller group than the first talk and you 
have got a lot of the learning curve about Wikipedia out of the way and can 
focus on the skills development. If you can have multiple sessions to teach the 
hands-on stuff, even better. Practice is important.


I have some slidepacks for general talks and edit training (source editor) 
available if you want to use them as a starting point. I don’t yet have a slide 
pack for the VE yet although I will be creating one in the next week or so, as 
I have to deliver VE training on 8 Feb. Let me know if I can help.





From: Wikimediaau-l [] On 
Behalf Of Paul Foord
Sent: Sunday, 24 January 2016 2:36 PM
To: Wikimedia-au <>
Subject: [Wikimediaau-l] Family History related Australian biographies on 


Hi all


At a meeting of the Genealogy SA Research and Development Committee I offered 
to provide a session on writing biographies for Wikipedia. 

Triggers for this were: 

- my experience finding obituaries and other sources in Trove that appeared to 
justify an article, or allowed significant expansion of a stub. Often for 
politicians and sportspeople there is already a stub that can be filled out.

- finding that a number of the articles apparently written by family historians 
were not encyclopedic in their selection of information nor well presented. 


It looks like there will be a 1.5 hour session:

- an intro to WP

- familiarisation with Wikiproject Biography (WP:Notability)


- Using hardcopy and online resources, (WP:Citing sources)


Any thoughts, comments, offers to work on the project. Is anybody else already 
doing something along these lines?




Paul Foord



Wikimediaau-l mailing list

Reply via email to