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Wikipediholic

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Last night at about 10:30, I told an exhausted and bedward-bound Terry I’d be coming to join her in bed very soon. I hadn’t realized when I said it that I was lying: by “very soon,” I apparently meant “shortly after 1 a.m.” I stayed up more than two hours longer than I’d intended because I was fervently feeding my newest addiction: I think I’ve become a Wikipediholic. [1]

I can’t seem to stop editing articles, or looking at my watchlist of recent updates to the articles I’ve touched, or searching for poorly written or poorly organized articles to improve. I’ll fix tense, I’ll fix spelling, I’ll remove speculation, I’ll clarify, I’ll reformat. I’ve even joined my first WikiProject: it’s about comic books, which I’m sure comes as no surprise to anyone reading these words.

I’ve been using the Wikipedia as a research resource for a couple of years, but I’d done very little article editing until recently; I wasn’t sure I could consider myself enough of an authority on any subjects to feel justified in contributing. My personality is such that I always tend to doubt myself, to wonder if what I think I know is true [2] — and I certainly don’t want to put incorrect information on the site, both because I don’t want to disseminate falsehoods and because I don’t want someone to correct me later and think me a raging dumbass.

But I decided I could safely contribute my vast stores of knowledge when I realized that there exist a great many people who clearly don’t share my belief that one should know what one is talking about before one contributes to the Wikipedia. And then I realized that the words thrown up by those people usually need some serious editing.

This practice of editing articles ties directly into one of the things I’ve always felt was one of my strengths: I’m frequenly better at improving something that’s been done poorly than starting something from scratch. As good a writer as I feel like I am, in some ways I’m an even better editor, and that’s a skill so much of the Wikipedia dearly needs. (I’m not as good an editor as my wife, of course… but then, very few are.) There’s also the fact that I’m nearly OCD with my fussing over things like formatting and structure [3], and so many of the users who add text to the Wikipedia don’t seem to care about those aspects of the articles at all.

It’s proving to be something of a learning experience and an adjustment for me, this whole egalitarian concept of the Wikipedia being a truly collaborative project, one where my words count for no more than anyone else’s. While I have no problem editing the hell out of someone else’s work (for I am, but of course, far smarter than they, no matter who the “they” in question may be), I don’t like being edited myself — even when the edits results in stronger work. It’s an ego thing. As much as I’d dearly love to, I can’t lock an article and say “Now that I have touched these words, no one else need do so ever again.” I change things, people change some things back or make others more to their liking, and I have to learn to be okay with that process.

I know I’ll be fine with it, of course; subjugating my ego for the greater good has never been all that much of a problem for me, no matter how much it might rankle at first. This is the thing, though, the thing that makes swallowing my pride a little easier: I feel like I’m contributing something — and I don’t just mean contributing to the Wikipedia itself, but contributing to the greater cultural conversation, even if that something so far isn’t all that big. In some small way, I’m helping to Get Information Out There. Anything I write here on Do or Do Not gets read by, at most, seventy or so people right now; anything I add to the Wikipedia (even if it’s not directly attributed to me) has the potental to be read by millions. That’s a pretty damn good feeling.


[1] Silly me, I thought I’d coined that word, but of course I didn’t — it seems there’s a great many of us Wikipediholics out there.

[2] This same particular form of self-doubt causes me not to speak up in group conversation and almost never to engage in debate.

[3] I’m so bad about worrying over formatting that I’m not allowed to write using Microsoft Word anymore because I’ll spend more time tweaking the fonts and styles than I will actually, y’know, writing.

Written by Allen

July 13th, 2006 at 1:37 pm

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MySpace Invader

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Against my better judgment, I now have my MySpace profile relatively complete. (Yes, thank you, I’ve noticed that I’m not a 15-year-old girl.)

My reasons for setting up the profile are couplefold:

  1. Most of my friends from Florida are on MySpace, and that seems to be one of the main ways they keep in touch. For example, my insanely talented (and now Cali-ized rather than Florided) friend Steve (he of the Deadly Fists of Kung Fu video I posted here a few weeks back) has an acccount there, and I might actually keep in contact with him a little bit better if I know where I can consistently find him.
  2. There seems to be some small opportunity to network effectively using the stupid site — there are several comic book writers I like who have accounts there and allow anyone to friend them. I seriously doubt anything will actually come from having, say, Warren Ellis on my MySpace friends list, but hey — it can’t be any less than the absolutely nothing that will likely happen otherwise.

MySpace is, of course, an Internet entreprenuer’s wet dream: the guys who built it launched the site in the summer of ’03 and sold it two years later to News Corp for $580 frickin’ million. The people who programmed the site originally couldn’t possibly have known that their little community application was going to become one of the biggest phenomena on the web and one of the centerpieces of modern teenager culture, but that’s exactly what it is. At the time I’m writing this, MySpace is the fourth-most-visited English-language site in the world according to Alexa.

As a professional web applications developer, however, using MySpace feels like digging tiny barb-covered Mountain Dew-dipped daggers underneath the fingernails of my soul. It really and truly is a wretchedly put-together site. The usability and navigation are abysmal, and we can’t even get started on the entire “ugly design” ethos that MySpace empitomizes lest my frontal lobe catch fire. I can’t look at the site without thinking of all the things I’d have done differently if I’d built it. [1] But as part of my plan to Get My Name Out There And Network, I decided that I needed to swallow the bile rising in the back of my throat and start using MySpace, at least a little.

So any of you reading this who are willing to admit you have a MySpace page, let me know or just add me as a friend on your profile. I’ll tell Warren Ellis you said hi.


[1] Of course, who knows — the things I’d've done differently might’ve made for a better application but a less-popular site. It seems that MySpace’s rough-around-the-edges-ness is one of the reasons it’s so popular. My designer mind can’t quite wrap itself around that one, though.

Written by Allen

June 23rd, 2006 at 9:03 pm

Posted in Web,Web Design

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Up Next: Google Spreadsheets

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The next stage in Google’s ongoing effort to become a full desktop-OS-in-a-browser: Google Spreadsheets. Supposedly you can upload your existing XLS docs (and CSV, of course, and probably other formats as well) and it will keep your formulas and formatting intact. And, because this is Google, you can share your spreadsheets with others and let your buddies edit your them — while you’re still working on them.

Is there any doubt at this point that Google’s intention is to launch it’s own web-based operating system? Between this app and their forthcoming word processing program, plus GMail and Google Calendar, they’ve gone a long way toward making Microsoft Office potentially obsolete. No wonder Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer throws chairs when his developers leave to work at Google.

Written by Allen

June 6th, 2006 at 2:26 pm

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Written by Allen

February 7th, 2006 at 2:55 pm

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Link: Yahoo! Maps Beta

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Seen the new Yahoo! Maps? Much more Google Maps-like, but with some nice twists: I like the real-time traffic updates and the navigation box in the top right showing a larger-scale view of the area you’re looking at. Even more impressive is the ability to click on a particular step of directions from one place to another and see that segment highlighted on the map — very handy. It doesn’t have the satellite views that Google Maps does, but what it does do it does pretty damn well.

Written by Allen

January 24th, 2006 at 4:29 pm

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