One of the biggest issues that I lament about regarding Twitter is how there is so much great information just falling through my feed, never to be recovered again. A perfect example of this appeared yesterday when Will Mason tweeted asking for people to help provide examples of idiomatic instrumental constraints leading to funny pitch choices.
Within one day, there were loads examples of this along with some discussion contextualizing the responses. Examples like this happen all the time on Twitter ranging from people needing specific musical examples to killer Twitter rants like this one of Doug Shadle that took me way too long to find, which only proves my point. After liking the tweets, that’s usually where my engagement with the information ends, then I get sad that this information will never be available again for anyone who was not on Twitter yesterday. I know it lives on Twitter and can dig it out, but I honestly feel I should be spending less time on my computer when I find myself telling more senior music scholars things like
“Oh, actually, there was a really good Twitter thread about this the other day”.
So what can be done?
Well, one thing that I think a lot of people forget about is that all this information can and should be put on Wikipedia. After looking at Will’s thread, I put “Idiomatic Music” in the Wikipedia search bar, and was directed to this stub of a page.
This is where I would have hoped to find the information on Will’s tweet if I were looking for it on another day, but it’s not there. So in true “knowledge should be for everyone” fashion, I added it to the page and thought this might be a good opportunity to procrastinate writing my dissertation by writing a blog about my favorite dissertation writing procrastination activity: editing Wikipedia.
One thing I have been meaning to blog about, and this obviously has given me a good reason to, is how easy and important I think it is for academics to edit Wikipedia. It’s so important that I have even turned my love of editing Wikipedia into something I personally refer to as #wikiwednesday.1
For me, #wikiwednesday is just a weekly reminder that I should add something to Wikipedia every Wednesday. For the past few weeks, I have been doing it on topics related to my dissertation, but in this post I honestly wanted to show how easy it is to edit Wikipedia for anyone that hasn’t yet. Hopefully after seeing a few screenshots, you too will be inclined to help out as well!
The first thing that you need to do is make an account. I made a quick one just for this post.
Ok, now with an account made, the next thing that you need to do is click the Edit Source button found in the top right corner.
Here (at least my my Firefox?) there’s the option to use the Visual Editor mode. If you’re not familiar with Markdown and HTML and what not, this is the way to go in my opinion.
From here, this opens up the hood and you can start editing. I am personally in the process of doing the last 50 days of my dissertation, so I seriously do not have time to restructure this page, but I do have time to add in a bit of text (and do this quick blog post).
Next, all I wanted to do was create a new heading that would provide some examples of this, then write some very OK text with some concrete examples from Will’s thread. The text is not poetic by any means, but it’s better for it to be there than not. And if you think what I wrote sucks, you can always change it!
After adding all this in, I then tried to link in some of the composers and examples with the link tool. It might take a second to get a handle of how this works, but it’s time well spent in my opinion. After a few minutes of editing….Tah Dah!
Part of me wanted to just keep going and adding to this page, but my hope is that people will read this post and do a bit of their own #wikiwednesday-ing and just try to do one small edit on this page or another. I find that once you start, I think it’s pretty fun and actually kind of hard to stop.
Not only is it fun (my opinion), but I also think that if you are an expert in something (cougheveryonewithaphdcough), you have a responsibility to edit Wikipedia in your own subject area. Not only is it important to give people up-to-date and accurate information, but Wikipedia is also a place where most people probably start most of their inquiries. And this isn’t just undergrads, the amount of times I have seen people crack open Wikipedia on their phones at an SMT or AMS talk on a subject outside of their realm of expertise is pretty funny.
The reason I think this is so important is because this writing will be more read than any article I write in any journal (especially if it’s written behind a pay wall!) and probably have more of a cumulative impact than most of my research. Also, knowing that Wikipedia is probably the best empirical evidence of what we as a community canonize, it becomes so important to make sure that Wikipedia is representative of the world we want to exist in. I’m obviously not the first by any means to point this out. There has recently been coverage of Wikipedia’s diversity issues by the Washington Post and anyone that is not living under a rock (aka not on Twitter) knows that the music community is actively working towards Rebalancing the Music Canon as blogged about by Anna Kijas and working towards more accessibility of music from historically under-represented composers by initiatives like Music Theory Examples by Women and The Institute for Composer Diversity. All I am trying to get across with this post is how important I see it for anyone with skin in the game to take a bit of time out of their day each week and make a habit out of putting information out where most people read it.
Of course this is being done too, I guess I just am hoping for more of it. I’ve seen that some people like Kendra Leonard starting to organize Wikipedia sessions (couldn’t find this exact tweet to link in?) to create and edit pages on Women composers. In my opinion, if both SMT and AMS put aside 2 hours each national conference to edit the music pages of Wikipedia, we as a society could take most of the year off of #publicmusicology (just kidding, but maybe not because that level of human resources editing Wikipedia would be unheard of).
So on that note, I think it’d be nice if anyone interested in #publicmusicology would join me in my weekly small edits of Wikipedia and share small portions of what they did with #wikiwednesday to remind others to also help out. Or you could get back to devoting all your time to that article that most people probably will not read (#shotsfired).
My love for editing Wikipedia pages grew out of taking extensive notes on a server that my advsior, Dan Shanahan set one up for our department to facilitate collective knowledge for our department. Of course those posts live in on a “private” wiki, but they will one day see the light of day when I either blog about them or try to get all that info to Wikipedia.↩︎