Monday, May 16, 2011

Understanding the FamilySearch Wiki -- Part Two Introduction to Wikis

This introduction to wikis is intended to explore how wikis operate in the context of the FamilySearch Research Wiki. Underneath a rather simple looking exterior, wikis have a complex understructure that creates a cooperative community of volunteers willing to support the structure and provide the information. There are literally hundreds of wikis spread across the Web. Why do some of them grow into Internet giants and other languish in obscurity? I can answer in one word: content. In order for a wiki to grow and develop a devoted cadre of volunteers, it must demonstrate the ability to attract useful content.

In the case of the FamilySearch Research Wiki, the initial content came from the employees and volunteers who work for FamilySearch. To quote
FamilySearch is the largest genealogy organization in the world. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. For over 100 years, FamilySearch has been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide. Patrons may freely access our resources and service online at, or through over 4,500 family history centers in 70 countries, including the renowned Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Research Wiki was initially seeded with hundreds of pages of useful reference material from FamilySearch's paper publications. But the real impetus for the growth of the website was the connection with the every growing Historical Record Collections on the updated website. As the millions of records are added, each of those collections has a link to the Wiki. As the collections grow in importance and quantity, the links to the Wiki will become more and more important and then crucial to an understanding of the Record Collections.

But how will all this happen? To understand, I need to start with the the individual's contact with the Wiki and that brings up the subject of namespaces. A namespace is a logical grouping of the names used within a program. In the Wiki, namespaces are used to define pages that serve different functions. Quoting from the Wiki, "A namespace is a high-level category in which articles or pages are created. Namespaces help segregate articles about genealogical research from administrative types of articles, such as those that explain how the Wiki software works."

Here is a further explanation of how namespaces work in the Wiki:
If you are a user searching for articles that will help you with genealogical research, you will likely only search within the main namespace, and need to know little about most of the other namespaces. If, however, you are a contributor, moderator, or sysop, namespaces may be very helpful. For example, if you want to write an article that explains how to use the FamilySearch Research Wiki, you could create that article in the "Help:" namespace. If you wanted to search for an image to insert on a specific page, you could search the "Image:" namespace. Namespaces can also make it easy to search for specific types of articles or pages. You will be able to easily locate pages that have been created in a specific namespace because there is a colon ":" in the name. For example, "Image:Palafito," or "Help:How to add citations."
One of the first namespaces you may encounter in the Wiki is the User: namespace. Every user of a wiki automatically creates a User: page at sign in. However, these pages are not active unless the user adds content.

Next time User Pages.

1 comment:

  1. Your posts are inspiring me to effect my long-delayed foray into the FamilySearch Wiki. Very interesting, thanks!