Monday, October 19, 2009

Wikitravel: The Bad

When first faced with this project, I must admit I was apprehensive. We were asked to list three places about which we felt knowledgeable. So naturally I thought of my hometown and the only place I've ever really lived, Warwick, Rhode Island. The problem was that Warwick is epically boring. I know that compared to probably thousands of cities and towns, Warwick is worthy of writing, but I checked out the Wikitravel page on Warwick and found it to be completely accurate. And boring. Needless to say, I wasn't going to go there.

Fortunately, I knew that Providence was the second-most comfortable place for me. As I stated in the previous post, the page for Providence is enormous but luckily I found plenty to write about.

I was very glad I didn't have to create a new page, that I'm not from a small, unknown town, because starting from scratch would have created a lot more work for me and who knows if I would have had anything to say?

I did run into one very unusual and somewhat bizarre problem with this project. Here's what happened: Like I said in the previous post, the "History" section for Providence was blank, so I knew that I would be taking on writing something for that spot. Naturally, I first looked to to get an idea for my entry. I took some notes based on what was written, like the chronological order of the information (starting from the city's inception, through time until current day) and major points of interest (dates, industries of notability, Buddy Ciani, etc.)

I then began to draft my own, condensed version of Providence's history. When I felt like I had enough info, not too long and not too short, I posted it into Wikitravel. I did this with the "Climate" section as well, using for important points and re-writing it to fit Wikitravel's audience.

Well, within about 2 minutes of posting in Wikitravel, I noticed a glowing red dot next to the "talk" link at the top of the Wikitravel page. Basically, some user named Peter something or other had flagged my posts as plagiarism of I was shocked and really personally offended. My posts which I had spent a good amount of time writing were instantly taken down.

I responded to Peterwhatever and said, "While I did reference for the basic information on my postings, I in no way plagiarized the webpage." Peter guy responded saying that the paragraphical format and certain words I used were too similar to the Wikipedia page of Providence's history. He said that it's a violation to do what I did, but probably tried to sweeten the scold by saying "We do want you to take a crack at writing your own history section because there isn't one!" I was very, very pissed. I had written my own. Accusations of plagiarism are not minor, not to me.

So I re-read my post draft and made as many modifications as I could, including shortening it considerably. I figured Wikitravelers really wouldn't care about a detailed history of Providence anyway. Ditto for climate. I re-posted, and with great paranoia stared at the top of the page for the glowing red dot to appear again. Thankfully, it did not.

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