One of the first things you must realize is that you've got to Be Bold if this project is going to work. It is natural to be cautious about editing stuff that other people have written. The fact that there are many highly educated types here makes some people afraid to touch the wiki, period. But this is a huge mistake. We want and need the participation of a wide array of people. This isn't an experts-only project in the least; most of our registered contributors are, in fact, authors, not (expert) editors. Also, keep in mind that most people here are quite friendly. So far, anyway, we've had very little unpleasantness here.
So, please, Be Bold about contributing. Want to start a new article on a subject? Please do! You don't need to ask anyone's permission. Want to fix someone's spelling or grammar? Dive in, this is a collaboration. Want to add a new section, or revamp a bibliography? Add, revamp, and edit away!
But before you edit an article that seems pretty far along, have a look at the article's "talk" page (click the "discussion" tab at the top of the screen) and check for comments that people might have made.
It is difficult to precisely define what Being Bold is and isn't, so let's look at a couple of examples.
Being Bold can be:
- Starting an article about Barbra Streisand, Caraway seeds, or any one of millions of other topics in which you are both interested and, presumably, knowledgeable to a certain degree. All we ask is that you write at least 100-200 words about the topic, just to get it started, and that you respect our guidelines about CZ:Family-Friendly Policy.
- Going to any existing article and making editorial changes to it such as:
- Correcting spelling, typos, and grammar.
- Rewriting anything that seems awkward or ill-phrased—in other words, improving its writing, tone, and style.
- Correcting any factual errors you find.
- Adding any sources or references that you feel really ought to be cited.
- Adding new material to the article, in the form of a few words here and there, a couple of new sentences here and there, an illustration or image, or even entirely new paragraphs and/or new sections with a large amount of new text.
- All of the above is encouraged. Whenever you make a change of any kind, please write a brief explanation in the Summary box just above the "Save page" button, and, if you think it warrants it, a further explanation on the Talk page.
- Once you feel that you know your way around Citizendium, going to a "policy" page such as this one and making edits to the page itself. Our policy pages are open to revision from all our members.
Being Overly Bold
Being Overly Bold can be:
- Deleting large amounts of existing text in an article without having first discussed it on the Talk page with other Citizens. If, for instance, in the Michael Gilbert article you felt that the last five paragraphs were unnecessary, you should not simply delete them with, perhaps, a cursory "explanation" in the Summary box of "too long". Even if you were to write a long explanation on the Talk page, this would still not be acceptable: you would have removed a large part of an article that other Citizens may have worked on for several years. It may be that your reasons for doing so are correct and that, on reflection, the other Citizens will agree with you, but consult with them first.
- Adding large amounts of new material that you know is controversial, and generally not accepted by mainstream authorities. This is not to say that much of this material may not eventually find a place in the article, but it should not simply be added without prior discussion.
- For example: It is fine to add a few neutrally phrased paragraphs in the Shakespeare article about the various theories concerning the exact authorship of the Shakespearean works. It would not be permissible to add 5,000 words, or even 50, flatly stating that "It is generally accepted the Earl of Shaftsbury wrote all of the Shakespearean canon."
- In the same vein, creating new articles about fringe subjects, or controversial views, in which it is taken as a given that these subjects or views are indeed the correct ones.
- The grassy-knoll theories about Kennedy's assassination, for instance, can be written about in various articles within Citizendium. A new article cannot be started, however, in which the basic assumption is that Kennedy was assassinated as the result of a conspiracy.