Moussaka, anyone?

On: October 4, 2010
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The Chronicle of a Wikipedia Entry

Three attempts to find a topic. Four days of research. One plain article that is still online on the greek Wikipedia. And one Greek lady never eating moussaka again.

Let me explain myself: in the beginning, as we were introduced to the “Wiki Workshop” and this particular assignment, it didn’t occur to me to write about a kind of food or a specific part of the greek tradition. My initial goal was to contribute an entry relevant to playability, video games, tetris… However, as almost everyone around me was set on a subject (in John’s class), I was still struggling to find what I would be working on for the following week. Of course, greek Wikipedia was not of much help.

Let’s take this story, step by step, shall we?

Attack of the giant moussaka

  • Step one: Happy, ambitious students want to work on a “relevant” issue

Well, I am still laughing with that. As I started doing some research in the depths of Vikipethia (i.e., Βικιπαιδεία, Greek Wikipedia) two things emerged to my attention: first, this particular version of the famous online encyclopedia needs to be organized and… filled with articles. I simply could not believe the amount of articles that were requested by users as well as the topics that were untouched, comparing to the English version of Wikipedia. As a matter of fact, being used to checking wiki’s version of the story all of the time, my thought was “Since all of those articles do not exist, how am I going to interlink my article to other Wikipedia articles?”. Secondly, the other matter, I realized shortly after that thought: “Wow. You need a narrowed subject. It IS going to be tough.”

  • Step two: Happy, ambitious students compromise and try to find a subject a little bit more narrowed yet in their fields of interest

“How about making an entry on an artist? This would be nice!”. Well, not exactly. Greek Wikipedia has vacant space indeed and many, many artists are there with their striking red links, praying to turn blue. However, my personal choice was not succesful. Words of advice: if you are a beginner, please, avoid contributing an article about Morrissey or any multidimensional character of the artistic field (unless you are one hundred per cent aware of what you are getting into) Especially in Greek wikipedia, as you need Greek references to back up your entry ( which by the way only seldomly exist). Despite my… beautiful research, I soon felt that I had to give that topic up.

  • Step three: Worried students realize that it is all about a simple topic and cross-referencing

A friend suggested a food related topic. Another friend suggested greek food. I enjoy cooking myself and I was just desperate to find a topic. Here it goes, Wikipedia has 29 different entries on 29 different languages on moussaka yet not a greek one. Eureka!

  • Step four and five: Anxious students follow the “Eat, pray, research” moto

Ancient cookbooks, my grandma’s recipe, history of greek food, dictionaries, online articles, many different views on the origin: well, everyone knows this part of the story.

  • Step six: Lost-in-translation students upload their articles

(It is all greek to me!)

Personally, I found experimenting with HTML formats easier than trying to find your way through the maze of user UNfriendly tutorials and guides. Complex tables, not clear examples, not to mention the fact that the english guide was more helpful than the greek guide. Still, if you’re  trying to find how to edit an image you have to click on several links, redirecting you to other guides, various tutorials etc. In the end, you just hope that it works as you don’t want to look up in the beginner’s tutorial again. Seriously –considering that it is an open, online, participatory encyclopedia- creating an entry is much more complicated than it should be and it seems more complicated than it really is!

  • Step seven: It is on, people!

Yes, you made it. You have an article there. Online. A brand new Wikipedia entry, slightly differentiated from the same entries in other languages. Yet, something feels terribly, annoyingly wrong. In class, you remember, something was mentioned about bots? Communication with admins? Interaction and Dialogue? Oups. No, no nothing is in my inbox. Check again. No, nobody “poked” my Wikipedia entry. Check again. And wait. And wait. And wait. Until the next day, no vicious wiki-administrators had disturbed my contribution. Only a message on my user page: “ Welcome to Wikipedia. Your contribution is welcome!”.

  • Step eight: It is STILL on.

Three other users ( or bots? who knows? )edited my… greek moussaka, actually assisting me to form my article in the correct wiki-way. I also edited the particular article again and again correcting mistakes that no one else had noticed, still hoping to receive feedback from Wikipedia. Actually, this lack of response leaves me wondering, especially after reading a few blogposts on the masters of media blog. More specifically, most of my fellow MA’s seem to have been encountering problems with the English Wikipedia. Many questions are raised: Are administrators stricter there? Therefore, is the information as accurate in all languages? Does this lack of response from the administrators mean that I did something wrong, something right or is it just that they did not check my article? How does Wikipedia really function? Who is the ultimate expert that decides on the fates of our contributions?

If you are interested in moussaka ( greek, egyptian, turkish, romanian or libanese) and you are a native greek speaker/ reader, you can check my contribution. Maybe it is not that useful and surely it will not change the world[i]; at least, I really enjoyed working on Wikipedia. Now, I simply can’t resist checking on the latest changes on my article and keep hoping that it will remain where it is right now!

[[Moussaka, it is!]]

[i] Or maybe it could change the world, if the “Attack of the Giant Moussaka” narrative ever became reality.

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