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An open letter to users and administrators of the various different Christian wikisEdit

Hello,

Thanks for reading my two cents worth. As a bit of background information, my name is G. Grove and you can contact me at graham_grove@yahoo.com.au to discuss any of the following issues. I've been involved in Christian wikis for a while now. In fact, I first tried to set up a Christianity book in wikibooks 2 years ago, but then I discovered that there were three other Christian wikis at the time and I left the wikibook and joined WikiChristian. At the time there was also Compass and Theopedia, but not anything else. In an attempt to try and get WikiChristian used more I started the wikipedia article "Christian wikis" and have since watched an explosion of links appear. That there are all these people wanting to be involved in spreading the gospel and knowledge of Jesus and Christianity through wikis is a wonderful thing. I especially respect those users and administrators who acknowledge other Christian wiki sites as well as their own. Every one of these wikis has some excellent points. Theopedia is full of academic articles; wikible is intelligently set out; biblewiki is commendable for its extensive linking; wikiChristian is admirable because of its attempt to cover all things Christian including be a directory for all the churches of the world; and I could go on and on about each wiki.

Despite all these wonderful qualities and the hearts behind them, I believe Christian wikis are failing in what I see as their two most important objectives in glorify God. Firstly, to be a body of knowledge where Christians actually come to learn about a topic, and to actively be involved in writing and updating articles; and secondly, to be a witness to non-Christians about what Christianity is all about. It is obvious to me that the wikis are not used by more than a couple people for each site, and that non-Christians are not reading them either. Why is this failure occurring?

I believe there is one very important overriding fact that is stifling the use and growth of all of these wikis. They are all essentially modelled closely on Wikipedia. Why is this a problem? Well, wikipedia is a great encyclopedia – a fantastic reference and very useable and helpful. So, if I want to know about say, the “Coptic Orthodox Church” why would I go anywhere else?! I would only go anywhere else if that anywhere else presenting the information differently and allowed me to easily see what I was most interested in. I might for example be interested in knowing about the persecution of the Coptic church in Egypt today. To learn about that, I am going to want read testimonies about peoples experiences living in Egypt. I might want to know about the formation of the Coptic church. To learn about this, I am going to want to firstly read an encylopedia style overview article about the council of Chalcedon and monophysitism, but then I going to want to read different peoples views on interpreting these topics – their opinions are important because I know that there are many interpretations – there is not perhaps one “Christian viewpoint” for this. However, I might want to find a local Coptic church to visit – and so I would need a list or index of Coptic churches – their addresses and service times and what language they were in. Now Wikipedia wouldn’t be a particularly useful source for some of what I want and certainly isn’t set out in a way that it is easy to find some of that information. No, the wiki I am looking for would be different, however, it just doesn’t exist currently.

There are also lots of other little factors that I believe stifle the growth of the various Christian wikis. These include

  1. The use of unhelpful usernames. Why can’t we all use our real names as our user names. It makes us less anonymous
  2. The complaints that seem to arise whenever someone writes an article in an essay style presenting his viewpoint, rather than in an encyclopedia style. Articles should be able to have sentences starting with “I think”. Now these are clearly individual opinion articles, and so need to be marked as such. But Christianity is a personal religion, and people have opinions which differ. “I think” is valid.
  3. Vandalism – but I don’t know what to do about that – perhaps the only way to stop it is to have a critical number of users
  4. The unwritten rule that an article about the local church down the road is not acceptable. What is wrong with writing an article about my church down the road and writing about its minister, congregation, teaching, music and service times? Nothing as far as I can see!
  5. The layout is never particularly logical.

There are I’m sure lots more issues that other people have thought of. And of course you may vehemently disagree with me on each or every point. I welcome comments. Please leave comments on WikiChristian's “Christian wikis” talk page (http://www.wikichristian.org/index.php/Talk:Christian_wikis) (so others can read them, or email me. I have been fiddling with ideas, templates and trialling out different formats for a Christian wiki that I believe would work – it would hopefully be acceptable to those who want an encyclopedia, those who want testimonies, those who want opinions and discussion, those who want stacks of information with directories of churches, lyrics of songs and public domain texts. Please take a look at a trial version for new structure at [1] and comment at [2]

Thanks for your time. I think those of us who want a Christian wiki need some discussion, and perhaps we need to put together a larger group of people to work on one encompassing wiki rather than dozens of small wikis.

Graham

The Christian Meta Wiki Edit

Hello!

On December 10, 2006 the Christian Meta Wiki was started to aid the Christian wiki collaboration. If we Christians go on like this, creating a new wiki every now and then, not working together, and letting the wikis die after a certain period of time, making people not have too much trust in the success of any Christian wiki. We need to work together!

Please join the discussion on the Christian Meta Wiki. Thank you.

GBY! Denise 16:25, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

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