Today I went to Sheffield Hallam University for a day course in editing Wikipedia.
I rather enjoyed it. There was some instruction in using the Wikipedia mark-up language; this is not difficult, but is annoyingly different from HTML, and is not entirely intuitive, so takes a bit of getting used to.
Then, with Jbosh1940 I began to add some substance to the very puny existing Wikipedia entry for the Yorkshire novelist Lettice Cooper, author of National Provincial and other novels.
Together we doubled its length. The result is here, but I’m hoping to add more to it soon.
Wikipedia is generally my first port of call when i want to know basic details about a writer. It will generally provide at least birth and death dates, and a list of major works. Most entries are reliable, but some are less impressive. There are two Wikipedia entries I want to get at soon.
The first is that of novelist Evadne Price. This confidently states that Price was born in Australia in 1888, whereas the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and other sources say that she was born in England in 1896 or thereabouts. This confusion at least needs mentioning, even if the actual details of her birth must remain slightly mysterious (She was the kind of lady who did not always want to be too exact about this kind of thing, but I suspect that the early date comes from an Australian eager to claim Price as one of their own.) Also, the page has virtually nothing to say about Price’s most significant work, the novels she wrote under the pseudonym Helen Zenna Smith .
The other is the entry on Philip Gibbs. This not only fails to list his bibliography; it doesn’t mention a single one of his highly influential postwar novels. In addition it contains value-laden sentences like:
In the latter work Gibbs exacted a form of revenge for the frustration he suffered in submitting to wartime censorship; published after the armistice The Realities of War painted a most unflattering portrait of Sir Douglas Haig, British Commander-in-Chief in France and Flanders, and his General Headquarters.
Dismissing his books about the War as ‘revenge for frustration’ is tosh, I’d say, and ascribing a personal motive to his unflattering representation of Haig is very unjust to a sane and considered writer.
So, since I’m now a Wikipedia editor, I suppose I’ll have to do something about it.