Difference between revisions of "Talk:Christian wikis"

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--[[User:DavidCary|DavidCary]] 20:44, 9 March 2007 (EST)
--[[User:DavidCary|DavidCary]] 20:44, 9 March 2007 (EST)
== other copies of this essay ==
Originally, this essay claimed that "The history of Christian wikis is much more recent than that of wikis in general."
That error has long been fixed on the version here at wikichristian,
but I'm starting to notice that that incorrect statement [http://www.conservapedia.com/Christian_Wikis still exists on other wiki].
I supposed I could obsessively seek-and-destroy that error across the entire Internet.
Is there a better approach?
--[[User:DavidCary|DavidCary]] 14:12, 31 July 2007 (EST)

Revision as of 19:12, 31 July 2007

Talk:Christian wikis/Archive 1

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


Thanks for reading my two cents worth. As a bit of background information, my name is G. Grove and you can contact me at [email protected] 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 Christianity for an example of what a template of one possible way this could be done.

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 grove 21:55, 24 July 2006 (PDT))

Point-by-point responses from Tom

I appreciate the comments. I don't really disagree with any of it. I think some of the similarity with Wikipedia is an effort not to re-invent the wheel. For example, in the area of organization of the Wiki. Of course there are other aspects than just organizational and logistical things. In addition, we also need to remember that there are many people in the world that haven't even heard of Wikipedia, so it shouldn't be too surprising that Christian wikis are lacking in editorial support. Here are some responses to your points... --Tom 06:41, 25 July 2006 (PDT)

  1. The use of unhelpful usernames. Why can’t we all use our real names as our user names. It makes us less anonymous
    Interesting idea, I think I like it. Especially for citing articles. --Tom 06:41, 25 July 2006 (PDT)
    Some people prefer to remain anonymous. I, for example, don't mind using my first name on my signature, but I'd rather not advertise my last name to, literally, the whole world. Also, most people like "unhelpful usernames" because they can use the same one across different websites. I also think it's a good brain excercise for all of us to make the effort at associating a username with a person's real name (if the user even chooses to give it to us in the firstplace). --J. J. 16:40, 25 July 2006 (PDT)
  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.
    I agree. "I" statements should be included somehow. If you think about it, every statement is an opinion, even encyclopedic writings are opinions from various points of view, although they may be more educated than the average person. The only trouble I see is in how to merge encyclopedia and user commentary. I'd love to see what others think about that! --Tom 06:41, 25 July 2006 (PDT)
  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
    I pretty much haven't had any vandalism at Wikible for a few months now. I use keyword filters, captchas, a username registration blacklist, and a user creation log to keep track of who registers. And I still allow anonymous users to edit and add content, and all registered users are free to edit the Main Page. In fact, the only page thta no one can edit but me is the Copyright notice, which I think is self-explanatory why I did that. Other than that, almost anyone can edit it. --Tom 06:41, 25 July 2006 (PDT)
  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!
    I agree with that. --Tom 06:41, 25 July 2006 (PDT)
    Can you give some links to examples of where people have found this to be a problem? --J. J. 16:47, 25 July 2006 (PDT)
  5. The layout is never particularly logical.
    Layout? What are you referring to? --Tom 06:41, 25 July 2006 (PDT)

Thoughts from JJ

G. Grove, I've noticed your comments about inter-Christian wikis over the past several months,[1] so I know that there are at least three of us with similar concerns. Tom had actually started a ChristianWikis site to address these concerns, although it kind of fell through the cracks. I have expressed similar concerns on both Wikible (Wikipedia and Theopedia collaboration) and the BibleWiki (Differentiating BibleWiki from Wikipedia), although I haven't gotten a chance to elaborate on the Christian-point-of-view problems that I've noticed from the beginning. For now, I've been content with concentrating my efforts on BibleWiki and Wikible (see my Theopedia link above for reasons why, as well as the Wikible:About page), but particularly on Wikipedia for general articles since there is a larger audience there. While the splintering of the Christian community is frustrating, I think it's also encouraging to know that a lot of people are competing to create the "best" Christian wiki; everyone has different web design skills, so some of the Christian wikis have better features than others—survival of the fittest, if you will.

Therefore, in terms of content, I think we're doing well; community, though, is indeed a problem. I haven't explored the options very much at this point, but Tom's ChristianWikis site idea was a good one; a site that concentrates on collaboration and community but completely leaves out the encyclopedic content. This community site would also be helpful for people to standardize wiki codes of conduct and syntax rules, as well as direct visitors to the sites with the most developed articles on certain topics. In this way, content would continue to be developed on the individual wikis since they all have different focuses. Another option is to try to center the inter-wiki discussion on one of the existing wikis, but make a clearly defined statement about the community being separate from the site's own faith-biased content.

Please see my individual responses in Tom's section above, as well. --J. J. 16:34, 25 July 2006 (PDT)

I've been browsing around WikiChristian a little more, concentrating particularly on the site organization and layout. Graham, your ideas on this page present some major changes to WikiChristian! While I like your suggestions about making WikiChristian more testimony-oriented, I think it presents a lot of challenges. To do this effectively, we really need to think carefully about how the site should be organized and make sure we have documentation on it. The current Wikichristian:Tutorial is very Wikipedia-oriented, so people are going to need to understand that WikiChristian is very different from most neutral-point-of-view MediaWiki sites. Here are just a few initial things I've thought of. Please feel free to add commentary to them, similar to the way Tom has done it above.

  1. WikiChristian could learn a lot from Wikipedia/Wikimedia formatting guidelines. See particularly the Organizing links at http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Help:Contents#For_editors - Right now, it seems like there are just a bunch of links everywhere, but no organization; the overdose of nav links (world churchs, bible dictionaries, etc.) is distracting, too.
  2. Christian wikis are traditionally "Wikipedia-oriented" because it's hard to organize user-edited content if a lot of it is personal opinion/experience. We really need a good system of categories and/or list pages that would stay up-to-date as people add content.
  3. Your topics on the Christianity page seem to be more like Portals in the Wikipedia-sense. Using (overview) and (G.G.) at the end of article titles seems odd to me. Again, I guess I would put those kinds of details in categories.

My apologies for all the criticism. I'm just wanting to get the wiki well-oiled so visitors don't take test drives and end up crashing, if you know what I mean. Blessings to you... --J. J. 20:22, 26 July 2006 (PDT)

Since the Christianity Knowledge Base is open for anyone to edit, I've started a collaboration page to focus on these ideas. Graham, I'm not sure if this is what you're interested in, but it's worth mentioning: http://christianity.wikia.com/wiki/Christianity_Knowledge_Base:ChristianKM --J. J. 13:49, 15 August 2006 (PDT)

Addressing the issue of brackets for "(overview)" or "(user-name)" etc.

Thanks J.J. for your comments. All your criticisms are welcome. Your points are good ones. I suppose my feeling is that portals and categories don't actually work that well. At least, I never really browse for my information by clicking through category or portal listings. Also, they are confusing to new users - at least they were to me when I first discovered wikis. I agree it is odd putting "(overview)" or "(G.G.)" after a title. The reason I've been doing that though is to make the article clear. If it has "(G.G.)" after it, then I mean that it is my original work and is an opinion. If it has "(overview)" after it then it means it is an encyclopedia, neutral point of view article. Also then that leaves room for "(quotes)" for any topic etc. For example, if you look at Church you'll see the main page is "Church" which has a brief summary and then the sub-links which incluide Church (overview) which hopefully would become the large encyclopedia style article but then there are also links for sub-topics and links for opinion articles such as What is the Church? (G.G.) and The Church (justforcatholics.org) as well as links for quotes about the church at Church (quotes) and a link for brief forum-style discussion about the church Talk:Church/discussion. So although it is a little odd, I still think ultimately it allows for growth and personal articles. Let me know what you think. --Graham grove 21:42, 26 July 2006 (PDT)

One of the problems with the parenthesis in the title is that there are other non-topic pages that don't have parenthesis; I think it would get confusing as to what's a topic and what's an article/opinion.
How about a Topic: namespace instead of Portal? Also, instead of Template:Overview showing An overview of Church, it would probably be less confusing if it showed the actual link, like See Church (overview) for a more detailed article. Template:Opinions and Template:Quotes would be changed similarly.
I think this may work out well if we have a good how-to guide on making topic pages, maybe even using a subst template to start from. I may make my own prototype at Talk:Christianity/Dev (with closer adherence to Wikimedia formatting standards) if you think that would be helpful. --J. J. 19:11, 27 July 2006 (PDT)
Please centralize discussion related to my dev page at Wikichristian talk:Topics. --J. J. 11:10, 3 August 2006 (PDT)

Thoughts from Ben (CKB)

I'm copying this from the Christianity Knowledge Base since it brings up some more collaboration ideas. --J. J. 11:08, 10 August 2006 (PDT)

Here's another problem with Christian wikis: They're hosted on private sites, therefore there is no "centrality" to them. I think this wiki, since it's hosted by Wikia Inc., is more "central". I think it might be good for this wiki to specialize in apologetics.

What we could do is perhaps form some sort of ChristianWiki Foundation (sort of like the MediaWiki Foundation) and, under that heading, have a "Christian Meta Wiki", which would work like Meta-Wiki, and under that heading have different projects: One for encyclopedic articles, one for general Christian apologetics that links to wikis of different denominations to show what they think on different topics, one for an international church directory, one for Christian music of all kinds, and perhaps some other projects as well. New projects and/or the joining of existing projects would be discussed at the "Meta-Wiki". If it was done this way, we wouldn't be modeled after Wikipedia, but after the foundation that started Wikipedia - so we'd have all of the advantages without the drawbacks, you see? --BenMcLean 13:54, 27 July 2006 (UTC)

I attempted to respond to this same letter and work with Graham at WikiChristian, but I wasn't getting any interest there; plus, the MediaWiki version there is grossly outdated, making it hard to work on. Ben, I like your thoughts about a Christian Meta, but I think CKB could probably serve as this central hub. It is already on Wikia, providing a reliable server location. We could redesign this Community Portal (CP) (maybe even the Welcome page) to emphasize a "Collaboration" page (or set of pages, maybe featuring the Forum namespace). I don't think we would need a whole, separate, site just for collaboration purposes. This CP could also emphasize a separate CKB-only CP. I like your IRC idea below, too.
Also, in working on a Christian wikis chart over at Wikible, I noticed that CKB and ChristWiki have very different page counts (528 vs. 11911). Why would ChristWiki have so many more considering that it's a fork of CKB? Does Wikia calculate it differently? See my chart and footnote for more details. --J. J. 20:39, 7 August 2006 (UTC)

Ideas of Denise

A few months ago I started my own multilangual Christian wiki project Jesus-Wiki. But I've only just recently really started to work on it. At the beginning of September I finally noticed that there are other Christian wikis around. But because I've primarily been working on the German version of Jesus-Wiki, that shouldn't be a problem concerning the Christian wiki collaboration.

As I've only just discovered that there's a discussion about Christian wiki collaboration, I don't really know what has been going on so far. So if I mention something that's already been said and discussed: I apologize for that.

How I think Christian wiki collaboration should be

I think there should be a multilangual wiki collaboration that is organized in a similar way as Wikipedia. There should be one "content wiki" (a wiki with articles, etc.) for every language, plus one central Media Pool (or whatever you want to call it). It saves space and work (licensing, uploading, description, etc.). Maybe there could be another wiki with the purpose of organising the collaboration between the different languages. But the Media Pool could have that function. I think ChristianKM is a good idea. Maybe it could be used for now. But it should be renamed, as somebody has mentioned. Of course there could be some specialized wikis (like Wikible and CreationWiki) that fill some special needs and concentrate on a specific aspect of Christianity. In general I think there should be a wiki system with general Christian topics written from a Christian point of view. As far as I know there have been discussions about what a Christian point of view should be. I haven't gotten involved in those yet.

Why do I think there should be only one wiki per language?

  1. It takes a lot of work to set up a wiki (organisation, structure, getting people involved, etc.)
  2. We don't have enough people involved to be able to spare anybody. There should be as many people concentrated on one wiki as possible.
  3. Overlapping articles also are a waste of time and work.
  4. The whole purpose of Christian wikis should be to unify and create an overview of Christian ideas (and give more details too, of course). We don't all have to have exactly the same opinion, but at least we should find a way to work together. By creating varouns wikis for every set of ideas we would just be avoiding the whole problem and not solving it. If we don't work together, we don't need wikis. And if Wikipedia can do it we should be ashamed of ourselves if we, callins ourselves Christians (= one body!!!) and saying we're being guided by the Holy Spirit, don't manage to do at least as well.
  5. If the wikis are organized well enough there shouldn't be any problems with being able to find the information we want. It's just a question of structure.
  6. There should be even more reasons. Please feel free to add them here!

I also think that the wikis should have certain things in common, for example the Statement of Faith, the Aboutpage, the General disclaimers, the Privacy policy, etc. The General disclaimers and the Privacy policy could be based upon the ones of Wikipedia (General disclaimer, Privacy policy). Those articles deal with some problems of this world. So why not use a solution given by an organisation of this world as long as it doesn't conflict with God's word? Wikipedia must have a lot of experience with legal problems and I don't want to waste much of my time on law related stuff.

There also is a domain problem. What URL should be used? I imagine that we all agree that the wiki system should use one main domain and subdomains. What domain will be used and what will happen to the other domains I do not know. I personally like the domain [2] because Jesus should be the center of it all. And of course there also is the Logo problem. But as soon as the domain problem is solved, it should be easer to choose a logo or even create a new one.

At least somebody has suggested to host the wikis at Wikia. I don't like that idea.

  1. There are ads. Some of them might say exactly the opposite of what we believe.
  2. There are other free Christian (!) hosting sites without ads. As far as I know, WikiChristian has it's own server. I am hosted at Project62. The host is extremely nice and I haven't noticed any server problems. All wikis could be hosted there.

What to copy from Wikipedia

I believe that the content on the wikis should be structured in a similar way as Wikipedia's. This includes the choice of software (-> MediaWiki). I don't know what extensions we'd want to install, though - if any at all. It looks more familiar to new users and makes them feel at home a lot faster if they are used to Wikipedia. And of course there just are certain articles (for example the editing help pages) that we can't edit without the help of Wikipedia or information from other wikis of Wikimedia. But apart from that I wouldn't collaborate with Wikipedia. It is a secular wiki and has a lot of information that doesn't promote the Christian beliefs. And I would want the Christian wikis to be as independent as possible. There only should be links to Wikipedia pages if some information used on the Christian wikis was taken from there. I'd only mention Wikipedia if it's really necessary.

The wiki structure and organisation

The wikis should be structured and organized in an understandable way. If you take a look at the German version of Jesus-Wiki you'll notice that I haven't even started writing real articles. I want to build a good foundation first. I haven't even uploaded pictures (the only exception is the wiki logo). If I am unsure about how I want to organize the content, why should I expect anybody new to Jesus-Wiki to find anything at all? That person doesn't have a clue whatsoever of what is around! And if there is a good structure, it is easier to add new content and find something to work on as well. I personally prefer working on organizing wikis rather than writing articles.

Somebody mentioned that categories don't seem to work. I disagree. I believe that the Categories (would) work if they were/are used right from the beginning. It's work, ut it will pay off in the long run. It could be hard to start or try to fix an unstructured categorising system after a lot of content has been added.

Another way of linking pages are templates with overviews. Take Vorlage:Navigation Namensräume and Über Jesus-Wiki Vorlage:Navigation Über Jesus-Wiki as examples. Wikipedia uses them too and I think they work. These templates look the same or at least very similar on every page you use them on. That keeps people from landing on the same page over and over again and goind in circles. If they click on a link of an overview template, it will be easier for them to find the samy information again and it will help them get an idea of how the wiki content is structured.

We also have to think about how we want to organize the main pages of the wikis (Home page, Community page, Help page, Aboutspage etc.). Wikipedia seems to have problems keeping the information seperate. I personally don't like it if the same information can be found in various places. I want to be sure I've read all the information that's available on the topic I want. Some examples of how I would structure it:

  • The Home page should welcome people, give a general overview of what is available on the wiki and make it easy to get a feel for the wiki itself as fast as possible.
  • The Aboutspage should talk about the general ideas behind the wiki and be linked with the Statement of Faith, the General disclaimers, etc. I have done so on Jesus-Wiki.
  • The Community page should help make new users feel at home and give information about the community on the wiki. It should also contain information about what is going on, how you can get involved, help you find other users and make the communication between user easier.
  • The Help page only should contain technical help. For people that could be totally lost there also can be links to the other main pages.

As far as I know the wikis will want to have at least one translation of the Bible within the wiki. I haven't really thought about how this could be done. I have seen some wikis have one page per verse. This could make it hard to see the verse in a bigger context, but it makes the linking of verses easier. I think it would be helpful to create a separate namespace "Bible". This causes the linking to be a bit harder, but it makes it easier to look for something in the Bible because you can restrict the search to the namespace "Bible".

I've also seen that Wikible uses the same usernames for all of its wikis. If it isn't too hard to set up such a system, I think it would make sense to do so. It makes it a lot easier to find the same person on different wikis.

Building a community

It is very important for a wiki to have a stable and growing community if it itself is supposed to grow. The Community page should be a easy starting point for that. There also should be something similar to the Babel system of Wikipedia, although we should give it a different name because Babel is connected with too much negative aspects and it isn't just used for language purposes anymore (at least not on the German Wikipedia). It can be used to find people with certain abilities, interests, of certain locations, etc. Another possibility would be to build a Trust network. Both systems could come in very handy and help us build an active community. By using those templates new users can also become familiar with using them and they can get experience in editing pages. I believe a user feels more comfortable editing his/her own page instead of editing the Sandbox page. But I could be wrong.

We'll also have to talk about getting more people involved sooner or later. But all advertisement and promotion attempts can wait until the wiki system has been set up to a certain extent.

Well, I hope this post isn't too long. I wanted to say everything I think is important at the moment and hope I've been successful at doing so. Please post your comments.

- Denise 02:42, 18 September 2006 (PDT)

I forgot at least one aspect:

The content of the Christian wiki system

I do agree that the Christian wikis should be more than just normal encyclopedias. You should be able to add information about specific churches, testimonies, etc. But this would have to be organised in a good way. Using 'overview' and 'quotes' in brackets seems to confusing to me. The 'overview' page should be the main page of the topic (without word added in brackets). From there you could use special navigation templates that look the same on every page with similar functions and lead to a subpage with the pagename 'main page/subpage topic'. That way it is clear that it is a subpage. I'd only use subpages if it's really necessary. Most information could be included on the main page. You could start a subpage as soon as the information gets very personal. In general I'm against creating subpages.

- Denise 03:51, 18 September 2006 (PDT)


Dear neighbors,

I agree with Denise that every Christian wiki "should" have certain standard pages, in addition to the standard pages (such as the WikiNode) that every wiki should have.

How should we set up the WikiNode page at wikichristian.org?

  • Set up a standard WikiNode page, including a friendly welcome message, some info about wikichristian, and a list of the top 10 or so most-closely related wiki. Also maintain another, almost identical, redundant list at Christian_wikis.
  • Set up a standard WikiNode, including a friendly welcome message, some info about wikichristian, and "the main" list of Christian wiki. Discuss Christian wiki in general at Christian_wikis, but link to WikiNode for the full list.
  • Make Christian_wikis our de-facto WikiNode, and make WikiNode merely a redirect to it. (But what if one of the 10 most-closely-related wiki is technically not "Christian"? For example: We discuss Christian lyrics a lot on this wiki. So our wiki node should include a link to the general "lyrics" wiki, and the "lyrics" wikinode should link back to us).
  • ... Or is there some other, better option? Perhaps involving "transclusion" ? ...

--DavidCary 20:44, 9 March 2007 (EST)

other copies of this essay

Originally, this essay claimed that "The history of Christian wikis is much more recent than that of wikis in general." That error has long been fixed on the version here at wikichristian, but I'm starting to notice that that incorrect statement still exists on other wiki. I supposed I could obsessively seek-and-destroy that error across the entire Internet. Is there a better approach? --DavidCary 14:12, 31 July 2007 (EST)