Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Feast site. How to make it easier to contribute.

Posted by Matthew on April 15, 2011

I am always pleased at how well both the Feast Blog and the Feast site do in terms of visits. Of the two the Feast blog is the more popular. A big thanks to those who contribute to the blog, whether by writing posts or comments. Though the feast wiki is only about half as popular, it still gets between 6 and 8 thousand page views a month. I am always happily surprised how much the wiki gets used even at times (as there are) when there are few contributions. It makes sense though, and is one of the great things about people’s thoughts on the scriptures. The scriptures aren’t changing. Someone’s comment on a particular verse written two years ago is probably just as valuable today as it was when it was written. So even if there is little new content, there is a lot of value for the visitors in looking at what is already there. Another big thanks goes to those who have and do contribute to the Feast wiki. Your contributions are valuable.

But why aren’t there more contributions? I think one reason is that it is too hard to contribute.

Lately I have been mulling about how to open up the audience of people contributing their questions and thoughts on the scriptures. With that goal in mind, I’d like to overhaul the site to make the process to contribute a question or thought or testimony about the scriptures very easy for any reader of our sites. I want it to be as easy as writing a comment on the blog. Right now it isn’t.

So with that gaol in mind, here’s a draft high-level plan for getting there. The plan doesn’t come with a time line. We’ll do it as quickly as we can with the resources which we have, which means it will likely be done slowly :).

  1. formulate goal and high-level plan. (This post documents that.)
  2. solicit ideas, gather feedback (This post initiates that.)
  3. solicit help, get a few advisors from the community of users for the project (This post initiates that)
  4. write high-level requirements
  5. review high-level requirements with advisors and revise
  6. create rough sketches of what the revised site would look like and detailed requirements
  7. review mock-ups and summarized detail requirements with advisors
  8. solicit bids to create site
  9. oversee work, test site
  10. migrate content and launch new site

Any suggestions on the plan?

If anyone would like to work in an advisory role or is willing to help do any of the work to get there please e-mail me. I am very open to ideas and help of any kind. My e-mail address is my first name dot last name at gmail dot com.  My last name is Faulconer. One area that I particularly need help with is in taking the design from rough sketches to a true design with colors, graphics etc and then in implementing that. If you are someone who likes the site and has an eye for design, help us out. If you don’t, you may later wish you had when you come to the site and see the design I came up with without your help!

For suggestions / enhancements please comment below or feel free to send them by e-mail if you prefer.

Thanks for everyone’s support,

Matthew

PS After a very stable last couple of years, the wiki site has had some technical challenges since we upgraded to a more recent version of the software it runs on, mediawiki. In the last two weeks visitors intermittently get error pages. Commonly the page does load but you see an error on the page as well. Sorry for the inconvenience.  I’ve contacting the hosting company and the issue should be resolved soon.

11 Responses to “Feast site. How to make it easier to contribute.”

  1. Matthew said

    Just got word that the Feast site issue is resolved. I tested and it seems to be working great. Let me know if you have any issues. http://feastupontheword.org

  2. joespencer said

    Thanks for bringing up these ideas, Matthew. I’m happy and willing to do whatever I can, and I’d like to see the wiki made more accessible along the lines you’re discussing.

  3. Robert C. said

    Sounds great, Matthew. Do you want to discuss the plan as it develops here at the blog? Sorry I don’t have a lot to say as of now, except “go team!”

  4. Matthew said

    Robert. Yes, I’ll provide updates here on the blog as well.

  5. Karen said

    Though the ways of programing and such are foreign to me, I’ll try and see if I can be of some help. :)

    The idea of making it as easy to contribute as a blog comment sounds great, but there is the danger of course of getting less thoughtful contributions that way. Plus, blogs seem to be perpetually recreating the same questions and answers, but the hope of this wiki, as I understand it, is to combine ideas and further thinking on the scriptures. A long list of quick ideas won’t further work in the way a wiki does.

    But perhaps it could be as easy as adding blog posts? Hm. Perhaps there could be two options presented: 1, adding a post (a short essay, from a paragraph to several pages) or 2, adding a “question post” (with a place for answers). Each of these types of posts could have a way to link to the verse or verses, or even chapter or chapters. Maybe use tags? Rather than a page for every 5 verses, a question or post could be tagged with all the corresponding scripture or scriptures? There would need to be a standard way of doing this, of course, in order to make this effective. But a person looking for help on say, Alma 5, could call up any question (with its answers) and whatever posts had been done and tagged with Alma 5. This way if a post is on Alma 1-5, it would still come up under that search?

    Anyway, it’s an idea to throw out there. This is more of a blog format, however, rather than a wiki format. It sounds though that you are looking for a wiki with the ease of a blog, not the form of a blog. Maybe these sorts of posts would make a great sort-of “talk page” with the wiki still being hard-work writing? What sort of end-goal do you have at this point? Commentary that unites people’s information, or a place for many people to give their information separately?

  6. Matthew said

    Karen,

    Thanks for your response. There is a lot of great stuff in your response and I won’t attempt to respond to it all here but I want to follow up on a couple of key points, and I will try to take it all into account in the high-level requirements (in step 4 as outlined above).

    Your comment got me thinking again…why is it hard to post on the Feast site. I think the hardest thing for users on the wiki is the concept of writing from a neutral position.

    Here’s the quote from Feast’s policy on this

    Write commentary from a neutral position. The commentary is a single text written by us all. So, for example, don’t use the first person or sign your name to your commentary. Above all, writing commentary from a neutral position means that you reflect the differing points of view among believing members of the Church fairly and sympathetically. See Wikipedia’s explanation of a neutral point of view for a good discussion of how to address a variety of points of view without bias.

    The writer of the wiki is not asked to express their own views but rather sympathetically reflect ALL views. Of course none of us do it perfectly, but I think that it is often a valuable exercise for the writer and the results provide value to the reader as well.

    Back to your comment. You said “blogs seem to be perpetually recreating the same questions and answers, but the hope of this wiki, as I understand it, is to combine ideas and further thinking on the scriptures.” Yes, that is the hope. And I believe that it is working. If I understand what you are saying it is a reminder that it matters more that this goal is met than the speed with which new content is added to the site. Or in other words, better to have the Feast site go slowly in the right direction than quickly in the wrong one. Correct me if I am interpreting you incorrectly.

    I really appreciate the reminder. I totally agree with your point: “A long list of quick ideas won’t further work in the way a wiki does.”

    So the question that I think your response raises is this: “Can we have it both ways?” or “how do we have it both ways?” How do we allow people to add their ideas without compromising on the value we get from the wiki?

    I don’t know the answer, but I like the idea of making this an explicit goal.

    I think your idea around posts and tagging suggests the beginnings of a way forward. But before we worry exactly about how, let’s agree as a community whether having this as a goal is good. I am inclined to think it is, i.e. we should allow for both the carefully worded comprehensive analysis of positions and a list of ideas.

    Of course, we already have both a wiki for neutral comments and a blog for people to take a specific position on something. However, only a few people get to write on the blog. Anyone can write on the wiki. Things would need to take a different form to allow anyone to post their thoughts on the scriptures. Again, your comment gives ideas of how that could work.

    Any other comments on this? Anyone against making it a goal to allow for both types of scripture related content?

  7. Robert C. said

    I like Karen’s suggestionsm, and Matthew’s comments and suggestions in response.

    I’ll have more time later this summer (starting in June) to help, think, and contribute more.

  8. NathanG said

    It may sound silly, but I’ve thought of contributing several times to the wiki, but when I get there I can’t even decide where to post it. To me it is set up to post commnetary on a single verse, or maybe one or two verses together. When I have something that encompasses multiple verses (or multiple sets of 5 verses), I have to make the first decision of where to post it. Then if I’m trying to incorporate more than one chapter… So do I break up my commentary to match how the verses are arbitrarily broken up, or do I post about a larger passage of scriptures and hope it’s found when people are using it to study (at the beginning of the passage, climax of the passage)?
    I would add that were I (and I don’t feel qualified) to write about the Pauline epistles, I would try to address the epistle as a whole. The last time I read through them, I forced myself to read the whole epistle in one sitting, and suddenly the context started to make the passages make more sense. I also see the wisdom in breaking things into 5 verse components, it just has some drawbacks for me.
    Lastly, there’s a self-conscious feeling about posting something that by the policy you cited sounds like I should be more advanced in my understanding before writing.

  9. Robert C. said

    Nathan G. makes a great point about where to put commentary regarding multiple verses.

    This is related, I think, to the issue of tagging that Karen raised.

    And, I think it’s related to the question of how to emphasize pages with content vs. pages with no content.

    One (vague) idea to address all of these issues might be to conceive of a front-end interface that gives a table of contents that lists each book (or section, for the D&C) within each book of scripture, perhaps with some system, perhaps color-coded, to indicate how much commentary has been written for that book. Then, when you click on that book, there is a similar table of contents giving links to multiple-chapter comments as well as verse-by-verse commentary pages (or groups of verses), again (color-)coded to indicate how much content can be found there.

    I know this is cryptic and not really on-topic for this particular post, but I thought I’d respond while I’m thinking about it….

  10. Karen said

    The 5-verse set up has been frustrating for me too, though I realize that there had to be some sort of way to have order to it all. Sometimes I want to make a comment about whole groups of chapters! Figuring out this part of the wiki seems like one of the things we should definitely address.

  11. Katherine P said

    Yes, tagging and cross-referencing both the blog and wiki are worthwhile.

    I refer to this site occasionally when I’m trying to enhance my studying. Somehow the blend of wiki and blog is just the thing! Granted, I often want to find things quicker than it usually takes.. and, I often get caught up in some side-topic that I run across that had nothing to do with my original pondering.

    If anyone can teach me to do a sort of indexing project to help this summer, I’m willing.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 319 other followers

%d bloggers like this: