Friday, July 17, 2015

Do You Need a Wikipedia Page?

When I was a kid, if you wanted to know something about a person, you looked here:

Then the Internet came along, wiping out the need to research using a book. Everything you ever wanted to know could be found by simply typing a question into a search box.

But it wasn't enough to search for the information we needed. In 1993, someone came up with the idea for an online version of the encyclopedia. After that idea fizzled and another project, the Free Software Foundation's (FSF) GNUPedia, failed to gain traction, Wikipedia came along in 2001 and stole the market.

The problem is that much of Wikipedia's content is crowdsourced. It's written and edited by people like you and me. 

The site does require citations, but you could technically post an article with few citations and get it past the system.

But what many people don't realize is that Wikipedia pages do go through a filtering process. I've written Wikipedia pages for clients and I can tell you, it's a pain in the you-know-what. Mostly because the number (and required quality) of citations requires a great deal of work that has nothing to do with the actual writing.

For published authors, it can be tempting to create a Wikipedia page for yourself. It boosts your Google rankings and provides a level of credibility. But should you create one yourself?

The answer to that question is probably "No." Even Wikipedia strongly recommends against it. There are two major problems with creating your own Wikipedia entry. The first is that unless the powers-that-be deem you to be a public figure, it's going to be deleted. And guess what?

Say you are more famous than the rest of us. Say your page squeaks past the person who controls the delete button. Then comes the second problem...and it's one Wikipedia even points out. Once a page is out there, anyone can add to it. So if someone adds something negative about you, you'll have little recourse.

Would you ever set up a Wikipedia page about yourself?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Trouble with Supporting Small Businesses

I'm guilty of shopping at chain stores, even though I know I should support local. This has become especially noticeable now that we live in a small town. We have a charming town square...

And plenty of small businesses, both in our town and the much larger neighboring city. When we first moved here, we ordered pizza from a mom-and-pop pizza shop. It went about like this...

They told me when I called they normally don't deliver on Mondays, but they'd make an exception because they weren't busy. When the pizza guy showed up, he realized he'd forgotten the credit card slip. He handed me the pizza and drove all the way back to the store to get the slip and bring it back. It was just...a mess. The store closed a few weeks later.

Last weekend, we tried again. This time it was barbecue. We called the most popular restaurant in town and got the message that they'd be closed until July 18th.

So we tried another local barbecue place that specializes in to-go orders. I Googled them, sure I'd find their website. Nope. All I found was a Facebook page that didn't even have a menu. How does a to-go place not have information online?

That's okay. We'd just call. I searched for the phone number and then found a picture of the business's front window. Once you get past the bad grammar, you see that they have their phone number posted in bold letters on the window:

We called the number. It had been disconnected. I looked at the business's Facebook page and saw a post from someone mentioning it. The business owner said he'd lost his cell phone and offered an alternative number. My husband called it. It went to voicemail, where a barely coherent voice told him to leave a message.

We decided to go with a chain restaurant.

I try to support local businesses, but they don't make it easy. As someone who regularly writes articles geared toward small businesses, it bothers me to see so many business owners fouling it up. For the record--if you're going to run a restaurant:

1) Have a website.

2) Have your menu on your website.

3) Have a working phone number.

4) Have a proofreader check your sign before you open your doors.

Do you ever get frustrated with poorly-run businesses?

Monday, July 13, 2015

I Should Be a Hipster

When I hear the word "hipster," I think of young guys who dress like lumberjacks and wear strange hats.

They hang out at independent coffeehouses because they're "too hipster" for Starbucks.

They thumb their noses at pop culture and attend poetry readings, where they proudly announce they don't even own a TV.

But hipsters are really, in essence, people who can't be defined. They're hipsters because they don't follow rules of fashion. They could look like this:

Or this:

Or this:

Or however else they want to set themselves apart.

I can't think of a better place to be than an independent coffeehouse or bookstore. The very hangouts of hipsters are the same hangouts I want to frequent.

How do you define "hipster?"