Last week we talked about the journey from reader to editor. The next step is building your skills, reputation, and relationships on your chosen wiki.
Our heavy contributors are the hearts and souls of our communities. They probably started as readers and have been sharpening their wiki skills for some time. Knowing the territory, rules, tools, and terrain of a community establish them as local guides. If you want to be an expert user, there are so many things you can do as a contributor that can improve the community!
The best way to get noticed and respected is to contribute quality edits. Making small improvements and "riffing" off someone else's contributions is good. You're building together, not replacing their work entirely with your own creation. Ripping out large chunks of what others have made is impolite unless you're already a community leader with the responsibility of enforcing guidelines or style.
Creating needed articles is always a good plan. Creating unneeded articles (based on a community's guidelines or manuals of style) may get them deleted quickly and give you a worse reputation before you've gotten a good one. Most communities are willing to forgive an incomplete article or one with errors if it's a good article idea. Other people will build on it, and refine it to make it better. Don't be afraid of letting them (or be upset when they do).
If a wiki has guidelines and a manual of style, read them carefully and follow them when you start contributing. You can be creative and express yourself and your personality, so long as your content is within the established community guidelines. Like a coloring book, you can use lots of colors so long as you try to stay inside the lines. If there's no rulebook, suggest one! Don't be afraid to propose something to an administrator or a forum.
Along that line, don't be afraid to ask questions. If you want to be an active part of a community, talking and interacting with others (appropriately) is essential. Interacting in Discussions and leaving relevant messages on the Walls or Talk pages is appropriate. If you have a question, don't be shy! There may even be a place where a community lists all the things they want to do but need help with. On well organized and established communities, look around and you'll often find exactly how you can help. If you don't know where to find it, you can ask a community leader to guide you to the right place.
Be a good citizen. There's no excuse for bad behavior against other users, so starting (or participating in) personal fights is not cool. Having a heated discussion about your fandom topic is one thing, but meanness to others will not make you friends. At the same time, assume that others mean well unless it's obvious that they don't. Being polite and classy even when someone else is fighting dirty earns you respect.
Maybe you're not a fantastic writer. That's OK, we've all had to start somewhere. If you're more comfortable talking than writing articles, being active in Discussions is the place for you! Conversations spark inspiration, and are another way of propelling a community forward. They give you the freedom to hang out with like-minded fans and talk about your fandom without worrying about being "encyclopedic-ly correct".
No matter where you go on FANDOM: if you're a good, contributing citizen there is a place for you. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there, and you'll find yourself at home.
Isaac Fischer FANDOM Staff
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