Bluepages:Guide to editing
Thank you for your interest in contributing to Bluepages! This guide to editing will help you learn the basics of what you need to know to help us achieve our goal of becoming a truly global historical directory. You may have already seen our small network of example articles, which should give you a sense of what a detailed and "finished" article might look like, but if doing all of that work by yourself looks intimidating to you, don't worry! Every little bit helps, and we're more than happy to have you contribute one sentence at a time! Also, remember that nothing you write needs to be perfect right away – every page on this website is a work in progress and always will be, and there will always be someone happy to fix even the biggest mistakes you could make.
What to write about
You can write a Bluepages article about nearly any location you want! Good topics may include schools, places of worship, stores, restaurants, parks, and hospitals. There is no location too obscure to write about, and we're just as happy to hear about the place that opened last week as we are to hear about the business that's been running for a hundred years. When you start looking into it, you may be surprised to find out how much history there is just about everywhere! However, keep in mind that we generally discourage people from writing articles about individual houses, unless they were at one point the location of a business or public service, because it's difficult to write a good article about them without violating the privacy of the house's current and former residents.
How to find information
The first thing you'll need to know is where and how to find the information you want to add to Bluepages. Try searching for keywords on Google, and using advanced search tools to better narrow it down to the pages you're looking for. For example, you can use the site: tag to get results from only one website, and place quotes around a phrase to get only pages that contain that exact phrase. Searching site:journaltimes.com "5000 Washington" will only bring up articles from the Racine Journal Times that specifically mention 5000 Washington Avenue in their hometown of Racine, Wisconsin.
Google can't find everything, though. You may want to look for old issues of local newspapers on websites like Newspapers.com, NewspaperArchive.com, and GenealogyBank. All of these sites charge quite a bit of money for access to articles, but if your local newspaper is in any of them, you may be able to access them for free with a library card from your local library. If you use these sites to find information for Bluepages, please share a copy with us of the specific article you're using, so that other people can read it and verify that the article it's used in is true. Another great resource is HistoricAerials.com, where you can find rare satellite and aerial imagery of most places in the United States, going back to as early as 1940.
Not all of the useful information you may want to find is on the Internet, either. Your local library probably has a collection of local directories and phone books which have probably never been digitized, and these can be extremely helpful for finding out what was where and when it was there. They may also have old newspapers that aren't available online in the form of reels of microfilm, as well as a wide variety of other helpful materials. Lastly, if you know something from personal experience, but you can't find any evidence to back it up, feel free to ask an experienced user on this site for help!
Writing your article
Bluepages runs on MediaWiki, the same software used by popular websites like Wikipedia. If you have experience with editing Wikipedia, you probably don't need to read this section which covers the basics of how to write in a MediaWiki format, but you may want to check out our guide on some of the big differences between Bluepages and Wikipedia.
The title of your article should generally be something like 5000 Washington Avenue (Racine, Wisconsin). In other words, a street address followed by the city and state where that address is located in parentheses. Titling articles like this, rather than naming it after the business or organization that currently exists there, means that the article won't have to be moved when the business closes or the building is demolished and replaced with a new one. On the other hand, some things are relatively permanent and/or they don't really have a street address, like Starbuck Middle School (Racine, Wisconsin). Also, locations within a chain of stores or restaurants should have a separate article from the place where they're located, like with Kmart 4477 and 1750 Ohio Street (Racine, Wisconsin). This is because articles about chain locations are usually automatically generated and are used to create databases.
When you know what the title of your article should be, simply type it into the search bar exactly as you want it to appear in the article. Unless someone has already created it, you'll get a result like Create the page "5000 Washington Avenue (Racine, Wisconsin)" on this wiki!, and you can click the link to begin editing!
To create a link to another Bluepages article, type the title of the article surrounded by [[ and ]], such as [[5000 Washington Avenue (Racine, Wisconsin)]]. If you want the text that appears when you're reading the article to be different from the title of the article the link takes you to, use a pipe character (|). For example, writing [[5000 Washington Avenue (Racine, Wisconsin)|the restaurant on the corner]] will create a link that looks like this: the restaurant on the corner. Notice that parentheses and commas are automatically recognized by the pipe character, so a link like [[5000 Washington Avenue (Racine, Wisconsin)|]] will appear as 5000 Washington Avenue even without anything after the pipe, and [[Racine, Wisconsin|]] will show up as simply Racine. If the article you'd like to link to doesn't exist yet, link it anyway! The link will appear red, and seeing that red link might encourage somebody else (if not you) to write it.
If you want to cite your sources while writing, which we strongly, strongly encourage you to do, use the <ref> and </ref> tags to surround your reference. For example, you could write:
<ref>Racine 1955 City Directory, page 590.</ref>
The reference would then appear as a footnote, like the one at the end of this sentence. Most of the time, your source will be something which is already available online, and you can create a link inside the reference by surrounding the URL with [ and ] – notice that there's only one pair of square brackets, slightly different from the two pairs of square brackets that are used to create a link within Bluepages. Also notice that you use a space, not a pipe, to separate the URL from the text you want to appear. A finished reference might look like this:
<ref>[https://archive.org/details/racine1955citydirectory/page/n307/mode/2up Racine 1955 City Directory], page 590.</ref>
That reference appears as the footnote at the end of this sentence. Lastly, make sure the list of references appears at the bottom of your page by adding these two lines:
Most articles should contain an infobox, which sits in the upper right-hand corner of the screen and provides quick facts about the article's topic.
The first line of any new article should almost always be the geographic coordinates of the location the article is about. You can put them in as follows:
Simply replace the words latitude and longitude with the decimal latitude and longitude of your location, like this:
- To find those coordinates using OpenStreetMap, click the button with a picture of a cursor and a question mark on the right side of your screen, then click on your location. The URL of the page should change to something like https://www.openstreetmap.org/query?lat=42.7506&lon=-87.7854#map=17/42.74897/-87.78483. The numbers after ?lat= and &lon= are your latitude and longitude.
- To find the coordinates on Google Maps on a desktop or laptop computer, right-click on your location and select "What's here?", and a small box will pop up at the bottom of your screen, containing the location's address and two decimal numbers separated by a comma, such as "44.262918, -88.373257".
- To do the same thing on the Google Maps mobile app, press and hold on your location and a red pin will appear there along with a menu reading "Dropped pin" at the bottom of the screen. Pull the menu up and you'll see those decimal numbers near the bottom of the page.
- Racine 1955 City Directory, page 816.
- Racine 1955 City Directory, page 590.