As an interlude between cycling the canals and promoting waterways through Inland Waterways International, I have been updating and improving some 60 pages of information on Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia and internet’s most inspiring story.
On this site we feel that we are filling a need for information, but in our practical navigation pages we are drilling down to a level of detail that would normally only appear in books. We wanted to correct some glaring errors. But we also feel that Wikipedia articles are the obvious ‘landing pages’ on any subject, hence also for French waterways. That justified my mission to go into the articles and edit as necessary or appropriate, using the experience acquired over the last 40 years. The point was also to add links to these pages for those who want more information. Examples are the Rhône-Rhine Canalor, with a slightly different focus and style, the La Nouvelle branch of the Canal du Midi.
This has been a learning experience, but also quite difficult, because Wikipedia’s strength is in having established a firewall against all forms of abuse that on first sight seems excessive. Once you’ve understood the principles and overcome a few obstacles, it becomes immensely satisfying to go into this universal repository and ‘do one’s best’.
The ‘List of French canals’ map previously posted on Wikipedia didn’t show the waterways, which I found sad. Just as I found inappropriate the design for the very first VNF vignette plaisance in 1992. There was only the outline of France and the year of the vignette. I supplied a new design including the waterways, before that contract went to my friend John Riddel.
Part of the fun has been seeing so many familiar names as previous contributors. But I confess it was also disappointing to see that none of my writer-colleagues had referenced Inland Waterways of France. Fair do’s, I suppose, except where the information is lifted lock, stock, and barrel from my book!
Sans rancune! On such a platform we do what we feel is of benefit to the community, with some spinoff for ourselves. So my sincere best wishes to Hugh McKnight, David Jefferson, Hans Kouwenberg, the Fluvial magazine team and many others, and let’s together use the Wikipedia platform to help raise the profile of our waterways! They desperately need it. But that’s another story.
Next, I will be turning my attention on Wikipedia to the boats and barges that ply these waterways…