Monday, 5 December 2016

Exclusive interview: Behind the scenes at Corriepedia

Corriepedia is one of our 'go-to' websites for clarification and information on Coronation Street storylines and characters. Without Corriepedia we wouldn't be half the site we are.  I wanted to find out what went on behind the scenes of Corriepedia, who looked after it and why they did as much as work as they do. 

The lovely people who run Corriepedia kindly agreed to an itnerview for the Coronation Street Blog, and so without any further ado, here we go!

What is Corriepedia and how is it different to Wikipedia?
Corriepedia is an online encyclopaedia about all things Corrie. It has the same structure as Wikipedia and runs on the same principle that anyone can edit it but our scope with regards to Corrie is much broader. Wikipedia can tell you what Coronation Street is and has pretty good articles on the most recent characters but because the topics it covers have to be notable in the real world, it's not much use to a fan who wants to delve deeper. At Corriepedia we only care that the article topic relates to Coronation Street and our end goal is to have pages dedicated to every episode, character, actor and location ever featured in the programme. Dispensing with the notability rule also allows our character articles to be exhaustive in a way that Wikipedia's can't, recapping everything that happened to them (within reason) rather than just the broad strokes.

We use sources a little more loosely than Wikipedia too – Corriepedia couldn't exist if it abided by Wikipedia's rule that everything must be backed up by a reliable source as so much of our content can't be found anywhere else in the public domain (for example, we were the first place anywhere outside ITV to have a cast list for every episode), and where sources exist, they often conflict! We're a team of fans pooling our knowledge and doing our own research. It's hard to prove, but we're fairly certain that no one was aware that Patrick Stewart (of Star Trek fame) made his television debut in Coronation Street until we found that out – not even IMDB had the info. Also, we were able to trace the exact date of death of Frank Pemberton (who played Frank Barlow). IMDB at the time vaguely said “1975” but we've been able to confirm it as 26th March 1971 – IMDB have since updated their records too. That sort of detective work proves particularly fascinating.

Do you look after Wikipedia too?

No, I've never edited Wikipedia.

Why did you first start Corriepedia?
I'd just devoured the wonderful DVD boxsets released by Network which contained eight selected episodes from each year up to 1989 (the 90s and 00s sets were still a few years away). As I only started watching in 1998, they were my introduction to Corrie of old and were purchased out of curiosity with no expectation that they would lead to the obsession they did! My appetite was whetted and the web filled in a lot of the blanks but some questions like who mugged Bet Lynch in the ginnel in 1973 and who sent Elsie Tanner the poison pen letter in 1961 if it wasn't Ena Sharples were too obscure for the sites Google recommended. At the time I was a frequent poster on the Doctor Who forum Outpost Gallifrey whose resident Coronation Street expert, “jtomlin1uk” (now one of Corriepedia's admins), directed me to ITV's sales site ITN Source which contains all but a handful of Corrie's official episode synopses from 1960 to the present day. A brilliant resource but I thought it a shame that this goldmine of information was tucked away in a remote corner of the internet where nobody was looking at it.

Meanwhile, I'd become an editor on the Doctor Who Wiki but drifted away from it after a few months – I didn't feel like I was getting anything out of it as Dr Who fans tend to know everything about Dr Who already. Corrie wasn't like that due to the sheer mass of episodes, but there was no Wiki to contribute to, much to my surprise. Wikia, the parent company, creates user-requested Wikis which are then left in the hands of whoever asked for it, and so Corriepedia was born! What to do now? I knew the end goal but the task was so daunting that my initial plan was to recruit the right people to the cause and watch the website grow without having to write much of it myself. However, it was a book I could never put down, and the feeling of satisfaction when seeing a completed article is as strong today as it was back in 2008.

The good thing about Corriepedia is that it brings together the information spread about in the public domain under one roof: Corrienet was invaluable, as is the British Newspaper Library, which we've spent countless weekends over several years investigating, as well as the archives of the British Film Institute. They have viewing tapes of almost every episode from July 1969 to 1983 which the public can view for a fee to cover their costs. Since 2009 we've spent a few thousand pounds trawling through all their tapes on some forty-plus visits and have got to the stage where we only have 30 episodes out of the 1008 shown in the 1970s yet to watch.

How often do you update Corriepedia?
I spent about two hours per day on the site on average. My family thinks I'm mad!

How many people contribute to Corriepedia?
We have three admins and about a dozen regular contributors. Compared to most Wikis of Corriepedia's size and even your wonderful blog, our team is very small.

Can anyone update the site?Yes, anyone can update the site but we beg that they have good English spelling and grammar skills! Also, our character profiles are in the past tense whereas Wikipedia is in the present tense (something I hate as it doesn't read easily) and some people just don't seem to be able to adjust between the two!

Do you have to check it often to ensure information added to the site is correct? Do you delete inaccurate updates?
Absolutely. Checking the recent changes to the site is normally the first order of business when one of our three admins logs on. From here you can see which pages have been edited, who changed them and what they did. Inaccurate updates are reversed or corrected but those don't occur as often as you'd think, and are fairly easy to spot when they do. Even if you have to dig out an episode to check something, that's no bad thing and you often find yourself watching it till the end!

Do you work with ITV on archive material?
We've received valuable assistance from Corrie's archivists Helen Nugent and Dominic Khouri, who have been complimentary and enthusiastic about our efforts, and who have cheerfully answered our questions when they've been posed – both the easy and the awkward ones! As an example of the latter, we asked them to advise us exactly when the outdoor set first appeared in 1968. They went back into their archive of episodes and came back with comprehensive answers which enabled us to state that the key episode was the one shown on 1st May of that year. As a payback, they were later able to use that information in the documentary “A Moving Story” shown in 2014, so it was a win/win for all.

As we know here on the Blog, keeping a fan site running is hard work, a real labour of love. Are there times when you just want to give it all up, put the kettle on and watch an episode of Corrie without worrying about updating the site?
Oh, definitely! We have a rota system for the new episodes so when it's not my week I do just that.

The key for me is to vary what I'm working on so that I don't get bored – expanding a plot, then a character page, then an actor page, then trying to trace a filming location. When you reach completion of a certain type of article, keeping them updated seems easier as you don't want to lose the comprehensive nature of what you've already achieved. Also, the more you delve into the programme's past, the more interesting things you find.

Visit Corriepedia here.

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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great interview, thanks!

Tvor said...

The Corriepedia team does awesome work!

Anonymous said...

love corrieрedia! Yay!!! :)

Maricha said...

Thanks for the interview. Corriepedia is a great resource for viewers in general but especially for those who didn't start watching the show from day one.

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