Wikipedia:WikiProject Video games/Newsletter/20121003/Feature
Feature: Is the Newsletter important?Edit
In our day-to-day editing it is not entirely clear how much of a part the WikiProject Video Games Newsletter has to play. Some 250 members of the WikiProject receive the newsletter and many of these are star contributors to the WikiProject, but are their contributions motivated by the Newsletter? Does the Newsletter have anything tangible to offer the WikiProject, or is it simply a vanity press for a narrow cadre of know-it-all editors? The answer likely lies somewhere in between, but according to recent research, it may lie more toward the tangible benefit side of the question. The WP:VG Newsletter, apart from serving the needs of current editors, can also be regarded as a historical record or chronicle. In an age when information overload is the order of the day, ephemeral digital communications see a distinct lack of appreciation. This, together with a concurrent undervaluation of the present-day and pedestrian, means that short and impersonal talk-page template-communiqués are often ignored entirely. But does this ignore the historical value of the Newsletter?
Academic literature on WikiProject Newsletters
As Wikipedia has grown and developed it has had great success in silencing critics and naysayers who have predicted its doom for years. Within academia there is a growing recognition among educators that Wikipedia is acceptable for at least pre-research of a topic. With the day-to-day use of Wikipedia high among members of Gen Y and Gen Z, and with the advent of outreach programs and education-oriented initiatives like WP:SUP and WP:WLL, Wikipedia has taken a few shaky steps down the path to legitimacy as a serious work of collective effort.
The rise of Wikipedia as a source of knowledge has also meant that Wikipedia now finds itself the subject of academic research. Within the last few years, there has been an explosion of papers covering the topic and exploring the organically-generated policies and guidelines that allow Wikipedia to function. Of interest to WikiProjects like WP:VG, researchers have also begun to examine social dynamism and inter-editor relationships—an area in which WikiProjects take center stage. This literature touches in several places on the role that newsletters play within WikiProjects. One of the earliest discussions of the WikiProject newsletter phenomenon comes from a joint research paper of Carnegie Mellon and University of Pittsburgh which was presented at the 2010 CSCW in Savannah, GA. In this paper WikiProject Newsletters are identified as manifestations of the "task request" - one of seven socialization tactics used to generate WikiProject productivity, and one of three tactics that allowed for standardization (the other two being invitations and welcome messages).Another early discussion of WikiProject Newsletters is found in a paper written for Carnegie Mellon's ISR, where the authors discuss the concept of "rapid visibility" such as instant reversion of vandalism on sight. The authors conclude in this paper that within volunteer-based communities, systems should be designed to reach out to contributors and trigger contribution, however they ultimately contrast "rapidly visible" activities with activities such as newsletter writing, a contrast that gives us pause.
More recently, in a study conducted by User:Haiyizhu and others that was presented at CHI 2011, the term newsletter was used (together with WikiProject and a handful of others) as a talk-page-edit keyword indicating a representational feature of "shared leadership" behavior for automated analysis. Falling outside of all four leadership realms identified by Zhu et al., the instances of the word newsletter were later explained to have correlated strongly with an increase in number of user edits, in a paper by most of the same authors presented this year at CSCW in Seattle, Washington. The authors noted that recipients of messages involving the word newsletter typically had a 33% increase in their number of edits for the following week. This was the greatest increase of all the keywords tested and Zhu et al. attribute the increase to "the fact that receiving messages from other members or from the whole community, even without any specific directions, criticisms or praise, can elicit a sense of belonging to and identification with the community." At the same Seattle conference, in a discussion of the WikiProject Military History (a WikiProject with a fair degree of overlap with WP:VG), researchers presented their findings that newsletters (among other WikiProject department efforts) provided "explicit opportunities for members to have fun with the editing process," and noted that they were "community-building activities ... help[ing to] create a sense of group identity and promot[ing] group health. ... Setting up these kinds of activities is [a] kind of organizational 'overhead' ... that create[s] a sense of belonging and support[s] the group and its members." It allows a level of coordination that keeps members interested and "affords opportunities for learning how Wikipedia works from supporting peers." This echoes findings earlier published in 2010 by Piotr Konieczny in the Journal of Information Technology & Politics.
Although somewhat slow-paced compared with the "rapid visibility" of acts like instant vandalism reversal, it seems that the general academic consensus is that newsletters are a boon for WikiProjects and for the productivity of their members.
The Newsletter is an ongoing chronicle
It has been frequently pointed out in digital preservation circles that one of the unfortunate downsides to the internet is that historically significant digital material is so often so difficult to pin down. The first web page, surely a historical cultural artifact, is lost to the sands of time (as indeed is Wikipedia's first article). Although addressed now to an extent with projects like the Internet Archive, any serious prober of the historic web will have inevitably come upon oceans of non-archived pages and others "protected" by the "robots.txt" exclusion standard.
As we are reminded in WP:NOTPAPER and WP:DWAP, in modern times at Wikipedia every edit made to every page on the project is saved and recorded for posterity. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part there is a full historical record of the changes (additions, subtractions, and substitutions) made to every page on Wikipedia. Naturally, this includes the pages of the various departments and Wikiprojects as well, but when we move to the realm of the social, where tens or even hundreds of editors engage in different parts of Wikipedia simultaneously in relation to some central focus, then unless some kind of broad summary is presented, re-tracing the origins of the movement may be difficult if not impossible for future historians.
WikiProject Video Games is a cauldron of social goings on involving hundreds of editors and spanning thousands of articles all related by their connection to the medium of video games. The activities of WP:VG as a project are thus difficult to trace without summary and that is exactly the function that the WP:VG Newsletter provides. Collected at the Newsletter Index, the Newsletter's past issues offer snapshots of the WikiProject in earlier stages and act as windows into the concerns and efforts of the project and its members at the time the issues were written. It is with great self-awareness of our hubris that we suggest that the WP:VG Newsletter will be an invaluable window for future historians to gain insight on a highly active social group in an era when organized social activities define the frontier of the internet.
Request for new writers and interviewersEdit
Do you have any experience conducting interviews? Do you have any special gaming interests related to WP:VG or do you have any editorial opinions regarding the direction of the WikiProject? Are there any particular areas of WP:VG that you think deserve to be highlighted? Are you more comfortable with gnomish editing and are you looking for a way to get more involved with WikiProject Video Games? The WP:VG Newsletter can use your help!
Different subsections for different skillsEdit
The Newsletter has been running since early 2008 and has grown steadily to its current distribution of around 250 readers. Originally published monthly, the Newsletter became a (roughly) quarterly publication in July 2009 when it began featuring a different prominent video-game-oriented editor alongside its featured article. In presenting both a featured topic and a featured editor each quarter, the Newsletter keeps the community abreast of new or under-noticed policies, guidelines, departments, and editing tools while simultaneously giving insight into what makes a few of the individuals that drive the project tick. Interested editors who would like to spotlight a particular aspect of the WikiProject, interview one of its editors, or suggest one for interviewing are encouraged to present a draft or make a suggestion to the Newsletter talk page.
The Newsletter also covers changes to WP:VG's high-quality content, presents an overview of the project, and discusses other news and announcements. By presenting these metrics in summary form, the Newsletter strives to acknowledge the accomplishments of editors who have worked hard to bring content up to Featured, A-Class, and Good status, to take public note of article honors like Main Page Features and Did You Knows, and to inspire others to make similarly difficult but rewarding efforts for their favorite video game articles. More generally, the figures in the overview illustrate the growth of the project in terms of its breadth and quality of coverage. The Newsletter welcomes the addition of material to these sections of the Newsletter draft by any interested or involved editors.
The Newsletter staff have been open to format changes and interesting feature ideas in the past and are always looking for input from the readership. Editorial pieces, case studies, and reader polls have all appeared in the Newsletter in the past, and we are looking for new and interesting topics. The Newsletter is at its core a reader-oriented project, so please stop by if you have anything to suggest, or if you would like to volunteer to draft an article or to assist in any other way. Bring all ideas big and small!
The Newsletter for the last three quarters has neglected to highlight a featured editor. This is unfortunate because as the number of editors who should be featured increases, some of the most accomplished and established editors are retiring, semi-retiring, or simply ceasing to edit. Aside from providing editors with a brief fanfare and allowing them the collective praise of the community, the Newsletter's featured editor serves as a chronicle of those who have helped make WP:VG great. The deeper relevance of the Newsletter is easy to overlook for one who has grown as an editor alongside it, but for those who are new to the WikiProject and for those interested in the history of efforts made here, the Newsletter provides an invaluable summary view of the state of the WikiProject.
The newsletter has also nearly failed to produce a featured article for the last two quarters. As this text is written, it is already done so after the third quarter submission deadline. The Newsletter has never had two consecutive issues without a featured article. This highlights the degree to which help is needed as Newsletter staff retire or move on to different projects. If you have any interest in contributing to the Newsletter, you'll find it rewarding and open to innovative ideas and content. Joining the effort at the Newsletter department not only provides you with a direct window on the pulse of WP:VG, but it also allows you as a journalist to shape and direct that pulse and frame it in your own words by highlighting the areas you believe are most important, and by honoring those editors you feel deserve the greatest accolades. The staff are friendly and excited to meet newcomers. If you have the time and interest, please join us!
- Choi, Boreum et al., "Socialization Tactics in Wikipedia and Their Effects." CSCW 2010. Savannah, GA, USA. (6-10 February 2010): 107
- Howison, James, et al. "Motivation through visibility in open contribution systems" Institute for Software Research. Paper 493. (1 January 2011): 9.
- Zhu, Haiyi, et al. "Identifying Shared Leadership in Wikipedia," CHI 2011. Vancouver, BC, Canada. (7-12 May 2011): 3433.
- Zhu, Haiyi, et al. "Effectiveness of Shared Leadership on Online Communities," CSCW 2012. Seattle, WA, USA. (11-15 February 2012): 414.
- Forte, Andrea, et al. "Coordination and Beyond: Social Functions of Groups in Open Content Production," CSCW 2012. Seattle, WA, USA. (11-15 February 2012): 422.
- Konieczny, Piotr, "Adhocratic Governance in the Internet Age: A Case of Wikipedia." Journal of Information Technology & Politics 7, no. 4 (21 October 2010): 263.
- Okoli, Chitu et al., "The people's encyclopedia under the gaze of the sages: A systematic review of scholarly research on Wikipedia." 13 March 2010. - A joint literature review compiled by researchers from Concordia University, the Technical University of Denmark, and the University of Bergen. This paper briefly discusses both Wikipedia's The Signpost newsletter and the Wikimedia Research Newsletter.
- Nielsen, Finn Årup, "Wikipedia research and tools: Review and comments." 6 February 2012. - A review paper from the Technical University of Denmark that covers both the The Signpost and the Wikimedia Research Newsletter.