Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2018-03-29/Op-ed


Despite the brave efforts of many past and present editorial staff, The Signpost, our English Wikipedia 'newspaper' which began when the project was started by Michael Snow, who continues to contribute to Wikipedia, is beginning to show signs of tiredness. This may be due to a perceived downward trend in many meta aspects of the encyclopedia. The first issue was released on 10 January 2005. Originally begun as a weekly publication, in July 2016 the official schedule was changed to every two weeks, but by November the issues were already running late with the next issue appearing on 26 November and the following Signpost not being published until 22 December three weeks later.

Signpost appeared on 17 January 2017 with a lead article from (then) editor-in-chief, Peter Forsyth, entitled Next steps for the Signpost. Forsyth's article, which explained some of the concerns surrounding the newspaper, received a significant number of comments from readers including one from Blue Rasberry who suggested that a grant may be worth considering:

If there were a rotating internship program at The Signpost for journalism students then from one perspective it seems controversial to pay for content, but from another perspective for years the international wiki community has major projects with major investment which are almost unknown for lack of journalism. … This is wiki's own newspaper of record and if it has problems then I wish we could explore options to support volunteers in maintaining it.

Aschmidt suggested that Signpost could be made a blog, or even a journal, with James Heilman, known for his work on the Medicine project, responding with 'Sort of like the Wiki Journal of Medicine? It is a fair bit of work. But could be good.' Stating that other related projects are '...experiencing parallel attenuation (...) Better to have fewer issues with excellent content than to fake along for the sake of hitting a weekly deadline' , Carrite makes a poignant reflection.

From August 2017 that weekly deadline became monthly; now in its thirteenth year, the previous issue was published on 20 February with a note that the next one would be due out on 27 February (a week later?). At the time of writing, this next Signpost is 20 days overdue. For many years, the newspaper has been a pivotal point of information for regular contributors, both to article content and maintenance areas and while a new trend has developed towards issuing newsletters, these are sent to selected groups on dedicated messaging lists which don't necessarily reach everyone and which do not have the wealth of the Signpost's mailing list.

The newspaper is a vital line in Wikipedia's train of communication. A final abandonment of the fine Signpost pointing to important issues – and even occasional humour – would be a great loss to the community; indeed, some Requests for Comment have received complaints from users that they were not adequately informed. It is naturally understandable that not all users possess the editing skills to compile and publish the periodical, but out there are certainly some with a flair for prose and reporting. There are ways of creating more awareness of the newspaper, such as watchlist notices or even incorporating it in welcome templates, but there are also many possible other suggestions for solutions. They just need to be made.

Kudpung has been a Wikipedia contributor since 2006 and an administrator since 2011. His focus is on policy changes concerning deletions/notability, RfA, and the improvement of the new page patrolling and AfC processes. The views expressed in this article are his alone and do not reflect any official opinions of this publication.