User rights, infoboxes, and more discussion on portals
Featured content selected by the community
Managing difficult topics
Lots of Wikimedia
We love our superheroes
A trove of contributor and developer goodies
Why people don't contribute to Wikipedia; using Wikipedia to teach statistics, technical writing, and controversial issues
Play with your food
The Signpost scoops The Signpost
Two of the most recurring themes in The Signpost over the past six or so years have been paid editing and RfA. Over the next few issues we'll be taking an updated 2018 look at developments since those earlier reports. Unsurprisingly, these topics are related. Together with the recent roll-out of ACREQ – the new rule that only editors with confirmed accounts can create new articles directly in mainspace – the English Wikipedia may be heading for quite a few reforms, particularly in the way new articles are processed.
A third recurring theme is The Signpost itself, now becoming almost as rare as an RfA or a declared paid editor. Our April issue reflected the diversity and wealth of content a monthly publication should offer its readers. We hope that you will find this month's volume equally interesting and that it helps readers and editors to relax a bit and stay up to date with current events. Starting a new regular feature this month, From the Archives, what better way to begin than with a reprint of an article about The Signpost itself from almost six years ago to the month? Enjoy.
As The ed17 reported four years ago in this column of the November 2013 issue: "Contributing to The Signpost can be one of the most rewarding things an editor can do. The genre is refreshingly different from that of Wikipedia articles, and can allow writers to use a different range of skills," but goes on to say "That said, writers for The Signpost are sorely needed". That is even more urgent today, but only if the work can be shared, and with a good dose of enthusiasm.
It's hard work for our current skeleton editorial team who are doubling up on many of the tasks in the newsroom as well as writing much of the content. Putting it all together, copyediting, inking up, and getting the press rolling are alone quite time consuming. Don't hesitate to let us know if you can find time to inject your skills into the newsroom, and better still, submit an article – don't be timid, click here to find out more and get started.
Last but not least, we would like to thank former Editor-in-Chief Evad37 who has been providing some invaluable assistance coaching the new team.
Wikipedia Talk:Requests for adminship, once the most lively forum on the project with the exception of ANI, is becalmed. The babble of noise at peak times akin to the background din of a noisy Manchester pub on a Saturday night has dropped not just to a whisper, but to a stony silence. It's become an empty space. Walk through it and you'll make conspicuous footprints in the dust gathering on the floor. Your footfall echoes in the deserted room, "Is there anyone there?" you call halfheartedly before turning round and going back outside into the sunlight. In the street there is also little activity. A kid sits on a doorstep poking vandalism into K-Pop music bios through his cheap Chinese smartphone. A bunch of teenagers sit round their Samsungs seeing who can tag the most new pages in sixty seconds.
The whole place has the feel of a deserted Wild West film set. Across the almost traffic free road, you enter a half open door with a dilapidated sign hanging on one nail: Café Anna it announces in sun-faded coloured letters. Inside the pretty room with many colourful interactive pictures on the wall, there is a stuffed effigy of 'The Founder' in an armchair, but there is no busy bustle in this place either. There's a lady editing an article about a golf complex in Hainan. The article is almost as complete as the complex. She's looks startled when you enter – she obviously wasn't expecting anyone. "Yup, it's kinda quiet here," she says. "April's customers are down to a fifth of the usual month's average."
You go out again, follow a sign pointing to 'Administration' hoping find a bit more action. A sound of music gets louder as you approach. Inside the office there's an elderly man idly picking out a Telemann Fantasia in funk on a piano. On a table is a sign that says 'For Adminship apply here'. The pianist lightly bangs a discordant cluster and drops the lid over the keys raising a cloud of dust. "Yup, it's kinda lonesome here. Not many enquiries. Ya wanna sign up?" he asks. "No, no," you hasten to reply "I'm one already". You go out and walk some more in this almost ghost town until you hear some loud tapping. Following the sound you come across a guy nailing a board to a telephone pole. It's list of names. "What's this?" you ask, "Lynchings?"
"Nope, desysopings" he replies.
"What did they do?"
"Nothing. It's what they didn't do"
"What didn't they do?"
"Edit. That's what they didn't do."
You make your way back to your car. Driving back towards civilisation you think to yourself: "Golly, there's enough in that creepy place for a Signpost article..."
Has the AdminShip finally run aground?
This month another five admins tacitly lose their tools
- Cenarium joined Wikipedia November 2007 and made ~27,700 edits. RfA (42/2/2) 20 June 2008, abruptly stopped editing April 1, 2017
- Al Ameer son joined Wikipedia March 2007 and made ~55,000 edits. RfA (85/1/3) March 2009, abruptly stopped editing April 24, 2017
- Lupo joined Wikipedia December 2003 and made ~25,310 edits. RfA (17/0/0) August 2004, abruptly stopped editing April 19, 2017
- AliveFreeHappy joined Wikipedia December 2003 and made ~20,600 edits. RfA (44/1/2) December 2007, abruptly stopped editing April 27, 2017
- MichaelBillington joined Wikipedia March 2006 and made ~18,000 edits. RfA (89/1/1) 24 March 2007, abruptly stopped editing April 25, 2017
These admins were all quite active until they suddenly stopped. None of them placed a retirement notice on their user pages. We hope they are well.
The admin corps have lost 39 members a year on average since 2012 (that's net, counting the 20 created annually via RfA). But as everyone knows, averages are a weak metric and the actual rate of attrition is increasing: down 50 in the last 12 months. The rate of loss greatly exceeds that of replenishment and is steadily getting worse – only 3 new admins this year and we're nearly halfway through 2018. We aren't at the crisis point yet, but at some time in the not too distant future we will be.
We are not alone
In a Signpost special report in 2012, Jan Eissfeldt – now Lead Manager, Wikimedia Foundation – describes some RfA reforms that were made on the German Wikipedia, but that was six years ago. Otherwise noted for its exceptionally dynamic chapter infrastructure, its Administratoren system now also seems to be stuck on a sandbank. In a 2018 12-frame presentation Admins Wnme and SDKmac attempt to explain why the wind has gone out of the sails of the central European sysops:
"Why is admin work so unpopular?" they ask.
- There are fewer and fewer users to choose from
- Too much responsibility
- High pressure
- Expectations of the community
- Old things are dug up, "mud slinging"
- Always exposed to big discussions when controversial – increases fear of doing something wrong when making decisions
Causes of admin decline
- More and more admins are stepping back
- No more desire
- Too stressful
- Boring discussions
- Focus more on real life
- Takes too much time
- Address and encourage experienced users
- Suggestions in recent surveys on the administration system:
- Separate voting and commentary phase
- Abolish AWW system (Administrator recalls) and introduce recurring admin elections
- Even small modifications to the admin election system could defuse mud slinging and encourage more users to vote – initiate RfC?
Does that all sound familiar?
At the English Wikipedia we went through this introspection seven years ago in a massive 2011 research. None of the posited solutions were proposed to the community for debate.
How it all began: In this discussion from Wikipedia Nostalgia on creating a corps of Sysops, although some of the speakers were aware of a need for controls, they were not expecting the English Wikipedia to become what it is today and needing over two thousand admin accounts to be created over the course of time.
|“||Perennial proposals may sum it up best: "While RfA is our most debated process and nearly everybody seems to think there's something wrong with it, literally years of discussion have yielded no consensus on what exactly is wrong with it, nor on what should be done about that." Reformist editors are therefore swimming against a strong current to even stay afloat, much less find concrete proposals that may garner support. ... Still, even if [the community is] ensuring that only qualified candidates are applying, then there is clear evidence that the number of qualified candidates is falling. The administrator corps is currently in decline through attrition and a lack of new blood. Whether RfA is 'broken' or functional, it seems to not be fulfilling its intended purpose of at least maintaining the number of administrators.||”|
However, it is debatable whether the intended purpose of RfA is at least maintaining the number of administrators; the candidates need to be ushered in from somewhere else first. Nothing changed except the slope of attrition got steeper and the mud slinging continued. Following an extremely complex system of low-participation RfCs at Reform Phase II in December 2015 (see screenshot), the number of RfA voters was doubled by allowing additional RfA publicity, and the pass mark was reduced. And still nothing else changed except the slope of attrition got even steeper and the mud slinging still continued.
The most recent serious discussion Planning for a post-admin era begun by Hammersoft on 16 December 2016 about the vanishing of admins and expected qualifications for candidates went on for eight days and ~70,000 bytes, probably because an unusual cluster of five RfAs was taking place in the same month:
|“||We need to begin considering how to respond to the coming situation; what to do when we do not have enough administrators. How do we respond to that? What processes do we come up with to fill the gap? What bots could we create that would assist us? Etc.
More recently in one of the increasingly rare threads at RfA Talk one user, admin , claims "RfA is a discussion, not an election, so disagreements should be discussed. That said, if ten people have already raised the same criticism of a certain !vote, one does have to consider whether they really need to add another response." while the reply from is almost the antithesis: "Except that it is actually an election, with numeric cut-off points for pass and fail, and even 'crats acting as sort of electoral college for grey-area cases. RfA is both an election and a discussion, and no amount of Wikipedian distaste for vote counting is going to change that." Whoever is right, today's RfAs are generally passed (or failed) on such a large consensus that messing with the math in any section is not going to change anything. The bureaucrats rarely intervene because there's nothing for them to do without taking some flak themselves. As long as they can be fairly sure that their action won't change the outcome, they won't do anything either. And the mud slinging will continue.
Interestingly, Wikipedia's two greatest RfA success stories happened within a few months of each other in the second half of 2017. In 227 edits comprising 133,277 bytes the talk page of the second most successful RfA Megalibrarygirl (Susan Barnum), librarian and mother, saw what has probably been the most lengthy dispute over voter behaviour. At 282 supporting votes against only 3 in the opposition section, the candidate has been accused of incompetency and sexism to an extent that leaves one wondering just how much gender bias or even blatant misogyny is indeed embedded in this male dominated database. Barnum and her Wikipedia work were featured on Web Junction and in LibraryJournal in March this year.
On the most successful RfA of all time, the reluctant candidate who had to almost be dragged kicking and yelling to the process, one of the two opposes was based on the very civility and sensitivity that has made Cullen328 such a well liked editor. Perhaps his user name was an unintended premonition of the number of support votes his RfA would reap. Certainly his nominator's predictions were not wrong. One of the three neutral votes came from a well established user who finally admitted they confused Cullen328 with another editor.
The underlying main cause for the reluctance of candidates of the right calibre to come forward, despite claims of exaggerated demands for tenure and/or experience, appears to be the environment at RfA itself. Some oppose votes are a death’s head at a feast, deliberately spoiling an otherwise immaculate run for the bit. It's borderline vandalism like sauntering down the street and throwing mud at someone's freshly hung out clean washing; the actual rationale for such votes is often contrived. Sometimes they arrive with a totally inappropriate question, and when that doesn't shake the candidate, they think up some other reason to oppose. While a lone vote like that isn't going to make any difference to the outcome, the community has the right to show their distaste of it, but it causes a long discussion on the talk page where passions run high and otherwise constructive byte time is wasted. Due to its tradition of being the one place where our 5th pillar gets struck off its plinth with impunity, RfA sometimes brings out the worst in our best editors.
It has been suggested that the community's fears of 'adminship for life' allowing admins to perpetrate their perceived tyranny forever, is a contributing factor to the exaggerated criteria, but it has also been posited that this aspect is the least thing users have in their minds at the moment of posting their votes. A close examination of the oppose sections of RfAs demonstrates that a large number of the votes are one-off aggrieved users who have correctly been warned or whose work has been correctly reedited by the candidate, or often simply bad faith that causes a "category 5 hurricane in an industrial-sized tea urn".
Sanctions as a solution or even as a deterrent have proven ineffective. Partial T-bans (allowing a vote but no further commenting) have been suggested as a remedy and just two in all the years have been enacted. Punitive? Maybe, it's like being slapped in the face in public: the sting to the pride, especially to that of a prolific FA editor, for example, is far more severe than the sting to the flesh, and the shame lingers longer, but admonished users risk becoming even more irascible towards candidates and other admins even to the point of unprovoked harassment.
Restricting participation to users who meet a minimum threshold for voting, such as the practice on the German Wikipedia, may not help. It may contribute towards more objective voting, but the disingenuous votes and personal attacks seem to come from seasoned editors who seem to be fairly sure of themselves knowing that they can get away with saying anything they like. Clerking by abstaining users; clerking by abstaining admins; clerking by bureaucrats; splitting the RfA page into two distinct sections like the German model, with numerical votes on one page and threaded comments on the talk page only; secret poll every 3 months on the Arbcom model with its 'voter guides' and questions, with all candidates reaching a certain score being accepted. These are all ideas that were discussed in 2011. In fact looking back, it seems as if every imaginable solution was at least mentioned.
Often cited as a remedy: "Fix the voters and RfA will fix itself", Risker, an influential editor and former long-term Arbcom member, indeed states:
|“||I'm pretty close to saying it's time to create voter criteria and restrictions rather than candidate criteria.||”|
|“||I'd suggest that anyone with more than 50% oppose votes should be restrained from voting for a minimum of six months; either they're way too focused on RFA and are jumping in early all the time, or they're operating under wrong assumptions about adminship.||”|
Where it stalls however, is the paradox that where no official entry point exists for admin candidates, one can hardly impose regulations on those who vote. It's a Catch-22 question. The English Wikipedia is the only major language project not to operate such restrictions. But until it happens, the mud slinging will continue...
In comparison with the number of admin actions carried out daily, issues regarding admins actually appear to be rare, but they are significant enough to discourage candidates from coming forward. Leading towards new, positive reforms, maybe another 'dead cat bounce' is needed in the dialogue surrounding RfA and adminship issues.
In next month's issue, we'll be taking a closer look at what the actual work of an admin entails.
- WT:RFA, 16 December 2016 (archive 245)
- Oppose #2, Talk:RfA Megalibrarygirl
- "Susan Barnum Named Library Journal Mover & Shaker for Librarianship on Wikipedia". Online Computer Library Center, Inc. 28 March 2018. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- BJ (12 March 2018). "Susan Barnum: Movers & Shakers 2018 – Advocates". Library Journal. Library Journal.
- Oppose #3, Talk:RfA Megalibrarygirl
- Risker, RfA talk 19 December 2016 (archive 245)
Comments are welcome on this article, but concerned users may prefer the dedicated venue. Pull the curtains back, let the light in, remove the dust covers from the furniture, bring your own drinks, packets of crisps and pork pies; or if you're from Germany, Bierpullen, Kartoffelsalat und Salzgurken.
Hurricanehink is a musician, a composer, a member of WikiProject:Tropical cyclones since 2005, and a member of WikiProject:New Jersey since 2018. His featured articles include Hurricane Isabel, 1991 Perfect Storm, and Typhoon Tip.
The most recent article I've nominated for good article is Cape May County, New Jersey, where I've spent most of my life. When I was 16, I attended Ocean City High School. I have played piano for two city mayoral inaugurations, and I have spent much time at Ocean City City Hall (including at a town council meetings, where I argued on behalf of the Ocean City Repertory Theatre, now defunct). In my adult life, I have spent time traversing much of Cape May County (and going across Great Egg Harbor Bay several times a week) for various jobs and gigs, or to visit some of my area's great breweries, including Cape May Brewing Company, now the third largest brewery in the state. I have edited all of these articles linked, mostly in the past few months.
Resistance: truthful documentation matters
This might sound like a bland story for the Signpost, but I have been a Wikipedian since 2005, and in most of 13 years of editing, I have almost solely worked on hurricane articles, with an occasional nor'easter. I have taken many breaks as an editor. I think we all have to take a break from anything in life that becomes routine, or worse, if it's becoming toxic. A part of me got tired of writing about destructive cyclones killing thousands of people each year, but a part of me also knows my role in the #Resistance.
In a world where the Turkish government has banned its country's access to this great human experiment where knowledge is free for everyone, it is more important than ever to recognize what we are doing. We aren't just writing an encyclopedia – we're documenting the history of our world, at the same time when politicians and foreign adversaries are attempting to sabotage the freedoms we take for granted (see net neutrality for a topic of concern since I first became a Wikipedian). There is a downward trend in the Press Freedom Index around the world, especially here in my own United States, where my President said (on November 6, 2012) that "[t]he concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive." The same man has significant conflicts of interest, has installed a Cabinet of people diametrically opposed to doing their job. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has gone to extraordinary lengths to undermine the environmental regulations.
Local activism is activism
Facts are more important than ever, and it all starts at a local level. In my research for Wikipedia, I have found some unanswered questions in my research. For example, there is apparently a "Great Sound State Park" located in Cape May County that has been designated since 1927, but it only has 2 pages of Google hits, hasn't been developed, and doesn't seem to make sense why New Jersey resources were going. I thought at one point that it was some nefarious scheme involving money laundering, the mob, and some environmental conspiracy. It turns out it's even cooler. On the site of the state park is the Cape May Plant Materials Center, which provides plant resources to nine states. I couldn't find a way to integrate that into the article, but I hope to visit their office one day, see what science is being done around me.
I've also come across some dead ends. When writing about Atlantic Cape Community College (I should disclose that I am an employee there, but not a paid editor in any means – I only teach music), I learned that a new campus in 2005 was built on environmentally sensitive land (which is pretty much the entire county), and the county was supposed to secure land. According to some forums in my search, the county hadn't done it as of 2012. I asked the staff and emailed the freeholders, but I haven't heard anything. Perhaps it wasn't publicized, or perhaps they never intended to secure the land, instead hoping that no one would dig up old articles.
I am still searching for answers, and I expect to find more mysteries about my area. One of the most pressing issues in my county is our unemployment rate (14%, worst in New Jersey, but it plummets to 5% in the summer because of the shoobies, who also give me a source of income, I should disclose). My county also drinks more per capita than any other metropolitan area in the state. There is significant poverty, and because of our isolation, the county is losing population with each passing year. I wanted to find out why. That question drove me to Wikipedia, that curiosity about how the world works. I used to primarily wonder how clouds could become some of nature's worst beasts, which is why I wrote 75 featured articles about them (give or take a few clunkers: older ones that no longer meet the criteria). Now though, I turn more local to make more sense of my world.
What I've learned on Wikipedia changed my life
I am a musician, a writer, a teacher, a hurricane enthusiast, a resident of South Jersey, a Wikipedian, and an environmentalist (Team Earth!). Lately, my worlds are merging, and I'm incorporating what I've learned on Wikipedia into my songwriting, my daily conversation, going to meetings I wouldn't otherwise attend, and just enhancing my view on my own corner of the world. I'm in the planning stages for a Tricentennial in 2023 for three area municipalities, and I'm writing a musical about an upcoming 250 year Revolutionary War anniversary. If everyone learned a bit more about their world, we could all understand it a little better and make it a bit better.
Beginning a dialog
To you, the Wikipedia community of editors and writers, I thank you for your time in reading my words. I end my rant with a few questions that I hope emphasize my point, and I would love feedback in the comments on them.
- How often do politicians finally act once the media attention reaches a certain point, and is knowledge/information a factor in those decisions?
- How many businesses/politicians/organizations thrive on us, the people, being ignorant to less pleasant truths?
TL;DR version: keep editing and stay awesome, Wikipedians.
Now that the dust has settled after last month's dramatic RfC calling for the deletion of all Portals (see this issue's Discussion Report and previous Signpost coverage), we talked to some editors working on the formerly dormant WikiProject Portals. In the last month, members of the project have started to implement a strategy of making portals much less maintenance intensive through the use of automatic article excerpts on portal pages. Another goal was the deprecation of portal subpages, of which there currently are 150,000 – for only 1,500 portals. Another point of discussion has been the general purpose of portals. We asked several project members for their thoughts.
Were you a member of the WikiProject before the recent RfC and the revival of the Project? If yes, what were your reactions? If no, what made you join?
- Prior to the RfC at the Village Pump, I wasn't a member of WikiProject Portals. In all honesty I considered portals to be some kind of weird hangover from the early years of Wikipedia; some still bear markup from the era in web development when you only dealt with a screen resolution of 1024 × 768. Nowadays many people, including myself, access Wikipedia from mobile phones. (Editor's note: According to The Atlantic, mobile already made up more than 60% of readership in 2016.) It's a reasonable expectation that content renders correctly for all users.
- I joined the WikiProject because I wanted to be part of bringing portals into a new age of design and automation. Right now I feel that when a reader enters an atypical portal they think 'What on God's Earth is this?' and then immediately click the back button. They are overwhelmed by links, and left confused, possibly wondering if they accidently clicked their bookmark for 4chan. —Cesdeva
- Yes, I was a member although the project was largely dormant so other than having my name on a list, there wasn't really much to it.
- The RfC was a surprise in so many ways, and to be honest I'm a bit surprised it was allowed to proceed. It was a proposal to delete an entire namespace on the basis that some of the contents were poorly maintained, out of date or abandoned. Exactly the same thing could be said of main (article) space, and if somebody were to propose deletion of the whole of Wikipedia for that reasoning I very much doubt the discussion would remain open for more than a few hours at the very most.
- I only became aware of the proposal once the deletion notices appeared on portal pages in my watchlist. It's a clear violation of deletion procedure to nominate something for deletion without placing such a notice on the affected pages. I dearly want to assume good faith but the cynic in me feels this was a clear attempt to hide the proposal from those who would be most interested in, and possibly most affected by, it.
- That The Transhumanist was reported on the admin noticeboard for spamming and canvassing when all he was doing was placing the required deletion notices and starting a project newsletter is astonishing. There were also WP:BATTLE-like messages left on The Transhumanist's talk page accusing him of foul play, saying things along the lines of "congratulations, you won, by manipulating the process". The whole thing is the biggest example of WP:POINT that I've ever seen in my 12+ years on Wikipedia.
- I'm immensely proud though that we, the Wikipedia community, allow ourselves to seriously consider whether what we are doing is adding value and allow people to challenge the way we work and the decisions we've made, and that we're able to do so in a calm and considerate way. Huge credit has to go to The Transhumanist for his calm demeanour throughout the process, as well as for the tremendous effort he's put in to get the WikiProject back on its feet again. —Waggers
How has the revival of the WikiProject been going? Has the initial enthusiasm been sustained?
- Full-steam ahead. Many editors are making great, and innovative contributions. The Transhumanist in particular has been a leading light for the WikiProject. —Cesdeva
- The enthusiasm has been sustained so far but it may be too early to tell. The request for comment has only recently closed and I think it's fair to say a lot of the enthusiasm has come out of a reaction to that RfC, and may now start to wane. But a lot has been achieved, and we're making huge progress in making portals easier to set up and maintain, bringing in a lot of automation. I think there's a lot of enthusiasm within the project to see that through, and at least get to a stage where we can almost completely automate the regular maintenance tasks a portal needs to keep it up to date. Certes has been an amazing asset to the project, helping out with many of the more technical challenges. —Waggers
How will the future look for the WikiProject?
- The WikiProject will probably meet the same fate as it did last time. That's why adding automated features to portals is so important. —Cesdeva
- I think that we have a series of aims that we are striving towards, and that if we can maintain our current rate of progress we'll have achieved them all within the next few months or so – or decided that some of them can't be done for now. Once we've reached that point, things will settle down a bit more and we'll see less activity on the WikiProject, because there will be less to do. Ultimately though I think the future looks bright; the enthusiasm on the project itself and the reaction to the RfC both show that Wikipedians are passionate about portals and want them to stay. —Waggers
A more fundamental question: What are portals? What, for you, is their purpose?
- Portals are a way of guiding readers through a topic; in an engaging and tangible way. —Cesdeva
- Portals serve several purposes; let's start with the simplest. If you imagine a paper encyclopaedia, you expect it to have a contents listing and an index. The contents might not list every single article, but might list key topics and show how the information is organised. Categories serve as Wikipedia's index, and part of the role of portals is to link together to form our contents pages.
- Now, a paper encyclopaedia could be organised in many different ways – listing all the articles alphabetically for example, or breaking things down into topics. You might have a situation where each volume of a large general encyclopaedia is itself an encyclopaedia on a specific topic – and again, Portals give us the front pages, the introductions and overviews, of these mini-encyclopaedia volumes. Getting away from the paper though, the purpose of portals on Wikipedia is so much greater. They help to showcase our best or most interesting content on specific topics and draw readers in. Often portals are linked with projects and have lists of "things you can do" – a great way of encouraging readers to become editors. —Waggers
Has your work on the WikiProject informed your work on others? If yes, how? Any advice for other WikiProjects?
- There is a great deal of Lua code being utilized in portals. This programming language may see wider usage across other WikiProjects. —Cesdeva
- I haven't put any of this into practice on other WikiProjects I'm involved in yet, but there are some key lessons I've learned from the revitalisation of WikiProject Portals. One is that projects, and communities, require enthusiastic leaders. I've felt a bit guilty in the past in dominating WikiProjects in which I was the most active, or perhaps the only active member, but actually sometimes you need to take the bull by the horns and in this case The Transhumanist has done that and spurred the rest of us on.
- Another is that it helps to agree some specific goals and work towards them together. The broad-brush aim of improving stuff isn't enough to bring people together and help them focus on what needs doing. And of course, keeping track of what needs doing and communicating that with interested parties takes a fair bit of time. You have to be committed.
- Ultimately, communication is key. People might join a project but won't necessarily keep a close eye on the project talk page, or might not even access Wikipedia all that often, but still want to be kept informed of what's going on. So project newsletters, delivered to members' talk pages, are a really important tool to use. Of course it's important that users can set their preferences for these should they rather not receive them, but they've shown interest by signing up to be a project member so it's reasonably likely they'd be interested in what's going on. —Waggers
Anything else you'd like to add?
- The way of the world right now seems to be that on any topic, things tend to fall into two camps and once somebody has joined a camp, they become entrenched and stubbornly refuse to see the views of the "opposing" side. The debate that's been had around portals carries the risk of doing that within the Wikipedia community. Certainly those of us who maintain portals and want to see them continue can see and understand the issues that were raised by those who object to them. It is my hope that those who have objected to the very existence of portals equally start to engage in trying to find out more about them and can start to see their usefulness. Wikipedia operates on the principle of consensus, and that is best built not by obliterating the opposition but by drawing people together and seeking agreement. Let's show the world how it should be done! —Waggers
This month has been a busy one for discussions on major topics. The following is an overview of what's been going on:
Is competence required?
In an attempt to change the status of WP:CIR from "essay" to "explanatory supplement (to WP:DE)" Swarm's edit was reverted. This RfC was thus created to see if the community agrees with Swarm's change. Supporters have pointed out that people get blocked with the essay cited as a reason. Several supporters are in favor of further promoting it to policy status. However, although opposers raised the concern that this could be seen as a personal attack, the RfC was indeed closed with a consensus concurring with Swarm's changes. With around 90% of the !votes in support of the proposal, the essay page was subsequently promoted to 'supplement' status.
Event coordinator user right is coming
With the implementation of ACPERM, as reported by Kudpung in the April issue of Signpost (Special report), the question arose of what to do about editathons. Some editors think that removing the ability for new contributors to create pages would decrease the effectiveness of an editathon and proposed an "event coordinator" user group that would allow members to temporarily give users the "confirmed" right to create pages. Theredproject pointed out that in the recent Art+Feminism editathon, only about 1% of new articles by participants were deleted, compared to the 80% deletion rate for new articles overall. Some users suggested adding this capability to the account creator user group instead of creating a new group. Consensus was strongly in favor of this idea, and it was closed early in favor of adoption per WP:SNOW.
When do infoboxes belong in articles? As ArbCom suggested this question should be discussed, a discussion popped up on the policy Village Pump. The topic of the discussion was whether infoboxes should be included by default on most articles, on "broad classes of articles" or omitted from most articles. Most people agreed that there should not be a "default", and that we should stop discussing this over and over.
In a separate discussion, some users think data from Wikimedia's raw data repository Wikidata could be used in infoboxes of articles. There's a wide variety of options as to how this would be implemented (if at all). The community is fairly evenly divided as to whether or not such a system should be implemented. The discussion can be found here.
Drafts to be deleted – in certain cases
The community decided in this RfC that drafts can be deleted (on MFD), but not for failing the notability criteria. This follow-up RfC proposes a revision to the information page on drafts saying that "A draft that has been repeatedly resubmitted and declined at AfC without any substantial improvement may be deleted at Wikipedia:Miscellany for deletion if consensus determines that it is unlikely to ever meet the requirements for mainspace and it otherwise meets one of the reasons for deletion outlined in Wikipedia:Deletion policy." As of May 16, support !votes outnumber oppose ones by a factor of 4 to 1.
Portals are staying
And finally, the portal discussion that was the subject of the previous Discussion Report has now closed with a "strong consensus" against deleting portals or marking them as historical. However, as many users agree that portal reform is needed, more portal-related discussions are likely to take place in the coming months. Jimbo got in on the discussion too, suggesting on his talk page that we look at how portals are used on other language Wikipedias but not stating an opinion one way or another.
27 featured articles were promoted this month.
- The Hi-Level (nominated by Mackensen) is a type of bilevel intercity railroad passenger car used in the United States. The Budd Company designed it in the 1950s for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.
- Sonic Adventure (nominated by Joebro64) is a 1998 platform game for Sega's Dreamcast, and the first main Sonic the Hedgehog game to feature 3D gameplay. The story follows Sonic the Hedgehog, Miles "Tails" Prower, Knuckles the Echidna, Amy Rose, Big the Cat, and E-102 Gamma in their quests to collect the seven Chaos Emeralds and stop Doctor Robotnik from unleashing Chaos, an ancient evil. Sonic Adventure received critical acclaim and, with over two million copies sold by 2006, became the Dreamcast's bestseller. Reviewers lauded the game's visuals and gameplay, calling it a major technological advance for video games; some even speculated that it could popularize the Dreamcast and re-establish Sega as the dominant console manufacturer after the relatively unsuccessful Saturn.
- Dubnium (nominated by R8R) is a synthetic chemical element with symbol Db and atomic number 105. Dubnium is highly radioactive: the most stable known isotope, dubnium-268, has a half-life of just over a day. This greatly limits the extent of research on dubnium. Dubnium does not occur naturally on Earth and is produced artificially.
- Dilophosaurus (nominated by FunkMonk) is a genus of theropod dinosaur that lived in what is now North America during the Early Jurassic, about 193 million years ago. It was designated as the state dinosaur of Connecticut in 2017.
- The Shorwell helmet (nominated by Usernameunique) is an Anglo-Saxon helmet from the early to mid-sixth century AD found near Shorwell on the Isle of Wight in southern England. It was one of the grave goods of a high-status Anglo-Saxon warrior, and was found with other objects such as a pattern-welded sword and hanging bowl. One of only six known Anglo-Saxon helmets, alongside those from Benty Grange, Sutton Hoo, Coppergate, Wollaston, and Staffordshire, it is the sole example to derive from the continental Frankish style rather than the contemporaneous Northern "crested helmets" used in England and Scandinavia.
- The Borodino-class battlecruisers (nominated by Sturmvogel 66) were a group of four battlecruisers ordered by the Imperial Russian Navy before World War I. Also referred to as the Izmail class, they were laid down in late 1912 at Saint Petersburg for service with the Baltic Fleet. Three of the four ships were launched in 1915 and the fourth in 1916. Work on the gun turrets lagged, and it became evident that Russian industry would not be able to complete the ships during the war. The Russian Revolution of 1917 halted all work on the ships, which was never resumed.
- Porlock Stone Circle (nominated by Midnightblueowl) is a stone circle located on Exmoor, near the village of Porlock in the south-western English county of Somerset. The Porlock ring is part of a tradition of stone circle construction that spread throughout much of Britain, Ireland, and Brittany during the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age, over a period between 3,300 and 900 BCE. The purpose of such monuments is unknown, although archaeologists speculate that the stones represented supernatural entities for the circles' builders.
- André Messager (nominated by Ssilvers and Tim riley) was a French composer, organist, pianist and conductor. His compositions include eight ballets and thirty opéras comiques, opérettes and other stage works, among which his ballet Les Deux Pigeons (1886) and opéra comique Véronique (1898) have had lasting success; Les P'tites Michu (1897) and Monsieur Beaucaire (1919) were also popular internationally.
- Buckton Castle (nominated by Richard Nevell) was a medieval enclosure castle near Carrbrook in Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, England. It was surrounded by a 2.8-metre-wide (9 ft) stone curtain wall and a ditch 10 metres (33 ft) wide by 6 metres (20 ft) deep. Though it only survives as buried remains and is overgrown with heather and peat, Buckton is one of the earliest stone castles in North West England. It was probably built and demolished in the 12th century. The earliest surviving record of the site dates from 1360, by which time it was lying derelict. The few finds retrieved during archaeological investigations indicates that Buckton Castle may not have been completed.
- WestJet Encore (nominated by Vanguard10) is a Canadian regional airline that began operations in 2013. It is owned by WestJet Airlines, Ltd. which also is the holding company for WestJet Airlines. The airline is headquartered in Calgary, Alberta. In response to internal marketing studies about future growth limitations by WestJet Airlines operating only Boeing 737 aircraft, WestJet Encore was formed to allow increased frequency of flights by using smaller aircraft, as well as to commence service to routes with less traffic. The airline operates Bombardier Q400 NextGen aircraft, a variant of the Bombardier Dash 8. The airline is the fourth largest operator of the Bombardier Q400 series. Pilot bases are in Calgary and Toronto, where many WestJet Encore flights operate. Air service originally started in Western Canada, but routes in the eastern half of the country were added later.
- "The Riddle of the Sphinx" (Inside No. 9) (nominated by Josh Milburn) is the third episode of the third series of the British dark comedy anthology television programme Inside No. 9. It first aired, on BBC Two, on 28 February 2017.
- The Boat Race 2018 (nominated by The Rambling Man) took place on 24 March 2018. Held annually, The Boat Race is a side-by-side rowing race between crews from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge along a 4.2-mile (6.8 km) tidal stretch of the River Thames in south-west London. For the third time in the history of the event, the men's, women's and both reserves' races were all held on the Tideway on the same day. The women's race was the first event of the day, and saw Cambridge lead from the start, eventually winning by a considerable margin to record their second consecutive victory, and taking the overall record in the Women's Boat Race to 43–30 in their favour. The men's race was the final event of the day and completed a whitewash as Cambridge won, their second victory in three years, and taking the overall record to 83–80 in their favour. The races were watched by around a quarter of a million spectators live, and were broadcast around the world by a variety of broadcasters. The two main races were also available for the second time as a live stream using YouTube.
- In the Rhine Campaign of 1796 (nominated by auntieruth) ), two First Coalition armies under the overall command of Archduke Charles outmaneuvered and defeated two French Republican armies. This was the last campaign of the War of the First Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars.
- The Flora of Madagascar (nominated by Tylototriton) consists of more than 12,000 species of vascular and non-vascular plants and a poorly known number of fungi. Around 83% of Madagascar's vascular plants are only found on the island. These endemics include five plant families, 85% of the over 900 orchid species, around 200 species of palms, and such emblematic species as the traveller's tree, six species of baobab and the Madagascar periwinkle. The high degree of endemism is due to Madagascar's long isolation since its separation from the African and Indian landmasses in the Mesozoic, 150–160 and 84–91 million years ago, respectively. However, few plant lineages remain from the ancient Gondwanan flora; most extant plant groups immigrated via across-ocean dispersal well after continental break-up.
- John Mowbray, 3rd Duke of Norfolk (nominated by Serial Number 54129) was a fifteenth-century English magnate who, despite having a relatively short political career, played a significant role in the early years of the Wars of the Roses.
- Central Link (nominated by SounderBruce) is a light rail line in Seattle, Washington, United States, and part of Sound Transit's Link light rail system. It serves 16 stations in the cities of Seattle, SeaTac, and Tukwila, traveling 20 miles (32 km) between University of Washington and Angle Lake stations. The line connects the University District, Downtown Seattle, the Rainier Valley, and Seattle–Tacoma International Airport. Central Link carried over 23 million total passengers in 2017, with an average of 72,000 daily passengers on weekdays.
- The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant (nominated by Jackdude101) is a former factory located within the Milwaukee Junction area of Detroit, Michigan, in the United States. Built in 1904, it was the second center of automobile production for the Ford Motor Company, after the Ford Mack Avenue Plant. At the Piquette Avenue Plant, the company created and first produced the Ford Model T, the car credited with initiating the mass use of automobiles in the United States. It was also the first factory where more than 100 cars were assembled in one day. While it was headquartered at the Piquette Avenue Plant, Ford Motor Company became the biggest US-based automaker, and it would remain so until the mid-1920s. The factory was used by the company until 1910.
- Simon Hatley (nominated by Wehwalt) was an English sailor involved in two hazardous privateering voyages to the South Pacific Ocean. On the second voyage, with his ship beset by storms south of Cape Horn, Hatley shot an albatross, an incident immortalised by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
- Sonic X-treme (nominated by Red Phoenix) was a platform game developed by Sega Technical Institute from 1994 until its cancellation in 1997. X-treme was intended to be the first fully 3D Sonic the Hedgehog game and the first original Sonic game for the Sega Saturn. Its concepts built on past Sonic games while introducing elements to take Sonic into the 3D era of video games. The storyline followed Sonic on his journey to stop Dr. Robotnik stealing six magic rings from Tiara Boobowski and her father.
- The 2007 AT&T 250 (nominated by Laser brain) was a NASCAR Busch Series stock car race that took place on June 23, 2007. Held at the Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin, the race was the 17th of 35 in the 2007 NASCAR Busch Series season. Aric Almirola of Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) was the listed winner of the race, Richard Childress Racing's Scott Wimmer finished second, and Braun Racing's Jason Leffler finished third.
- Mark XIV bomb sight (nominated by Laser brain), a bombsight developed by Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command during the Second World War. Production of a slightly modified version was also undertaken in the United States as the Sperry T-1, which was interchangeable with UK-built version.
- Messier 87 (nominated by AhmadLX) is a supergiant elliptical galaxy in the constellation Virgo. One of the most massive galaxies in the local Universe, it is notable for its large population of globular clusters—about 12,000 compared to the 150–200 orbiting the Milky Way—and its jet of energetic plasma that originates at the core and extends at least 1,500 parsecs (4,900 light-years), travelling at relativistic speed. It is one of the brightest radio sources in the sky, and a popular target for both amateur and professional astronomers.
- SMS Braunschweig (nominated by Parsecboy) was the first of five pre-dreadnought battleships of the Braunschweig class built for the German Kaiserliche Marine(Imperial Navy). She was launched in December 1902. She was named after the Duchy of Brunswick (German: Braunschweig). Like all other pre-dreadnoughts built at the turn of the century, Braunschweig was quickly made obsolete by the launching of the revolutionary HMS Dreadnought in 1906; as a result, her career as a front-line battleship was cut short.
- The cooperative pulling paradigm (nominated by Edwininlondon) is used by ethologists, comparative psychologists, and evolutionary psychologists try to understand how cooperation works and how and when it may have evolved. Two or more animals pull rewards towards themselves via an apparatus that they can not successfully operate alone. Chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, capuchins, tamarins, wolves, elephants, ravens, and keas appear to understand the requirements of the task. The conclusions regarding cooperation are mixed and complex.
- The First Battle of Dernancourt (nominated by Peacemaker67) was fought on 28 March 1918 near Dernancourt in northern France during World War I. It involved a force of the German 2nd Army attacking elements of the VII Corps, which included British and Australian troops, and resulted in a complete defeat of the German assault.
- The Socialist Soviet Republic of Abkhazia (nominated by Kaiser matias) was a short-lived republic within the Caucasus region of the Soviet Union that covered the territory of Abkhazia, and existed from 31 March 1921 to 19 February 1931. Formed in the aftermath of the Red Army invasion of Georgia in 1921, it was independent until 16 December 1921, when it agreed to a treaty uniting it with the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic (Georgian SSR). The SSR Abkhazia was largely similar to an autonomous Soviet republic, though it retained de facto independence from Georgia, being given certain features only full union republics had, like its own military units. Through its status as a "treaty republic" with Georgia, Abkhazia joined the Transcaucasian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, which united Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Georgian SSRs into one federal unit, when the latter was formed in 1922. The SSR Abkhazia was abolished in 1931 and replaced with the Abkhaz Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic within the Georgian SSR.
- Edward the Elder (nominated by Dudley Miles) was King of the Anglo-Saxons from 899 until his death. He was the elder son of Alfred the Great and his wife Ealhswith. When Edward succeeded to the throne, he had to defeat a challenge from his cousin Æthelwold, who had a strong claim as the son of Alfred's elder brother and predecessor, Æthelred.
13 featured lists were promoted this week.
- List of Hot Country Songs number ones of 2007 (nominated by ChrisTheDude) It's no surprise to find casual sex, excessive drinking and financial difficulties on a list of country music hits, but what is geek chic doing here? Kudos to Brad Paisley for going out on a limb.
- List of Wales international footballers (nominated by Kosack) All about the Wales national football team – the third oldest international football team, representing the country since 1876.
- List of international rugby union tries by Shane Williams (nominated by The Rambling Man) Williams scored 58 tries, the most for any Wales international.
- Kollegah discography (nominated by Lirim.Z) Two things to take away – first: German rap is a thing. Second: German rappers don't just have songs titled "Stiernackenkommando" but also "Ave Maria" (hey, Chris Cornell did it too).
- List of international goals scored by David Villa (nominated by The Rambling Man) An impressive roster from 2005 to 2013, then just three points scored in the United States. Turns out Major League Soccer isn't good for this kind of scorekeeping.
- List of Padma Bhushan award recipients (2010–2019) (nominated by Vivvt) Since 2010, twenty-eight foreign recipients – nineteen from the United States, three from the United Kingdom, and one each from Bangladesh, Germany, Ireland, Singapore, Russia, and Thailand – have received the third-highest civilian award of the Republic of India.
- List of 1968 Winter Olympics medal winners (nominated by Courcelles) X Olympic Winter Games in Grenoble, France, added a biathlon relay.
- List of Queens Park Rangers F.C. seasons (nominated by Miyagawa) Starting back in 1890 when The Football Association was a mere twenty-something.
- List of awards and nominations received by Regine Velasquez (nominated by Pseud 14) In addition to over 70 competitive awards, Filipino singer and actress Regine Velasquez has been honored with four lifetime achievement awards, including the Awit Awards' Dangal ng Musikang Pilipino, the Star Awards for Music's Natatanging Alagad Ng Musika, FAMAS Awards' Golden Artist and Myx Music's Magna Award.
- Theory of a Deadman discography (nominated by Miss Sarita) Sixty-six studio albums, extended plays, singles and music videos from the Canadian rock band, eh?
- London station group (nominated by Ritchie333) Construction of most of these eighteen stations around the edge of central London in the mid-19th century entailed the demolition of poor properties, particularly south of the River Thames. Although it caused blight then, in the 21st century, they have attracted occupants and businesses.
- List of international goals scored by Didier Drogba (nominated by The Rambling Man) Hat-tricks and riots both occurred during the career of the Ivorian professional association footballer who represented the Ivory Coast national team from 2002 to 2014.
- List of Raven Software games (nominated by PresN) The legendary Heretic and Hexen titles meet Marvel, Star Trek and Star Wars franchisers here.
Three featured pictures were promoted since the last issue of The Signpost.
One featured topic was promoted this week.
- The Final Fantasy series (nominated by PresN) Final Fantasy is a science fiction media franchise created by Hironobu Sakaguchi, and developed and owned by Square Enix (formerly Square). The franchise centers on a series of fantasy and science fantasy role-playing video games (RPGs). The eponymous first game in the series, published in 1987, was conceived by Sakaguchi as his last-ditch effort in the game industry; the title was a success and spawned sequels. The video game series has since branched into numerous other genres, and has been commercially and critically successful; it is Square Enix's best selling video game franchise, with more than 110 million units sold, and is one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time.
Apart from these featured contents, 144 good articles were promoted.
German war effort: Case opened on 22:45, 16 May 2018 (UTC)
Has an attempt to prevent historical revisionism become a content battleground? K.e.coffman, one of the involved parties, is the author of the op-ed "World War II Myth-making and Wikipedia" in last month's issue of Signpost.
At 00:26, 25 April 2018 DGG's vote to accept became the fifth vote of nine, constituting a majority of Arbitrators accepting the case. These words of Opabinia regalis, quoted often in recent arbitration reports, are clear and informative: "allegations of subtle POV-pushing in hot-button topic areas is one of those that benefits most from a careful inquiry taking place at a measured pace in a structured environment". Comments from Arbs suggests the matter will be considered as behavior-centric, keeping content at arm's length; and will widen to editing on WWII topics in general, not just Clean Wehrmacht.
By May 11, the arbitrators' votes stood at 9/1/0, indicating consensus to open a case.
In response to multiple requests for status update on the unusually long period of time to open a case, with by one commenter Requests for arbitration department a "ghost town", arbitrator Euryalus on May 14 "there's a slow-moving discussion on scope happening on the mailing list; I've advanced a point of view and a proposal to outsource the content component of the case and then just look at any underlying conduct issues, but I'm in a small minority as evidenced by my lonely "decline" vote in saying the same thing on the case request page. There are suggestions from several arbs to simply get on with it via a regular case, which also seems like good advice given the passage of time."the
Upon opening the case, clerk L235 commented: "The Arbitration Committee has not decided on a specific scope – instead, the Committee has decided to take a broad view of the dispute" (emphasis added).
Since 19 May, arbs have commented on the evidence talkpage.
- Questionable BLP reverts by blocked editors
Withdrawn by filing party 4 May 2018 diff
Formerly titled "BLP reverts by blocked editors", the central question of the request is whether WP:BLP trumps WP:SOCKING, i.e. can "good reverts by socks" (as stated by Opabinia) be left as-is? Or should they be reverted per policy? The request was voted down by Arbcom 0/6/0, then withdrawn. A workaround was enunciated by Black Kite and endorsed by the committee: "revert it [the sock] and then re-revert to take responsibility for it myself".
- I am not being allowed to contribute from genuine sources
Declined as obviously premature 1 May 2018 diff
Brought by an editor who started contributing on 18 March 2018 and received a tban on caste-related articles under the South Asian social groups discretionary sanctions. Declined by clerk.
Attack on Wikipedia accounts over
A brute force attack on Wikipedia accounts took place on May 3 and ended a day later without definite result. In the course of the attack, more than 70,000 accounts received "a failed attempt to log in to your account" alerts. The Wikimedia Foundation later released an internal statement calling for stronger password security.
|“||The Wikimedia Foundation's Security team is aware of the situation, and working with others in the organization on steps to decrease the success of attacks like these.
The exact source is not yet known, but it is not originating from our systems. That means it is an external effort to gain unauthorized access to random accounts. These types of efforts are increasingly common for websites of our reach. A vast majority of these attempts have been unsuccessful, and we are reaching out personally to the small number of accounts which we believe have been compromised. While we are constantly looking at improvements to our security systems and processes to offset the impact of malicious efforts such as these, the best method of prevention continues to be the steps each of you take to safeguard your accounts.
As the Administrators' noticeboard would like to remind you: Strong passphrases consist of long, standard English sentences.
General sanctions on cryptocurrency
After Bitcoin and cryptocurrency holders were already placed under Conflict of Interest when editing articles on the topic (see this issue's In the media), general sanctions have now been placed on all articles related to blockchain and cryptocurrency (broady construed). The sanctions were not placed by the usual venue of an Arbitration Comittee ruling, but rather as community sanction discussed and unanimously adopted on the Administrators' noticeboard, with the sanctions on Syrian Civil War cited as another case of this procedure. Smallbones seemed to be in the general spirit of the discussion:
|“||Yes, I've worked in some incredibly difficult areas, e.g. binary options and retail forex, but cryptocurrencies take the cake.
The main problems I see are:
The discussion was also under the general idea of following established internet practice, with other large websites such as Google, Facebook and Twitter already having banned cryptocurrency advertisements.
Brazil Wikimedia groups de-recognized
The Wikimedia Affiliations Committee has withdrawn its recognition of the two Wikimedia user groups based in Brazil, Wikimedia Community User Group Brasil and Wiki Education Brazil. The affected user group agreements will be terminated by the Foundation legal department "as soon as possible", and there will be a one-year ban on primary contacts of the two groups serving as primary contacts to other group applications or existing user groups. According to a statement by the Affiliations Committee, this comes as a result of "a severe and protracted conflict" between the two user groups, "which has resulted in significant harm to past, ongoing, and planned Wikimedia movement activities in Brazil".
Wikimedia Conference 2018
From 20 to 22 April, Wikimedia Conference 2018 took place in Berlin. The event has a tradition of the Wikimedia community funding representatives of Wikimedia movement affiliates to attend the conference and there have discussions about the outreach practices and inter-organizational collaboration of Wikimedia chapters, thematic organizations, and user groups. When these various communities select their representatives to attend, many of them ask that that their representative draft a report describing their experience at the event. Readers of The Signpost may ping Wikimedia organizations to publish their report anywhere they like and to put it into the category for Conference reports. A good report can be as brief as five sentences, a page with a few photos, or any communication which captures any aspect of what was important about this conference.
Snippets from two Conference reports:
On Saturday, I engaged with the topic of Wikimedia organisations. Wikimedia Deutschland is by far the largest Wikimedia country organisation (at the moment, we have over 100 staff, the next largest country organisation about 10), so that question concerns us especially. I would like to present two quotes from participants of the corresponding discussions: "Wikimedia right now is more like a government than a charitable organisation", and, alluding to Eric Raymond, "Wikimedia has to evolve from a cathedral to a bazaar".
— Gnom, personal blog
It looks like WMF are reconsidering whether this conference should continue to exist in this form. One proposal was that the Wikimedia Conference be restricted to governance/strategy, and that the other aspects of this might better be handled by a set of regional conferences.
I (Joe) think that may be a good idea, but I would hope that:
- At least one of those regional conferences is held in conjunction with the governance/strategy conference, so that the governance/strategy people don't become too detached from other aspects of this movement.
- At least once every three years, things are all brought together in one place. The hothouse atmosphere was stimulating and productive, and I don't think it can be reproduced any other way.
— Jmabel, Cascadia Wikimedians
- New Pages backlog drive: New Page Reviewers are holding a concentrated effort to cut down on a growing backlog. Anyone with the required qualifications and demonstrated experience is welcome to apply for the NPR user right at WP:PERM and lend a hand.
- Editathons: Upcoming editathons are Wiki Loves Pride, Women singers & Women+Song, Geo-focus: Russia/Soviet Union, and Women and GLAM.
- New user-groups: The Affiliations Committee announced the approval of this month's newest Wikimedia movement affiliates, the Wikiesfera Wikiesfera Grupo de Usuarixs, the Igbo Wikimedians User Group and Wikitongues.
- Facebook rolls out information feature: After a Beta launch in October (see previous Signpost coverage), Facebook has now made an information button linking to Wikipedia articles accessible to all News Feeds. According to Facebook tests, this resulted in 500,000 additional Wikipedia views a day; meanwhile, the Wikimedia Foundation writes in a statement that it "encourages companies who use Wikipedia's content to give back in the spirit of sustainability".
- Wikimedia Deutschland publishes Impact report form for 2017: The report looks back on a successful year with increased fundraising and membership and two new members of the Board of Directors, Peter Dewald and Dr. Gabriele Theren.
- New Board for Portugal: Portugal Wikimedia elected a new board on April 15. The new president is Gonçalo Themudo.
- Foundation News: The Wikimedia Foundation has appointed Heather Walls as Chief Creative Officer and Kui Kinyanjui as Vice President of Communications.
- Milestones: Congratulations to the Russian Wikipedia, which reached 900,000 articles this month.
Wikipedia in Turkey
According to Turkish newspaper Hürriyet, the country's İyi Party has made Wikipedia access a campaign issue, promising to restore access if elected. This announcement came a day after the one year anniversary of the 2017 block of Wikipedia in Turkey, which began on 29 April. (Reported by The Verge) The Wikimedia Foundation has also published a video on the occasion, promoting its #WeMissTurkey campaign.
The block began as a result of Turkish Law No. 5651, when in the English Wikipedia's article on state-sponsored terrorism, Turkey was described as a sponsor country for ISIS and Al-Qaeda. In a 27 January interview with Hürriyet, the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, Katherine Maher, stated "We are not sure why there is still a ban on Wikipedia. The Turkish authorities may not have examined the latest versions of [this] content."
Most cited on Wikipedia
The most cited work on Wikipedia (see a Wikimedia blog post) was revealed to be an updated world map of the Köppen-Geiger climate classification, which was cited 2,830,341 times – more than 130 times the count of the second most cited study.
The findings were widely reported with mentions also appearing in The Guardian, Wired and South China Morning Post. The authors of the paper themselves were completely unaware about the use of their research, with one writing "Those numbers blew me away, none of us had any idea about this. We didn't know Wikipedia collected this information or anything about it."
The Köppen-Geiger climate classification was first proposed by climatologist Wladimir Köppen in 1884, after being revised several times, including in 1918 and 1936. Rudolf Geiger worked with Köppen in 1954 and 1961. The system they created, used for climate classification, divides climates into five main climate groups, with each group being divided based on seasonal precipitation and temperature patterns. The five main groups are A (tropical), B (dry), C (temperate), D (continental), and E (polar). Each group and subgroup is represented by a letter. All climates are assigned a main group (the first letter). All climates except for those in the E group are assigned a seasonal precipitation subgroup (the second letter). The authors of the study used the same system, and applied it to the current world.
- Monkey Selfie at last resolved: The monkey selfie copyright dispute has been in the news since the picture was taken in July 2011 (see previous Signpost coverage). In April 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that animals can not legally hold copyrights. (Reported by the Associated Press and story promoted by Bing search; also see legal decision)
- New movement on a 'lazy' topic: The Lazy Nigerian Youths movement got their own Wikipedia page, and TheCable noticed.
- Crypto policy makes German News: English Wikipedia policy made international news as German cryptocurrency websites as well as the magazine Focus took note of cryptocurrency users being prohibited from editing articles related to cryptocurrencies. Focus coverage was unusually discerning, noting that merely holding cryptocurrency does not qualify one for the "subject-matter experts" quasi-exception to the policy.
- On cryptocurrency at WP:COI: The cryptocurrency news site bitcoin.com tells enthusiasts "If You’re a Wikipedia Contributor, Owning Cryptocurrency May Be a Conflict of Interest". The piece links to WP:COI.
- Cinco de Mayo vandalism: A high school student inserted his name into Cinco de Mayo page as a prank to impress his friends, writing that "Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for "fifth of May") is a Mexican civic holiday held on May 5 that commemorates Jimmy Lovrien, a general in the Mexican army, and his unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862." The man, now a columnist for the Duluth News Tribune reported in this article on how it was picked up, and repeated hundreds of times.
- Todd Howard-centered vandalism: Coordinated vandalism centering around Todd Howard (video game designer) (the designer of Fallout and The Elder Scrolls) largely committed by his fans, led to tens of pages being vandalized and locked. (Reported by New York magazine.)
- A mistake: North Jersey Media Group newspapers reported on how Gloria Struck was incorrectly listed as an original member of the Motor Maids.
- Good ol' Larry: Larry Sanger, the co-founder of Wikipedia, wrote an 8000 word essay on what's wrong with Wikipedia and how to fix with blockchain-based 'pedias. (Reported by thenextweb)
- Another COI: The article on Mark Lindquist, the Pierce County, Washington, prosecutor, has been edited by Lindquist's public relations guy, according to The Tacoma News Tribune's story, reprinted throughout the Northwest United States.
- Artist re-writes Wikipedia article from scratch: The Adrian Piper article has lots of issues related to COI, largely because she rewrote her article. These have now been reasonably resolved. (Reported by Artnet)
- A Wiki meetup runs into issues: IndigenizeWikipedia meetup at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre, Whitehorse, Yukon, was "first of its kind" but had difficulty citing unwritten traditional knowledge of tribal elders. (Reported by CBC.ca)
- Bringing Wikipedia into libraries: American Libraries magazine published an excerpt from Leveraging Wikipedia: Connecting Communities of Knowledge, written by a WMF employee and a Wikipedian in Residence (WiR) at National Library of Wales. Leveraging Wikipedia was published by American Library Association. The excerpt discusses bringing Wikipedians into libraries, "allow[ing] staffers to justify Wikipedia programming within their jobs", employing a WiR, etc.
- Google Lens using Wikipedia: Google Lens draws augmented reality knowledge from Wikipedia. (Reported by The Verge and Tom's Guide)
- We're going to the moon! The Arch Mission Foundation and Astrobotic Technology aim to "Put Wikipedia (and More) On the Moon to Preserve Humanity's History" with the Peregrine lunar lander in 2020. The Arch Mission Foundation plans to send 50 million pages or so to the moon, much of which will be the English-language Wikipedia. Apparently it's fairly easy to print all these pages on tiny nickel sheets - the sum of all knowledge will fit in a package the size of a CD (and worth every cubic centimeter). It will only take a week to print. (Reported in Space.com, and others)
- Brave:Edit: Amnesty International's global Brave:Edit editathon for women's biographies, held May 19–20, attracted international media note, from Scotland's The National, America's US News, and India's Deccan Herald, among others. The program was coordinated under Amnesty and Wikipedia on Meta-Wiki.
- Advertorial Tones and Paid-For Posts: How Are Brands Trying to Game Wikipedia: The Fashion Law, a blog covering the fashion industry, reviews some specific abuses, deletion discussions, and notability requirements in an intelligent manner.
- This traffic report is adapted from the Top 25 Report, prepared with commentary by Igordebraga (May 6 to 12) and User:OZOO (May 13 to 19)
Earth's Mightiest Articles (May 6 to 12, 2018)
- Prepared with commentary by Igordebraga
Even if Infinity War kept the crown for a third week straight - bringing along a lot of articles, such as its franchise, its villain, the character who's supposed to defeat him, and the list of money making movies - seems like the world caught up with the Avengers. Thus we have quite an international list: Indian performers, Malaysian elections, the Eurovision contest, an American actress about to become British royalty, a fancy ball where a Canadian musician went out with an American billionaire, and, as to be expected in the past few months, the K-Pop act EXO. The other article that broke two million views has some relation to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Donald Glover is not on this list for being (Ultimate) Spider-Man's uncle. Instead he is here for being successful rapper Childish Gambino. Finishing off, the yearly celebration of Mother's Day and the year-long mourning of whoever left us.
For the week of May 6 to 12, 2018, the most popular articles on Wikipedia, as determined from the WP:5000 report were:
Rank Article Class Views Image Notes 1 Avengers: Infinity War 2,938,663 Infinity War completes three weeks atop both the box office and the Top 25 Report. And the one that can break this streak finished just off our list at #26: Deadpool 2. 2 Donald Glover 2,309,716 Along with hosting Saturday Night Live, Glover also was the musical guest under the guise of Childish Gambino, debuting the racially charged single "This Is America", which afterwards topped the Billboard Hot 100. In the meantime, he's also in his show Atlanta and will soon appear in theaters as a young Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story. 3 Met Gala 1,055,444 The Metropolitan Museum of Art continues to hold an yearly fundraiser ball. And this year, the theme was Roman Catholicism, leading to weird sights such as Pope Rihanna. 4 List of Marvel Cinematic Universe films 1,038,228 The 18 movies that led into #1, and future releases as well. The twentieth, out in July, will show why Ant-Man and the Wasp weren't there to fight Thanos (#13). 5 Eurovision Song Contest 2018 989,168 It was again time to see Europe's musical offerings. Israel won its first title in twenty years with Netta Barzilai (pictured) and her song "Toy". 6 List of highest-grossing films 782,244 Infinity War (#1) continues to climb this list, and is soon to reach the ranks of $2 billion films that include Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Titanic and Avatar. 7 Meghan Markle 732,868 London will be busy Saturday, with both the 2018 FA Cup Final and Ms. Markle's royal wedding. Her father didn't walk her down the aisle due to heart surgery. 8 Deaths in 2018 724,908 "There's a time to live and a time to die
When it's time to meet the maker"
9 Sonam Kapoor 695,213 This Bollywood actress brought in views due to her marriage to an Indian businessman. 10 Carol Danvers 668,581 The one character expected to do what all the heroes in Infinity War (#1) couldn't against Thanos (#13). So of course expectations are high for Captain Marvel and her portrayer Brie Larson.
Superheros and a super wedding (May 13 to 19, 2018)
Prepared with commentary by OZOO
The big news is the wedding of Meghan Markle to Prince Harry, with a total of eight of the ten articles on the list being relating to the wedding. As well as the couple, there's placing on the list for Meghan's mother, and Harry's grandparents, parents, brother and sister-in-law. The power of the royal family, when it comes to attracting readers to Wikipedia, is clear. Also on the list, we've still got Avengers: Infinity War narrowly edging out Deadpool 2 to be the top superhero movie.
For the week of May 13 to 19, 2018, the most popular articles on Wikipedia, as determined from the WP:5000 report were:
Rank Article Class Views Image Notes 1 Meghan Markle / Meghan, Duchess of Sussex 9,262,265
Star of US drama series Suits, Meghan Markle married Prince Harry (#2), on Saturday May 19. As with anything involving the House of Windsor, this attracted great interest from people across the world. Following her marriage to the sixth in line to the British throne, Meghan has retired from acting. Which I'm sure deeply upsets film directors dreaming of having an end credit sequence including MEGHAN, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX 2 Prince Harry / Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex 3,681,477
Here is the other half of that famous wedding. Harry was given the title of Duke of Sussex by his grandmother on the morning of the wedding, which slightly overshadowed the fridge-freezer one of the other guests had bought him. 3 Avengers: Infinity War 1,978,013 Still big interest in Avengers: Infinity War, the nineteenth (nineteenth) Marvel Cinematic Universe film. Currently the fourth highest-grossing film of all time, for the few people yet to see it I will try and give a brief summary: Everyone from all the previous films teams up to try and defeat a villain portrayed by Josh Brolin (pictured). Do they succeed? If you don't know, I recommend not checking the article, as they do say it pretty clearly. 4 Deadpool 2 1,833,981 At least, a follow-up to one of the most enjoyable movies of the last few years, Hunt for the Wilderpeople! Hoping to knock Avengers: Infinity War off the top spot, this sees Deadpool (played by Ryan Reynolds) try to protect Firefist (played by Wilderpeople's Julian Dennison) from a villain portrayed by Josh Brolin (pictured). Does he succeed? If you don't know, I recommend not checking the article, as they do say it pretty clearly. 5 Elizabeth II 1,663,497 HM The Queen is the grandmother of Prince Harry (#2). You probably knew that already. 6 Diana, Princess of Wales 1,443,049 Memories of the late Diana, Princess of Wales with the marriage of her son Prince Harry (#2). Diana was killed in a car accident in 1997 when the prince was 12 years old. 7 Charles, Prince of Wales 1,346,048 The father of Prince Harry (#2), HRH The Prince of Wales walked Meghan Markle (#1) up the aisle in the absence of her father. 8 Prince William, Duke of Cambridge 1,204,512 Older brother of Prince Harry (#2), HRH The Duke of Cambridge was best man at the wedding. 9 Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge 1,110,704 The sister-in-law of Prince Harry (#2). The royal wedding probably reminded a few Wikipedia readers of the 2011 wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. 10 Doria Ragland 1,002,206 Doria Ragland, the mother of Meghan Markle (#1), was the only member of the new Duchess of Sussex's family to attend the royal wedding.
- These lists excludes the Wikipedia main page, non-article pages (such as redlinks), and anomalous entries (such as DDoS attacks or likely automated views). Since mobile view data became available to the Report in October 2014, we exclude articles that have almost no mobile views (5–6% or less) or almost all mobile views (94–95% or more) because they are very likely to be automated views based on our experience and research of the issue. Please feel free to discuss any removal on the Top 25 Report talk page if you wish.
Mapframe maps now work on English Wikipedia
English Wikipedians can now use the mapframe function to embed maps right on a page. The map shown here (which indicates the location of this year’s Wikimania conference) demonstrates the functionality. Mapframe was requested by the English community via RfC last year and the request was reconfirmed this spring. If you’re new to mapframe, this Kartographer help page shows how to use it.
Expect more significant new features in the coming weeks, with the implementation of the long-awaited map internationalization features. After internationalization, maps will display in the content language of the wiki they’re published on. Until then, they will continue to display in the language of the territory mapped. (You can experiment with internationalized maps on testwiki now—here’s a page of examples.)
Since May 8, AdvancedSearch has been available as a beta feature in your wiki. The feature enhances the search page through an advanced parameters form and aims to make existing search options more visible and accessible for everyone. AdvancedSearch is a project by WMDE Technical Wishes.
AdvancedSearch serves as an interface for some of the special search options that are already provided in CirrusSearch, but are difficult to find or to remember – especially when you want to combine several of them. E.g. you would get the same results if you manually type intitle:foo into the search field or use advancedSearch for that. The advantages of AdvancedSearch include visibility of existing options, syntax discoverability and easier combination of search parameters. – Birgit Müller (WMDE) (adapted from VPT post)
TemplateStyles allow custom CSS pages to be used to style content without an administrator having to edit sitewide CSS. This will make it more convenient for editors to style templates; for example, those templates for which the sitewide CSS for the mobile skin or another skin (e.g. Timeless) currently negatively affects the display of the template.
TemplateStyles is currently enabled on MediaWiki.org, German Wikipedia, and Swedish Wikipedia. Discussion for its deployment is taking place at Wikipedia:Village pump (technical)#RfC: Enabling TemplateStyles, and usage guidelines are being developed at Wikipedia:TemplateStyles.
A new way to reference different sections of the same work
Referencing multiple sections of the same work in an article is currently cumbersome. Editors have asked for an easier way to do this for more than ten years. In 2013 and 2015 a wish to change this made it into Wikimedia Germany’s Technical Wishlist and it was wish #24 in the international Community Wishlist survey 2015.
WMDE's Technical Wishes team conceptualized an idea how the problem could be solved: A generic solution that can be used for any refinement, such as pages, chapters, verses etc., and that could be used as a voluntary option, not forcing the users who don’t want to change their working mode to use it.
In order to find out if they can start working on this solution, the team is inviting editors from all wikis to have a look at it and tell us what they think in a feedback round from May 14th to May 27th. – Johanna Strodt (WMDE) (adapted from VPT post)
New user scripts to customise your Wikipedia experience
- Subpages (source) by User:Bellezzasolo – add a "Subpages" link to the toolbox, which shows subpages of the current page
- Vote Symbols Plus (source) by User:Pythoncoder — modified version of Vote Symbols with new keywords and icons, plus a few bugfixes from the original Vote Symbols.
- KmlToJson (source) by User:Evad37 – converts KML files into GeoJSON, for use in mapframe maps.
- Metadata-timeless (source) by User:Evad37 – hack to load the Metadata gadget when using the Timeless skin
Latest tech news
- The Wikimedia Commons mobile app has a new version, funded by a WMF individual engagement grant. It is now easier to find nearby places that need pictures. It helps you with direct uploads and title and category suggestions. The app only works on Android phones. 
- The parameter for unpatrolled edits in recent changes filters changed name. You might need to update saved filters and links. 
- You will be able use CodeMirror in the 2017 wikitext editor on all wikis. CodeMirror helps with syntax highlighting. It has previously been a beta feature and only available on wikis with scripts that are written from left to right. 
- When an administrator blocks someone they will have a calendar they can use to choose when the block ends. This is to make it easier to pick a specific date. 
- You can soon turn on the Performance Inspector in the Editing section in your preferences. It shows information about the performance of pages. This could be the size of modules in the page, how many CSS selectors are defined on the page and how many are used, or the size of the images on the page. This tool is intended to help editors fix pages that load slowly. 
- There is a new abuse filter function called
equals_to_any. You can use it to check if its first argument is equal (
===) to any of the following ones. For example you can use it to check if the page's namespace is amongst a given set of values in a more compact way than you could earlier. You can read more on mediawiki.org.
- The advanced search function beta feature will be on all Wikimedia wikis. It makes it easier to use some of the special search functions that most editors don't know exist. 
- Dynamic maps are now available on most Wikipedias. Labels on maps can also be in different languages.
- The new Advanced Search interface is now available as a Beta Feature on all wikis. This makes it easier to learn about and to use many of the powerful options in our search. Feedback is appreciated. 
- Tech team are migrating wikis from Tidy to Remex. Because of a bug the 250 wikis which do not yet use Remex were switched on 23 April. This is two months early. This meant that pages with broken wikitext showed wrongly to readers. The bug was undone the next day. You can help fix broken wikitext to avoid this problem when your wiki switches. Tidy will be removed on all wikis before July 2018. You can follow the process on Phabricator. 
- The abuse filters had a problem with blocks where you had changed how long they last. It used the default length everywhere. This was in late April. Abuse filter users should make sure the right block length is used and change them if needed. This is only for filters where how long blocks last had been changed. 
- The Wikimedia Cloud Services team is working on a new project called Toolhub. The goal is to make it easier for Wikimedians to discover software tools they can use. You can leave feedback on the talk page or email jharewikimedia.org to leave private feedback.
- All wikis with fewer than 100 high-priority linter errors in all namespaces will switch to use the Remex parsing library. This is to replace Tidy. It will happen on 16 May. Other wikis will be recommended to switch soon when they have fixed the errors that must be fixed. Wikibooks wikis with fewer than 100 high-priority linter errors in the main namespace will switch on 9 May. Tidy will be removed on all wikis before July 2018. 
- In the mobile view, warnings for when something is wrong with a page are not as clear as they should be. The developers are working on this. You can give feedback and suggestions.
- The developers are working on making the Wikipedia Android app available in more languages. You can give feedback, suggestions and help test it. Read more on mediawiki.org 
- Copy the following code,
importScript( 'User:Bellezzasolo/Scripts/subpages.js' ); // Backlink: User:Bellezzasolo/Scripts/subpages.js, then paste:
- Copy the following code,
importScript( 'User:Pythoncoder/voteSymbols.js' ); // Backlink: User:Pythoncoder/voteSymbols.js, then paste:
- Copy the following code,
importScript( 'User:Evad37/kmlToJson' ); // Backlink: User:Evad37/kmlToJson, then paste:
- Copy the following code,
importScript( 'User:Evad37/Metadata-timeless.js' ); // Backlink: User:Evad37/Metadata-timeless.js, then paste:
Originally published on the WMF blog May 3, 2018. This article differs from the original blog post. Content was formatted and images and wikilinks were added by The Signpost editors.
When I was growing up, I never really identified with my history classes. They focused on the "great men" who in theory shaped that history: "great men": politicians, military heroes, church leaders, and the famous. In these narratives, women were usually mentioned only in the context of their relationship with a more famous man, usually their husband.
I was fascinated by the history that lurked behind people who actually built society and sustained each other while great men were trying to build power and create influence. I could see the differences between what textbooks presented as history and real life, as my everyday life was full of women and men of varying colors, ethnicities, beliefs, and sexual orientations. It was only when I got to university that studying the 'hidden' history was ever an option.
At this time, women’s studies had just been launched as a degree path in US universities, something that both intrigued and appalled me—appalled that we knew so little about women’s participation in historical events, and intrigued by the irony that a group of mostly male professors were teaching us about women who were important for other women’s development. I realized that the people I was studying were being pushed into the "great women" mold and recognized that there was a fundamental difference in what I wanted to learn and what teachers wanted to teach.
I wanted to learn about how women participated in the events and developments of the world. Instead, I was being taught about women’s sphere as if it was a separate entity, concerned about and involved in different things than men. I wanted to learn about the builders of society, the ones who sustained other people, created systems for them to overcome the adversities of life, not the leaders or figureheads, but the teachers, the farmers, the artists, the scientists. The hierarchical measure of contributions, where some are less than others, isn’t interesting to me. I see history more as a circular playing field where many contributed to make the whole. It is far more engaging to see how all the pieces fit into shaping an event than giving one person all the credit.
I discovered I had professors who were willing to let me do independent studies on Angie Debo, Audre Lorde, Anaïs Nin, Doris Stevens, even though they might not be ready to teach about these women. In a contemporary studies course, I questioned why women were left out of the stories—how can one teach about the civil rights movement and only refer to Rosa Parks or the Women’s Political Council in tangential asides, as if their actions had been minor? I realized that the only way stories would be told in a different way was if I researched them myself to find the stories behind the official rhetoric. I took courses in research techniques and fell in love with archives, spending hours and hours combing through old documents and newspapers.
Fast forward several years. Textbooks hadn’t changed much, though there was an incremental change in the diversity represented. History books still focused on great men and minimized everyone else’s contributions to our collective history. It took the rise of the internet to finally change who told our history and how it was portrayed.
First and foremost, it made my own research objectives and the exchange of information far easier. Second, I saw the potential for other narratives to reach a wider audience, giving a more balanced perspective on how society developed, how different people contributed, and how we have always been and always will be a jagged mosaic, rather than a monochromatic line drawing.
In mid-2014, I started editing Wikipedia as an unregistered editor. My first edits were to pages dealing with Native American and LGBT history. In November, I created an account and wrote my first article on Tillie Hardwick. Little by little, I added more indigenous women, Latinas, and Caribbean women. I tend to focus on minority women, non-English speaking women, and women whose impact crosses geographic barriers. Finding a group of mentors, which included the editors Dr. Blofeld, Montanabw, Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight, Ian Pigott, and others, was pivotal—editing Wikipedia is difficult. It is technology-driven and the opposite of academic writing. Slowly, I found my legs and with my mentors became one of the founding members of the WikiProject Women in Red in 2015. Our project works to add women’s stories back into the history of world events.
Women as historical agents
While we focus on biographies of notable women, a critical part is adding links of those women to the world in which they participated. For example, during an event to create Wikipedia articles on women in the food and drink industry, Sue Barnum and I worked on an anchor article about the history of women in brewing. It allowed us to use it as an article to link to articles of notable women working in the field, as well as to add links to the general article on brewing, which at the time had no information about women’s influence on brewing in emerging nations and prior to European and American industrialization.
I learn as much from writing women’s biographies as I impart from telling their stories. For example, in the pre-internet world, the international links between people and the organizations in which they participated were much stronger than you might imagine. The analytical part of researching the interconnections, and reward of working with editors who want to improve articles, is a motivating factor to me—as is the hope that the women in generations who follow will grow up knowing that women have always been actively involved in the world around them and were not passively allowing the world to go by.
Understanding participation gaps: Why users don’t hear of Wikipedia, don’t visit it, don’t know they can edit, and don’t contribute
- reviewed by Miriam Redi
Participatory platforms such as Wikipedia offer a unique opportunity to make knowledge production more equitable and inclusive. However, digital inequalities necessarily limit the democratic potentials of collaborative knowledge repositories, eventually reducing the number of active contributors in these spaces.
But what are 'digital inequalities', what are the factors and processes behind such 'participation gaps'? This paper investigates these questions by (a) modeling online participation in knowledge spaces as a sequence of engagement steps, and (b) using a data-driven approach to describe the factors (gender, education, internet skills) generating gaps at each step of online knowledge production in the concrete case of Wikipedia. In 2014, the authors had already published related research that had been more narrowly focused on Wikipedia’s gender gap, see our earlier review ("Mind the skills gap: the role of Internet know-how and gender in differentiated contributions to Wikipedia").
The authors first theorize a 'pipeline' of knowledge production. The 'pipeline of online participation' is a sequence of engagement stages that internet users must go through to become increasingly involved in participatory websites. To become an active contributor, an internet user must have 1) heard of the participatory site 2) visited the site 3) known that anyone can contribute to the site 4) effectively engaged with knowledge production. Each step of the pipeline has 'leaks': the number of contributors is lower than the number of people who knows anyone can edit, which is lower than the number of people who visited the site, and so on.
The researchers then quantify participation gaps at each step of the pipeline, focusing on Wikipedia as an example of a participatory website for online knowledge production. To do so, they collected survey data from around 1.5K US adults. The survey included questions regarding Wikipedia usage and awareness, encoding the users' position in the knowledge production pipeline (e.g. 'have you ever heard of this site?', 'have you ever visited this site?', 'Have you ever edited a Wikipedia page?'). Other survey questions gathered respondents' attributes including gender, age, education level. Results show that leaks of engagement at each step of the pipeline actually exist: 83% of internet users actually visited Wikipedia, while only 68% of users know that Wikipedia is editable. This suggests that interventions aimed at closing participation gaps need to increase awareness among a broader range of internet users: "Transforming the culture of participation among existing Wikipedians—an area of intervention that receives considerable attention—will not overcome participation gaps."
Then, the authors identify factors impacting participation, and interventions to improve participation gaps. To understand which attributes predict that a user has heard of, has visited, knows that anyone can edit, and has contributed to Wikipedia, the authors use various statistical tools. These include a regression model treating respondents' answers regarding Wikipedia usage as dependent variables, and respondent's attributes as independent variables.
Results show that high education, high internet skills and younger age associate to increased participation at each step of the pipeline: the authors observe that this gap could be filled by promoting interventions that reduce technical and knowledge-based entry barriers. Although income and racial background explain early stages of the pipeline, they are not predictive of whether a user is a contributor of Wikipedia. This suggests the need for interventions addressing early participation gaps in minorities and lower income classes by reducing internet experience and autonomy obstacles.
A gender gap is visible only at the latter stages of the pipeline, showing that women tend to contribute less and be less aware of the possibility to contribute. This supports the need for continued efforts to recruit female editors, but also suggests that campaigns should be put in place to increase awareness among women that Wikipedia is editable. More in general, there exist vast education, gender and skill gaps between who has visited and who knows that Wikipedia can be edited. This awareness gap in turns affects the probability of being a contributor.
Edit-a-thon participants are motivated by desire to change the views of society
- reviewed by Barbara Page
A study published in Information Research evaluated the motivations and interactions of those who edit and also confirmed the findings of a previous study.[supp 1] Editors who participated in a four-day February 2015 edit-a-thon on the Edinburgh University campus were found to be motivated by their desire to change the views of society. Out of 47 participants in this Scottish study, nine were interviewed afterwards. The authors proposed that their observations apply to editing behavior of Wikipedia editors not attending the event. Wikipedia was described as a 'social media site' and the findings of this study could be applied to other collaborative social media elsewhere. "...[C]ommons-based peer production processes, such as Wikipedia editing, serve as a form of social influence and that volunteers can be motivated to change societal views."
"Evaluating Wikipedia as a self-learning resource for statistics: You know they'll use it"
- reviewed by FULBERT
This recently completed study, still awaiting its volume and issue assignment, began with an acknowledgment that Wikipedia is very widely used by students, often as their first introduction to areas of study about which they know little. As a result, it may be more valuable than ever that disciplinary areas not only know what their students find, but actively take steps to improve the content as it will be accessed and used regardless of its being encouraged or discouraged.
The authors identified and utilized a six-step framework for curriculum evaluation to assess five statistical Wikipedia articles that were considered integral to an understanding of that area: arithmetic mean, standard deviation, histogram, confidence interval, and standard error. They were careful to explain that their assessment was done at a specific period in time, and as Wikipedia articles are edited and revised regularly, what they worked with at the time may not be what exists in the articles themselves right now.
The researchers found inconsistencies of quality, presentation, and levels of accuracy across the articles, and while that may not be surprising, it was determined that most of the articles assessed would not be recommended for readers learning about the concepts for the first time on their own. While the authors point out that Wikipedia attempts to be an encyclopedia and not a student self-learning tool, they found that the students would not distinguish this point and would likely look up new concepts and learn about them from their Wikipedia articles. The implications of their study suggest that stakeholders, especially in education, work with fundamental articles themselves or with their students to improve them. As novice learners in a difficult subject such as statistics may often try to self-learn via Wikipedia, it is suggested that teachers recommend it only for an overview of the topic and not for in-depth understanding. Likewise, it also called for educators within disciplinary communities to recognize that students will use Wikipedia as a learning tool regardless of what they tell their students, and thus it is suggested that the main articles related to the subject matter themselves be improved by the community for the benefit of their own students.
"Wikipedia as a Pedagogical Tool: Complicating Writing in the Technical Writing Classroom"
- reviewed by FULBERT
The transparency of information on Wikipedia can be used for many educational purposes within higher education, in part due to the levels of access and agency it provides to students of technical writing. While there are many pedagogical applications of Wikipedia to this student population, the suggestions of this study are readily applicable to educational purposes within other fields and disciplines.
The author conducted a literature review that addressed issues of wiki technology, and how the technical elements can best be integrated and supported amongst students; Wikipedia within higher education, including how its usage can support democratic involvement of students; and Wikipedia and community, which included elements of communities of editors who support their work in a broad manner. Bounding pedagogical recommendations within the wiki literature, including both technical along with collaborative aspects, is a useful way to frame the following discussion related to engaging with Wikipedia activities.
The activities discussed were created by the author for an upper level technical writing elective, though students came from broader disciplinary backgrounds, such as English, psychology, and engineering, amongst others. They were grouped into various categories, starting with the View history, to understand the overall page makeup with elements of the writing process, notion of authorship, and history of how certain articles developed. The Talk page was explored through writing as a process, citations, and the exploration of idealogical language usage. The Edit function was explored through writing within community guidelines, writing for readers, and how to write within a wiki environment. Finally, assessment activities were discussed, many of which took the form of student reflective writing on their learning experiences. While the student activities originated within a course on technical writing, they included valuable lessons that involved learning about power and authority and how they manifest through writing. It seems many of these suggestions and experiences may be readily translated into other academic areas within higher education for related benefits.
"When the World Helps Teach Your Class: Using Wikipedia to Teach Controversial Issues"
- Reviewed by Piotr Konieczny
"Teaching with Wikipedia" is becoming increasingly a norm – perhaps not as 'a very common activity', but common enough that there are thousands of courses doing it, and dozens of academic papers reviewing the effectiveness of this approach. A paper recently published in PS – Political Science & Politics discusses educational benefits of teaching about controversial issues through the case study of one of such assignments, involving students writing Wikipedia articles on a topic related to inequality for the course taught by the author (a 2015 Kent State University upper-division writing-intensive seminar in political science titled “The Politics of Inequality”). The author, familiar with materials released by the Wiki Education Foundation, followed many recommended 'best practices', such as dedicating class time to teaching students about both Wikipedia editing how-to, and the site's policies related to article quality.
The author found Wikipedia editing environment conductive to peer reviews. Students appreciated the collaborative nature of the project, enabling peer reviews of one another's work, and understood and were motivated by the fact that their work was intended for the wider world and had long term impact, extending beyond the immediate duration of the course. Most crucially, Wikipedia's neutrality policy posed an interesting challenge for the students, who had to find reliable sources to back (or challenge) their views. The biggest challenge, unsurprisingly, was "Wikipedia’s clumsy interface and formatting". In the end 85% of the students found the assignment useful. The author likewise found the experience helpful, noting that the assignment "yielded generally positive results". Unfortunately, despite the author's positive conclusions regarding this teaching activity, it seems that this (2015) course has been the first and last course using 'Teaching with Wikipedia' approach by the author.
On a final note, the paper includes the detailed syllabus and supporting materials used to develop this activity for a course, helpfully facilitating the reuse of this project by other instructors. It is also commendable that the supplementary materials included the course name and Wikipedia course page.
Running the numbers
- reviewed by Barbara Page
This study is a fascinating description of what data can do when Wikipedia biographies are compared against time and place. The articles of notable people were correlated to time and geodata. A 'center' was determined about which the biographies exist. Currently this 'barycenter' oscillates between Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. One example of how the data was used was to compare the changes in human lifespan across the centuries from 60 years in the 1400s to 80 years in the 1900s. The changes in arts, literature and women's biographies relative to sports biographies is not surprising. The ratio of more current biographies of women, artists and sports people impact more recent data.
- reviewed by Barbara Page
Scientists are influenced by Wikipedia and Wikipedia in turn influences the literature. The editing histories and 'debates' of two articles, Circadian clock and Circadian rhythm, were examined over a period of ten years. Those conducting the study evaluated the influence that 'ground-breaking studies' had on the development of the topic. The problems that the scientific community has with Wikipedia content and editors were also described.
Conferences and events
- ICWSM 2018, June 25-28, 2018 (submissions closed)
- Wikimania 2018, July 18-22, 2018 (submissions closed)
- OpenSym 2018, August 22-24, 2018 (submissions closed)
- WikiConference North America, October 18-21, 2018 (submissions not open yet)
See the community-curated research events page on Meta-wiki for other upcoming conferences and events, including submission deadlines.
Other recent publications
Other recent publications that could not be covered in time for this issue include the items listed below. contributions are always welcome for reviewing or summarizing newly published research.
- "Ongoing Events in Wikipedia: A Cross-lingual Case Study" From the abstract (of this extended abstract paper): "In this abstract we present preliminary results of a case study with the goal to better understand how researchers interact with multilingual event-centric information in the context of cross-cultural studies and which methods and features they use."
- "Wikipedia as a gateway to biomedical research: The relative distribution and use of citations in the English Wikipedia" From the abstract: "This study aims to establish benchmarks for the relative distribution and referral (click) rate of citations—as indicated by presence of a Digital Object Identifier (DOI)—from [English] Wikipedia, with a focus on medical citations. [...] all DOIs in Wikipedia were categorized as medical (WP:MED) or non-medical (non-WP:MED). Using this categorization, referred DOIs were classified as WP:MED, non-WP:MED, or BOTH, meaning the DOI may have been referred from either category. Data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics. Out of 5.2 million Wikipedia pages, 4.42% (n = 229,857) included at least one DOI. 68,870 were identified as WP:MED, with 22.14% (n = 15,250) featuring one or more DOIs. WP:MED pages featured on average 8.88 DOI citations per page, whereas non-WP:MED pages had on average 4.28 DOI citations. For DOIs only on WP:MED pages, a DOI was referred every 2,283 pageviews and for non-WP:MED pages every 2,467 pageviews. DOIs from BOTH pages accounted for 12% (n = 58,475)."
- "What are the ten most cited sources on Wikipedia? Let’s ask the data"
- "Leveraging structural-context similarity of Wikipedia links to predict twitter user locations" From the abstract: "...we propose a novel framework for predicting the location of a social media user by leveraging structural-context similarity over Wikipedia links. We measure SimRanks between pages over the Wikipedia dump dataset and build a knowledge base,mapping location information (e.g., cities and states) to related vocabularies along with the likelihood for these mappings. Our results evolve as the users' tweet stream grows. "
- Shaw, Aaron; Hargittai, Eszter (2018-02-01). "The Pipeline of Online Participation Inequalities: The Case of Wikipedia Editing". Journal of Communication. 68 (1): 143–168. doi:10.1093/joc/jqx003. ISSN 0021-9916. (but still available via archive.org)
- Hood, Allison Littlejohn, Nina (2018-03-15). "Becoming an online editor: perceived roles and responsibilities of Wikipedia editors". Information Research, vol. 23 no. 1, March, 2018, paper 784
- Dunn, Peter K.; Marshman, Margaret; McDougall, Robert (2017-10-30). "Evaluating Wikipedia as a self-learning resource for statistics: You know they'll use it". The American Statistician. 0 (ja): 0–0. doi:10.1080/00031305.2017.1392360. ISSN 0003-1305. Retrieved 2018-01-28. (Wikidata information via Scholia)
- Andrew David Virtue: Wikipedia as a Pedagogical Tool: Complicating Writing in the Technical Writing Classroom Wiki Studies (2017) volume 1, number 1
- Cassell, Mark K. (April 2018). "When the World Helps Teach Your Class: Using Wikipedia to Teach Controversial Issues". PS: Political Science & Politics. 51 (2): 427–433. doi:10.1017/S1049096517002293. ISSN 1049-0965.
- Gergaud, Olivier; Laouenan, Morgane; Wasmer, Etienne (2016). "A Brief History of Human Time: Exploring a database of 'notable people'"". Sciences Po Economics Discussion Papers, Sciences Po Departement of Economics.
- Benjakob, Omer; Aviram, Rona (2018). "A Clockwork Wikipedia: From a Broad Perspective to a Case Study". Journal of Biological Rhythms: 074873041876812. doi:10.1177/0748730418768120. ISSN 0748-7304.
- Gottschalk, Simon; Demidova, Elena; Bernacchi, Viola; Rogers, Richard (2018-01-22). "Ongoing Events in Wikipedia: A Cross-lingual Case Study". doi:10.1145/3091478.3098879. Retrieved 2018-02-12.
- Maggio, Lauren A.; Willinsky, John M.; Steinberg, Ryan M.; Mietchen, Daniel; Wass, Joseph L.; Dong, Ting (2017-12-21). "Wikipedia as a gateway to biomedical research: The relative distribution and use of citations in the English Wikipedia". PLOS ONE. 12 (12): –0190046. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0190046. ISSN 1932-6203. Scholia entry
- Miriam Redi, Jake Orlowitz, Dario Taraborelli, Ben Vershbow: "What are the ten most cited sources on Wikipedia? Let's ask the data". blog.wikimedia.org. Retrieved 2018-04-23.
- Huang, Chuanqi (2018-01-17). "Leveraging structural-context similarity of Wikipedia links to predict twitter user locations". Colorado State University. Libraries. (MSc thesis)
- Supplementary references:
Warning: Some readers will find this article tasteless. I can understand this sentiment and you will feel better and less queasy by skipping it and leaving your comments afterwards.
I sometimes find myself slipping down the rabbit hole and landing into the realm of the third-grade-wikipedia-reader. I can't help it since I had the privilege of raising four boys who always had dirty faces. They were connoisseurs of all things 'gross' and would laugh endlessly about the jokes they made up about bodily functions. What does any of this have to do with the English Wikipedia (you ask)?
We forget that a large numbers of our readers are boys who are bored. They are mired in school much of the of the day and can only fall into their default mischievous mode when they arrive in their computer lab at 10 am so their homeroom teacher can get a break. Vandalism rates also increase during this time slot. Why do you think the articles about female anatomy have such high page views, hmmm? I caught my boys plenty of times pretending they were doing something educational when they were actually studying the finer points of anatomy. I am NOT mocking any editors, cultures, genders, etc., etc., etc. – I am a product of my Midwestern US culture and only propose that different types of food strike me as funny and incomprehensible.
Tender stomachs be warned
Well, things probably haven't changed much, at least in my little corner of Western civilization. If Wikipedia had been around in the 1990s, you can bet my boys would be learning details about female anatomy and bathroom humor. They would have enjoyed Wikipedia's articles on food and nutrition while laughing their heads off while they read:
- Balute – The ducks are understandably worried and the chickens sigh deeply in relief.
- Soylent Green – Why not have some friends for dinner?
- Casu marzu – Not exactly the ketogenic diet but close.
- Honeypot ant – I am actually willing to try these. I don't anticipate that I will enjoy picking the little ant legs out between my teeth. These are so good that fans dig down two meters through the soil to find them.
- Hypoderma tarandi – A historical food, "tastes like milk" and its practice is supported by "Copious art dating back to the Pleistocene."
- Cendol – "[T]he swollen green worm-like rice flour jelly", counts as one serving of vegetables but only because it is green
- Mezcal – Not much of a disincentive for those who like tequila.
- Vincent M. Holt – Probably wasn't tasty himself but was a leader in lobster rights movement
- Sujuk – Keep tabs on your horse.
- Fermentation of unusual things – There are those who practice the fermentation of fish heads, walrus, sea lion, and whale flippers, beaver tails, seal oil, and birds. Then they wonder why they get botulism.
- Mud pie – I was disappointed to find this article was missing so I created it. Watch for pebbles breaking your teeth.
- Crazy-named food – This ancient dish is "compounded of all kinds of dainties, fish, flesh, fowl, and sauces."
- Chocolate Salty Balls – Imaginary, pop culture, detailed plot summary. External links to recipe sites might be an improvement.
- Cockle bread – Not really appropriate for the third graders.
- La Tomatina – I know Wikimania has already been hosted in Italy but ATTENTION all organizers we really need to go back there to participate in this event. It would be worth the inconsistency of rotating conference sites.
- Flies' graveyard – I don't care how good this is, I loose my appetite when I see these words put together.
- SPAM – This almost indescribable delicacy is highly appreciated in Hawaii. It is sometimes disguised as sushi. What are the ingredients again....
- Truffles – Though eating fungus is not unusual, the reasons pigs like them is interesting: "The female pig's natural truffle-seeking, as well as her usual intent to eat the truffle, is due to a compound within the truffle similar to androstenol, the sex pheromone of boar saliva, to which the sow is keenly attracted."
- World Pie Eating Championship – "In December 2014, pies of the wrong size were delivered to the event, while the intended pies were sent to a nearby divorce party."
- Goldfish swallowing – Encyclopedic tone but THIS version was much better. Just read the first paragraph. You will find it to be quite profound. If you can get past the first four sentences, good for you.
- Super Size Me – Despite all the pshaws from a well-known fast-food giant, you might want to stagger the meals you get at the drive-through over the course of a year rather than 30 days. See also: Happy meal.
- Don't eat this
- Rhinotillexis – "[Has] benefits for the human body. Friedrich Bischinger, an Austrian doctor specializing in lungs, advocates using fingers to pick nasal mucus and then ingesting it, stating that people who do so get "a natural boost to their immune system". The mucus contains a "cocktail of antiseptic enzymes that kill or weaken many of the bacteria that become entangled in it", so reintroducing the "crippled" microorganisms "may afford the immune system an opportunity to produce antibodies in relative safety".
- This just in: This newly expanded article is now on the docket for the 4/1/2019 DYKs. I am so proud.
- See https://xtools.wmflabs.org/articleinfo/en.wikipedia.org/World_Pie_Eating_Championship#top-editors for attributions and then use Wikipedia:WikiBlame
- You can have a party after a divorce!?!?!?
- Bellows, Alan (2009). "A Booger A Day Keeps The Doctor Away: A Medical Doctor Describes the Health Benefits of Nose-Mining". Alien Hand Syndrome: And Other Too-Weird-Not-To-Be-True Stories. Workman Publishing. pp. 28–30. ISBN 978-0761152255.
- Lane, Carin (March 23, 2012). "Like to become a stranger to illness? Read on". Times Union. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
- See https://xtools.wmflabs.org/articleinfo/en.wikipedia.org/Nose-picking#top-editors for attributions and then use WP:WikiBlame
Behold the rain which descends on Sonoma County, California.
Few things surpass old wine; and they may preach
Who please, the more because they preach in vain,—
Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter,
Sermons and soda-water the day after. – Lord Byron, Don Juan
Some mirth and laughter may have been had in the barrel room at the aptly named Merryvale Vineyards in California. Sermons? Not so much, maybe.
Give me a bowl of wine; In this I bury all unkindness. – William Shakespeare, Julius Cæsar
You could bury a lot of unkindness at this New Orleans shop.
Call things by their right names: Glass of brandy and water! That is the current, but not the appropriate name; ask for a glass of liquid fire and distilled damnation. – Robert Hall (minister)
Concord grapes grown in Upstate New York are used for both distilled damnation and non-alcoholic drinks like grape juice.
Once, in the wilds of Afghanistan, I lost my corkscrew, and we were forced to live on nothing but food and water for days. – W. C. Fields
Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more. – Proverbs 31
Napa Valley AVA, in California, site of several of the 2017 Northern California wildfires. Wishing sincere solace for those who endured that misery.
The Signpost scoops The Signpost
By Mabeenot (Originally published 2 April 2012)
Mabenot joined Wikipedia in 2009 and was a former regular contributor to The Signpost.
In a hard-hitting exposé that will surely garner a Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism, The Signpost delved into the dark and twisted world of Wikipedia's most powerful media institution: The Signpost.
Founded by Michael Snow on 10 January 2005, the Signpost was created to "spare people the effort of trying to be everywhere and read every discussion" by centralizing Wikipedia's news and announcements. The Signpost has been published by a staff of volunteers on a weekly basis with few breaks in publication. Over the years, the community newspaper has developed recurring sections dedicated to reporting news, watching the way Wikipedia is portrayed in other media, highlighting material promoted to Featured status, exploring WikiProject communities, following arbitration cases, and discussing technological matters. Other sections have come and gone while new features are occasionally introduced.
Michael Snow served as the newspaper's first editor-in-chief from its inception until August 2005, when he passed the baton to Ryan Lomonaco (Ral315). After serving over three years in that capacity, Ral315 retired in December 2008 and was followed in February 2009 by Sage Ross (Ragesoss). When Ragesoss left the Signpost in June 2010, Tilman Bayer (HaeB) took up the reins. Since HaeB's departure in July 2011, the newspaper has been led by a team of interim editors. We interviewed all four former editors-in-chief (editors emeritus) and asked our current editor, Skomorokh, how Wikipedians can become involved in their community newspaper.
When did you first become involved with the Signpost and what initially motivated you to contribute? How did you wind up in the position of editor-in-chief? What have you done since moving on from that position?
- Michael Snow: I think my reasons for getting involved are best explained with reference to the message I wrote for the original issue of the Signpost—I was interested in things that were happening on Wikipedia even though I didn't have time to be personally involved in everything, and the concept seemed to fill a glaring need. In starting the project, obviously I was editor-in-chief simply by default. I moved on, if you will, mostly because I couldn't keep up with the organizing and publishing in addition to writing most of the stories. I'm still immensely grateful and a bit flattered that people stepped in to fill the void and keep it going, which let me be more of just a reporter for a while. Since being active in that role I've been more directly involved in the Wikimedia Foundation, spending a couple years on the Board of Trustees and now serving on the Advisory Board.
- Ral315: I first got involved in the Signpost when Michael had to step away temporarily due to time commitments. I wrote one issue completely by myself, and recruited a few other users to help out in subsequent weeks (including Michael, who continued to write stories). I didn't really know what I was getting myself into—I figured I'd just help out temporarily, and ended up as editor-in-chief for over three years. I wanted to do it because I felt like the Signpost was an incredibly useful tool that I had referred to many a time, and I thought it should continue. Since leaving the Signpost, I've largely retired from Wikipedia due to real-life commitments.
- Ragesoss: Since becoming a Wikipedian in late 2005, I was always interested in the intersection of Wikipedia and the academic world, and I first got involved with the Signpost doing some reporting on how people talked about Wikipedia on academic mailing lists. I guess I impressed Ral315, because he would sometimes chat with me about how best to cover controversial issues. At the end of 2008, after a few weeks without a new Signpost, I started trying to get publication back on track. A few weeks later, in the do-acracy tradition, Ral315 passed on the editor-in-chief to me. I stepped down when I took a 15-month job with the Wikimedia Foundation as "Online Facilitator" for the education program pilot. Since that ended, I've been accumulating a backlog of wiki-things I want to do, but I've not had time to do much more than work on the scholarships committee for Wikimania 2012.
- HaeB: I had joined the German and English Wikipedias at the end of 2003. My own active Signpost involvement built up gradually, from submitting suggestions, to writing one-off stories, to more regular reporting. (I think that many Wikipedians still don't realize that the Signpost is open to everyone's contributions, just like Wikipedia itself!) When Sage left as editor in June 2010, I first only volunteered to take over the Signpost's social media feeds (Twitter, Identi.ca) that he had started, but then got persuaded to act as editor-in-chief as well. Since July 2011, I have been working as a contractor for the Wikimedia Foundation, supporting movement communications. That function includes several tasks that contribute to the same broad goal of keeping the community informed and where the experience from my Signpost work is very useful: I am editing and publishing the monthly WMF reports, worked on the 2010-11 annual report and form part of the group that takes care of the Foundation blog. As time and conflict-of-interest allows, I am still contributing to the Signpost and have helped out with various things, but my only regular commitment remains co-editing the monthly "Recent research" section, which is co-published by the Wikimedia Research Committe as the Wikimedia Research Newsletter.
What role does the Signpost play in the Wikipedia community? How does this role differ from Wikipedia's myriad talk pages, village pumps, and WikiProjects? Is the Signpost expected to live up to the same journalistic standards as other print, broadcast, and online media?
- Michael Snow: I called it a newspaper originally, to the extent that term still means anything in a digital world, and reporting the news is still the core function as I see it. There are plenty of other places where Wikipedia news happens, announcements get made, or discussions about news take place, but the Signpost can collect information about all of that in one place. In terms of standards, yes I think on a fundamental level the journalistic approach is appropriate. The setup is unusual, given that it's a volunteer effort, we may not have formal journalism training, and because we're all working on Wikipedia, there's a sense in which a fully detached outsider perspective to reporting is impossible to achieve. However, I think because we've learned by editing Wikipedia articles and embracing the neutral point of view approach, we naturally want to try anyway, and can end up doing a creditable job.
- Ral315: I think the main role that the Signpost plays is to recap everything that's gone on across the projects. Just on the English Wikipedia, to keep up with everything that's going on, users might have to watch a wide range of pages, including the Village Pump, Administrators' Noticeboards, Arbitration pages, WikiProjects, and countless others. The Signpost was an attempt to condense the important stories of the week into an easily-readable format. Speaking for myself, I would not consider myself a journalist, and have no formal training—but I feel that we've done a great job in reporting issues in a neutral fashion.
- Ragesoss: I agree with everything Michael and Ral315 said. I would add that in my view, an increasingly important role for the Signpost is to serve as a watchdog, holding the Wikimedia Foundation and other influential actors accountable to the community. WMF in particular is much larger, better funded, and more capable of driving major social and technical changes than it was even just a few years ago. A strong adversarial press (analogous to the relationships between governments and major newspapers) is in the best interest of both the WMF and the volunteer community.
- HaeB: I also agree with all of Michael's, Ral315's and Ragesoss' observations. Another way to understand the Signpost's role and importance is to see it as something that helps to connect different parts of a large and diverse community. Seen more prosaically, readers draw much value from the Signpost simply because it saves them the time of reading village pumps, mailing lists, etc. — indeed most of the information has already been published elsewhere, but we condense it in a readable format and add context. This often took up all the writing time, leaving little for original reporting. But this lack of investigative writing is about the only significant difference I see to traditional media. Also regarding journalistic standards, let me add that as a German Wikipedian, I am intrigued by the comparison of the Signpost with its sister publication there, the "Kurier". It was started in the end of 2003 with the tagline "nicht neutral, nicht enzyklopädisch" ("not neutral, not encyclopedic"), which still remains in essence, although an additional tongue-in-cheek self-description as tabloid was been removed not too long ago. The Kurier has run a lot of great stories as well, but it constantly suffers from canvassing, too much opinionated and biased coverage, and insider details lacking context—in short, it lacks an editorial process such as that which the Signpost has formed in its weekly cycle.
Share with our readers the most challenging aspects of writing and editing the Signpost. Do you have any suggestions for how the newspaper can better cope with deadlines, recruit talent, and engage readers?
- Ral315: For me, the challenge was two-fold, and you've mentioned both issues: Recruiting volunteers to help, and publishing on-time. My tenure as editor-in-chief was notable for consistently late publication—because I live in the United States and generally couldn't get most of the work finished until Monday afternoon or evening, our Monday issue often didn't publish until early Tuesday UTC. It was an unfortunate side-effect of my real-life obligations, which left me unable to do much work over the weekend. As for volunteers, I found it toughest to find volunteers to write one-off stories (the type of stories that aren't features, like, for example, a story about a controversial AfD request).
- Ragesoss: On-time publication was a challenge for me as well. I found that when I was pro-active in getting things ready to publish, other writers got things done on time too. But the more I would slack off, the later others would push their deadlines.
- The things that caused me the most stress, though, were the times when individual Wikipedians would get upset about how the Signpost covered them and drama they were involved with. I always tried to be sensitive to the people involved, and not to offend unnecessarily, but also not to avoid covering a story just because it might upset someone. Still, it's never fun to face the wrath of an angry encyclopedist.
- I also felt a tension between promoting the Signpost more widely (which I think could create a stronger sense of community) and being self-promotional. For example, I think a link to the Signpost ought to be in the sidebar. It's at least as important as community portal. But I didn't feel comfortable proposing that while serving as editor-in-chief.
- HaeB: I share Ragesoss' observation that issues of, let's call it COI and BLP, can consume a lot of energy of the editor-in-chief. As for recruiting good writers: During my tenure, broad appeals to become involved, directed at all readers, did not appear to have much effect. It was much more successful to keep looking out for suitable candidates, and then invite them—letting them know specifically why one thinks they might have the skills for the task. Still, I often had to fill in myself as main writer for the "In the news" and "News and notes" sections, because no regular editor committed to work on these consistently. And accordingly, these two sections caused the most publication delays. As for deadlines, I tried to stick to the natural Monday midnight UTC deadline (natural because it corresponds to the date in the URL of each story), and succeeded not always, but often—also thanks to the prodding of editors of regular sections which were unhappy of their punctually completed work going stale because of other sections missing the deadline. I do think that having deadlines and a regular publication schedule is a huge factor in the Signpost's success. Again this can be compared to the "Kurier", where new stories can be posted at any time, which has the advantage of timeliness, but the disadvantage of not generating that important "now or never" sentiment for writers when publication time is approaching ("The Signpost is going out in five hours, and we still don't have <important topic X> covered!"). I find it interesting to muse about whether there might be a valuable lesson for Wikinews somewhere in here, although I don't know this sister project well enough to draw it myself. What the Signpost does share with Wikinews is the somewhat un-wiki-like notion of discouraging non-trivial edits to stories after publication, which has to be explained to Wikipedians often, but is a good principle to stick to. The bylines are another Signpost custom not shared in normal Wikipedia work (although they are not meant to convey ownership, just to indicate responsibility).
- Michael Snow: The reason I set things up with a Monday publication schedule was because I did the bulk of my Signpost work on weekends (my goal really was to publish Sunday night my time, when it would already be Monday in most of the world anyway). I usually considered it an achievement if I managed to get stories pre-written during the week for the next issue. In terms of recruiting volunteers, I agree with the observation that it was easier to get people who would do a stint handling a particular beat, since you could follow a familiar template to write those stories. As a reporter, that was okay because I preferred bringing out things that seemed newsworthy beyond a particular beat, so I was fine letting other people recap arbitration cases or outside news coverage. With my editor hat on, though, there's certainly more stuff that could be covered if more people wanted to cover one-off stories, we've pretty much always had news events and story suggestions that get left on the table.
- I think the most important thing is writing stories that are thorough, neutral, and interesting. By doing so, readership will naturally come, and with increased readership brings new volunteers who are interested in helping out.
In your opinion, what are the most important sections of the newspaper? How frequently should the Signpost run special reports, opinion pieces, book reports, and experimental sections? Does the paper need an occasional shake-up to keep it fresh?
- HaeB: I felt that the "News and notes" section was the most important and at the same time most difficult to write section, but after I became editor I appreciated each of the other sections more and more as well. It would be nice to have more book reviews.
- Ral315: I always found the most important sections to be the special reports, particularly those that covered off-wiki news that affected Wikipedia (articles about the GNU licensing update that allowed us to switch to CC-BY-SA, the John Seigenthaler incident, etc.). Book reviews and experimental sections are always fun; one of my favorite odd sections was the WikiWorld section that ran from late 2006-2008.
- While I was editor-in-chief, we didn't run opinion pieces. I was critical of the idea of running opinion pieces, because I felt NPOV was important. However, from what I've seen, it looks like they've done a good job of keeping the opinion pieces from tainting the neutral point of view that the rest of the paper embodies. As for a shake-up, I think the best shake-up comes from adding strong contributors who can provide a different perspective.
- Michael Snow: Not to cop out on this, but as with any newspaper, every section is important to a certain audience, even if those people may not care as much about the other content. That was pretty clear in the way people paid attention to certain areas, stepped up to cover different beats, and suggested new ones. In addition to following the talk page for each story, early on I would pay attention to how stories were getting linked to and discussed, to get a feel for what the community was interested in. Obviously, occasionally one big story might dominate, but usually it seemed like interest was well-distributed across different topics. In general, I think that if somebody understands the Signpost and feels like a particular type of content is worth bringing to its readers, their motivation indicates that some of the audience is likely to be interested. New experiments keep the Signpost fresh in a sense, although I would say the point is not so much to shake things up as simply to keep things growing. Oh and I too loved the comic strips.
- Ragesoss: I'll agree with both Ral315 and Michael here. Good, in-depth coverage of the big stories is probably the most important overall, but different readers care about different sections. Regular reports on ongoing policy discussions are also important, but that's one area that the Signpost has always struggled to keep up with. Book reviews were always among my personal favorites. (I too loved the comic strips. I had a few leads for new comics, but they never panned out.)
At various times, there have been discussions about expanding the Signpost to a multi-wiki or multi-language format. What are your thoughts on changing the paper's scope and audience? Should the Signpost build stronger connections to existing newspapers on the other languages of Wikipedia?
- Ral315: As long as the original audience is not left out in the dust, I think it's a good idea. When I was editing, the only comparable publication of any note was the German WikiKurier, so we never really did much in that respect. Partnerships with other languages and projects via the Signpost and their related papers are a great way to bring the projects together, but I think the Signpost's main audience – the English Wikipedia – should not be forgotten.
- Michael Snow: The Kurier actually predates the Signpost, for what it's worth, although I don't recall being aware of it when I started. At one point we had a regular series consisting of reports from other Wikipedia languages (although obviously that's not a "beat" you can handle with just one person). I tried to occasionally pass on stuff from other wikis that I thought might be interesting to an English Wikipedia audience. And just like many people who work in other languages also edit on the English Wikipedia, many of them also read the Signpost. I don't know that any one publication can manage to be a universal international news source, so I wouldn't necessarily try to merge all of these efforts together. But being freely licensed does mean you can translate and crib from each other if ever you need to.
- HaeB: Shortly before I became editor, a discussion had been started to make the Signpost more "international", contributing to the rename from "Wikipedia Signpost" to "The Signpost". I do think we managed to broaden the scope of e.g. the "News and notes" section to encompass notable Wikimedia topis outside the English Wikipedia, and we introduced the distribution of the Signpost to other projects—today, over 100 subscription pages (project pages and individual users) exist outside the English Wikipedia. On the other hand, the "Sister projects" series has long been dormant. As for translated versions, I think a Signpost issue contains way too much text for this to be sustainable. The Wikimedia Quarto was a great newsletter in 2004/2005 which faltered soon, presumably due to its high ambition "to publish quarterly in 10 languages". The much more concise Wikizine enjoyed translations into a few languages for a while. Some months ago, at the Foundation we introduced the "Wikimedia Highlights", a short excerpt of the monthly WMF report combined with brief news from the rest of the movement, which has seen translations of up to over 10 languages per issue. As for collaborations of the Signpost with newsletters from other Wikimedia projects, I would love to see more translations of interesting news articles from other languages.
- Ragesoss: I'd love to see stronger connections between the Signpost and other language communities. But it's hard. The volunteers who are interested in cross-project issues and translation tend to be stretched pretty thin.
The Signpost has developed its own lore, ranging from inside jokes about the initialization of several sections to rumors that the editor in chief position has become a training ground for future Wikimedia Foundation volunteers and employees. Can you respond to some of these stories? Do you have any other interesting tall tales to add to the mix?
- Ral315: Well, thus-far, I'm one of the few who wasn't hired by the Wikimedia Foundation, so take from that what you will! Seriously, the Signpost may have raised the profile of Michael Snow and Sage Ross, but the fact is that they are incredible contributors who were incredibly committed to the projects—and ultimately, that's why they were appointed to their positions.
- When it comes to the sections, some older users may remember the Arbitration report being named "The Report on Lengthy Litigation" (acronym: TROLL). That pre-dated me, but when I created the Technology report, I took a page from the same book and named it "Bugs, Repairs, and Internal Operational News" (acronym: BRION). I don't know if there are any other stories or tall tales, but I'd sure be happy to respond if anyone has any fun ones.
- Michael Snow: Ha, TROLL was the name I came up with. I figured it was at least arguably a neutral joke—even if you take the acronym as a criticism, it's not explicit about which parties that applies to, and the full title can be as much a swipe at the arbitrators for being too deliberative as anything else. Nobody is spared. If you want other examples of humor from back in the day, there's always this story about a featured article candidate (I won't promise that the humor is particularly clean or high-quality, but if you can tolerate puns you may enjoy it).
- As for rumors, well most of that is pretty much verifiably true, although it's not by any particular design, either by me or the Foundation. Editing the Signpost involves a certain level of dedication as a volunteer, and to do it well also requires a good understanding of the overall landscape—Wikipedia as a project, the editing community, the Wikimedia Foundation, and how different pieces of the picture connect to each other. It's pretty natural that the Foundation would also be interested in people who've demonstrated commitment and a good high-level perspective of how things work around here. But there are also many ways to show that outside of the Signpost.
- Ragesoss: To add fuel to the fire, I'll add that for most of my tenure as editor-in-chief, I worked closely with the tireless Phoebe Ayers... who ended up with a board seat. And several other people who've written for the Signpost have gone on to work as staff or contractors for the Foundation. Also, I know a number of people who've never worked for the Foundation and also never written for the Signpost. Coincidence?
- HaeB: Well, all I can say that preparing for a job at the Foundation was most certainly not among my motivations for taking up the editor position! I value the independence of the Signpost and made it clear upfront during the hiring process that I would need to step down as Signpost editor to avoid a conflict of interest, and the Foundation was perfectly supportive of that; there was no effort whatsoever to "buy" the Signpost.
What is the most important thing you have learned from your Signpost experience? What do you hope readers will take away from each issue of the Signpost?
- Ragesoss: I came to appreciate a much wider swath of what goes on throughout Wikipedia and the broader Wikimedia movement. Even as an experienced Wikipedian and admin (and avid Signpost reader), there was a lot I didn't know about before I turned to the project with a journalistic eye.
- Ral315: I think the most important thing I learned was that the community is incredibly supportive of our work. I hope that every issue, readers get a feel for the most important news happening around Wikipedia and Wikimedia. I think we've done a great job of that over the years.
- HaeB: I think I learned a lot about journalism in general, and acquired certain skills (e.g. regarding the use of Twitter/Identi.ca for news reporting), but it was also a nice way to achieve a more thorough understanding of Wikipedia and the whole Wikimedia movement. I hope that each week each reader gains a bit of that as well, and that it helps them in their work on Wikipedia.
- Michael Snow: For me, the Signpost was an important lesson in what I could contribute to the community and the impact that could have. At the same time, it taught me things about the limitations of how much I personally could take on, but one of the great things about working collaboratively as a community is that the impact we have drives us to keep contributing and we compensate for each other's limitations. I think even in controversy a good news story, like a good Wikipedia article, can help us understand all sides of the picture. So I hope readers will feel like they're staying informed, but also developing an appreciation for the richness of our community.
Anything else you'd like to add?
- Ral315: Thank you for doing this, and to the readers: Please consider helping out, too! It's not at all hard, and it's a lot of fun. Help out with a feature, or write your own story on something happening around the community. The more people involved, the better the Signpost can be.
- Michael Snow: Likewise, thank you for putting this together. Just like Wikipedia, the Signpost is a collective effort, so it is whatever we make of it. I'm glad that it's still moving steadily forward after all this time.
- Ragesoss: I've been incredibly impressed with Signpost since I left. HaeB, Jarry1250, SMasters and Skomorokh, as well as the many other contributors, have done and continue to do a fantastic job.
- HaeB: I am glad that others like Jarry1250, SMasters and Skomorokh have stepped in after I left, and kudos to everybody who is currently contributing to the Signpost!
What are the Signpost's most urgent needs? Are there any new features or revived sections you'd like to see in future issues? How can new writers and editors get involved today?
- Skomorokh: It's been touched upon above by several of my predecessors, whom I thank sincerely for agreeing to participate in this valuable retrospective of the institution, but I cannot overemphasise the need of the Signpost for interested, curious and dedicated writers. There is little end to the ambition and willingness to see ideas through to execution of the existing tireless and over-extended team of journalists—the single greatest limitation that constrains what the Signpost can achieve is that its ideal volunteer journalists are reading this edition right now rather than asking themselves are they inspired to face the challenge of exploring what really matters to Wikipedia in the newsroom from week to week.
- Although I had been a contributor to the encyclopaedia that anyone can edit and an ardent Signpost reader for years, it had never even remotely occurred to me that I could or should get involved in the newspaper's production until one of the journalists suggested it to me. A few hours later I had written the bulk of two entire articles and a few weeks after that was one of the managing editors overseeing weekly development and publication. I'm writing this at 7:00 AM having stayed up to edit the paper because there simply aren't enough hours in the day for so few editors to deliver the standard of coverage the community expects and deserves; even a handful of additional contributors can make a highly significant impact.
- At a point in the movement's history when the greatest challenges we face – notably strained community-Foundation relations, inertia and paralysis in the face of needed reform, and most of all a contributing environment hostile to outsiders – are cultural, the tone and sustained focus of the debates we have as a movement are critically important, as cultural changes such as the BLP issue and the ongoing debates on controversial content show. In times such as these, the Signpost offers to those who care passionately about our future an unrivalled platform in terms of structure, access and most of all audience to drive the community's understanding of the critical issues at hand.
- If you're passionate about Wikipedia, we want you; if you're dedicated to its success, we want you; if you have any skills to offer, from outright reporting to background research, engaging readers in social media to reviewing proposals, to illustration or subediting or copywriting, we want you; if you've ever muttered to yourself or a fellow editor that some concern doesn't get the attention it deserves or some problem is improperly understood, here I offer you your opportunity and challenge: step up to the task of advancing our collective understanding, volunteer to write the Signpost today!