Let's face it, most wikipedia articles aren't exactly Ming Dynasty
level of quality, but the main problem isn't that, it's that most articles even lack a half-decent standard of quality and readability...
In terms of an attempt to overview all human knowledge, I think wikipedia is by far the greatest achievement in history. Going back in history, that we could even begin to envisage something which has the breadth of topics that wikipedia has today in which anybody contribute and make a difference instantly from anywhere with an Internet connection, whether it be John O' Groats or Tuvalu, you'd never think it would be really be possible, or have any success, surely average people couldn't work together for free to produce anything of scholarly worth? Is wikipedia really successful then as an encyclopedia? Given the size of the world and the amount of talented, capable individuals who are fluent in English, I personally think wikipedia is grossly underachieving as a quality readable encyclopedic resource. Our true potential is thousands of times greater if you really look at who is actively improving wikipedia and who isn't (well over 99% of people who speak English on the planet). Many of our featured article contributors are not scholars and don't have qualifications to make them "experts" in their choice of subject. So yes, intelligent non-experts are perfectly capable of researching and writing a high quality article on any topic, the issue really is in the lack of intelligent people with busy lives who are willing to significantly edit wikipedia for free and who care enough about any topic to bother researching it. And anyway, how many working professionals would truly care about producing an FA on something like a mountain chain in Guinea, or an agricultural practice in Vanuatu? Isn't it inevitable that many topics naturally attract more interest and have a far greater chance of becoming a quality article and that some articles have a far greater potential for reaching FA quality than many which you'd be hard pushed to find sources for to reach even a Good Article? Given that the bias of coverage is evident in published books to date, given that we are written from sources this bias will naturally manifest itself on wikipedia. The issue for me then is that I believe however little a topic is covered it is always possible to produce a half-decent article on it, even if short, and this is where we generally fail in that most articles lack adequate sourcing, comprehension, or balance and focus.
Mr. Bigglesworth after just being informed that Jimmy Wales is running for President
I formerly possessed the view that any stub is a positive thing towards the development of content and making us a comprehensive encyclopedia. However, as the encyclopedia is aging, I increasingly see that lack of comprehension of topics isn't wikipedia's biggest problem, and I believe that we should stop and really focus on what is important; as an overall encyclopedia we are failing to deliver the goods because of the extreme difference in quality and research in many articles. The mass stubbing, while it seemed much needed at the time, the reality is that most articles don't get significantly expanded and is really up to the creator to ensure that it is a useful start. It is disheartening to see articles started 5 or 6 years ago untouched except by minor bot editors, it has to be said. Somebody has to write proper articles for us, it is up to us to make a major difference. We need a resource in which every article can consistently be easily read and concise with all the important points covered and sourced, and wikipedia is far from this; a large number of articles need even basic edits before even beginning to read them. Just browse through our average articles on Pakistan, Bangladesh and India for instance. While there are undoubtedly tens of millions of notable missing articles, browsing wikipedia for just quarter of an hour will show you how much we are underachieving as an encyclopedia even at a basic level. The typical wikipedia article that will turn up in random pages will look something like Misikhu and Misilmeri, unedited manually in years with few if any sources and poorly written. Promising that we have articles on such places but the standard sort of cancels out the novelty of having them.. They need to be written properly... Then there's substubs which have remained so since 2007 like Trychnopalpa... There are of course a number of articles which are impressive and have the level of readability you'd expect of an encyclopedia thanks to the hard work of a small groups of individuals, and hundreds of thousands of articles which are very useful as a resource. However, the overall problem facing the majority is either complete lack of content, useless junk, mindless bloat, mostly unsourced, or tons of dead sources and badly formatted sources which are no longer verifiable which have been added over the years by many different people, leaving the article as stale as a month-old loaf of bread. Most articles are in need of obliterating and starting from scratch; we lack the active editors and overall drive and organization needed to even address a small percentage of them and nurture them.
I have proposed a Concise wikipedia edition to function more as a traditional encyclopedia to try to cover wikipedia's fundamental failure as a consistent, focused encyclopedia covering the stark basics, but it is still in the waiting. Despite the staggering amount of what could potentially be written, wikipedia generally has a pretty comprehensive coverage of topics but the majority of the articles lack basic research and standards or are so bloated that they're virtually unreadable. If every editor on here devoted just 10 minutes a day to improving an article or two at random and ensuring minimum quality we'd be massively better off as a resource. My ultimate goal would be 1 billion articles of FA quality of course, but I think we really need to get some sense of priority on here and at least try to get those "core" traditional encyclopedia type of articles up to a half-decent standard. Personally I'd prefer 100 consistent decent core articles than 1 "perfect" FA. The problem is that an extreme amount of work is needed which most of us really don't want to do with nothing in compensation, and our very open system and new articles mean that the problem will continue to get worse as most new articles are lacking and remain that way for a long time after creation. I think its time we really tried to overhaul the system on here and take more responsibility for each article, even if it means deleting or incubating a lot of what we have on here which is of very limited use to the reader. And despite what anybody naively thinks about wikipedia being an encyclopedia produced by millions of people collaborating in the masses, any experienced editor here knows that virtually all high quality articles on the site have been almost entirely written by just a small handful of very active, experienced editors working together and that the "open model" is easily as problematic as it is helpful. What we need is a bigger community on wikipedia of experts and accomplished writers who are willing to put in time here writing about topics they care for with no compensation, but our current system and approach if anything frightens most away.
His Holiness Eriq Cantoniki
of Easter Island would soon kick wikipedia's offensive articles into shape
Above all, I like articles which are "clean", meaning length is not necessarily a main issue, but I like articles to be concise and reader-friendly, well sourced (preferably to decent book sources), with proper, consistent reference formatting rather than which warble on and on with poor sourcing and focus. To me a well-sourced and formatted, concise, meaty stub is better than a stale B-class article which is practically unsourced and very difficult to read and clearly needs to be rewritten from scratch. When it comes to sorting out those B-class type articles which are in abundance on here, I usually wipe the slate clean and start from scratch. However, those typical articles give me a headache and I like "clean" content so I naturally find new articles and new content more attractive to write on wikipedia. I think a lot of others on the site feel the same way, which is why we have often have very decent articles on obscure topics which don't require the level of research and effort as some of the more core articles which tend to get neglected from serious editing. For instance, you'll get an FA on a TV episode, yet the TV series article itself might be shockingly poor and sometimes even unsourced. Starting new articles is usually more exciting, and wikipedia has a vast amount of missing articles which will astound you as to how they could have taken so long to be recognized (take for instance African-American history of agriculture in the United States), extremely important to American history and development but not started by me until June 2013 and I only thought of it as I'm a film buff and noticed it as a topic!), but I currently feel as if the bulk of my efforts on here should go into raising basic standards in multiple articles, especially on developing world topics as I feel a responsibility to change as many stale articles as I can on here. The difficulty comes when cleanup becomes a chore rather than enjoyable....
I'm sure most of us can think of a list of site problems as long as my... These are some of the main issues I think which are holding us back in our development as an encyclopedia and would like to see improve over time.
The Gibraltar-Wikipedia Tourist Board is responsible for an increase of 1 million new incoming passengers on flights from Heathrow to Gibraltar thanks to their mass distribution of brochures and tourist leaflets such as Moorish Gibraltar
Just do it. Book a flight NOW!!
brigade on holiday in Italy
Wikimedia Foundation executive director Sue Gardner giving a fascinating insight into her mass recruitment of female labour on wikipedia, "by 2030 we'll be 80% edited by females" she says...
- First and foremost, I think lack of incentive is the chief reason why most of the population do not actively edit wikipedia and we're underachieving compared to what could be. In order to lure in a bigger "workforce" on here including working professionals we need to give back to the community and allocate funds into schemes like monthly prizes for best articles, prizes for greatest improvement of "stale" core articles, which might give more people a cause to participate if something is in it for them. I've suggested something like Amazon vouchers, which in turn can be used to buy books as potential sources for more articles.
- Resistance to change. I think this is one of the major factors which is impeding progress on wikipedia. Whether it's the main page redesign, DYK reform, GA promotion on the main page, skin redesign, controls on new articles, whatever, in my experience I see a general strong resistance to change. When I've proposed reforms I've always had a mixed response, and people will oppose anything, however much it often seems like common sense. This usually results in no consensus so things go unchanged. At the very least we should be continually putting things on trial and requesting feedback. Me, personally, I like change and see it as important for the development, but the community overall are preventing changes which even Jimmy Wales and other top figures in the foundation endorse.
- Lack of focus. Browsing about the website for some 20 minutes will alarm you at the amount of petty discussions going on about things which really do not matter in terms of an encyclopedia. Far too many people in the "community" seem to have lost the point of what wikipedia is supposed to be about and think it's some sort of law court or political game. The obsession with "civility" and "BLPs" and moral panic over a wide range of things such as Gibraltarpedia and paid editing I think is a major site problem and in all honestly at least 90% of what is heavily discussed on here is unimportant to most people who read wikipedia. It concerns me greatly how much time regulars put into discussions on trivial issues which are going nowhere when even 10 minutes of their time could go into improving a poor article which gets a lot of traffic. I think a lot of people here really need to get a reality check on what wikipedia is here for and start doing something more constructive. It isn't just English wikipedia though which has its scandals and inappropriate panic, for instance "Википедия несет ответственность за все марихуаны в мире пристрастия!!", and no, that doesn't mean "My name a Borat, I come from Kazakhstan"...
- Wikilawyering and lack of good faith. In my experience the behaviour of certain individuals in discussions on here indicates a distinct lack of good faith towards the goodwill of editors who edit here without compensation. I've seen many very decent editors forced out of the project by constant berating and lack of good faith in what they do. We can't afford to treat constructive editors who produce content in this way. Wikilawyering is also a major problem but that falls under "lack of focus" covered above in that the site "policeman" are choosing to place emphasis on silly things which mean little to most readers and our general purpose. The lack of good faith usually frightens away potential new contributors with mindless tagging of articles without giving them a chance to try to write something.
- Lack of communication between the foundation and our active editors. Don't get me wrong, I much appreciate what the foundation do with fundraising and keeping us free, and whatever anybody says about Jimmy Wales, I will always respect the guy for keeping wikipedia free and taking the initiative to establish it in the first place. But in all honesty I've usually been rather disappointed in the (lack) of response from Jimbo and the foundation about things I've proposed which would greatly benefit the wikimedia cause such as Concise wikipedia, a global version of Geograph to generate a greater range of images around the world, and monthly award schemes to generate editorial interest. Even if they show initial interest they never do anything to achieve it. I think the foundation should be doing more to lure in contributors and to contact more organizations requesting assistance and indicate that they actually value our work. I've always thought that wikipedia should have a more formal research department in which editors seek to make as many "agreements" with schools, institutions and governments as possible to better the cause of free knowledge. In my opinion they have a very naive outlook on encyclopedia development. Sue Gardner will say "I want to double the number of female contributors to 25%" but what exactly is she doing about it? Is she contacting women's organizations and schools offering them incentives to edit for wikipedia? Nope. It's sort of like the teenage kid saying "I wanna be a footballer", but spends all of his spare time on his Xbox. They have a laissez faire approach and expect everybody to do the work and naturally come and produce for us and everything will magically improve, but the real world does not work like that. If they want to change the proportion of editors they should seriously start taking more responsibility in attracting the editors we need.
- The language barrier and systematic bias. I think this is a major problem on the website which often means important topics from non anglo countries get overlooked in favour of more trivial popular culture articles for the US. I believe the key to knowledge in the 21st century is translation, an attempt to provide the sum of the world's information in any one language. We already have millions of missing articles from other wikipedias. I'd like to see more being done in terms of filling in missing articles using translation systems, if for instance an article is missing in English but it exists on another wikipedia, then a message comes up saying "wikipedia does not yet have an article in English, but here is a translated version of the article on German wikipedia" which would at least attempt to fill the void until somebody can fully translate and write it on this wikipedia and the same with other wikipedias and our articles. Translation systems need a lot of improvement but it would at least attempt to bridge the gap between wikipedias in terms of providing knowledge evenly for the time being.
- Treatment of newbies. We all know those niggling IPs and newbies who do nothing but push their POV, edit war and generally cause havoc to the website and we feel much more settled once they're blocked. However, there are also newbies who could potentially become our core editors and produce a lot of content. My feeling is that new page patrollers or editors watching over articles should be on the lookout for new editors who make significant constructive edits, even if badly formatted or sourced. Unfortunately I see too many articles tagged for deletion or constructive edits reverted because the editors are uneducated in how to format and source. It took me at least 6 months on wikipedia before I even knew how to reference. What confused me was not the referencing but the reflist thing which will only show references once you add it so I just didn't source my articles for a long time. I feel that we need to do something to instantly reward constructive editors for their efforts and try to nurture them as quickly as possible in how to edit and really make them feel as if their edits make a difference and are welcome. You look at the talk pages of most newbies and they're generally full of negative warnings rather than welcoming. That's a big problem as not all newbies are vandals and most people would naturally give up if they have to enter silly security codes and face reverts and warnings. Mindless spamming with warnings and heavy article tagging could be far more damaging to wikipedia in the long term than some people may think.
- A hostile community at times rears its ugly head and offers the worst of humanity. Often disgruntled editors relish the opportunity to attack to work of other editors or support their buddies who they feel that have been insulted in issues they really don't care about. This often results in pointless sniping and personal attacks on the work of others. In my experience, this sort of thing tends to happen at ANI, the DYK forum and others forums on here which attract mean-spirited ogres, ungrateful wretches, and wiki dinosaurs with long-standing grudges who have nothing better than to tell other editors that their working is shocking and that they're somehow inadequate. However much good work and enthusiasm you put into the project there's always a group who fails to recognize this and uses examples of your worst work. On such occasions I imagine how the scene would look if I was with them in the flesh; things might turn out differently... Such situations can be highly frustrating and can result in further personal attacks which isn't really constructive. In such situations I recommend viewing the body of work you've put into wikipedia and then check the contributions of those moaning about your work in the last month or so. The last one I recall, who called my DYK work "mediocre at best", recently produced this near FA-rated magnum opus. This usually turns the frustration into laughter and is a reassurance that what they said really doesn't matter and allows me to move on....
- Excessive use of 'rule' citing during disputes, whether it be AFD or whatever is one of the most irritating forms of argument in my opinion, and even editors who I like or much respect are frequently guilty of it. The problem with excessively relying on Article fails xxx per WP:XXX is that there are so many bleedin' invented rules, guidelines and essays on wikipedia and they are often a very contradiction of themselves and cannot be taken seriously as rules. Many disputes over articles result in people claiming WP:XXX for one side of the argument and per WP:XXX on the other side of the argument and warp whatever has been stated in the guidelines to justify themselves. The very fact that both sides are using "rules" to justify their opposite arguments illustrates that something has gone wrong somewhere and that it's probably best to ignore them and just base your argument on simple things like "Does it have reliable sources? Is it notable or appropriate? I strongly believe that wikipedia needs one rule only to applied in any situation, common sense, and that every article can be assessed independently of "rules" and that every decision made on what seems to be the most plausible thing to do with an article, person or monkey..
- Obsession with infoboxes is without a doubt one of the most disruptive and tedious forces at work on the website right now. I've seen great editors almost blown to dust after having to battle over them for weeks on end and leave the project. There is a significant group who think that infoboxes to wikipedia articles are as the dog's bollocks are to the Queen's corgis. They seem to have an inane belief that the world is going to implode unless every article on the website has one and I've seen disputes last months with each editor citing Wp:XXX reasons why there is consensus to implement them when the article writers think they're ugly and want some peace. Infobox pushing has almost become a sort of wiki cult for the idle who've forgotten how to write articles to obsess about infoboxes as being the essential part of an articles. Some infoboxes have their uses. I regularly use them for things like settlements and for certain buildings which might have a lot of data in which displaying numbers in one box can be useful. Although they're useful in some biographies like sportspeople etc which might have a lot of statistics like footballers etc, generally the type of infobox which is attempted to be brutally forced upon everybody contains little more than the date and place of birth, occupation and spouse, rendering them virtually redundant. Several editors have already been banned for trying to mass enforce infoboxes, and despite all 10 arbitrators ruling "The use of infoboxes is neither required nor prohibited for any article by site policies or guidelines. Whether to include an infobox, which infobox to include, and which parts of the infobox to use, is determined through discussion and consensus among the editors at each individual article ", this obsessive cult continues to find new and more tedious ways to go about enforcing them and continue to wear good editors down.
Officially I have significantly contributed to 16 FAs, and one of my articles, Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, has been translated into Danish and is a featured article on Danish wikipedia. FA is a grueling process, wouldn't recommend going it alone. For a long time I disapproved of the process in that it often seemed impossibly difficult (there is no such thing as perfection). Since 2011 or so though I've noticed an improvement in the process and more editors seem willing to help promote articles nowadays and often give constructive criticism, when in the old days on here it seemed FA attracted a lot of people who would oppose for the sake of it. All of these were co-written with others as I wouldn't have the drive to take one on alone and generally don't like working on one article endlessly when there are several million articles needing basic attention. I have tremendous respect for editors such as Brian Boulton and Tim Riley who are able to channel their most of their energies into getting articles to reach FA status and just how much effort, patience and focus that requires.
Since August 2013 I have begun reviewing FA candidates more earnestly:
Officially I have contributed significantly to 114 Good Articles, but I never used to keep track of these "officially" so the figure is actually higher than this. I have begun listing the articles I've contributed to in passing GA since March 2010:
Like other editors such as User:Tim riley I consider GA one of the most important steps in wikipedia development, articles which have formally been reviewed and some form of quality has been met. From July 2011 I have begun reviewing the occasional good article to help with the growing log of articles needing a review. My feeling is that we should be aiming to get every article up to GA status, even if not FA standard. We currently don't even have 20,000 good articles on wikipedia which is pathetic given that we have 4 million odd articles. We should be aiming for at least 1 in 50 articles being a good article, At least one in 10 really. 1 in 100 for GA and FA combined I think should be the first milestone to get across, we're currently 1 in 174. Wikipedia should be largely about trying to make every single article in the encyclopedia of a decent quality. As a reader, I believe there is nothing more important than reading an article which at least indicates it has been reviewed and read over and fully sourced so the information can at least be verified if you doubt it. I am, however, only willing to promote those articles which clearly meet GA criteria and which have an acceptable degree of coverage and sources. The higher quality GA nominations can be spotted a mile off from those which are plagued with issues. According to the GAN bot tool I have reviewed 124 articles to date, although I can't recall the 40 odd articles I reviewed before July 2011 when I started this list.
Current GA projects
Current FA projects
Did you Know (DYK) and articles
See User:Dr. Blofeld/DYK and DYK A-Z country challenge
Projects founded by myself