Wikipedia:Historical archive/WikiProject proposal
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This proposal has become accepted and is superseded by Wikipedia:WikiProject and Wikipedia:WikiProject Best practices. This page is kept for historic purposes only. This proposal was originally written by Manning Bartlett. Original formatting viewable on Wayback Machine.
This is a proposal for all and sundry to read and consider. Because of its length, I chose not to include it in the general "suggestions" page, although I have placed a link there [n.b. which page is this?] ("General suggestions" evolved into the Wikipedia namespace, it was the first page we had for talking about how to run the project.Manning (talk) 08:55, 1 February 2012 (UTC)). If you feel this belongs somewhere else, please feel free to move it.
My field of professional expertise is Metadata Management - that is, the information about the information. I have spent the past few days pondering how to apply this knowledge to the Wikipedia.
I have adapted a concept from this field and (tentatively) titled it a "WikiProject". I am defining a "Project" as a comprehensive catalogue of "related information entities". Examples would include "Countries of the World", "Famous Scientists", "Games and Sports", whatever. (q.v. the Tree of life, already in existence.)
A WikiProject is a metadata page that serves as a reference point for those who wish to be involved in a specific project.
- defines the scope of the particular project
- establishes the formatting conventions for individual entries eg: how each individual entry should be structured - in a biographical entry - relevant dates, notable achievements, etc
- establishes the formatting conventions for hierarchical descendants eg: guidelines on how to define "Prime Ministers of New Zealand" as a descendant of "Prime Minister" as a descendant of "Political Leader"
- (optional) Define 'Minimum standards'. A WikiProject can lay down the principles by which an individual entry can be considered to have achieved 'Minimum standard of completion'. Eg: "WikiProject Countries of the World" may require Capital, imports/exports, major cities, poopulation, political history, etc etc... whatever. Both the standards and the 'accreditation' maintain their dynamic status, so we are not getting into "locking pages" or other methods which contradict the essential nature of the Wikipedia.
- lists participating contributors
- provides subject specific forums
Note: such pages already exist in an ad hoc sense (eg: Tree of Life). However, my concept for a WikiProject page seeks to standardise and formalise this approach. also it seeks to segregate the "information" from the "management of the information".
- Standardisation of look and feel. There are existing page that deal with standardisation, but they cannot be applied generically. The conventions for entries on mathematics or chemistry are worlds apart from the conventions for 'famous authors'. Even a generic standard for 'Biographical Entries' cannot be applied universally - the method of describing 'Egyptian Pharoahs' would be radically different to pages for "American Baseball Players' (Pharoahs don't have RBI statistics).
- Decreases the volume of REDIRECTs, due to there being a consistent and well-defined hierarchical descendant schema.
- Allows the development of special interest communities within the Wikipedia. This has already happened of course, but the WikiProject page formalises the process.
- Permits strategic planning and consensual discussion. by centralising the TALK forums to predictable locations, we minimise the fragmentation of discussion into multiple locations which occurs presently.
- Allows controlled dynamic evolution. The inherent problem in any communal project is that without central authority chaos emerges. But with excessive central authority, stagnation sets in. The WikiProject is a 'central authority' (thus providing the benefits of stability), but the WikiProject page itself remains consensual and dynamic. Where evolution occurs, the process can be centrally managed.
- A convention for information management. Participants in the overall Wikipedia will have a convention defined for creating new projects, and they will know where to go to find existing framework definitions and discussion forums for the framework.
- A resource for standards and comprehensiveness. Numerous attempts have been made to document what has not been achieved and give suggestions for areas needing attention. This merely formalises the process.
- Provides a forum for 'Endorsement', without closing off editorial freedom. Each Wikiproject can evolve a definition of "minimum required standard". As entries achieve this status, they can be documented on the WikiProject page. Dissenters can always remove the status, or upgrade the entry in question.
What a WikiProject is not
A WikiProject is not a place for subject information. It is a place for the management of entries within a specific subject area. Neither is it rigid in its hierarchical management. All hierarchies are arbitrary, the Wikipedia seeks to create one purely for the management of entry creation, not as a schema of knowledge.
Is it worth the effort?
The value of such a metadata management model increases with the volume of contributors. In a case where only a handful of contributors are working on a project the actual value of a WikiProject page is negative - it only adds additional work. However, as the volume of contributors increases the work required to maintain the WikiProject pages is substantially less than the work required to correct the fragmentation of style and content, and the duplication which will otherwise occur. (Have you ever spent an hour tracking down and editing REDIRECTs?)
A sample WikiProject page is laid out below for consideration:
Title: WikiProject Musical Instruments
Scope: This WikiProject aims to catalogue all known musical instruments.
Parentage: This WikiProject is a child WikiProject of Music
- No descendant WikiProjects defined
Formatting: (Discussion of how each musical instrument entry is to be formatted, sample given, including eg: Name, alternate names, description, evolution, relatives, see also, etc)
- TALK section related to formatting
Hierarchy definition: Instruments can be placed into one or more of the following categories - Orchestral, Brass, wind, stringed, ethnic... (notice the categories are not mutually exclusive - a trumpet is both brass and orchestral and belongs in both)
- TALK section related to hierarchy definition
Directory of Participants
General Strategy and Discussion forum
Notice that in the example the structural definitions are as fluid as everything else. The natural evolution of "proposal - consensual discussion - consolidation" will occur. As the discussions about structure die down, the suggestion becomes the "convention".
Anyway, this is just a proposal and I am keen to hear feedback from any and all. As this is the Wikipedia, I am aware that I am free to commence this WikiProject idea anyway. However if people are warm to the idea, it would be nice to plan and consult as we lay down the framework.