Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2008-07-21/Dispatches

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Dispatches: History of the featured article process

By Karanacs, July 21, 2008

The first process of recognizing quality articles on the English Wikipedia was spearheaded by now-retired editor Bmills. Under his proposal, users were encouraged to list articles they believed to be of high quality at Wikipedia:Brilliant Prose. In June 2003, Eloquence proposed that the system be modified to be more like the one that had been developed on the German Wikipedia. In the new consensus-gathering process, users could still nominate any article for Brilliant Prose status, although self-nominations were required to be seconded. If no objections were registered within a week, the article would be promoted. On July 6, 2003, the first three articles were promoted simultaneously to "Brilliant Prose" status as part of this new process:[1]

In November 2003, Fuzheado proposed that the system be changed to be more similar to Wikipedia processes such as RfA and AFD. Rather than simply avoiding objections, a candidate would be required to gain support before it could be promoted to Featured article (FA). This process evolved into our current Featured article candidacy (FAC) system. At the suggestion of Kingturtle, the predecessor to the Featured article review (FAR) process was initiated in December 2003.

In December 2003, Raul654 proposed that new featured articles be recognized with a prominent spot on the Main Page. The next month, the main page was revamped from text only to a version similar to its current look. For several months, Raul654 was the primary contributor to the process of choosing featured articles for exposure on the main page; in August 2004, he was officially ratified as Featured Article Director.

Originally, nominations were expected to be by uninvolved editors who often had no investment in the nomination. In some cases, reviewers would fix issues that they or other editors had noticed in the articles; in others, the issues were never fixed and the nomination would eventually fail. This led to a gradual shift in nomination practices, and by the end of 2004 almost all nominations were by significant contributors to the article, who would then be more likely to respond to objections and comments.

Around June 2004, partly in response to the FAC nomination of Fuck, which turned into a lively debate, the FAC guidelines were changed to note that objections must be "actionable"; thus, objections needed to provide some guidance to the nominator on how the article could be improved, and objections on the basis of morality or "I don't like it" would no longer be considered when closing a nomination. Even with the change, Fuck was not promoted, in the face of objections including length and the quality of the prose.

As the number of nominations increased, the FAC process adapted to keep up. The original process had kept all nominations and their discussion on one page, at times divided into "Opposed" and "Unopposed" sections. By December 2004, the page was groaning under the weight of nominations and reviews, and nominations were instead placed on their own individual pages (for example, {{Wikipedia:Featured article candidates/name of nominated article}}) and transcluded onto the main FAC page. As the process matured, along with Wikipedia, standards gradually rose. Among the changes was a new insistence on sourcing, spearheaded by mav. Beginning in August 2004, most FAs were expected to have a references section listing the sources used. At the time, very few WP articles listed sources, and most older FAs did not meet our modern criteria (especially the verifiability and citations aspects). These articles were slowly taken to FAR, where they were typically demoted. As of April 2005, Pcb21 estimated that only 25 of the 110 articles that had been featured in August 2001 (the earliest data available), were still featured. (The August 15 internet archive version of the Brilliant Prose page is the closest available to the end of August 2001.) In response to the continual rise in standards required for promotion, more of these original FAs have been delisted, and today only five of the articles listed on the first version of the FA page from December 2001 retain their bronze starComet, Rudyard Kipling, Greek Mythology, Punk rock and Byzantine Empire.

The criteria were further refined with the addition of a stability criterion in January 2005. This was expanded to specifically forbid edit wars in September 2005 as a result of conflict during the nomination of Terri Schiavo.

At the suggestion of Filiocht, a separate process for determining featured lists was created in May 2005. By August, regular reviewers at FAC and FLC were debating how to determine a list from an article. This debate is ongoing. Another process, featured topics, was created in August 2005 to recognize groups of featured articles and lists.

A graph of featured articles on the English Wikipedia (green) since September 2003. The number of featured articles in the German Wikipedia, the second-largest Wikipedia, is shown for comparison (blue).

By June 2006, the standard had again increased, and featured articles were expected to have some form of inline citations, either footnotes or Harvard style. This was partially due to the December 2005 introduction of cite.php, which allowed the method of referencing that is most widely used on WP today. At the time, there was much disagreement about whether this requirement should be applied retroactively. Very few articles at the time (even featured articles), had inline citations. Ultimately, it was decided that all featured articles should be held to the new standard requiring inline citations, regardless of when they were promoted. In mid-2006, Marskell proposed that the old Featured article removal candidates (FARC) be merged with the Featured article review. It was revamped to allow at least a month in review and more time for older articles to meet current standards, including the addition of citations; the modern FAR process was implemented in June 2006 and tweaked to its current form a month later.

In June 2006, the English Wikipedia noted the promotion of its net 1000th featured article. Tombseye and Khoikhoi were the significant contributors to the highlighted article, Iranian peoples.[2] Less than two years later, on April 10, 2008, the 2000th FA was promoted. Five articles were promoted simultaneously and shared the honor: Walter de Coventre, Maximian, El Señor Presidente, Lord of the Universe, and Red-billed Chough.

For just over a year, spanning 2004–05, Featured articles represented just over 0.1000% (one in a thousand) of all articles on Wikipedia. As the total number of articles on Wikipedia has increased, this percentage dropped to a low of 0.0762% (fewer than one in 1300) in February 2007; since then, it has slowly yet steadily increased to 0.087% (one in 1140), the current proportion. An examination of the promoted and archived FA nominations showed that in February–July 2006, roughly 35% of all articles nominated for FA were promoted—an average of 44 articles were promoted to FA each month. In the same period in 2007, 56 articles were promoted monthly, some 53% of nominations. While that pass-rate that has remained steady into 2008, the higher nomination rate we now see has boosted the number of monthly promotions to an average of 72 a month in the first third of 2008.

See also


  1. ^ All have since been delisted.
  2. ^ Iranian peoples was reviewed in June 2006 and remains featured.

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