These Are the Voyages of WikiProject Star Trek
This week, we explored WikiProject Star Trek. Started in October 2004, the project has grown to include over 100 members who create and improve articles about the Star Trek franchise. WikiProject Star Trek is a child of WikiProject Television and grandchild of WikiProject Entertainment. The project maintains a portal, article guidelines, a to-do list, and a recent changes watchlist. We interviewed project members David Fuchs, pd_THOR, and EEMIV.
David Fuchs, a self-described "full-time Star Trek geek" and Wikipedia admin, built the Starship Enterprise out of cardboard in art school. He says "it's only natural that I'd like to write about it online as well." To pd_THOR, his love for Star Trek has to be balanced with his love for Wikipedia. He writes that "I don't want Star Trek content to look like a fanboy wet dream on Wikipedia; I feel very strongly that the real world probably has enough verifiable, reliable sourcable content to legitimately and encyclopedically discuss Star Trek topics." EEMIV stumbled into Wikipedia one day to edit an article about a club he was part of in college. Poking around, he ran into the Star Trek content and jumped right in. EEMIV confesses that his initial efforts were made under the assumption that Wikipedia could be "another repository for lots of in-universe, trivial information" but he "got shaken of that soon enough."
The project is home to 7 featured articles and 2 good articles, all of which David Fuchs has worked on. He shared with us that "getting the directors' edition DVD of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was the springboard for me to start on a mission to create a featured topic out of all eleven (probably twelve by the time I finish) Star Trek feature films." He's also worked on an episode and character FA as well. pd_THOR had praise for Fuchs, stating that David Fuchs "has done more for our project alone than I feel I've done for the whole of Wikipedia in six years. We're blessed to have such a tenacious quality-oriented editor." pd_THOR refered to his own edits with modesty, stating that he had "made a few edits to Star Trek: First Contact when it was being improved to FA-quality, but I don't know if anything stuck." EEMIV describes his contributions as "gnome-ish" and based on a "fix-small-things attitude." He has edited "small, picayune details" for FA and GA nominations, but he has also taken a leadership role on one occasion and looks forward to the day "when James T. Kirk meets the GA threshold, having kickstarted the overhaul of that one."
With a wide range of information from the multiple television series, movies, and other media, we asked the project members: "How does the project determine notability for the characters, locales, and technologies in the Star Trek canon? Does the project frequently deal with cleaning out in-universe language or fancruft?" Each of our interviewees had a few things to say:
- David Fuchs: I think that aside from the Star Wars universe, Star Trek has the most enduring and complex science-fiction universe ever represented. Fortunately from an editor's standpoint, most of the expanded universe materials—Star Trek books, comics, et cetera—are not considered canon, so that cuts out a large sphere of potential article issues other projects might wrestle with. That said, there's more than 500 hours of Trek out there, and deciding what stays and goes can be difficult. Wikipedia has articles on pretty much every single episode of Trek ever produced, most of them fairly shoddy, but the fact that there is a huge heap of Trek scholarship out there that could be used to source them, when we get around to it, means that merges are generally a bad idea. It's safe to say that while the project recognizes fancruft and deals with it pretty well, there's still lots of in-universe articles that are languishing for lack of attention and energy.
A fiberglass capsule was fitted over this decommissioned missile to convert it into Cochrane's Phoenix
in Star Trek: First Contact
, a featured article
- pd_THOR: Just as it is for any fandom subset of articles on Wikipedia, once upon a time there were articles made for EVERYTHING, and there's a lot of Star Trek to mine for content. We're aware that there's a lot of Star Trek on Wikipedia right now that probably doesn't warrant an article or inclusion. That being said, with Star Trek having produced content for nigh half-a-century, there's almost an equal amount of ancillary content from which to derive appropriate real-world context for a lot of that "cruft"; the problem is simply finding it all and implementing it appropriately. Personally, I have no qualms about merging and deleting articles that aren't up to stuff (policy- and guideline-wise) because I think (a) that's the community agreed-upon process, and (b) if it can—"eventually"—be sourced providing the right editor finds the right material, it can always rise from the grave. That's one of the wonders of a wiki.
- EEMIV: Sublimely, one of my first Star Trek-related edits at Wikipedia was to create Cellular regeneration and entertainment chamber, which months if not years later was redirected because it failed the notability guideline. Early, I also got involved in editing articles about Star Trek ranks and ships, often adding plot trivia. At some point, someone hit me in the head with WP:WAF, which shook up my perspective about what's appropriate for Wikipedia. I later discovered the contentious WP:FICT and broader WP:GNG. As David Fuchs says, there's a wealth of source material out there -- never mind 500 hours, there are tens of thousands of pages, gigabytes of games, spindles of CDs -- and not all of it warrants inclusion here. The writing about fiction and general notability guidelines are my guideposts and occasional bludgeons in looking at articles. I'm a fan of the franchise (something I try to point out during contentious AfD and even redirect discussions), which I usually think puts me in a good position to gauge how well an article can or might meet those thresholds. Ultimately, I want content that can meet those two to be the best Wikipedia can offer, and for that content not to be diluted by stuff better hosted at e.g. Memory Alpha, a Wikia site that loooooves minutiae and fosters the kind of speculation that creeps into Wikipedia's too-in-universe content. I feel comfortable nominating content for deletion, or redirecting questionable content, because I'm confident that users looking for that information will find it either elsewhere at Wikipedia or at the excellent Memory Alpha site. As a side note, I think the Star Trek and Star Wars communities are fortunate to have such excellent Wikia support; I've backed away from pursuing deletion and culling of other franchises because I'm not sure their content that would get culled here would be accessible elsewhere.
Another wiki, Memory Alpha, serves as a vast repository for Star Trek lore. pd_THOR "actually came across Wikipedia after finding Memory Alpha in late 2004. Memory Alpha satisfied the almost OCD-level of Star Trek knowledge I was looking for when StarTrek.com, The Star Trek Encyclopedia, nor even Wikipedia could. That, I think, is the singular difference between the two Wikis, and one I took a while to learn at first; Memory Alpha covers anything in Star Trek canon (consisting of the published TV series and the films), requiring only a reference to the episode or film... [including an] article for Alvanian brandy, an alcohol that's only referenced once in all of Trekdom, and is only on screen for a few seconds. In contrast, Wikipedia's article for the episode in which Alvanian brandy appeared is nominally a stub on Wikipedia; consisting only of the episode's plot, airing minutae, and one "reference" to StarTrek.com. Wikipedians would be hard-pressed to argue for inclusion of [Alvanian brandy]."
EEMIV adds that "Memory Alpha is an excellent complement to what Wikipedia offers. There have been a few times, actually, when Memory Alpha has had superior sourcing: I definitely turned to many of their real-world citations when revamping James T. Kirk. I am disappointed that MA limits its content to "canon," although I think perhaps they permit "in this non-canon book, X happens" to be included -- maybe not. Regardless: it's a great site. Community connection? I don't know: I've edited MA only a handful of times, and have no sense of whether people jump between the two."
When asked how WikiProject Star Trek handles fanon, the "decanonized" Star Trek: The Animated Series, and inconsistencies within the official canon, pd_THOR refered us to the project's detailed section dedicated to dealing with Star Trek canon. EEMIV opined that the "definitions of "canon" are themselves WP:OR -- a few years at TrekBBS.com rehashing that debate cemented that for me." His attitude toward canon is that it doesn't matter as long as third-party sources provide appropriate and thorough coverage. "There's a lot of information about elements of The Animated Series, and certainly fan productions garner a lot of ink -- but BobKirk1701's latest diagram of the Uber-class war-destroyer probably won't wind up at Wikipedia."
Not surprisingly, the members of WikiProject Star Trek are involved in other projects that focus on sci-fi franchises, like WikiProject Star Wars. EEMV mentions that "certainly there are a lot of familiar names across both projects, and talk-page discussions often draw in folks more heavily involved with Fiction-at-Wikipedia in general."
David Fuchs reviewed several old Star Wars GAs as part of Sweeps, and relates that "like many early articles they were rather shoddy." EEMIV's work on Wikipedia actually leans more toward Star Wars-related material than Star Trek. He states that "I've done heavy lifting for a few GAs, and also do the same kind of category clean-up and redirect action I do with Star Trek. I notice the Star Wars venue's similar struggle with trivia and minutiae, although I think for the most part they're further along in trimming that -- except when it comes to the printed material, esp. comics, still laden with material I don't have the comfort level and know-how to clean-up. David Fuchs feels that "a cross-collaboration of media franchise projects would greatly help the accessibility of our articles. Too often are articles about fiction solid and well-referenced, but utterly impenetrable to non-fans of the series. By having each other checking our work, we might see some of those issues disappear."
As far as the project's current initiatives and goals, David Fuchs took the lead in inviting new members to help with his personal project at WikiProject Star Trek. "Well, as part of my mission to improve all the Trek films, User:Erik sorted through his research databases and posted a list of possible sources to use on the talk page of every article. Anyone with good LexisNexis or interlibrary loan resources can find these and add the relevant information to the articles for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Star Trek Generations, Star Trek: Insurrection, and Star Trek: Nemesis. Aside from that, helping to demonstrate the notability of individual Star Trek episodes, as well as improving the main Star Trek page and top-priority articles would be hugely beneficial."
Next week's project is a photographer's delight. Until then, flip through our previous snapshots of various projects in the archive.