In what has become a yearly tradition, we interviewed members of WikiProject Military History (see previous reports in 2007, 2008, and 2009). The titanic project has over 1,100 members and more featured content than some projects have articles. Rather than rehashing previous Reports, we focused on Operation Majestic Titan, one of four subprojects at MilHist which combine elements of task forces, backlog drives, and short-term collaborations to meet long-term goals.
Operation Majestic Titan (OMT) started in June 2009 with a lofty aim: "to create the single largest featured topic on Wikipedia" about battleships around the world (judge for yourself how successful they have been). Since then, OMT has divided its focus into five phases, with articles about the ships themselves taking priority, followed by the weapons aboard those ships, major historical battles and events, biographies of noted commanders and sailors, and miscellaneous material. Status bars are maintained for each phase and for the Operation as a whole. Out of the 554 articles included in Phase I, 60 have attained featured status, 27 are A-class, and 118 are good articles. The subproject relies upon MilHist's Manual of Style and guidelines from WikiProject Ships, but OMT independently maintains its own portal, showcase, and a magic eight ball filled with inside jokes like "probably just an ironclad" and "Tom and Ed disagree, try again later."
We interviewed seven enthusiastic members of Operation Majestic Titan who playfully responded to each other. Tom (TomStar81) is an admin and Steelers fan. He started OMT and is supposedly taking a WikiBreak, despite his continuing work, as revealed by his contributions. Bahamut0013 was inspired to join OMT by Tom and "collaborated with him on an A-class review, and really enjoyed working with him." As a Marine, Bahamut0013 has been "regaled with the tales of 16-inch gunfire support back in the old days." He's been a member of MilHist since he joined Wikipedia, but didn't join OMT until last year. He added that he also likes "aircraft carriers and planes. They are loud and shiny and they go fast," to which Tom replied: "carriers are glorified parking lots."
Buggie111, who supports the Patriots and Green Bay, joined Wikipedia in November of last year, and was interested in the project partly because his grandfather was in the Navy. "When I stumbled upon this, I got excited and got to work!" Sturmvogel 66 is a MilHist Coordinator with little to say about himself, preferring to talk mostly about the project. If you want to know more about his interests, look at the lists of featured and good content on his user page. AirplanePro (WikiCopter) joined because "who doesn't like big bad ships with big bad 18.1 inch rifles they can stick up your nose?" He acknowledges that "battleships are mere floating forts" compared to submarines, and would like to plug the Submarine Working Group at MilHist's Maritime Warfare Task Force. See the original interview page for other tangents, including a brief discussion about using jolly roger flags on battleships as a form of psyops.
How does Operation Majestic Titan differ from other projects and task forces?
Tom: The difference is in the size of the scope. Projects, such as SHIPS and MILHIST cover a very broad area, and as such the articles within their scope cover everything considered to be notable by the given field. Task forces are more specific in scope, frequently covering a narrower field of interest but including all applicable articles within said scope. The maritime history task force, for example, is run jointly by MILHIST and SHIPS but covers all articles that relate warships, which is more specific than WP:MILHIST's drive for all military related articles or WP:SHIPS' coverage of all ship related articles. This still leaves a wide assortment of articles within the scope – carriers, destroyers, subs, cruisers, etc. By comparison, Operation Majestic Titan focuses exclusively on battleships and battle cruisers, which gives us a much smaller area of responsibility but at the same time affords a much clearer picture of where we are and how much further we have to go to reach our intended goal.
Bahamut0013: There is also a much more specific goal. While each task force and MILHIST have the general goal of article improvement, which can be vague at times beyond the mere idea of moving articles up the qualiity assessment scale and maintaining them, OMT specifically desires to make the largest featured topic on Wikipedia. All of our metrics and short-term goals are oriented on that goal, which we sometimes joke about taking forever. Even the way OMT is organized reflects this; the five phases break down the FT by subject: the ships and classes are the main effort in Phase I, which is the main effort, but will eventually include weapons, biographies, battles, and other articles in the next four phases.
Operation Majestic Titan has more featured and good content than many entire WikiProjects. What has driven this success? Have you worked on any of these articles? Are there any tips you can share with other projects?
Cam: There have been a couple of things that have been main drivers of this success. The first has been the nature of the editors working on the articles. In my experience the editors at OMT are highly motivated, high-quality content contributors. We're all very obsessive about the topic; I know for a fact that five of our members (TomStar81, Parsecboy, The Ed17, myself) are either completed or in the middle of History degrees. Many of our members have served in informal leadership capacities in the Military History Project, and have participated in many many reviews within the project. One of the other things that has really aided our rapid progress is the abundance of high-quality resources on the subject. There are general overviews of warships (Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships), overviews of battleships (Siegfried Breyer's Battleships and Battlecruisers 1905–1970), and specific books about individual navies (Gary Staff's German Battlecruisers: 1914–1918, Evans & Peattie's Kaigun) that make it really easy to access a wealth of information on the subject. Whereas you often have to lift a sentence or two from thirty different books in other articles, we're able to write entire articles with the use of only four or five main text resources. I've personally worked on three Featured Articles, six A-Class articles, and numerous Good Articles within the project.
Sturmvogel 66: I'm responsible for a fair amount of that content as I've been able to dedicate a fair amount of time this year to Wiki. I think that we're successful because we're focused on individual goals that are a part of OMT's overall goals. Many of us concentrate on the ships of a particular era or country which helps to motivate us to complete our own little piece. I've bounced around more than most, depending on my mood and what I find interesting. (ooh, shiny!) Another issue is that several of our editors are very comfortable with the whole FAC process and they've been supportive with less experienced editors like myself. I use a common structure for OMT and other ship articles to make things easier for myself and I have a text document open most of the time that has linked phrases, terminology and conversions that I often use in writing the articles. Plus I often copy sections from my other articles and change the details as necessary. That speeds things up tremendously.
And to second Bahamut from above, we have an explicit goal to create the largest FT, which is why a couple of our articles are always at WP:FAC. I think that particular goal is missing from many, if not most, projects which rely on the initiative of individual members to push articles up the chain.
Tom: Like all things I suspect that there are multiple factors at work here that help to make our special project's stats stand out. For starters, I would say the single greatest factor going for us is stability: no new battleships have been built since 1944, and no battleship has been in commission with any navy since 1992. Since a fundamental cornerstone of GA, A, and FA-class articles is that the material be stable and not subject to fluctuations battleships fit this niche perfectly; they are new enough to be fresh in the minds of many people yet the absence of these ships from the roster of the world's active warships means that the histories of the ships and their classes are very stable. This makes it very easy for members to pick a battleship or battle cruiser article at start or B-class, locate the sources needed to improve it to meet the requirements for outstanding content, and then push the article up to FA-class. As for me personally: I've been called the "father of Operation Majestic Titan" by a number of people, so I was sort of a trailblazer for the battleship articles. I've personally been involved in some way, shape, or form with all of the Iowa-class battleship articles, and have been a reviewer for a number of different battleship and battle cruiser articles within OMT's scope.
Buggie111:White Shadows and I are responsible for the majority of the Austro-Hungarian battleships. The Good topic was promoted a week ago. I myself am working on Russian ships that Sturm hasn't touched.
Ed: I think two things have driven this success. The first, and easily the most important, is how motivated we are. Sturm attributes this motivation to our niche topics within OMT; I suspect he is right. For example, I am currently very motivated by my desire to raise all of the South American dreadnought articles to FA. Subsidiary to this, but still important, is the collegial atmosphere surrounding the project. If we have a resource that can help another editor, we email it to each other. If we need more information but don't have access to a certain source, chances are someone else has it and we always help each other out. I have had a hand in fifteen of the project's featured articles along with thirteen A-class or good articles. My tips to other projects? If you don't have a somewhat large editing base, start small. Even fifteen articles can take a long time when only a few editors are writing them. Set your goal based on the number of interested editors and how self-motivated they are to help you complete it.
Bahamut0013: We definitely have the teamwork element going for us. For one, the core of the OMT membership revolves around some very talented individuals with a wealth of knowledge and writing skills; most of them are very active at MILHIST and SHIPS (and most are or have been coordinators). We are very good at cooperation and coordination; some browsing through the talk archives show that we are always asking for help in finding a source or book, or whatever. We also tend to complement one another well; Tom is good at writing but is a self-admitted poor speller, while Ed has a very critical eye that comes in handy at review time. I like to think that my lack of talents in article improvement are made up with my administrative duties and management of portal:battleships; I sometimes have to compete with MBK to get clerking tasks done first.
WikiCopter: I totally agree with Bahamut. During the past month, however, my focus has left quality article writing to focus on cleanup. There are a small base of editors dedicated to wikification.
OMT has a set of short-term and long-term goals organized into five "phases," with each phase measured by status bars. How well has this structure motivated OMT's members? Would you suggest other projects attempt an elaborate system of milestones like this?
Sturmvogel 66: It's very easy to become daunted by such large numbers so I don't pay much attention to them, honestly. Ships naturally fall into related topics like all the ships of a given class or type and I focus on those as my goals simply because they're easier to achieve. They support the overall goals of the project, but it's much easier to keep motivated with smaller goals that have some realistic prospect of being completed. The overarching goals are good to keep people focused on the overall objective, but individual editors need to keep things small to keep themselves motivated, IMO.
Tom: I feel it to be highly beneficial as a motivational tactic, particularly with regards to those who may just be passing through. Any project can look large at first glance, but when the overall workload is broken down into more manageable bites what at first look appears to be an impossible goal sudden becomes much more realistic. As for the adoption of the status bars by other projects, I feel that it would be a good idea. People tend to respond better when they can see a check point off in the distance, IMO it helps to put the proverbial 1,000 mile journey into perspective for the participants who want to take the first step.
Ed: I don't pay attention to the phases at all (actually I disagree with their existence...). We are already a few years away from completing 'Phase I'; I think we should focus on what is achievable instead of muddying the waters by adding goals that are decades in the future.
Buggie111: Yeah, I'm also a bit of a believer in the 1,000 mile quote. That's been throwqn at me lots of times. The pahses are like building a path to sucess. The path doesn't have to be covered in one day. As the old saying goes Roma, wasn't built in a day.
Bahamut0013: I like them because it gives me hope that someday, I can eventually use my talents to rack up some FAs when we get to the biographies. :P I'm a big-picture person, and like seeing that progress bar crawl ever onward.
WikiCopter: Lol and agree with Ed and Bahamut.
OMT maintains the Battleships Portal. Share with us some of the effort that went into building and populating the portal with interesting information. What are some of the greatest challenges of maintaining a portal?
Ed: Most of the effort was shouldered by bahamut0013 and MBK004. It involved creating quite a few subpages, filling some of them with articles, pictures, quotes, etc., and getting the main page's code right. A large amount of start-up work, but it is now a piece of cake to maintain.
Buggie111: I don't want to sound pouty, but yes, the portal is held together by those two human bots. I'm too lazy to do it and I know I might mess somthing up. Buggie111 (talk) 15:40, 7 December 2010 (UTC)
Bahamut0013: I hate to indulge in a bit of hubris, but I'm very proud of the portal; it really showcases the amazing article work the other guys have done. I still think of it as incomplete: as the project goes on, there content that needs to be featured piles up. Every so often, I just cruise through the assessment lists and start making more features.
How would you describe the community at OMT? Was it difficult to attract contributors to this initiative? Did you rely upon the membership of WikiProject Military history and WikiProject Ships?
Cam: One of the advantages we had was that the demand for a special project existed before the concept did. It was us and the World War I Centenary that really pushed for the concept of special projects to actually be created. Most of us were already working on those articles on our own. As to the effect of drawing new editors to the project, I think a lot of that had to do with having that specific project there, as well as seeing the progress that came out of it. One of the biggest roadblocks to me working on some of the older naval articles (19th century Japanese capital ships, for example) is that I don't tend to think it's doable. When you see other people having great success in a similar topic area, you begin to think that you can have the same success in a similar topic. It only takes one successful editor to get the ball rolling. In that regard I place tons of the credit with TomStar81, whose early work on the Iowa class battleship articles was really the genesis of the idea for OMT.
Sturmvogel 66: As I said earlier the atmosphere at OMT is generally very collegial. I don't think that we do anything special to attract contributors, they sort of select themselves if they're interested in the topic; I know that I did. Almost by definition you have to be interested in military history and ships if you're interested in battleships and battlecruisers so I suspect that most of the OMT participants are members of both Ships and MilHist.
Ed: I completely agree with Sturm. The community in OMT is almost quintessential in terms of atmosphere and assisting each other. The success we have had helps in terms of FAC reviews, etc. (ours tend to be well-done when they get thrown at the mercy of the FAC wolves), but I don't think we have roped in a large number of active contributors with it, aside from possibly Dank. I would attribute this to the topic; battleships and battlecruisers are not exactly the most popular items since sliced bread.
Bahamut0013: Like I said before, we have teamwork down pat. Editors will step up and fill in a role that we didn't even realize was lacking. The project started as an unofficial collaboration in userspace, and had held onto that close-knit core while welcoming in any talent that is interested. We've never had to do any recruitment, I think that most of the interested editors have just found us on thier own. The only thing I can lament is that we don't yet have a member of the fairer sex in our ranks, as far as I know.
Operation Majestic Titan welcomes new editors to their community, as do the parent projects, WikiProject Military History and WikiProject Ships (interviewed earlier this year). For anyone interested in warfare topics, there are three other subprojects sponsored by WikiProject Military History that could use help: Operation Brothers at War, which focuses on the American Civil War; Operation Great War Centennial, which focuses on World War I; and Operation Normandy, which focuses on the Battle of Normandy during World War II. We'll shoot hoops during our last issue of 2010. Until then, dribble over to the archive.