What motivated you to join WikiProject Chemicals? Do you have some academic or professional experience in chemistry?
Wim van Dorst: I joined the WP:Chem at the early days of Wikipedia nearly 10 years ago, just to share opinions and proposals about new chemicals articles. There weren't many wikiprojects about, and the groundbreaking work was very interesting: everything was new. Chemically educated at the University of Technology Eindhoven, I have always been interested in information about chemicals. While commercially working in one of the leading chemicals companies worldwide, I have found the opportunity to share my wider interests with others in WP:Chem and Wikipedia.
The project maintains a unique assessment scale which divides articles into just four designations: A-class, B-class, starts, and stubs. Why was this system chosen over the typical Version 1.0 assessments? How does the project treat articles that have been recognized as Featured or Good Articles independently of the WikiProject? What have been the benefits and drawbacks of the system used at WikiProject Chemicals?
Wim van Dorst: Current day's typical assessment was actually a followup of our own proposal at the time. FA and GA came later and were of course taken up into the process. Yet, for historical reasons we retained the four classess. It has always been enough to serve the prime target of classes: to upgrade articles to better quality. More granularity would have lead to just more vagueness.
Smokefoot: My impression is that contemporary editors here pay little attention to article rankings. I view it as bureaucracy, ditto for FA and GA business.
A member of WikiProject Chemistry noted in a 2009 interview that WikiProject Chemicals is a more cohesive group than its parent project. Do you agree? What brings the editors of WikiProject Chemicals together? How much overlap exists in the scope, membership, and effort of WikiProject Chemicals and WikiProject Chemistry?
Wim van Dorst: WP:Chem came about out of the wider Chemistry group, to focus on a very specific object: to provide really good, structured, systematic information about important chemicals. This focus lead to close co-operation between the then handful of WP:Chem editors, first to determine which chemicals are important, and then to improve the articles themselves. Creating an assessment scheme was merely a tool to know which articles to work on, and measuring how far we were. There were specific articles that any editor preferred to work on for whatever reason: mine was Hydrochloric acid, because recently before that I had been a marketing manager for that product, and Walkerma worked on Gold(III) chloride, although we all dug in when an article was just before A-Class (our aim). That we achieved to get a handful of articles to Featured Article when the whole FA procedure was brand new was just more fun than the actual target. A great example of all of us joining forces was on Lead(II) nitrate, a historically very important chemical but nowadays rather obscure. It had been on our worklist for this good reason from the beginning, but given the lack of data it had not gotten much attention: a typical Stub-class article. Somewhere in 2006 or so, we all joined forces and made it a good A-Class article. And for the heck of it, we also ran for Featured Article. Yes, we were a cohesive group, apparently all in for some focussed edit work but some laughs about it as well. And nearly all of us are still around, although certainly not so focussed anymore.
Smokefoot: Unlike many topics in Wikipedia, our personal views are pretty orthogonal to our chemical inclinations so we don't bother each other. We are relatively collaborative, in part because we share interests and there are relatively few real controversies to divide us. As a practical matter, the scope is so large that many opportunities exist. The editing tone was set several years ago by a couple of editors who have maintained a very active participation and have a strong chemical knowledge.
Are there any significant holes in Wikipedia's coverage of chemicals? How successful has the project been in building articles for the red links included the project's lengthy lists of organic compounds, inorganic compounds, and biomolecules? What are some challenges projects face when cataloging vast collections of information like chemicals?
Wim van Dorst: Oh, yes, there are many chemicals not listed on Wikipedia. But then again, WP:Chem has never been focussed on ALL articles about Chemicals, only on the 382 designated core articles, selected by WP:Chem experts to well cover the 8 groups of chemicals compounds. And in the heydays of WP:Chem (viz 2004-2009), we achieved over 95% of all core articles at least Start-Class, and two thirds towards A-Class. So, the core of the WP:Chem did achieve a large part of the target what we are aiming for.
Smokefoot: These lists were constructed long ago, and one wonders if they were created by practicing chemists. The project is in good shape. There is some variability in the balance, clarity, and depth of articles, but factual inaccuracies are dealt with quickly.
WikiProject Chemicals ranks among the top ten most active WikiProjects by changes. What is the project's secret to remaining active? What are some areas in which the project could still use improvement? How can a new contributor help today?
Smokefoot: The chemical knowledge of the editors is high. There exist opportunities for both very advanced scientists and beginners to contribute.
Wim van Dorst: Wow, are we?? Awesome. I wasn't aware. Just a bunch of chemically interested people working on chemicals articles.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Smokefoot: There is some pull by nonchemists for greater advocacy about consumer issues and including generic safety information. I see this as an overall push to make Wikipedia more "politically correct". It is also a struggle to maintain an emphasis on more general sources vs specialized journal articles to support articles.
Next week, we'll take a break from our usual routine to shine a light on neglected parts of the world. Until then, explore the archive.
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