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WikiChevrons (left) are the project's standard barnstar, while the project's coordinators can award modified WikiChevrons (right) based on recommendations by project members
Editors who bring three or more articles to A-class status receive a medal
For editors who build a large number of A-class articles, the medal can be adorned with oak leaves, swords (pictured), and diamonds
Barnstars exist for some special topics, like this award for contributing to content about the Napoleonic Era
Service awards are awarded for specific project tasks and drives
The "Military Historian of the Year" award, a modification of the standard Wiki Award, recognizes editors who have contributed the most to Wikipedia's coverage of military history during a given year
This week, we're checking out ways to motivate editors and recognize valuable contributions by focusing on the awards and rewards of WikiProject Military History. Anyone unfamiliar with WikiProject Military History is encouraged to start at the report's first article about the project and makeyourwayforward. While many WikiProjects provide a barnstar that can be awarded to helpful contributors, WikiProject Military History has gone a step further by creating a variety of awards with different criteria ranging from the all-purpose WikiChevrons to rewards for participating in drives and improving special topics to medals for improving articles up to A-class status to the coveted "Military Historian of the Year" award. We interviewed Grandiose, secretlondon, Nick-D, Ian Rose, Crisco 1492, Marcus Qwertyus, Hchc2009, and Dank.
How long have you been a member of WikiProject Military History? Do you prefer working on articles related to particular subjects, people, or time periods?
Grandiose: In terms of content creation, the Spanish Civil War has been my pet project and has produced my only featured article (Nyon Conference) and most of my good articles. I was drawn to it as a topic area – I'd never before had an interest in Spanish history or the inter-war period in particular. My other contributions have been diverse – including Henry VIII of England and the Livonian War. I joined the project in April 2011, although I'd been contributing in the topic area since the beginning of the year. I was made a Military History co-ordinator in September 2012.
secretlondon: I thought I should join as I've been writing on this topic. However I've not been collaborating with anyone through this nor has it had any impact, really.
Nick-D: I've been a member of the project since 2006. I mainly work on topics relating to World War II and the Military history of Australia, both of which are well represented on Wikipedia. I also work on articles on articles which cover modern militaries, which unfortunately still vary widely in coverage and quality (there's lots of opportunities for editors who would like to take on a big topic to work on getting these articles up to scratch).
Ian Rose: I've been a member of the project for about five years, and my main focus is Australian military aviation, particularly biographies.
Crisco 1492: I've been writing content on military topics for about a year and a half, but I just became a formal (registered) member last month. Most of my military articles are related to Indonesia, especially its national revolution.
Marcus Qwertyus: I started my career as a MilHist contributor in March 2009. I compensated for my total lack of knowledge of the topic by only making WikiGnomish edits like adding infoboxes to armored vehicle articles. As I got more invested in the project, I took charge of documenting the Pentagon's various ambitious and rather ignominious attempts to develop and procure a modern ground combat vehicle fleet for the U.S. Army. The most recent program, called the Ground Combat Vehicle, birthed DARPA's crowdsourced Fast Adaptable Next-Generation Ground Vehicle program which will be a contest for the masses to design and eventually build an amphibious combat vehicle for the U.S. Marine Corps. This project may even establish crowdsourcing as the solution to the military's procurement woes if all works out well. I hope to have time to participate when the contest opens up this January.
Hchc2009: I've been a member for a couple of years - I think I first got involved in late 2009. I tend to focus on medieval and early-modern topics. Working on content is heavily dependent on sourcing, and I can only fit so many books in my house... :)
Tell us about the project's contest department. When did it start and did you take inspiration from any other WikiProjects? How are contributors rewarded for participating in the monthly contests? Has it actually helped motivate the project's members to improve articles?
Ian Rose: The contest has been running for around five years. I wasn't involved in the initial set-up but I gather that part of the inspiration came from the LGBT wikiproject. Originally points were only awarded for MilHist-centric article assessments, i.e. B-Class and A-Class, however a while back I suggested that we adopt a broader scoring base and award points for GA and FA assessments as well. This has been the norm ever since, except we also include C-Class assessments since Milhist adopted that assessment level. The highest point-scorer each month is awarded the WikiChevrons, and the runner-up the Writer's Barnstar. While it's a little difficult to quantify exactly how much the contest motivates people, the number of entrants and entries continues to remain fairly constant after all these years, so it certainly seems to have its place. Personally speaking I always like to get at least one entry in each month, so I know it motivates me... ;-)
Grandiose: I don't take part, because of the bureaucratic overhead to my contributions. However whilst the number of contributors isn't very high it doesn't take many to make something like that successful. If it it motivates even two or three people to go out when they didn't before, it's probably worth it.
The project also hands out "WikiChevrons", service awards, and a variety of other goodies throughout the year. Please describe some of these awards and why the project started offering them. Are new recipients of the awards honored in the project's newsletter or in any other ways?
secretlondon I got a chevron, which was nice. It's a bit like a barnstar. Someone also awarded me a red army badge which was nice too.
Nick-D The project's coordinators award medals for editors who develop articles to A-class status (an A-class medal is awarded for every three successful nominations, with a sliding scale of medals to acknowledge editors with an excellent track record) and medals to recognise the contributions of people who review A-class nominations and editors with a long-running history of outstanding contributions. There's also an annual military historian of the year contest (awarded through a popular vote) and editors can award one another project-specific medals as they see fit. The project's monthly newsletter (The Bugle) reports on all the project-level awards. I think that this has been successful in motivating contributions to articles within the project's scope, as well as encouraging participation in project-level activities.
Ian Rose: In addition to what Nick has covered above, there's the WikiChevrons with Oak Leaves, which is the project's highest mark of esteem for an editor. It cannot be self-nominated, and must be approved by a majority of project coordinators (who themselves are not eligible for the award while holding office).
Marcus Qwertyus: I have never been motivated by the prospect of receiving a chevron or other prestigious award. I have been awarded one military-themed barnstar in my Wikipedia career. This little bit of micro-gratitude has been enough to show that I am a valued contributor to the project. I think every editor that has invested a considerable amount of time in the pursuit of improving a WikiProject's coverage should be shown some appreciation in the form of at least one barnstar.
Hchc2009: To me, the awards are one way (amongst others) of recognising the wide range of activities that go into creating high quality articles, especially reviewing. Across the wiki we often overlook these, and the awards are a formal way of the community saying "thanks" to those involved.
Has WikiProject Military History hosted any backlog elimination drives like the Guild of Copyeditors and WikiProject Wikify? How do these backlog drives compare to the four ongoing "Operations" hosted by WikiProject Military History? What are the benefits and limitations to these kinds of goal-oriented activities?
Grandiose: Although the project keeps track of clean-up requirements, there have been few backlog drives directed at them. The one big exception is the B-Class assessment backlog – the project's attempt to assess all start-class articles against our B-class criteria, which will help identify what needs doing and whether any is C-class – which, spearheaded by Adam, has reduced outstanding articles from 27,000 to around 22,000. Quite an achievement, even if that figure has proven stubborn. The Operations vary in their success – there is no doubting the success of Operation Majestic Titan, but ultimately that's because there's a group of editors determined to work on that area, fancy name or not. The value in the others (like Operation Normandy) is in keeping track of where we are. Perhaps as the deadlines tighten the organisational element might come to the fore, but we'll have to see. I don't see any downsides; arguably other areas might lose out but that's the nature of a volunteer-based encyclopedia.
The project's large assortment of awards is likely related to the sheer size of WikiProject Military History's community. Would contests, awards, and drives like these be feasible for smaller projects? What are the best ways to motivate contributors regardless of a project's size and scope?
Ian Rose: I think awards, contests and drives should generally help motivate people, regardless of a project's size. Given that a smaller project has templates such as MilHist to draw from, there seems little to lose by trying...
Crisco 1492: Theoretically, but in reality some projects may never be able to handle it. My main project (my wife, if you will) is WikiProject Indonesia, and the project now consists of essentially four or five editors. A formal system of rewards and contests with so few editors would essentially be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic: we'd be so busy with administration that we'd never actually write the articles. A fairly large WikiProject, or one with a more general scope, may have more success.
secretlondon: DYK has been my motivation, together with scoping out what needed to be written and reducing the number of red links.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Crisco 1492: One of the main reasons for my continuing participation in the WikiProject's internal review program is the recognition: one cannot expect an editor to write 6000 words on a soldier / general and not hope for some general recognition. It doesn't have to be anything big, just a way of saying that what we do is appreciated. Carrots, not sticks: that's the way to retain editors.
Dank: Writers stop writing if readers stop reading. Although a half a billion people read Wikipedia each month, that attention isn't enough by itself to keep writers from losing interest, in my experience ... but knowing that people care enough about what you're producing to review it and give you feedback that you find useful generally is enough, at least for a while.
Next week, we'll sing for our supper. Until then, listen to the advice in our previous reports.