What motivated you to join WikiProject Tennessee? Do you contribute to the projects of any other US states? How would you compare activity at WikiProject Tennessee to activity at other state projects?
Doncram: I joined Wp:TENN in January 2011 to follow my interest in developing wikipedia coverage of historic sites, and hoping to get past some previous negative interactions with some TN editors. Maybe that was a bad idea to try? Anyhow, I started most of the 147 articles on current and former National Register of Historic Places listings in Williamson County, Tennessee, the only big county list fully covered so far with starter articles. Like most US-state WikiProjects, there's not much activity at the Wikiproject's Talk page, but in my three experiences trying to open a friendly conversation there, it has turned out to be, well, interesting. :) --doncram 21:17, 17 May 2013 (UTC)
Orlady: I live in Tennessee and I've been editing articles about my city, the surrounding region, and the state since some time in 2006, at least. I work on pages about my local area because the places we live are important in our lives, because I have found some serious errors in some of the pages, because I figure that local knowledge is of great value and that these are topics that few people from other places would ever build, and (importantly) because I've derived personal satisfaction and learned a great deal from researching topics about my local area and this state. (I'm not "from here", so I didn't ever have to learn about Tennessee in school.)
It took me a long time to list myself as a member of this project (I didn't do so until some time in 2008) because I saw myself as a individual contributor here. I didn't want to participate in Wikipedia "clubs" or social networking and I definitely didn't want to sign up to pursue someone else's project goals. Eventually I realized that this WikiProject is essentially a register of people who identify themselves as being interested in articles about Tennessee -- there are no dues, secret handshakes, or commitments to volunteer to work on somebody else's pet project.
I've edited pages about several other states, and I sometimes participate in their state WikiProject pages. I don't think WikiProject Tennessee is particularly more or less active than other state projects. A number of participants in this project have been active at Wikipedia for a long time. This means the project is well-supplied with experienced and capable contributors, but on the other hand it means that project participants are now involved in a lot of Wikipedia work that's unrelated to Tennessee, so they (we) aren't paying as much attention to Tennessee as they (we) did at one time.
Bms4880: I joined this WikiProject shortly after becoming an active editor seven or so years ago. I mainly joined for advice on articles I was writing. I was born and raised in Tennessee, so it was only natural that I started editing local topics. I loosely follow the North Carolina and Kentucky projects, and don't see a big difference in activity on any of the three.
Do you tend to focus on articles pertaining to a particular aspect of Tennessee? In addition to cities, counties, and geographic features in Tennessee, what are some interesting articles covered by the project?
Orlady: Beyond a preference for the geographic areas of the state that I'm familiar with, I don't specialize in any particular type of topic related to Tennessee. I've created and expanded articles about state government, politicians past and present, a tax, universities, local schools, tiny communities (some with funny names), rivers, symphony orchestras, country music, radio stations, historical events, businesses, coal-mining accidents, notable crimes, roads, parks, a couple of Civil War battles (not my forté!), and a diverse range of famous people -- and that's not the complete list. I think much the same thing is true of most Tennessee WikiProject members. While most of us have some ongoing involvement with monitoring editing activity around the project so we can clean up problems as they arise, I think we all enjoy exploring some of the state's "nooks and crannies".
Have you contributed to any of the project's 12 Featured Articles, 9 Featured Lists, or 27 Good Articles? What are the greatest difficulties editors face when improving Tennessee-related articles to Featured or Good Article status?
Orlady: I figure I could put notches on my Wikipedia belt (if I had such a belt) for two of those Featured Lists and one of the Featured Articles. I was the chief proponent of the FL nomination for List of cities and towns in Tennessee (subsequently renamed) and I later contributed to List of counties in Tennessee before and during its FL nomination process. Both of those FLs were truly team efforts that benefited from the technical skills, knowledge, and research contributions of several WikiProject Tennessee members, as well as input from helpful reviewers at WP:FLC. My FA involvement was with the article Manhattan Project, where I contributed to the FA nomination campaign, mostly by providing focused input to article sections related to the aspects of the project that occurred in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (where I live).
A general challenge I see in writing about Tennessee is a lack of accessible sources. There's not as much scholarship about Tennessee topics than there is for the typical U.S. state, less content has been posted online than I've seen for some other states, and Tennessee's public libraries don't have the level of resources found in some other areas (state rankings of public libraries place Tennessee around number 48 or 49 on most measures). If it weren't for the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, Wikipedia's documentation of Tennessee topics would be much poorer than it is.
Another interesting challenge I've encountered is the difficulty of documenting -- and the reluctance of editors from other parts of the U.S. to believe -- certain idiosyncrasies of our state that are well-known within the state. With the "cities and towns" list, non-Tennessee editors refused to accept that fact that there is no difference between "cities" and "towns" in Tennessee. It isn't easy to verify that kind of tidbit, and even in spite of having solid reference support (page xiv in ), Wikipedians from other states insist that "Cities" and "Towns" must be separate entries in Tennessee county navboxes and that separate categories must be maintained for the state's "cities" and "towns". I encountered similar challenges recently when I undertook to expand and improve the sourcing of Grand Divisions of Tennessee -- an article about an aspect of Tennessee that state schoolchildren learn about in the 4th grade and that is fundamental to understanding this state. The topic is briefly addressed in the state constitution and state law, and there's some standard documentation in lesson materials for 4th-graders, but I had a hard time finding authoritative sources to use in expanding the encyclopedia article beyond a stub. My experience editing in other states leads me to think that Tennessee is not alone in this respect -- every U.S. state seems to possess certain peculiarities that are widely known within the state but may not be documented in published sources to the level required to document them in Wikipedia.
With Memphis and Nashville serving as the historic roots for multiple music genres, does the project deal with a lot of articles related to the entertainment business? How does Wikipedia's coverage of the music industry in Tennessee compare to coverage of other entertainment hubs like California or New York?
Orlady: That question illustrates one of the challenges we face in documenting the music associated with the state of Tennessee: namely, the fact that the rest of the world has sure knowledge of the subject, but that knowledge often happens to be wrong. The story of music in Tennessee is far more complex (and, IMO, far more interesting) than the story of the music industries of Memphis and Nashville. The roots of country music are not in Nashville, but in the mountains of rural southern Appalachia: East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, etc. (See articles about the Bristol sessions and the Johnson City sessions, for example.) Similarly, the roots of the blues are not in urban Memphis, but throughout the rural Mississippi Delta region. Rural musicians found commercial success and larger audiences in the big cities of Nashville and Memphis and through venues like WSM radio and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and Beale Street in Memphis. The performing venues and recording studios of both cities have, of course, nourished explosions of musical development into new genres that only slightly resemble their original rural roots.
Having said all that, I also should say that I don't often see Tennessee WikiProject members engaged in editing articles about the music industries in Memphis and Nashville. Others may contradict me, but I think we tend to leave those topics to contributors who focus on popular music.
Theopolisme: As a long-time Memphian, I can safely say that there is no such thing as "bad" Memphis barbecue. For the most variety, come in May for The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest--otherwise, stop by Central BBQ, where you can get some delicious eats and (even if you're vegetarian) a bag of specially-flavored potato chips that I guarantee will be gone by the time you get back to the hotel.
The assessments of WikiProject Tennessee continue to be maintained independently of WikiProject United States, despite the latter project assuming the assessment responsibilities for many other states. Was this a conscious decision on the part of WikiProject Tennessee or was the state simply overlooked? Why would a project wish to remain separate from consolidated assessments?
Orlady: Put that question another way: What advantage would there be to Tennessee's joining WikiProject United States? We were invited to participate in the U.S. WikiProject on multiple occasions (1, 2, and 3), but nobody was interested. Maybe that's related to the state's personality: Tennesseans tend to value their personal autonomy.
Are there any Tennessee-related topics that can be improved by editors who don't live in Tennessee? What can be done to improve collaboration between all of the state projects in the United States?
Orlady: Regarding coordination/collaboration across state lines, I had hoped that WikiProject United States would foster such coordination/collaboration, but it hasn't worked that way. In particular, I hoped for a coordinated effort to update U.S. articles to incorporate the 2010 Census data after it was published, but that never happened. My queries about this on the United States WikiProject talk page didn't get results. I think multi-state WikiProjects with a narrower focus, such as WikiProject Appalachia, which is focused on a particular region, and topic-focused projects such as WP:USROADS and the NRHP WikiProject that Doncram mentions, can be effective at getting collaboration between editors from different states.
As for what editors who don't live in Tennessee could do, it isn't necessary to live in Tennessee to help out with a project like inserting 2010 census information in articles about cities and counties. The data are obtainable from the Bureau of the Census Factfinder2 website (look for 2010 Table DP-1) and it's now possible to permalink to individual Census data tables with "bookmark" links like this one. If someone wants to volunteer for this job, I suggest posting on the WikiProject Tennessee talk page to let people know what you are doing -- or to ask for advice about oddities you find in the data.
What are the project's most urgent needs? How can a new contributor help today?
Orlady: A lot of Wikipedia content about the state has started to show signs of old age. Some of the highest-importance articles about Tennessee (starting with Tennessee) apparently were written before current Wikipedia policies like verifiability were enforced consistently, so they need more references. Some important articles about the state as it exists today, such as Tennessee Plan, Tennessee Lottery, and TennCare, not only need more references, but also need expansion and updates to reflect recent developments. Many of the articles about cities and counties need to be updated to include population data from the 2010 Census. A few major topics related to state government, such as Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury (one of the state's constitutional officers), still lack articles.