This week, the Signpost came in from the hinterland to interview members of the Cities WikiProject. Formed in 2002 by Ram-Man, it now boasts 82 featured articles and lists in its scope. We spoke to Student7 and JonRidinger.
What motivated you to join WikiProject Cities? Is there a particular city to which you gravitate?
Student7: Wanted to be sure that Cities standards were maintained. They are pretty good and should be used (IMO) for towns, villages, all agglomerations of people.
JonRidinger: I have always been interested in cities as a general topic. Like Student7, I also wanted to get more city/town articles on some sort of standard, so joining the project allowed me to contribute to other articles, even on towns that I'm not as familiar with.
Are the denizens of some cities more active on Wikipedia than others? What can be done to recruit more editors from the neglected cities?
Student7: Yes. Washington DC has an "owner." He is pretty good but (like most owners) hard to deal with. I left for that reason. Turkish cities outside of Instanbul have weak support. Most additions are WP:SPAMmy. Maybe posting on WikiProject Turkey site to that affect would help (but would need to come from someone either a) well-respected, or b) unknown and neutral.Student7 (talk) 18:42, 7 June 2014 (UTC)
JonRidinger: The larger the city, the more people who are interested and looking at it, and likely to edit. I have tended to avoid larger city articles because of that. Most smaller cities and towns have very few, if any, editors, just because of basic numbers. I'm not sure there's a way to increase numbers for smaller cities. Most people seem to consistently edit town articles they have some kind of connection to (personal or just general interest), so it's a matter of finding editors who have a personal connection (which can have that built-in motivation) to edit these other articles. Could also be a case of having a given state or country WikiProject focus on different regions at varying times in the year, just to make sure the articles are updated and current.
Have you contributed to any of the project's Featured or Good Articles? What unique challenges does WikiProject Cities face when promoting and maintaining its articles at FA and GA status?
Student7: No. I am not interested in FA nor GA. Too much hassle for too little reward = "slightly better article" which then degenerates! :(
JonRidinger: Yes. I was largely responsible for getting Kent, Ohio to FA status and helped with Stephens City, Virginia too. The issue I faced was burn-out. In many ways I felt like it was arbitrary, and other things I thought were simply being nit-picky. Yes, there were some genuine improvements that were made by going through the process, plus I learned more about what kinds of content to include and how to word things better. Even so, I remember right after I got the Kent, Ohio article through FA, my editing declined significantly and I found myself less motivated.
Like I said earlier, the larger the city, the more editors it's likely to have, especially more anonymous editors. It's really a matter of helping editors to understand what is appropriate info, what isn't, and why. Too many city articles get FA or GA status and then are never updated, or end up with a lot of trivial information in them.
What is the state of Wikipedia's articles about notable neighborhoods, boroughs, precincts, and other internal divisions within cities? Is there a point where a division is too small to warrant an article? Are there any cities too small to warrant an article?
Student7: I don't find divisions that small. If a country has aggregated people, it should be using these Project standards for the article. Village has to be "noticed" to be "notable" I suppose. I have not seen "precinct" articles in US/UK/English speaking countries. Nor would I care too, which violates what I just said! But the precinct is listed within the neighborhood or city.
JonRidinger: I agree with what Student7 said here. For neighborhoods, if it has sources that cover it specifically, can have a decent article, though if it's not a large amount of info, I typically don't see the point in having an article separate from the city article. I simply add it to the appropriate place in the city article and if more information becomes available, then we can evaluate whether it would be appropriate for it to have its own article. For very small villages, I think, for the most part, have notability as long as there is some kind of measure (like a census). If not (like an unincorporated community), it should be mentioned as part of the notable town/city/county it is part of.
Has it been difficult finding references for articles about suburban, exurban, and rural towns? What can be done to ensure that far flung settlements are covered as thoroughly as major metropolitan areas?
Student7: First world, no problem. In the third world we have all sorts of problems. I don't think Wikipedia resources should be wasted on "remedying" this problem. 3rd world doesn't take censuses. When they don't they may not be reliable. They may be out of date. They may not include material that is useful beyond a head count. If the UN has no idea, how can we?
JonRidinger: Not in the city articles I have worked on. Bottom line is there will always be more sources about larger metro areas than rural ones, even in "first world" countries. There will also be far more people both interested and available to edit city articles in these larger metro areas who can find even more printed sources about a given city.
What kinds of photography are typically included in articles about cities? What pictures can the average Wikipedian easily snap on their daily commute or a lazy weekend?
Student7: There are often "specialists" that identify themselves for each subtopic. Like Christhespeller, but for other things. So there are "photo experts". I hate, truly hate galleries because they stop readers from perusing material beyond the gallery and take up too much space. Most large cities have notable landmarks. For villages, rural areas, what can you do? Must emphasize that photographer takes a picture of the city, not the sunset from the city, not the mountains behind the city, not the Washington Monument in the distance (when the article is not DC), etc.
JonRidinger: Most pictures tend to be of buildings or a general city view. Parks and other notable landmarks (like schools) are great things to be included, and especially any building that may be iconic, even just locally. Really, look at each section and think about what kinds of photos would best help illustrate that section. A picture of one of the schools or the library would help the education section, a picture of the downtown/central business district might work well in the economy section, and a picture of city/town hall might be helpful in the government section. When I go to a city article, I want to see what that place looks like. I do agree with avoiding galleries. If you have lots of pictures, great, but use the Commons Category template at the bottom of the page and make sure there's a matching category on Wikimedia Commons. Galleries can quickly overwhelm an article.
Does WikiProject Cities collaborate with any other WikiProjects? What can be done to improve collaboration between Wikipedia's various geography projects?
Student7: Kumioko tried to merge most US Projects under the United States. At least I think she did. Never quite understood what she was up to but seemed to be aimed in the right direction. So USCity should cooperate with that I suppose. Same for other country projects.
JonRidinger: Like I mentioned above, the various geography-based WikiProjects (for a given state or country), can work with Cities to help many of these under-edited city articles. They can also work together to get photos from a broader area. Editors who are members of the geography WikiProjects can post calls for action on those pages just as we do on the cities pages.
What are the most urgent needs of WikiProject Cities? How can a new contributor help today?
Student7: Because I am happy with Cities, I would like a new contributor to contribute someplace else! Sense ownership there? :) Use the talk page first. Outline for UK Cities should apply everywhere but North America where US City outline should apply. Maybe outlines should be renamed for that reason.
JonRidinger: City articles seem to suffer most from boosterism. New editors need to make sure they know what that is and how to avoid it. We all want our town to look great, but these aren't promotional brochures here. Not only knowing what it is, but helping to remove it is also helpful.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Student7: Editors are doing a great job! But (alas) hardly anyone uses Projects once it has matured (and Cities has). Which is why Kumioko was doing what she did. Post questions and sometimes get no answers. And we're one of the better Projects. While CITIES is active, I normally go to a major article for talking, rather than bother with a Project. Like Talk:Istanbul rather than Project Turkey, for example.
JonRidinger: Again, I agree with Student7 here. Use the Project pages more to communicate and collaborate.