Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/Newsroom/WikiProject desk/Interviews

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Please add your response below each question and feel free to skip any questions that you don't feel comfortable answering. Multiple editors will have an opportunity to respond to the interview questions, so be sure to sign each answer. If you know anyone else who would like to participate in the interview, please share this with them.


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  1. What interests you about WikiProject Christianity? Do you have a real world connection to the religion? [Feel free not to answer if you do not wish to share]
    A:Yeah, I'm an active Catholic, who also has studied a fair amount of religion in general in school. John Carter (talk) 18:44, 10 March 2015 (UTC)
  2. Article development seems to be a primary focus of the project, which boasts an impressive 138 featured articles, but at the same time, there are 16 top importance articles currently rated as stubs. Quite simply, is improvement of these articles a priority, and how does the project go about doing so?
    A:Improvement is, but sometimes finding out how to do so can be difficult. There is at least one current estimate of there existing 20,000 distinct Christian denominations, broadly defined, out there today. That's not counting the untold number of older groups that have faded away over the years. Finding ways to fairly and neutrally develop the core topics can be problematic. There are a few editors, including me, working on developing material from old reference works over at wikisource, which, theoretically, barring any changes in academic views in the interim as found in more recent sources, could be used to develop a lot of the related content here. While the sheer breadth of extant and yet-to-be-created articles can be problematic we are at least in the early stages of maybe getting the structure of the content here more fully fleshed out. John Carter (talk) 18:44, 10 March 2015 (UTC)
  3. Recently, the challenges of working in this topic area have been revealed to the entire community with arbitration cases such as Historicity of Jesus and Christianity and Sexuality. Do the issues in these cases typify general challenges, or are these extreme cases? More broadly, as religion is such a personal topic, how difficult is it to maintain a neutral point of view, and what strategies does the project use in seeking to achieve one?
    A: I feel that it is much easier to maintain a NPOV when one has access to both sides of the argument, as not only does this allow me to clarify historical debates but it also prevents me from hearing only one side of the argument so that I can accurately record historical events without bias. Mugsalot (talk) 12:09, 8 March 2015 (UTC)
    A: There have been particularly in the west since the 1960s really serious changes in the popular and academic views regarding religion in general. Particular attention has seemingly been given to topics which might, in the eyes of some, be able to "disprove" core beliefs of Christianity and other religions, particularly in the secularism and new atheism communities. Some of these recent changes have gotten widespread academic support, others have received less support. The significant cultural changes brought about by contraceptives and other developments have brought about quite a few changes in all sorts of groups, including some specifically Christian groups and some others. Finding ways to keep the content NPOV, particularly when some editors on both sides might reasonably be seen as having serious POV difficulties, can be and like in those cases sometimes is really problematic. Luckily, there aren't that many such topics that are subject to particular controversy at any given time. John Carter (talk) 18:44, 10 March 2015 (UTC)
    A: A related problem is that a popular literature has developed (sometimes authored by academics making their mark in this or that well-studied niche and sometimes advanced by people with no credentials in the field) that exploits a textual or archaeological interpretation to advance sensationalistic, book-selling hype or revisionist premises. I can think of several instances where editors have latched on to such fringe statements, mistaking them as being widely accepted; ignoring the mainstream view of scholarship in the field and often also missing any subtle qualifiers that the author may have inserted. When an idea is intriguing, however unsupported by other evidence or scholarship, some editors have insisted on inserting fringey material into articles (or making them the subject of entire articles). On rare occasions, a novel thesis will eventually receive enough backing that it makes a dent in the mainstream scholarly view, at which point it deserves inclusion in articles. It can be difficult to convince editors, however, that policy requires that we await the academic process to work itself out before the encyclopedia can report such material as even a notable minority view within an article. As in other little-watched areas of Wikipedia, this type of questionable material is extremely difficult to keep out of articles per policy. It often takes only one or two advocates of inserting a purely speculative and otherwise unsupported marginal or fringe material to dominate discussion and "consensus" in little-watched areas. Dispute resolution processes largely ignores content, so this sort of situation can be extremely frustrating to the few editors who may be attempting to keep an article reflecting the weight of the significant reporting in reliable sources. For those articles where a large enough segment of the community is not watching to provide balance, the encyclopedia often ends up reporting unencyclopedic information, and because there is no ready recourse when someone challenges fringey information, such disputes sometimes result in the loss of valuable editors, and the repetitive walls of text and frustrated attempts at correction are off-putting to new editors, even scholars, who come to such pages. Lack of content oversight and avenues for resolving content disputes is a Wikipedia-wide problem for largely unwatched topics, but as the religion projects have many such articles, it is particularly noticeable here. (from User:Astynax, via e-mail, who says in the e-mail he is under the weather and less sure of his judgment as a result. I think it is just fine myself.) John Carter (talk) 14:42, 12 March 2015 (UTC)
  4. Personally, what has been your most rewarding experience with WikiProject Christianity?
    A:I'm a bit of a history buff myself, and finding out about some of the now smaller groups, like the Assyrian Church of the East, Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Syriac Orthodox Church, and [{Armenian Apostolic Church]], and how they have influenced, sometimes in very big ways, our current culture has been fascinating. Particularly when for some of these topics the available English language sources can be rather weak or hard to access. One of the biggest examples that comes to mind is the Ethiopian Meqabyan, which so far as I can tell have become available in English only since 2008 in a vanity press translation. John Carter (talk) 18:44, 10 March 2015 (UTC)
  5. I noticed you have a project newsletter. What does it cover, and is it effective in recruiting and engaging members?
    A:I regret to say that the newsletter has been inactive for some time now. I would love to see it reactivated, if anyone wanted to, but I myself haven't had the time to do so lately. John Carter (talk) 18:44, 10 March 2015 (UTC)
  6. The project has a lengthy to do list, which looks rather overwhelming, quite frankly. What are the most important tasks for the project right now, and how can new contributors help?
    A:Like I said, there are about 20,000 extant Christian denominations of all sorts out there, and an untold number of now defunct groups. Probably the biggest priority is getting the more core articles up to a decent level of development so we can know what is to be included in those articles, and what material would best be included in some spinout article. From the standpoint of building construction, as it were, we've got a few good walls up but still have some serious questions with the foundations and basement. Getting the more central articles up to good status, along with those articles which, for whatever reason, get the more short-term attention, is probably our core need right now, pretty much like it is with most other projects. John Carter (talk) 18:44, 10 March 2015 (UTC)