User:John Carter/Wikipedia:The Next Generation
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Wikipedia, under various names, has been around now for about ten years. That's twice as long as Captain Kirk's original "five-year mission", and, maybe, it might be time to, metaphorically, bring the ship in and review the mission objectives and tactics. This is an attempt to do that, and, with any luck, maybe help the project in its upcoming years.
The name of this essay was not chosen completely at random. The demographics and other indicators regarding several of our editors indicate that many of us are rather of the "cowboy" type of personality, like Kirk himself. This is actually kind of standard and not something to cause concern during the early stages of any entity. However, we are now becoming a bit more "settled," like the Federation of Planets during the later programs of the Star Trek franchise. Taking that into account, at least some of us think that, maybe, we would benefit at least a little from having a few more Captain Picard-type people in leading positions, even if many of us also would have to admit that we find that character less appealing than Kirk. Unfortunately, we really aren't very likely to have a Kirk-type personality convert to a Picard-type personality, and most of us would probably not want to lose the Kirk-type editors we already have, particularly if we number ourselves among that number. So, are there any ways to help the project and some of its editors, who might have been more comfortable in the "frontier" days than in the current "development" days, continue to help the project as successfully and significantly as they have? Maybe. A few ideas come to mind.
Bibliography articles may well be among the least interesting for any of us to develop. They may also be among the most important to developing content related to a subject, and are probably among the articles which would be of the greatest use to those of us who use wikipedia as a "gateway" to other information and help us keep our material at least somewhat up-to-date. Unfortunately, at least at this time, we really don't have that many of such articles.
Several of our subjects are not of the kind that lend themselves to bibliographic articles. Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga, for instance, however popular they are today, probably don't have that many books written about them which would be included in such a bibliography of them. Many of our other topics, particularly those which are relatively stable and/or deal with subjects which have a considerable history, are or at least could be comparatively stable if sufficiently developed. Many of those topics would also be the subjects of a large number of nonfiction works, and it would make sense, both for our own editors and for those others who use our work here as an early step in gathering extensive material for their own uses. They would likely be particularly useful if they had as one of their prominent sections a "reference" section. For any individuals who would be reviewing related articles for GA or similar status, being able to more easily find out what the more current academic opinions regarding a subject are would be greatly useful.
It might make sense to try to encourage the development of such bibliographic articles. A strong case could be made that any topic which has at least 1000 articles directly relevant to it would merit a bibliography page, and several topics which currently have 100 or more articles could probably use one as well. WP:BIB could be used as a starting point for any individuals who might want to assist in such efforts.
The never-ending battles
It might be interesting to see how early in the existence of the article currently named Catholic Church the arguments about how much weight to give material regarding the Catholic sex abuse scandal began? One day after creation of the article? Two, maybe? Certainly, that topic has been a major point of controversy regarding this article, and, yes, disagreements about it have been one of the major things which have prevented that article from achieving a high quality status. The problem with this, of course, is that it also tends to force a number of editors, many of whom could possibly better be spending their time developing other articles or material, to continue to engage in these discussions. In cases like this, both sides probably include among their number individuals who see at least several of their opponents on the other side of the issue as trying to push for more or less attention to the subject in the article than they see it as actually deserving. So, of course, the argument goes on and on, apparently with no end in sight.
There have to be some ways to resolve such matters in such a way that the subject can be treated fairly while at the same time bringing the amount of neverending, and, to an extent, pointless discussion of such topics to an end. How, though.
A Is for Academic
One possible solution to such arguments might be using the "reference" section of existing bibliography articles, or, for that matter, the reference works on a given subject, finding out what the academic opinion of these sources is, and then using the outcome of such discussion to determine how much weight to give the controversial material, as well as any and all other material in the article. Certainly, if our article on any subject were, more or less, well-referenced, generally well-constructed, and gave the material in the article roughly proportional weight to the "average" of the most highly regarded reference works on the subject, most if not all of us might agree that the article were among the best we have.
Maybe, and this is just a maybe, it might be possible to make the existing A-class status a bit more clearly the equivalent of an "average" academic article on the topic, and, once that level is achieved, place the page under some form of semi-protection (or maybe full protection) until and unless either new material relevant to the subject is clearly presented or until some sort of regular review period comes around.
Annual topical meetings
We currently have ten categories used by WP:1.0 to "sort out" our content. It might well be useful to have, possibly at the beginning of the year?, a period of perhaps a month or two where a special page relevant to those subject areas, or more detailed subject areas as wanted, where editors involved in the subject can propose their ideas for any changes to the related content, like maybe proposing new "standard sections" for certain types of articles or new or different navboxes, as well as perhaps indicating the most contentious articles or topics in their field. If the latter could lead to perhaps bringing an article up to A-Class status, perhaps as proposed above, and thus allowing editors to work elsewhere for a while until new evidence is produced, that would probably be a significant benefit to the project. And, of course, if there were to be significant changes in the contentious material, there would be a clear opportunity to discuss how to change it no more than a year later, at the next annual meeting.
Some of you may have seen that one of our most respected editors, and a former arbitrator, has suggested that we perhaps more formally acknowledge "parties" in the election of arbitrators. While some of us have opposed that idea, in at least some cases because we might have reservations about politicizing what is, basically, a judicial post, not even all of those who have opposed such a proposal would necessarily object to the creation of an advisory group which might be able to, in a sense, help keep things go smoothly from one annual meeting to the next.
It would certainly be possible to have at the annual meetings certain editors designated with some sort of honorary title and given the function of, basically, keeping their eyes on the related content, helping resolve disputes where they can, and bringing to the attention of the wikipedia community any concerns they might have regarding problems with the related content. They might also be able to serve, if requested, as a sort of unofficial advisor to the ArbCom or other entities on the subjects. If there were to be annual meetings of the type proposed above, these individuals might be best selected toward the end of such meetings, with a term of one year until the conclusion of the next meeting. Maybe.