Wikipedia:WikiProject U.S. Roads/New user orientation

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Hello, there, and welcome to the U.S. Roads WikiProject on Wikipedia! If you're reading this page, you're probably new to our WikiProject, or even Wikipedia in general. This page is designed to help you find your way around and learn about the way our project works. We're always happy to have extra help, so thanks for your interest!

New to Wikipedia?[edit]

If you've got a brand new user account and you've made a few edits, you've most likely received a Welcome message on your talk page. This message will contain a few links to some of Wikipedia's most important policies and philosophies. You can bring your talk page up by clicking the "talk" link in the upper right corner of the page.

(If you haven't created a user account, you can still contribute to Wikipedia. But we'd prefer that you create an account, as that makes it simpler to determine who is responsible for edits and communicate with you if we need to. Non-logged in, or "anonymous", editors are tracked by their IP address, which often changes when you reset your connection to your ISP.)

Familiarize yourself with these policies, and get a good idea of how to edit pages by editing the Sandbox, which is a page specifically for new users to play with (it's cleared periodically, so don't worry about breaking anything). Later, we will examine how these policies apply to road articles in particular.

Anatomy of a road article[edit]

Let's take a look at a road article you can use to get a good idea of what we'd like a road article to look like. Load up Oklahoma State Highway 8 in a new tab or window.

Your eye will first be drawn to the infobox on the right side of the screen. This box is headed by the route's highway shield, the name of the route, and a map of the route. Underneath this, vital statistics about the route are listed, including its length, the date of commissioning, and its termini. The infobox ends with a browse line where a reader can page back to State Highway 7 or forward to State Highway 9.

Opposite the infobox is the lead, which is found in all Wikipedia articles. The lead summarizes the article; if a reader is in a hurry, they should be able to read just the lead of the article and get a quick, well-rounded idea of what the article discusses. All major points in the article should be hit on in the lead. You can find out more about this section in the guideline for leads.

The lead is followed by the route description. This section discusses the route in detail, in order from south to north, describing towns it runs through, political boundaries it crosses, physical features it passes, and other routes it junctions with. Exact distances are quoted, giving a sense of scale. Your readers should be able to read the route description and have a basic idea of what a journey on the route is like. The route description is often the easiest portion of an article to write, because it can often be written with just a copy of the state department of transportation map as a source.

The next section is the history section. Here, the history of the route is considered. We learn the date the route was commissioned (added to the highway system), how the route was different then than it was today, and then the dates the changes from then to now took place. Note that some articles have the history section before the route description section, and that's ok too.

Following the history up is the junction list. This list (actually a table) shows all the highways that intersect State Highway 8, and the milemarker at which the intersection occurs. Counties and locations are included along the left.

The article wraps up with a brief summary of some related routes. Most articles do not have this feature. In this case, Oklahoma designates some highways with lettered suffixes. The "Spurs" section here includes a short note about each of the suffixed child routes of State Highway 8.

Following this are references and external links. The references section lists the sources of information used in the writing in the article. Underneath this is a list of links to other sites that readers can visit for further information. At the very bottom of the article are categories the article falls in.

Some other sections you may see[edit]

Other articles, toll roads in particular, may include sections not seen in the State Highway 8 article:

A tolls section will cover anything regarding the tolling system in place on the route. Potential topics include the tolling rate (the amount in dollars and cents a road user will pay, and possibly the per-mile toll rate), electronic tolling system accepted, if any, location of toll plazas, and the system used to assess the tolls (barrier toll plazas, payment-and-refund system, toll ticket-basked system, etc.)

If relevant, a services section can be included in the article. This details amenities the road agency furnishes for road users' benefit. This includes things such as rest areas, service plazas, dedicated law enforcement units, radio stations exclusively broadcasting road conditions or other information about the road, motorist aid services, etc.

Highways that were state-of-the-art for their time (such as pre-Interstate turnpikes), or otherwise include features worthy of note that are not easily discussed in the route description sometimes have a design section.

A future section will cover plans to expand the highway in the future. If you are thinking about adding this section to an article, please ensure that only actual plans the DOT is seriously considering are included in this section, not fantasy "it would be cool if" projects.

The WikiProject standards[edit]

All of the above sections are specified by USRD's article standards document, which is at Wikipedia:WikiProject U.S. Roads/Standards. (You can also access that page through the shortcut WP:USRD/STDS, which is a redirect to the standards page. Project pages start with "WP:", while discussion/talk pages start with "WT:". Shortcuts such as these are often referred to by USRD members instead of the longer, proper name.) USRD relies heavily on the standards page to help keep our articles consistent with each other. It is a good idea to take a look at the standards at some point to learn what we expect in an average article. The standards page also notes some more minor style points, such as preferred abbreviations. It also contains links to some other guidelines, such as the ones on freeway exit lists and article naming conventions.

Wikipedia policies and how they apply to roads[edit]

Neutral point of view (WP:NPOV)[edit]

The NPOV policy is a critical policy on Wikipedia. Instead of writing an article that takes one side of an issue, Wikipedia avoids bias. Rather that tell the reader "X is bad", we give them the full facts about X and let them make up their own mind. Viewpoints are often noted from both sides of the issue ("Bob McGuff said 'X is deplorable', while John Jones said 'X is the greatest thing to happen in American history'.") See the WP:NPOV page for more examples of how to handle the issue.

Fortunately this doesn't come up in road editing much. Seldom do people feel strongly one way or the other towards a random state road! However, there are some things to watch out for:

Controversial roads
This includes new urban development and roads through environmentally sensitive areas. You might want to stay away from these topics until you are more experienced in editing. You can often use statements from both the pro- and anti-road groups to help make the point that the road is controversial. Be careful in your prose. Avoid charged terms like "NIMBY". See Creek Turnpike for an example of how to handle such a road.
Scenic roads
Most people love scenic roads, and often want to express the beauty of roads running through forests and mountains. However, remember that not everyone loves driving through that terrain, and someone from a different environment might find themselves jaded towards your road. (Remember, some people find even the Llano Estacado scenic!) Instead, illustrate the road's scenery by noting any Scenic Highway designations the road has earned, and provide pictures when possible to let the reader decide whether they'd find a trip on the road breathtaking.
Roads maligned in the roadgeek community
For as much as roadgeeks like to complain about I-99 and I-238, it really doesn't need more than a brief note in the article to explain that the article route has a non-standard designation. More serious things like I-70 in Breezewood, Pennsylvania require more treatment, of course, but remember to remain neutral and not degenerate into calling PennDOT, PTC, and Bedford County every name in the book!

Reliable sources (WP:RS)[edit]

To ensure content is credible, Wikipedia has a strict reliable sources policy. The policy is much more in-depth than this orientation can go into, so it's recommended you read it yourself. However, it should be noted that we cannot use the vast majority of roadgeek sites as references. Instead, use professionally published atlases and DOT resources to help you cite sources.

When you have a source to cite, it will look something like this in wikicode:

<ref name="name-of-ref"> </ref>

Place the reference between the <ref> and </ref> tags. It is a good idea to give your reference a unique name where "name-of-ref" is shown above; that way, if you need to reuse the ref at another point the article, you can simply type the following to repeat it:

<ref name="name-of-ref"/>

Assume good faith (WP:AGF), be civil (WP:CIVIL)[edit]

Discussions here can get quite heated. Always try to remain calm, be civil to your fellow contributors, and assume that they are trying to help the encyclopedia unless you can unquestionably prove they are not. Remember, we are all roadgeeks here!

What should have an article?[edit]

It can be tempting to write new articles on the roads in your area. However, unless your article is a current state, U.S., or Interstate route, you should think twice, consult our notability guideline, and get input on WT:USRD. Most county and local roads are not important enough to include in the encyclopedia. We do not even cover city streets; instead these are handled by WikiProject U.S. Streets.

We have over 10,000 articles to maintain, and about 2,500 of them are of the stub class (see Assessment of articles below). For 2010 and 2011, we focused as a project on improving these short articles. Therefore, if you must write a new article on an important route, please help us and make sure it's more complete than just a short article fragment.

Getting in touch[edit]

Should you wish to contact the project at any time, you can do so by leaving a message at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject U.S. Roads (or one of the other discussion pages listed at the top of that page as appropriate). Replies will be left beneath your original message. This page is also where many of our discussions regarding the future of the project and other important goings-on are held, so you might want to add it to your watchlist by clicking the "watch" tab at the top of the page.

Usually there is at least one person active in our IRC channel as well; further information is available at WP:HWY/IRC. We are always willing to help new users get started!

If you have questions pertaining to articles in a certain state, you may wish to contact the subproject for that state (if one exists). See the section below for how to discover whether your state of interest has a project and how to contact them.

Your local task force[edit]

You can always edit any article from any state. However, many state highway systems' articles are worked on by a group of editors, many of which participate in the national USRD discussions, some of which do not. Current task forces are listed with links in the project navigation box. The task force pages may list additional standards based on the unique circumstances within their state, useful resources to help editing, links to sites with good sources, and more. It is worthwhile to check out what these pages have to offer. Discussion is usually held on the main project talk page (WT:USRD), but some states may have dedicated pages.

USRD departments[edit]

In addition to the subprojects, USRD has some departments which support editors by providing services that not everyone is able to do. The two main ones are the Shields department and the Maps department, which create shields and maps respectively. Both of these have requests pages where you can ask for them to create an image to flesh out your article. Feel free to request their help when you need it!

There is also the assessment department, which is responsible for applying the Wikipedia article assessment system to our articles, whose work is described below. USRD also has a newsletter department which produces a quarterly newsletter, and finally the project has a planning department for upcoming goals and ventures being planned by the members.

Assessment of articles[edit]

The U.S. Roads project participates in the article assessment system used across Wikipedia. Assessments are useful because they give you a means to track your progress in improving articles. In this system, an article can fall into any of six classes of article.

Lower Half Articles
The low four classes are those you will be working with most. These four classes are assessed by your fellow project members upon request (see below). You need not subject your article to any further assessment beyond flagging the article for reassessment.
Stub This article is grossly incomplete. Either it will lack divided sections altogether, containing just the kernel of what will someday be a lead and an infobox, or perhaps a rudimentary structure will be in place, with very short, undetailed sections. Occasionally a Stub-Class article will just be a massive heap of text with little formatting whatsoever. In any case, this type of article needs a lot of work!
Start The next class up from Stub is Start-Class. Here, you'll typically have one section dominating the article, with the other sections (if any are present) mostly afterthoughts appended to the article. The lead is more distinct here. Better than a stub, but could use more improvement.
C By this point, the article is starting to take shape. The three most important sections (Route description, History, and Junction list) are present, but are incomplete or not detailed enough. In some cases, the only thing keeping a C-Class article from reaching the next class is lack of technical quality, such as needing a copyedit, or proper referencing.
B The highest of the lower-half assessments; the goal point for many who are improving articles. The three most important sections are present and complete, the article is free of grammatical and spelling errors, and the referencing is halfway decent. If well done, this type of article can be trivial to graduate to the next class up.
Upper-half articles
These classes require subjecting your article to the Wikipedia bureaucracy to ensure it's up to snuff. (Your article, that is, not the bureaucracy—if your article's so bad that subjecting the bureaucracy to it may imperil its continued existence, you should likely stick to the lower half!) Think of it as quality control, or peer review, if you will. One class requires consent of another (usually non-USRD) reviewer; the other two require community consensus. At this point your article will be reviewed by members of the Wikipedia community outside the WikiProject.
GA GA stands for Good Article. Article meets the good article criteria and has pass the good article candidacy process. Obtaining this rating may involve your article waiting in a queue for as much as thirty days.
A-Class article A This rating is obtained by passing the A-Class Review process. USRD members will make suggestions for improving your article. A consensus will eventually be reached to promote your article to A-Class. In theory this is supposed to take seven days, but at time of writing there is a discussion there that has been open for five months. This process is a useful prelude to the process for the next class, and articles taken here are not often left unsubmitted for promotion beyond.
Featured article FA FA stands for Featured Article. Article meets the featured article criteria and has to pass the featured article candidacy process. If only it were so simple! Getting your article categorized in this class may require a few tries. All but the most straightforward FAC is an Ordeal, sometimes Herculean in nature; no two trips to FAC are alike and you'll generally have someone obsess over something you never even thought of when writing your article, or some obscure little rule in the Manual of Style you didn't even know existed. There are perks though! Articles that somehow manage to pass this get a little gold star slapped on the upper right-hand corner of the article, and are eligible for display on the Main Page for all the world to see. A true accomplishment.

When you have improved a lower-half article to the point where you feel its assessment is no longer accurate, you can request a reassessment. Just go to the talk page of the article and find the line that begins {{WikiProject U.S. Roads|... or {{USRD|.... Before the closing double braces, add |reassess=yes and save the page. This will flag the article as needing reassessment, and it will be attended to shortly (usually within a day).

What to work on[edit]

Now that you have some knowledge of our project and what to do, you might be interested in which articles to edit. Of course, the age-old advice "write what you know" is a good thing to keep in mind—it's a good idea to work on articles about roads in areas you know well. Of course, this doesn't mean you have to work on the area that you live in. You can write about areas you've lived in in the past or areas you visit frequently. You also don't have to write exclusively in one area. You might want to split your time between areas. If you live in a state with many active editors, you might consider "learning the ropes" in your home state and then moving on to another state with less coverage later.

Wikipedia has been producing content for over a decade. Over the years, we've amassed articles on the majority of highways in the US. A good deal of these fall in the Stub and Start categories described above. You can help by improving these existing articles! It is often better to expand an existing article than to create a new one, especially when you're new—part of the work is already done for you, and you don't risk adding another stub to the pile of articles that need to be expanded later.

Which articles should you expand specifically? It is often easier to work on an article short, rural highway—there's less to say about these, so it is easier to "finish" them. However, most of the articles that need the most help are the longer, more important highways. While these articles are longer and take more effort to write, more readers are likely to be looking for information on them. Therefore, it makes sense to concentrate on the major highways.

Welcome to the project![edit]

All right, we've said our piece...now you are ready to go out there and start editing! We're always here to help, so don't hesitate to ask questions. Welcome to USRD; we look forward to having you as part of the project!