Wikipedia:Peer review/Norman Selfe/archive1

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Norman Selfe[edit]

This peer review discussion has been closed.
I've listed this biography in the Engineering section as, as you'll see, Norman Selfe is a fascinating personality in the history of civil engineering. Please move this PR to "history" or elsewhere if you think that's more appropriate though. This article is based in large part on the CC-By-SA article of the same name imported from the Dictionary of Sydney. I've modified it for WP's standards and recently brought it up to GA class. I'd like some feedback on what it would need in order to pass as a Featured Article - which I've never attempted before. Note especially that because the source material is both freely licensed and also a Reliable Source, in some cases the sentences are both copied from and footnoted to the Dictionary of Sydney. This is the same as the situation of Florence Violet Mackenzie (also GA class). Both GA reviewers looked carefully at the foonoting on that basis and found it to be correct/acceptable. Thanks, Wittylama 02:33, 15 January 2013 (UTC)

Doing... Brianboulton (talk) 16:35, 24 January 2013 (UTC)

Comments The following is he first of two batches of comments. I have tended to deal with general issues rather than sentence-by-sentence analysis of the prose, though my comments includea few prose points. As a general issue, I have concerns about a slightly unencyclopedic tone that permeates parts of the article; I have made a few specific comments in that direction. Overall I was most interested to learn about this man of whom I had not previously heard.

  • The lead should summarise the whole article. At present there is no mention at all of Selfe's early life. A couple of short sentences should suffice.
I've had a go at this, and adjusted the general flow as well. Tell me what you think.
  • Lead definitely better. Consider a paragraph break after "...second public competition", followed by "Selfe was commemorated...". "Still stands" is not time-specific, but alternatives such as "as of 2013" are ugly, so perhaps leave this. Brianboulton (talk) 12:12, 1 February 2013 (UTC)
Agree it's a time-specific thing, but then again, all articles have time specific things (especially biographies). I've changed it to "is a local landmark" which is a bit more chronologically vague. Wittylama 01:14, 2 February 2013 (UTC)
  • The parenthetical insertion of birthplace and death place within his dates is, I think, unnecessary; this detail should be kept to the text. (It also looks and reads awkwardly.
  • To say he is best remembered by the Sydney suburb named after him is stretching things, from a global pespective. Better, I think, to say "He is commemorated..."
  • Is "causes" the right word in the last sentence? It has a voluntary ring about it.
They were his "causes" so I've expanded it to "social causes and public works schemes..."
  • There are several uncited statements in the section. It is a pretty firm rule that every paragraph should end with a citation.
There are now 9 footnotes for the 4 paragraphs (and two blockquotes) in the "Family background and apprenticeship" section, and there are also now 9 footnotes for the 4 paragraphs in the "personal life" section.
  • Nevertheless, there are still paragraphs which end without a citation. For example: "As adults, they trained in Italy with educator Maria Montessori and returned to Sydney to open a Montessori school of their own at Ashfield, called Warwick." Earlier, the statement that "As the rapidly developing metropolis was hungry for the talents of engineers, Sydney did not disappoint" also ends a paragraph, but as an unnecessary editorial observation this could easily be discarded.
I've removed the sentence about "did not disappoint which I agree is superfluous. I'm looking for a ref. about the montessori school now. I'd like to keep that sentence as it's such a lovely link between the family.Wittylama 01:14, 2 February 2013 (UTC)
I found the Montessori school reference! Wittylama 07:48, 4 February 2013 (UTC)
  • You need a clearer policy about when to switch from "Norman" to "Selfe". At the moment this is somewhat muddled.
I've replaced the vast majority of "Norman" with "Selfe" except in a couple of instances where it's talking about the family where it is unclear who I would be talking about since they have the same last name.
  • There are also chronology issues in the present section. You should consider dividing it between a "Family background and early life" section, taking things up to Selfe's apprenticeship, and a "Personal life" section, located later in the article, which will deal with the later aspects of his family life.
I've tried to do this and have created a "Family background and apprenticeship" section followed by a "Personal life" section. Please advise what you think. It's tricky because I've not written this biography as a chronology but more thematically. Many of his activities in education, commercial engineering work, government enquiries etc. were overlapping but it makes more sense to break them into thematic groupings. As such I didn't want to put things like the house moves and marriages interspersed through the text.
  • Generally a wise move. But it might be even better to put the "Personal Life" section towards the end of the article, just before the "Death" section. This is commonly done in biographical articles. I'd ecommend you try this out, see what it looks like, and then decide. Brianboulton (talk) 12:12, 1 February 2013 (UTC)
I've moved it to the bottom and made "Death" a subsection of "personal life". What do you think? Wittylama 01:14, 2 February 2013 (UTC)
  • Maybe the section, with 600 words, is a little overdetailed? That's about a sixth of the total wordcount. For example, there's stuff about Selfe's sister and her family that could easily be lost.
I think that due to the rearrangement of these sections it is less overwhelming now. please advise. Given that family was obviously so important to him I would be reticent to remove much.
  • Perhaps give a date for the start of the apprenticeship rather than Selfe's age.
  • Citations lacking in the first paragraph?
As above. In the newly refactored sections there are now 9 footnotes for the 4 paragraphs (and two blockquotes) in the "Family background and apprenticeship" section, and there are also now 9 footnotes for the 4 paragraphs in the "personal life" section.
  • The first mention of the subject in a new paragraph needs a name, not a pronoun. Thus: "At PN Russell & Co, Selfe made several innovations...
  • Redlink unnecessary. If there's a WP article for Russell, there's never likely to be a separate onw for his business.
I Disagree. Here's an essay on the man, also from the Dictionary of Sydney, which I can import (cc-by-sa), and here's an essay on the company published by the city of Sydney. It appears that they are both independently notable especially since the WP biography article states "After the father's death this was carried on under the name of P. N. Russell and Company, and became the largest and most successful business of its kind in Australia".
Inventor and engineer
  • Beginning the section "The boy" is a bit magaziney, certainly not encyclopedic.
  • "The advent of refrigeration in on the colony..."??
Changed to Introduction.
  • It was the "in on" that concerned me, not the "advent". I think the "on" needs removing. Brianboulton (talk) 12:12, 1 February 2013 (UTC)
  • How silly of me!! I've changed it to "refrigeration to the colony" after all. Wittylama 01:14, 2 February 2013 (UTC)
  • I'd prefer "former employer" to "former boss", which is a touch informal
  • Again I'm a bit uneasy with some of the redlinking. Unless there is some real likelihood that these articles will be developed (rather than a remote possibility), I think redlinking is best avoided. (I know there are other viewpoints on this)
I've redirected the australia hotel to the already existing article, removed the redlinks on the two oil companies and removed the redlink on one of the ships. It appears (not the least because of the illustration and also other inbound links to that page) that it may be written about eventually.
  • I imagine he was not "given" the chief engineer's role, but was appointed.
  • You should avoid making judgemental comments on your text, e.g. "as these words from 1900 show". You are a neutral presenter
  • The pronoun "first mention" problem identified above recurs here
Do you mean the phrase, "From the time of his return in 1886 from two years' travel..." Can you make a recommendation for how I would adjust that best?
  • No, I'm talking about the general problem of first mentioning the subject as "he" in a new paragraph, rather than by name. Brianboulton (talk) 12:12, 1 February 2013 (UTC)
Now I have "From the time of Selfe's return...". Wittylama 01:14, 2 February 2013 (UTC)
  • Redlinkings as above.
The redlinks here are to specific Royal commissions which I believe are inherently notable.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • "But Selfe's version of a bridge for Sydney harbour, stretching from Dawes Point to McMahons Point, was destined to remain on paper." Too journalistic - simple encyclopedic expression required. I would transfer "stretching from Dawes Point to McMahons Point" into the previous paragraph, thus: " 1902 Selfe won a second competition outright, with a design for a steel cantilever bridge stretching from Dawes Point to McMahons Point". I would then reduce the opening of the second paragraph to "Selfe's version of the Sydney harbour bridge was not built".
  • Omit "nevertheless" and "even"
  • What was the reason for Selfe not receiving the prize he had undeniably won?
I don't know - and it's not said in any of the sources. I suspect it's just a classic case of government bureaucracy and not wanting to pay for a bridge design that wasn't going to be built (even though he won the design comp).
  • The tone becomes too informal; he becomes "Norman", which is inappropriate.
Changed to Selfe
  • Delete emotive terms ("Alas")
  • Remove inappropriate italics.
Was meant to be quotes, not italics. Fixed.
  • "it was not for a further decade before the first tenders for constructing the bridge were called." Needs unmangling.

Second batch tomorrow. Brianboulton (talk) 23:00, 24 January 2013 (UTC)

(note: I'd rather not start on the rest until there is some indication that the first part of the review is being acted on. Please give me a buzz when you're ready. Brianboulton (talk) 19:01, 27 January 2013 (UTC))

Thanks for all the detailed comments Brian. I'll respond to all of these comments over the next 48 hours and will write "done" (or make a comment) against each item in the list :-) Wittylama 00:06, 28 January 2013 (UTC)

I've added a few comments to the above and am now working on my second batch. Brianboulton (talk) 12:12, 1 February 2013 (UTC)

My remaining comments:

  • Begin "Selfe" rather than "Norman Selfe"
  • "Slowly interest increased" would be better punctuated: "Slowly, interest increased, ..." (i.e. two commas)
  • "Now known as the Royal Australian Historical Society..." would be better as "Known since [year] as the...", as "now" is not time-specific
Done. And added two refs to the RAHS own 'about us' history pages.
Technical education
  • Begin "Selfe" rather than "Norman Selfe"
  • "through suburbs and regional districts) → "into suburbs and regional districts"?
  • Who is Norm Neill?
Clarified as, " Norm Neill, historian of the early years of the Sydney Technical College, argues..."
  • Again, "Selfe" not "Norman Selfe"
  • "It was a very trying time..." Omit the intrepretative comment; "During this time the relationship between the board and the government deteriorated."
  • Preferably avoid possible peacock terms ("vehemently")
Replaced with strongly - which is also conveys a sense of force but feels less emotive IMO.
  • Rather than the somewhat vague "which ultimately happened", can you provide the year?
Gave some more details about this, with footnote.
  • "He rejected an alternative proposal that the University of Sydney should take over". Can you clarify whose proposal this was, and exactly what responsibilities the university was to "take over"? When you say Selfe "rejected" the proposal, it sounds as though he had powers of decision. Would it be more correct to say that Selfe "did not support..."
Changed to "did not support". I don't know about the particular proposal - Google Books only gives "snippet view" of that source. I could go and borrow it to find out if you think it's worth expanding on, or remove the sentence completely.
  • I don't want to stifle all colour from the prose, but maybe "ruffled feathers" is a mite informal?
It's not clear for non-native speakers. Changed to "caused affront".
  • Final sentence requires a citation.
  • "the new century" - specify "the 20th century"
  • Who is Les Mandelson?
Clarified as "historian of Australian education systems"
  • "But Mandelson sounds a critical note too". Suggest change "But" to "However", and drop the "too"
  • Who is Stephen Murray-Smith? Maybe remove the judgemental comment on his assessment?
SMS is the "official" biographer - he's the one who wrote the Australian Dictionary of Biography entry. I'd like to keep in both a positive and negative assessment not merely for neutrality's sake but for comparison.
  • I don't really see that Norma's quoted comment explains anything relevant, and I'd remove this. If you do decide to keep it, it should be formatted like the other direct quotes.
This was changed recently by user:Aa77zz. Have returned it to the blockquote format now.

An important Australia-based article. With some final polishing this could fly at FAC; if it didn't make it first time round it certainly should the second time. I'll take a final look if you like, when you're done. Brianboulton (talk) 17:07, 1 February 2013 (UTC)

I've gone through all your comments now. Yes, I'm really hoping to get this to FA - it'll be my first. It's not gone to FA before so any final "polish" would be great. Thanks for all your comments! Wittylama 01:52, 2 February 2013 (UTC)
OK, I'll give it a final readthrough and make any necessary minor fixes. I'll give you a call when I'm done, which might not be for a couple of days as I have a few other commitments (including preparing an FAC of my own). Brianboulton (talk) 10:10, 2 February 2013 (UTC)

Final fixes: I'm working on these.

  • I've split it per my earlier suggestion; I think this looks better, but it's up to you.
Looks good as 2 paragraphs.
  • On reflection, I have doubts about the citation to the first sentence of the lead. It is not usual to cite a subject's defining sentence, unless there is something problematic about it – a contested birth or death date, for example. The only slightly offbeat word in the opening sentence is "controversial", but the controversial nature of Selfe's higher education should be covered, and cited, in the main text. I'd do away with this citation.
That's just my misunderstanding of the MoS. Have removed it.
Family background and apprenticeship
  • "notoriety" means famous in a bad way; criminals and charlatans are notorious. I would change this word to "celebrity"
Now changed to, "Selfe's cousin Edward Muggeridge (later changed to Muybridge) moved to the United States and achieved global fame as a photography innovator."
  • There is confused chronology in this section. The sentence beginning "From their house in The Rocks..." is completely out of sequence; you don't record the family's arrival in Sydney until the next paragraph.
Played around with this, should work now.
  • You should identify Mary Reibey, - don't make your readers use a link and thereby leave the article.
Done. Identified her as " a former convict who became Australia's first businesswoman."
Inventor and engineer
  • "Further recognised..." There hasn't been any previous formal recognition recorded.
Changed to "achieved international recognition", although you could argue that being promoted to chief draughtsman and the other projects he ran can be considered recognition in their own right.
  • "he designed the whole of the machinery for the merchant ship SS Governor Blackall". What does "the whole machinery" cover? Engines? Steering system? Loading and unloading devices? Cooking facilities... etc? Need to be more specific.
Changed to "he oversaw the design and construction of the mail ship". Given he was chief engineer of the company that designed and built the whole ship it's fair to say that he was the man who signed-off on every aspect of the engineering in this important contract.
  • "it is claimed to be the world's steepest incline" - say who made this claim.
Clarified and expanded.
  • Section requires a citation at the end.
Done. It's a duplication of one earlier in the paragraph, but it's the most appopriate for the sentence.

I have to stop now: will get through the remainder tomorrow. Brianboulton (talk) 23:18, 3 February 2013 (UTC)

My final bits

Technical education
  • It is not clear, from your summary of Selfe's ideas on teechnical education, why his views are described in the lead as "controversial". Perhaps "innovative" would be a better word to use in the lead.
The controversy was referring to his run-ins with government over policy. I've changed it to "outspoken" now - is that better?
  • "...but felt more was needed". This is too vague; you need to expand on "more", e.g. "a more creative policy"
Changed to "felt a more thorough focus on practical skills was needed".
  • "In 1883, the government..." Clarify that you mean NSW government.
  • Is the "unresponsive colonial government" the same as the one that transferred control and provided funds for workshops, per the previous paragraph? Now I'm confused. This section begins: "In 1883, the government transferred control of the Technical and Working Men's College to a Board of Technical Education". A few paragraphs later we read: "Selfe strongly opposed the government's taking control of technical education which had been underway since 1883 when the government declared its intention to take control of the Technical College". This may be a chronology problem, but the situation is far from clear at the moment.
I've added a new ref and clarified this a bit. See what you think diff.
  • "In the early years of 20th century, education became a major political issue in NSW." Probably more accurate to say "remained" rather than "became", as education was clearly a political issue before the 20th century.
  • The sudden jump forward to 1949 is a bit disconcerting. This sentence might read better if it lost the "ultimately", and the words "long after Selfe's death" inserted. Thus: "In 1949, long after Selfe's death, a separate Department of Technical Education was created, and the New South Wales University of Technology (later the University of New South Wales) was established at Kensington".
Personal life
  • "Much later" requires some time context
Put it as "the 1890's".
  • "stately house..." Hmmm, that suggests a very specific meaning in England, where "stately homes" are the country palaces of the (former) nobility. Maybe "stately" is not a good word?
Changed to Grand, also found its current owner and added ref.


  • "churchwarden" s a single word.
  • Sentences should not begin with numerics, hence "Twenty-one" not "21" (per MOS)
  • According to your account, Rhoda would have been 70 not 80, in 1954.
Very odd. I found the death notice in the paper, which says "59", so I put that in. The number 80 comes from the PDF footnote of the cemetery register which clearly marks her age as 80 when buried. Obviously the cemetery got it wrong.

A few final tips before you nominate at FAC

  • Read through carefully to ensure there are no obvious grammatical or spelling howlers or simple typos
  • Check to ensure that, in your use of sources, you have not used close paraphrases of the original text and that the wording is essentially your own.
  • When writing your nom statement, give a little bit of information about the subject and try and make it sound interesting. Editors who write things like "I am nominating this article at FAC because I think it is ready" don't encourage reviewers to engage with their article.
  • Make sure you mention in your nom statement that this is your first FAC nom; this should ensure you some sympathetic treatment.

Brianboulton (talk) 15:38, 4 February 2013 (UTC)