Wikipedia:The Problem with Projects
|This essay contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. Essays are not Wikipedia policies or guidelines. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.|
There are currently over 1000 active separate WikiProjects and subprojects. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The time has come to try to perhaps at least somewhat check the situation. What follows are a few suggestions as to how to accomplish this.
WikiProjects, and for that matter, "topical" articles in wikipedia, share one thing in common with your average tribble: they're seemingly born pregnant. As soon as a project is created for any individual major subject, be it a nation, an academic field of study, or even a form of recreation, shortly thereafter at least one subproject is proposed. Similarly, as soon as any major significant article is made, be it Kosovo, happiness, or Satanic ritual abuse, shortly thereafter the first subarticle will be created as well. And then the second. And so on, and so on, and so on, .... And, like tribbles, they will comparatively quickly consume all the energy of their editors, multiplying exponentially, eating up anything in sight that doesn't try to eat them back, and comparatively soon dying of overexertion and inactivity. And, by wikipedia policies and guidelines, there's not a bloody thing any of us can do about it. Probably. That's where the proposal below may become useful. It, like the characters in Star Trek, faces square in the face the unlovely appearance of those dear little entities that look like something the cat coughed up, and is willing to, at least potentially, watch some of them die without trying to prevent it.
Types and Grades of projects
It is proposed that there be at least three different "types" of WikiProjects recognized. These would include the "national/subnational", the "academic discipline", and the "cultural phenomenon" projects. Miserable names, I know, and if anyone has any better ones, lemme know. Why these in particular? Also, projects could be broken up into "core" and "ancillary" projects. A "Core" project would be one which directly relates to a standard academic discipline, has no obvious parent project which could take over its function, and/or has such a parent, but turning the smaller project into a subproject of the "parent" project would be less than productive. As an example of the latter, for instance, while Wikipedia:WikiProject Texas (and all its subprojects) are all in a sense clearly "descendant" projects of Wikipedia:WikiProject United States, considering that the scope of the Texas project and its subprojects clearly falls within the scope of the "larger" project. So, if that project, for whatever extremely unlikely reason, were found to be actively counterproductive for whatever reason, or simply moribund with little if any hope of reviving, it might very reasonably be considered to merge it into the larger United States project, given the benefits to be garnered by doing so, including presumably causing other editors to become at least potentially interested in that content, thereafter. And, of course, if it were found to be explicitly, counterproductively, POV pushing to such a degree that it merited deletion on that basis, the so-called "parent" project could create a separate "subproject" to deal with the relevant content, such ensuring that there were at least some ongoing supervision of that content. Other examples of similar situations could be used as well. Such was proposed at a recent discussion regarding the deletion of a project regarding the Republic of Macedonia, at Wikipedia:Miscellany for deletion/Wikipedia:WikiProject ROMacedonia.
The majority of the other projects, which, as it were, don't have recognition as being either nations or general academic fields, or are projects dealing only with a comparatively small area within one or more cultural phenomena, could be considered "ancillary" projects, as the content with which they work, while important, may already have one or more other active projects which are prepared to work to improve and maintain that content. This is in no way indicating that such projects as Wikipedia:WikiProject Elvis Presley, Wikipedia:WikiProject Star Wars, Wikipedia:WikiProject 24, Wikipedia:WikiProject Halo, or any other projects which deal with such comparatively "limited" scope are in any way counterproductive to Wikipedia, or less than useful in improving their content, so long as they are in fact doing so. However, if, as has been the case with some projects, their activity level drops to the point where it might even be better for the encyclopedia as a whole if they were to have the additional "parent" (for lack of a better word), become more actively involved in the content, it might be a reasonable idea for the smaller scope project to "formalize" a relationship
Like it or not, much of the content we have relates to individual nation states, in terms of history, locations, people associated with them, etc., most specifically existing nations. There is an "Economy of" article for I think every individual nation on the planet. There are also countless articles about politicians from individual nations, the history, including military history, of individual nations, the physical and political geography of individual nations, and so on. Also, in all honesty, if we want photos of articles related to any number of individual articles, many of which can only or best be found by editors involved with certain states, it helps to have a central gathering place where they can converge. Similarly, if not perhaps as obviously, it would make some degree of sense that separate overseas territories of individual nations have separate articles. Despite his best intentions, for instance, a citizen of Liverpool isn't really likely to be hopping a bus to take photographs of Saint Helena, nor is a citizen of Paris going to get one of Miquelon. Thus, although they might never be particularly active projects or subprojects, it makes sense to a degree to have individual subprojects for most of these major overseas territories as well.
The academic discipline projects should be obvious. In fact, many of the projects related to these major disciplines already have some style guidelines to ensure that articles related to their subjects are as inclusive and accurate as possible. I also think that it makes a degree of sense to include in this group subjects which have most of the characteristics of major academic disciplines, even if not recognized as separate disciplines per se, considering the "scope" similarity. Thus, there is probably as good a reason for there to be a Wikipedia:WikiProject Scientology as there is a Wikipedia:WikiProject Hinduism, despite the potential differences in amount of relevant content, based on the general similarity of the subject matter. That is, of course, provided there are individuals interested enough in working such a project. For purposes of organization, even if their names probably don't indicate as much, most of the various WikiProjects on the various kinds of lifeforms would probably be included here as well.
Lastly, there are the cultural phenomena projects. The name really doesn't say much of anything, and I know that, but I can't think of anything else which would be roughly equivalent. This would encompass athletic activities, spectator sports, popular media, food and drink related subjects, fashion, leisure activities, and other subjects which perhaps relate to but aren't actually at the "academic discipline" level. Video games, individual broadcast or other popular media, other hobbies, and the like would be contained herein.
Clearly, not all the extant WikiProjects even come close to falling clearly into any of these groups. Wikipedia:WikiProject 24, for example, is clearly about a specific program within the broadcast media, not about any broadcast medium per se. Wikipedia:WikiProject Myrtle Beach deals with a region which is not an individual self-governing nation or physically isolated from its "parent" government, and I don't imagine it is particular likely to become either of those anytime in the near future, either. Projects on topics like these, while they might be valuable for improving a limited range of articles, are probably the ones which, as it were, have the highest maintenance/development ratios, and the ones which are in that sense perhaps least useful to wikipedia as a whole. These are the projects I referred to above as "ancillary" projects, and they would be, according to this proposal, about the only ones which would ever have a chance of being deleted under ordinary conditions.
I should point out here that I would not include those entities which, whatever their name, are functionally still "subprojects" of a larger project. Wikipedia:WikiProject Sydney, despite its name, is for all intents and purposes, at this point, a subproject of Wikipedia:WikiProject Australia. Such subprojects, should, I believe, be considered to be entirely and solely the "business" of themselves and their parents. Beyond perhaps a few pages in project space for themselves, they don't particularly contribute to banner clutter or divisiveness, and should be recognized as what they apparently are, subordinate organizational entities of the parent project.
The "ancillary" WikiProjects
There is a very real question to be considered here. What should be done with projects when, like Wikipedia:WikiProject IROC, they come to the point where the subject about which they were created is itself no longer active. The same concerns can be had regarding WikiProjects which deal with any number of television programs, music performers, movie series, and other such temporal matters when the primary subject of the project is no longer an active entity.
This question has, to this point, not yet been answered. Some answers, although they might not necessarily be the best answers, would be that, to a degree, these particular "ancillary" projects, considering that they are, in effect, being created on the basis of their being able to provide either greater focus or more concentrated effort than the larger "topical" etc. projects, should be held to living up to that goal. If they should become inactive or, after a considerable period of time, fail to bring any obvious improvement to the articles they seek to deal with, they can become eligible for deletion.
Several of these projects have already been accused of "crufting" wikipedia with content which is, at best, dubiously qualified for inclusion. If it should become apparent that a given project is consistently contributing content which does not merit inclusion, or are not themselves contributing at all, then there would be no particularly reason for those projects to be kept, and they could be made at least eligible for deletion. Also, considering that they are, in a sense, "redundant" projects, I think it would make sense that their placement of a banner on a talk page is a de facto commitment to improve the attached article. So, if the Wikipedia:WikiProject 24 were to place their banner on the Kiefer Sutherland page, it perhaps should be seen that the project in question is indicating a real commitment to improve and maintain the article according to wikipedia's standards. Should they fail to do so, then that could be seen as being a "strike" against the project, and potentially either the banner or the project itself could be removed if they should fail in this apparent commitment.
The Future of Collaboration
As can be perhaps concluded from the recent template added to the Wikipedia:Article Collaboration and Improvement Drive page tagging it as "historical", right now, it is fairly apparent that individual article collaboration is a thing of the past. Honestly, I don't think that should really surprise anybody. With the recent tendency, for better or worse, to break up content regarding a single "topic" into one or more articles to ensure that WP:Undue weight and other guidelines are adhered to, it is becoming increasingly the case that there no longer is a single article about any subject, but rather four or five articles, one dealing with the overarching topic, and the others dealing with various aspects of it. I think the time has come when, whether we agree with that individually or not, we should recognize that, and at the same time recognize that it is not necessarily a bad thing, just a change which we should adjust ourselves to. How would such adjustment be possible, though?
One option, perhaps not the best one, would be to use the three kinds of project "types" outlined above as the basis for future collaborations, which need not necessarily focus on a single individual article, but rather on however many articles there are or could/should be related to a given particular subject.
Each month, or perhaps quarter, a geographic, disciplinary, and cultural WikiProject are chosen to be that period's collaborations. So, for this theoretical period, just for the purposes of having some names to deal with, Wikipedia:WikiProject Chad, Wikipedia:WikiProject Medicine, and Wikipedia:WikiProject Theatre are chosen as the collaborations. Those interested in working on the collaborations would be asked to contribute content relative to their specialty to articles relating on the collaboration subjects, in whatever article or articles that content would most reasonably be placed. Thus, editors involved in Islam might add content to Islam in Chad or some similar article, articles on how medicine is viewed and practiced in Islam and Islamic individuals past and present involved in medicine, and content in articles on Islamic theatre, performers, and the like, as their part of the collaborations. Preferably, of course, all those involved in the collaboration would focus most of their attention on content of reasonable importance to either the titular "collaboration" project or their own project. By trying to bring developments in this way, I think we have a much better chance of getting real collaboration accomplished, as we won't be asking individuals to try to write articles away from their specific fields of interest, but rather to contribute content relative to their field of interest regarding certain subjects.
Possibly one of the most contentious issues out there is banner placement. If this model were to be observed, we would, perhaps, effectively limit ourselves regarding most articles to only the three types of projects above. While that might not limit the number of banners as much as some would like, I can and do see that there may well be a degree of consolidation in that regard as well, and am to a degree trying to help implement a few such changes myself. By following this model, and perhaps encouraging inactive projects to either merge into one of the projects from the three main areas above or being deleted if their pages provide no particular useful information for the future, we would help ensure that the article talk pages don't become too overburdened with banners, while at the same time not being too "warlike" and "dictatorial" regarding what would and would not qualify as a project.
I would welcome any responses. Also, I know my writing is at times at least borderline incoherent. If there are any questions regarding what it is I am attempting to say in the above, please indicate as much and I will at least try to clarify.
Please place all comments regarding this page, and proposed changes to this page, on the talk page. Thank you.