Wikipedia:WikiProject Council/Guide/WikiProject

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This page provides instructions and advice for setting up a new WikiProject and for using the various resources that community members have developed for organizing WikiProjects' efforts.

A WikiProject is a group of people who want to work together to improve Wikipedia. The WikiProject is the people, not the pages they use to coordinate their work, nor the subject area that interests them. This page provides advice on how to organize discussions and administrative issues so that the team can work efficiently, but the most important task for a new WikiProject is to recruit and retain that group of editors.

Initial setup[edit]

Create a project page[edit]

After a successful project proposal, it's time to set up a new project! First, a project will need a base page. WikiProjects are generally in project namespace so you'll create your WikiProject home page at Wikipedia:WikiProject Your new project. The contents of the home page may vary but tend to include the project's scope, goals, participants, and some to-do list items. Most projects use the template {{WikiProject}} to fill their project page. This is done by substituting the template by adding the text {{subst:WikiProject|Name of project}} to your project page. Alternatively, you can copy the text from another project and adapt it accordingly.

In general a new WikiProject page should be kept as simple as possible and should be permitted to grow organically. While it may be tempting to create a page with dozens of rarely used sections of boilerplate, this is usually a bad idea; a small project usually cannot focus on many areas at once, and an excessively complex structure can discourage potential new participants—particularly if they're joining their first WikiProject!

Notify others[edit]

Now that your project exists, point other interested editors your way! Leave a short post on the talk pages of related projects to notify others of the new project's existence. List the project at the manually maintained Wikipedia:WikiProject Council/Directory (Instructions for the template it uses are here). The automatically maintained directory updates based on the WikiProject category tree, so add your project to one of the subcategories of Category:WikiProjects (e.g. Wikipedia:WikiProject Space junk would go into Category:Space WikiProjects). Also consider posting a note on the {{Announcements/Community bulletin board}} which has a section for projects seeking help.

Talk page banners[edit]

Many WikiProjects choose to create project banners to place on the talk pages of articles related to the WikiProject's topic. These talk page banners serve a few important functions. First, they serve as a recruiting tool, giving editors interested in those pages a direct link to a WikiProject where they may find similarly interested editors. Second, they can store information related to how the WikiProject views the page (e.g. assessment of the page's quality and importance to the WikiProject's topic, whether an image is required, et al.). Third, they can place the talk page into various WikiProject-related categories. These categories allow the WikiProject to take advantage of various tools that have been developed to facilitate WikiProjects' efforts (see below).

Creating a WikiProject talk page banner can range from simple to somewhat complicated. Project talk banners are generally created at Template:WikiProject Name (e.g. {{WikiProject Birds}}). The simplest way to create an adaptable talk page banner is to use the template {{WPBannerMeta}}. Using this template, a simple talk page banner might look like:

{{WPBannerMeta
|PROJECT             = Birds
 |BANNER_NAME        = {{subst:FULLPAGENAME}}
 |small  = {{{small|}}}
 |category={{{category|¬}}}
 |listas = {{{listas|}}}
|IMAGE_LEFT          = Ruddy-turnstone-icon.png
|MAIN_TEXT           = This article is within the scope of the '''[[Wikipedia:WikiProject Birds|Birds WikiProject]]''', a collaborative effort to improve Wikipedia's coverage of Birds.  If you would like to participate, you can visit the project page, where you can join the project and see a list of open tasks.
}}

which produces:

WikiProject Birds
WikiProject iconThis article is within the scope of the Birds WikiProject, a collaborative effort to improve Wikipedia's coverage of Birds. If you would like to participate, you can visit the project page, where you can join the project and see a list of open tasks.
 

Many projects also use talk page banners to store assessments of the article's quality and importance to the WikiProject. Talk page banners that use {{WPBannerMeta}} can add this functionality with relative ease using the instructions at Template:WPBannerMeta#Assessment. Basically, adding to the above template:

|QUALITY_SCALE       = extended
 |class={{{class|}}}
|IMPORTANCE_SCALE    = extended
 |importance={{{importance|}}}

Will give a talk page template that looks like:

WikiProject bird (Rated Stub-class, Low-importance)
WikiProject iconThis article is within the scope of the Birds WikiProject, a collaborative effort to improve Wikipedia's coverage of Birds. If you would like to participate, you can visit the project page, where you can join the project and see a list of open tasks.
Stub-Class article Stub  This page does not require a rating on the quality scale.
 Low  This page has been rated as Low-importance on the importance scale.
 

Where the value on the quality and importance scales will be passed to the template when it's placed on a page (see article talk pages for examples). The values for the assessment scales follow the ones developed by the Wikipedia:Version 1.0 Editorial Team. The quality scale is explained in greater detail here, and the importance scale here. One benefit of the {{WPBannerMeta}} template above is it will also automatically categorize the talk page into relevant categories (in this case Category:Stub-Class bird articles and Category:Low-importance bird articles) which will be useful for organizing project efforts and enabling various WikiProject tools.

The {{WPBannerMeta}} template supports many other optional functions including task forces, portal links, peer review, and more. You can read about these functions at the template documentation. Much of this functionality can also be generated without using the {{WPBannerMeta}} template. A set of detailed instructions is here, but is primarily targeted at those comfortable building templates.

Tag some talk pages[edit]

You've got your talk page banner, it's time to deploy it! Any editor can add any WikiProject banner to the top of any talk page (e.g. you might add {{WikiProject Birds|class=stub |importance=low}} to the top of some small article on a bird). When adding talk page banners, keep the following in mind:

  1. The article should be related to the scope of the WikiProject. Consider adding a message on the talk page or using the |explanation= parameter if the connection is not obvious.
  2. The presence of a project banner indicates to readers that the article has been, or will be, developed by participants in the project, and that questions about the article can be directed to participants in the project. When the project does not expect to support an article's improvement, it should not add the project's banner to that page.
  3. While all editors are invited to tag articles for any active project, the project can also remove its banner from any article that it does not intend to support.

If you'd like to add the banner to a large number of articles that can be made into an easy list (e.g. they are all members of one or a few categories), consider asking for help from a bot operator who may be able to complete the addition with relative ease. Also note that if your template name is unwieldy to type repeatedly, you can create redirects from easier-to-type titles (e.g. Template:WPBirds) and use that template title instead.

Getting to work[edit]

Once a project has begun to attract participants, the pressing problem becomes finding something for them to do. Keeping people around is harder than recruiting them; bored editors will quickly leave.

Organizing efforts[edit]

The simplest approach to focusing the attention of project participants is the creation of a central list of open tasks. For many projects, this will take the form of a simple section on the project page (sometimes using the {{todo}} template, although this creates additional subpages which may not be needed).

Project pages also tend to include:

Announcements
General announcements and notifications of important discussions and major tasks being undertaken. This may not be necessary for a small project—where such points can be better raised on the project's talk page—but becomes more important as the project grows and traffic on the discussion page increases.
Featured article candidates and featured article reviews
One of the most important items to announce to the project; particularly for a younger and smaller project, a successful FAC can be a great morale booster—but will often require the assistance of multiple project participants to succeed.
Requested articles
Articles which do not yet exist, but which should be created. These can often be culled from existing lists or navigational templates related to the project's scope.
Cleanup and expansion requests
These can be added manually, or collected from existing cleanup categories.

Tracking progress[edit]

Most projects organize and assess their efforts by tracking the status of articles tagged with the talk page banner. By far the most common way this is done is by displaying a table that tracks the assessed importance and quality for all pages with the project's banner. An example table for WikiProject Birds is below:

These tables are maintained by WP 1.0 bot. Setup instructions for enrolling a project are here. A number of other tools have been developed by community members for tracking the progress of WikiProject-tagged articles; a list of operational tools, and instructions for sign-up can be found at Wikipedia:WikiProject Council/Guide.

Other optional features[edit]

Newsletters[edit]

Many large projects post regular newsletters to the talk pages of members in order to keep interested editors informed of the WikiProject's progress and goals as well as any relevant discussions occurring across the site. For a list of currently circulating newsletters, see Template:Newsletters. Feel free to use any of those newsletters as a model. These are generally delivered to the talk pages of interested editors by MassMessage or by bot. To request help sending a newsletter, post at Template talk:Newsletters or ask the operator of a current newsletter delivery bots.

Welcome templates[edit]

Some projects make welcome templates to allow editors to quickly post an encouraging note with useful links on the talk page of new editors that sign up for the project. Existing welcome templates are listed at Category:WikiProject-specific welcome templates. These templates are usually substituted rather than transcluded onto an editor's talk page.

Userboxes[edit]

To promote project participation, many WikiProjects have userboxes that participants may put on their own userpage. A list of these is at Category:WikiProject user templates. These are generally transcluded onto a user page and add the page to Category WikiProject Your-project-name members.

Recognition and awards[edit]

Some WikiProjects have developed awards that they grant to members for project-related work, in order to boost morale. A list of WikiProject specific awards is at Wikipedia:Awards by WikiProject. Many projects use basic barnstars with minor modification, some have developed a more complex system of awards based on the topic they focus on (e.g. WikiProject Military history.

Coordinators[edit]

While Wikipedia tends towards egalitarianism with no clearly-defined chain of command, some projects have benefited from instituting a hierarchy to help organize editor efforts. This is typically done by appointing or electing "coordinators" who take on an increased role in the project's activities. Coordinators are not usually endowed by their project with any special "executive" powers; however, they are often responsible for making sure the maintenance and housekeeping work necessary for project activities is continually done. This organization has been more common in relatively large projects (e.g. WikiProject Military history and New pages patrol).

Common pitfalls[edit]

Most WikiProjects that are started go inactive within a year or two. Since the encyclopedia benefits from users collaborating to improve various topics, we would certainly prefer WikiProjects survive and thrive. With that in mind, here are some common pitfalls that seem to result in WikiProjects running out of steam:

Trying to do too much too quickly[edit]

The most critical task for a new project is figuring out how to work together. Editors need to learn how to edit articles together and communicate with each other on the project's talk page. To facilitate this process, it helps to propose a short series of achievable tasks early in the group's existence. By focusing efforts, the group is more likely to work together, and to feel afterwards like the group successfully achieved a shared goal.

Depending on the project's focus, initial tasks might be article-related (e.g. clean up a key article, create a series of articles, find and nominate potential good articles) or infrastructure-related (e.g. identify the ten most important articles to the project, clean out an overburdened category, design a project banner, list categories of interest to the project) or some of both, but they should be concrete, specific, measurable, clearly articulated and, taken together, not too complex or too time-consuming. To encourage other participants to stay on task, individual editors can provide a short status report every few days about what they have accomplished and how it relates to the initial goals.

Trying to solve every problem at once, however, leads to fragmentation of effort and leaves editors feeling isolated. Taking on complicated tasks results in editors feeling like they have failed. Taking on enormous or lengthy projects leads editors to conclude that the project is unable to complete anything.

Not recruiting enough participants[edit]

Many WikiProjects start with just a few members and are never able to attract additional interested editors to their cause. This inevitably leads to the WikiProject becoming inactive. No matter how dedicated the core WikiProject members are, editors' interests change, and editors come and go from the encyclopedia. A core function of any surviving WikiProject is to continuously recruit new interested editors to help maintain the project and its associated tasks.

Getting into disputes[edit]

Two kinds of disputes destroy WikiProjects: conflict among participants, and conflict with other projects or editors. Either kind of dispute alienates editors and reduces the capacity for productive work.

  • Conflict between participants. WikiProjects are fundamentally social endeavors. If your group doesn't work well together, the project is likely to fail. Fights between participants may start on an article's talk page and spill over to the project's pages. It is helpful to address these problems promptly, calmly, and consistently.
  • Conflict with other WikiProjects or unaffiliated editors. No project can control another project, editor or set of articles. No project can demand that another project support an article, change its scope, quit working on an article, or otherwise do what you want. Disputes may arise between projects or outside editors over formatting, such as the preferred system for organizing an article or the contents of a template. Disputes may also arise over quality standards. For example, WikiProject Medicine has higher standards for sources than WikiProject Alternative medicine, which uses the normal standards for reliable sources. WikiProject Military History has long had much higher standards for article assessment than the average project. In disputes with another project or with editors outside your project, your only effective tool is negotiation. If you need the cooperation of another project, approach them in a spirit of cooperation and look for appropriate compromises.

Inappropriate exclusivity[edit]

Nearly all projects maintain a list of participants; however, editors on this list have no special powers or rights compared to other editors. These lists tend to be inaccurate and outdated. Rather than dramatically increasing bureaucratic overhead to maintain current lists, projects simply consider any editor involved in its work to be a participant. This approach prevents the inappropriate inclusion of editors that listed their names but have since left Wikipedia or moved on to other areas, as well as prevents rejection of valuable participants that didn't bother to sign the list. In nearly all projects that elect coordinators, editors that have participated in some way but haven't placed their names on the formal participant list vote on an equal basis with listed participants.

Similarly, all editors that approach a project with comments, questions, or suggestions should be welcome and treated courteously, as valuable potential participants or current participants that simply haven't taken the step of signing a designated page. To make your project a welcoming, friendly, and ultimately successful group, avoid saying things that will be received as excluding these editors, such as "Thank you for adding your thoughts for the project participants to consider" or "We should keep this discussion among existing project participants."

See also[edit]