Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/News/January 2015/Interview

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Interview: 2014 Military History Newcomer Award nominees

This month The Bugle is pleased to present an interview with the nominees for the 2014 Military History Newcomer Award. We have asked these editors to share their experiences to date with Wikipedia, and ideas for improvements. Don't forget that if you have a good topic for a future Bugle edition, please add it on our newsletter's main talk page.

Thank you for agreeing to answer some of our questions. What drew you to Wikipedia, and which topics do you generally focus on?
  • Happy New Year! I initially got my start editing video game related articles like Game Boy back in August 2006 because I thought the article lacked sources and content back then. In the last few years, I've been working on articles in a lot of areas, such as in Japanese music traditions, psychology, individuals in transgender activism, and of course, in military history. I, JethroBT drop me a line 11:22, 1 January 2015 (UTC)
  • I first noticed Wikipedia in high school when I was looking for a website to do my homework. I quickly realized that Wikipedia was colossal collection of information on pretty much everything! Having a very big interest in military history, especially World War II, I began to read a lot of military-based articles Wikipedia had to offer. After dropping out of high school and suffering a series of totally unexpected personal setbacks, I was looking for a way to kill some time without wasting it—and so I started editing. I generally focus on topics related to World War II in Europe and Eurovision. I also have a great passion for black-and-white movies and therefore occasionally edit, improve or expand movie articles like The Lives of a Bengal Lancer. I really like the idea of choosing a horribly-written article with virtually no info, sources or meat on them and improve to B-class or GA-class. Jonas Vinther (speak to me!) 17:57, 1 January 2015 (UTC)
  • As far as military history goes, my main area of interest is the Australian Army. Cinderella157 (talk) 02:05, 2 January 2015 (UTC)
  • I decided to get involved when I noticed that the article about H.P. Lovecraft lacked some minor details (back in 2010). I edited from time to time on the Russian and Greek language version until 2014 when I focused on the milhist articles of the English language Wikipedia.--Catlemur (talk) 19:01, 2 January 2015 (UTC)

How did you come to choose some of the articles you've worked on?
  • I volunteer more or less as a Wikipedian-in-Residence for the Pritzker Military Museum & Library here in Chicago, and we maintain a GLAM project page here. We've mostly been working from a list of topics based on resources available at the institution, the personal interests of volunteers, and upcoming topical exhibits or events. I also organize edit-a-thons at the Pritzker surrounding broader topics, like the role of women during World War I. I'd say I've put the most amount of work into John Robinson (aviator), Sacred Twenty, Sidney Riesenberg, and Abraham Lincoln, what would you do?, among others. Some of these I've worked on myself, and some I've collaborated on with folks at the Pritzker. I've also spent time training volunteers/interns there, often new to Wikipedia, with working on their own articles and generally navigating around Wikipedia. I, JethroBT drop me a line 11:22, 1 January 2015 (UTC)
  • If I feel like I know a lot about a topic which is the subject of a Wikipedia article, chances are I edit it. Sometimes I like to take a U-turn and edit an article I usually wouldn't edit to try something new and meet new editors, but also to take a break from military-based articles as they can be quite energy draining sometimes! Also if I see any of my friends edit an article I might jump in and offer my help. Jonas Vinther (speak to me!) 17:57, 1 January 2015 (UTC)
  • My first involvement, about the middle of last year (2014), was to suggest a minor edit to Battle of Longstop Hill (1943). There were some inconsistencies with other pages and some ambiguity in describing the battlefield. At the time, I was reading my way around the Mediterranean Theatre. I then started reading the Battle of Buna–Gona. I was a little disappointed with the article and offered a critique on the talk page, thinking I might stimulate some interest in improving the article. I fully expected that I might have some minor role in contributing to this and be able to feel the waters this way. No! Not to be. I got thrown in at the deep-end. It's all yours Blue Leader! Since about October, I have been working on a major rewrite of this article with a substantial increase in coverage - Draft:Battle of Buna–Gona. It is pretty much finished and hopefully, this will be on the shelves at your local Wiki soon. I have also worked on a couple of articles that have been spawned from this. Cinderella157 (talk) 02:07, 2 January 2015 (UTC)
  • Whatever attracts my curiosity.--Catlemur (talk) 19:01, 2 January 2015 (UTC)

What have your impressions of Wikipedia's coverage of military history-related topics been? Do you have any suggestions for new areas of focus?
  • I am consistently impressed with the coverage and quality of many MILHIST articles, but some subtopics do not get quite as much attention in comparison to articles on major battles and prominent biographies. We have been focusing a good chunk of time at the Pritzker writing articles on music and artists that were written specifically for or about wartime efforts. Coverage is obviously not quite as easy to find, but with a little legwork, reliable sources can be often be discovered for even these topics. As for suggestions, some of the more conceptual topics, like Role of music in World War II need a lot of clean-up work and sourcing, particularly in scope to better define the article. I, JethroBT drop me a line 11:22, 1 January 2015 (UTC)
  • Like JethroBT I'm also very impressed with Wikipedia's coverage and quality of MILHIST articles. Many of them are either super notable or related to some sort of super notable topic which makes generates a lot of traffic which generates a lot of edits which finally produces quality articles. I must say I don't really think I have any suggestions other than—keep on rolling in the new year :) Jonas Vinther (speak to me!) 17:57, 1 January 2015 (UTC)
  • I have generally been impressed by the scope of coverage but I am often left feeling there is room for a little more depth. I think I have just given myself another job ... Cinderella157 (talk) 02:05, 2 January 2015 (UTC)
  • There are many wars and battles with zero coverage or two line stubs, e.g. The Paraguayan milhist, the military history of Kiev Rus and many more crucial articles are absent.On the other hand there are intricately detailed articles on subjects of questionable importance.--Catlemur (talk) 19:01, 2 January 2015 (UTC)

Have you found Wikipedia and the Military History Wikiproject to be a welcoming place for new editors? Do you have any suggestions for how new editors could be welcomed?
  • I have noticed a lot of MILHIST folks coming their way to help us with our articles from the Pritzker, and the assistance is much appreciated, particularly because military history is definitely not one of my fields of expertise. Rather than suggest anything to you folks, I think it would be prudent for me to have our volunteers, who are always new editors, reach out to you for help with their content work. I, JethroBT drop me a line 11:22, 1 January 2015 (UTC)
  • I'm actually not a member of the project, but can only say I have been greeted with nothing but very open arms. Editors like Kierzek and Diannaa have been nothing but welcoming, open, kind and eager to assist me in all possible ways. I think that sets a good example and is inspiring. Come to think of it, I have only had good experiences with the projects members. Regarding suggestions, I think the way the project is recruiting members now checks out fine—if an editor starts to edit military-related articles more and more, send them a "We noticed you enjoy editing military articles, would you like to join the project?" message. It might be what all projects are doing, but I don't see anything wrong with that approach. Also if an editor consistently edits military-related articles he or she will probably know about the project and ask to join if that person wishes it in any case, not that a small push would ever hurt anybody. Jonas Vinther (speak to me!) 17:57, 1 January 2015 (UTC)
  • My experiences have been at both ends of the spectrum. While working on this project, I have been mentored by User:AustralianRupert‎. I am very grateful for the assistance and support he has provided. Mentoring is one way of supporting new editors. I feel privileged to be part of the development of 13th Field Regiment (Australia) and particularly 1st Mountain Battery (Australia). Both of these grew from stubs to B-Class articles almost overnight and are great posters for how Wikipedia can work as a collaborative experience. On the other hand, there are those that want to issue commands but don't want to do anything, those that want to make sweeping changes without considering accuracy or continuity and those that if you don't agree with them, respond with personal jibes. I think that the experience should be about collaboration, consensus and the facts. It would be nice to have a little more feedback sometimes. By this, I don't mean affirmation but different perspectives that recognise acknowledge and respect the differences between editors. Cinderella157 (talk) 00:21, 4 January 2015 (UTC)
  • It is quite demanding yet some editors are helpful.--Catlemur (talk) 19:01, 2 January 2015 (UTC)

Are there any other points you'd like to raise that we haven't covered in this interview, or parting advice that you'd like to offer?
  • I have a really awesome relationship with the Pritzker as a volunteer; I get to work with new editors throughout the year and build awesome articles with them about all sorts of topics in MILHIST. TeriEmbrey, the head librarian there, has been fantastic to work with and is an honest and dedicated Wikipedian. If you're looking to become a Wikipedian-in-Residence, come talk to me about how to get started. Volunteering is also a great way to dispel misconceptions about Wikipedia (there are many) and see what is hard about editing and policies from the perspective of someone just getting started. After several years of being here, I think I forgot what that feels like, and it's good to be reminded. I, JethroBT drop me a line 11:22, 1 January 2015 (UTC)
  • It's just a small advice, but I think that the project—and all other Wikipedia projects—could benefit hugely from the creation of a "Project Ambassador". Like most projects have coordinators, copy editors, welcoming committees and main editors, there could an ambassador who—as the title indicates—would represents the overall project on Wikipedia. For instance, if I have a question about a Wikipedia policy I ask Diannaa because she is an administrator—that tells me she knows virtually everything there is to know about the English Wikipedia. If there was an ambassador, new project members could come to him or her for personal advice, project information and just general questions about the overall project. Of course all decent and civil editors are encouraged to do that, but not all the have time nor the shiny mood (no offense). An ambassador could also do much more recruiting than the average project member as well as representing the project to other Wikipedia projects which could possibly result in project collaboration or closer connections or both. Chew on it, maybe? Peace. Jonas Vinther (speak to me!) 17:57, 1 January 2015 (UTC)
  • The front of house - the encyclopedia is impressive and is user friendly. I think a lot could be done to improve Wiki back of house to make it easier for new editors to find out how to do things. The guide to referencing in the tutorial isn't up to date with the preferred {snf} template and how to do things that are not so straight forward. Following the links only gets more confusing. Also, the MOS could be improved for clarity and to reduce ambiguity. I have not been silent on these points but providing a solution is beyond me at this time. Making the back of house more user friendly will encourage new editors to participate. Have you ever tried to build something when the instructions were written in a foreign language? You either look at the pictures, throw away the instructions or just walk away. It all depends on how bloody minded/persistent you are. Cinderella157 (talk) 02:05, 2 January 2015 (UTC)
  • I think coordination must be established between the project and people working on ongoing conflicts in order to improve article quality and attract new editors.--Catlemur (talk) 19:01, 2 January 2015 (UTC)
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  • I was also nominated to the Military history newcomer award in 2012. While I failed to win the award, it is rewarding enough to be nominated. I hope those who are nominated this year would continue their good work in enriching this project. Arius1998 (talk) 00:22, 27 January 2015 (UTC)