Chocks away for WikiProject Aviation
This week we hung out with WikiProject Aviation, which covers all aspects of air travel. The project has 150 GAs, 52 FAs and maintains a Portal. We chatted to Mjroots, Ahunt, SidewinderX and Bzuk to uncover the hidden workings of this project which covers over 42,500 articles.
A P-51 Mustang
in flight. Image taken during an air show at Langley Air Force Base, in Virginia (USA).
A B-2 Spirit soars after a refueling mission over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, May 30, 2006.
Mjroots joined the project in late 2007/early 2008, with Ahunt joining in April 2005, SidewinderX joining in the middle of last year and Bzuk joining in the middle of 2006. When asked what the biggest problem has faced the project since they joined, they shout out different answers; Mjroots said that, one area of disagreement [in the project] is what constitutes a notable aircraft accident, something which WP:AIRCRASH attempts to resolve, but not always successfully. SidewinderX and Ahunt both agreed saying that there are many subjects, such as aircraft that still don’t have articles. In five years they’ve gone a long way, but there’s still a long way to go. Bzuk made a completely different point saying: I noted that the group of aviation articles that I read had widely divergent writing styles and reference notes. Although that is the inevitable result of a "too many cooks" syndrome, it appears to be getting better.
Mjroots was inspired to join the project mainly due to his interest in civil aviation and aircraft accidents. He is also an occasional SLF. Ahunt was a pilot for 31 years and is still an aviation journalist. He laughs, “So I have good access to refs. I have tens of thousands of arcraft photos which I’m slowly uploading to illustrate articles." SidewinderX admits that his background influenced him to join the project, as he is an aerospace engineer. He sees working on Wikipedia articles as a way to keep up with his field. With the added advantage of helping out others of course! Bzuk’s first contributions were entirely self-serving as an article on VC winner Andrew Mynarski needed some work, but since then, he has dabbled in a number of other interest areas including automobiles, films and current events. He's a librarian (35+ years), writer (10 books on aviation and counting), filmmaker (13 films as screenwriter, technical consultant and director, mostly aviation documentaries), historian (of sorts) and is actively involved in the aviation industry as an executive director of an industry trade association (at least till August 2010).
Off the coast of Pusan, South Korea: An F/A-18 Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron One Five One (VFA-151) breaks the sound barrier in the skies over the Pacific Ocean.
RAN Squirrel Helicopter at the Melbourne GP.
Steve Hinton flies "Glacier Girl," a P-38 Lightning dug out from 268 feet of ice in eastern Greenland in 1992.
When onto the subject of Featured and Good articles/lists and whether they have been the project's best achievments, all have been involved in the promotion of at least one, apart from Ahunt who says that, in some cases, he has seen the relentless pursuit of these [articles] under their rigid rule sets, result in articles that are of lower quality. He thinks that instead of these articles being the project’s greatest achievements, what are really important are the level of coverage they currently have and the great working relationships they have on the project. Mjroots, SidewinderX and Bzuk, on the other hand, all have stories to tell. Mjroots was responsible for the major expansion and promotion to GA status of BOAC Flight 712. This was, he says, the hardest of his six GAs. He also added that FAs are supposed to be projects’ greatest achievements, although he was recently surprised to discover that a main page FA from this WikiProject [WikiProject Aviation] appeared not to meet FA standards at the time. SidewinderX has recently completed his first FAC. He also, with the help of many others in the Wikiproject, got the CFM International CFM56 article promoted to FA. He admits that it’s rewarding to have accomplished that although he feels that they could have got 5 articles to high B-class level, which, he says, ultimately seems more useful for the community. Bzuk has actively contributed to most, if not all, of the FA and GA projects. He says that if there is an agreement to work in a collaborative manner there is a great reward. He also notes that the efforts devoted to Concorde in its latest reincarnation show the opposite with one editor dominating rather than working as part of a team. He feels strongly that the greatest achievements in the project are the coming together of experts in the field from all over the globe and yet being able to blend that diverse group together into a cohesive "band of brothers."
Aviation and air travel are a large project scope and the interviewees all deal with the vandalism level this brings in different ways. Mjroots is an Administrator so has access to tools and options such as warnings, protection and banning. Overall, he feels that the level of vandalism is not overly high. Ahunt’s method is simple but effective: long watch lists he says, laughing. SidewinderX agrees; “Long watch lists and a sense of humor”, he nods. “Also,” he adds, “A lot of vandalism seems to be of the patriotic type for instance, Indian plane XYZ is soooooo much better than Chinese plane ABC. It helps to be able to step back, fix the vandalism and hope the vandals get bored and move on. Bzuk backs up Mjroot’s point: “The aviation topic does not attract the great unwashed but most of the vandalism is concentrated on the high risk subjects such as POV pushing for Amelia Earhart being found on Gardner/Nikumaroro Island or in rewriting history in attacking the Wright Brothers, but eventually, the troll attacks bring out the admins and a suitable defence is launched. One of the most consistent vandal fighting efforts is the simple vigilance that is bestowed by having so many editors having a large watch list of the controversial subjects in our group.”
The interviewees' goals for the project all vary greatly. Mjroots’ is to create more aircrash articles and finish off List of accidents and incidents involving the Douglas DC-3, as well as creating other lists of accidents and incidents for major civil airliners. SidewinderX’s current goals include improving engine component articles (such as the recently improved Combustor and Turbine blade articles), as well as some of the high profile articles that recently lowered in quality, like Jet engine and Turbofan. Bzuk laughs; “My goals are to not waste so much time on trivial pursuits, such as this WikiWacky world nerds like me inhabit."
When asked how a new editor can help the project they all chime in with ideas. Ahunt points out that, because the project is so large, an editor can help by working in any areas where they have knowledge or interest and especially that they have references for. SidewinderX furthers this saying, “Any editor with an interest can jump in and start expanding or creating the 1000s of articles that are stubs or nonexistent. I also think it would be great to get some non-technical editors to read through some of our more technical articles and help us make them more accessible to all readers. Bzuk adds that the Aviation WikiProject does need to encourage and support newcomers who can help to expand the small group of dedicated editors, since the task of chronicling the story of aviation is extremely vast.
The new rules on BLPs haven’t really affected the project in any way, with Ahunt not working on them and SidewinderX not actually knowing what they mean. Bzuk feels that they’re not much of a concern: ”This issue [unreferenced BLPs] is not so much a concern in a topic area dominated by “nuts and bolts” I mean, the articles here...". He laughs. “But COI does tend to crop up, and one ever watchful editor in the US has been relentless in a pruning of the "vanity press".
With the end of the interview in sight I ask the guys if there is anything they want to say before their "ten minutes of fame" are over. As before they all want to get in first. Ahunt and SidewinderX both agree that the project needs more interested editors with a fresh point of view on subjects. Bzuk makes a similar point, saying that contributors who have an interest in a particularly specialized subject area can be a means of introducing the newbie to the benefits and rich rewards of working with a group of like-minded souls.
Next week, the Report will wave the checkered flag. Until then, feel free to burn some rubber in the archive.