This week's interview almost didn't happen. When we aproached WikiProject California, a debate ensued among the project's members as to whether their project deserved to be featured in the Signpost. Concerns about the number of active members and how quickly the project produces featured content left many of the members second-guessing their efforts. Zzyzx11 commented that the Culture of California was limiting the success of WikiProject California and driving contributors to focus on other, more narrowly defined WikiProjects. Spongie555 considered the project's articles to be strong while the project itself remains messy, a description echoed by Killiondude. Optigan13 pointed to individual editors as the source of the project's many featured and good articles, noting that his contributions to California articles have focused on cleanup. To Amerique, the project's greatest attribute is offering a forum for editors to discuss articles and develop consensus. The Report learned firsthand just how well the project serves as a medium for discussion.
WikiProject California, started in June 2005, is home to 52 featured articles, 26 featured lists, 2 A-class articles, and 140 good articles. The project maintains portals for California, the Greater Los Angeles area, the San Francisco Bay area, and the Great Central Valley. Several task forces of varying activity cover the state's geographic areas. Collaborations with other projects include WikiProject California State Highways (with WikiProject U.S. Roads), WikiProject California Schools (with WikiProject Schools), and WikiProjects for the University of California and California State University (both with WikiProject Universities). Amerique and Killiondude took some time to introduce us to the project that covers the most populous state in the United States.
What motivated you to join WikiProject California?
- Amerique: A lot of work I was already doing was on CA subjects. Joining the CA WikiProject enabled me to seek consensus on some contentious local issues from editors knowledgeable about CA & WP.
- Killiondude: Like Amerique, I was already working on a lot of California related articles and was interested in collaborating with other people who had the same interest.
Have you contributed to any of the project's 52 featured articles, 26 featured lists, 2 A-class articles, and 140 good articles? Are you currently working on promoting an article to FA or GA status?
- Amerique: I was the lead editor on getting University of California, Riverside to FA a few years ago. I also helped University of California, Santa Cruz retain GA status when it was under reassessment. Currently helping out with improving Chula Vista, California and various other regional and university articles as I have time.
In addition to cities, counties, and geographic features, what are some interesting articles covered by the project?
- Amerique: California English, dude. Also, Eliza Tibbets is an interesting bio of the woman responsible for the early development of the CA orange industry.
- If I may add two more, apart from hosting the hippie epicenter during the Summer of Love in SF, CA also bequeathed unto the world the advent of Pentecostalism during the Azusa Street Revival in LA.
Nine of the project's ten most popular pages are about celebrities or technology companies (Proposition 19 makes the list at number ten). How does Hollywood and Silicon Valley affect the scope of your project? Does this help or hurt your efforts?
- Amerique: So far as Hollywood and Silicon Valley subjects are taken as symbolic of California or the "California lifestyle", I would say they do affect the scope of the project. I do not think they hurt the project; the more media resources that are out there the better the associated articles can be, I think.
The project is home to many task forces and keeps an eye on several other California-related projects. How were most of these task forces and projects born? Are some more successful than others? Has there been an effort to consolidate?
- Amerique: I was only personally involved in creating Wikipedia:WikiProject University of California. Generally, these projects are easily started when someone takes the initiative to do so, but are difficult to maintain consistent interest in. Most of the local, regional or municipal WikiProjects were consolidated into task forces of WikiProject CA last year, I believe. Most of them were inactive and it was decided that the work of all of them would be better off if monitored from the centralized framework provided by a state-level project.
- Killiondude: There were several region-specific projects spun off as their own separate WikiProject from WP:CAL, including SF Bay Area's, Southern California's, Los Angeles', Inland Empire's, and Santa Barbara County's projects. Some of those projects started out with a lot of support and backing from active Wikipedians. However, as time went on some of them lost the drive and were mostly inactive. Optigan13 (talk · contribs) starting discussions and ultimately merging all of those projects back in as task forces under WP:CAL. In my opinion, this was a great idea and probably stirred up WT:CAL as a more active discussion place.
WikiProject California maintains a cleanup list. Has there been a push to clear out this backlog?
- Killiondude: If I recall correctly, individuals have asked on the project's talk page for help clearing specific lists of California related clean-up listings, but I'm not sure there's been a successfully organized effort to work on backlogs.
As the most populous state in the United States, has it been easy to attract participants? If not, what do you feel is preventing more editors from contributing to the project?
- Amerique: In some ways, I would say the project like the state is a victim of its own diversity, in that there seems to be little in terms of social solidarity holding the populace together or causing people to view collaboration across individual, factional interests as a way of getting things done. So, anything that is able to get done tends to be as the result of an unopposed individual initiative. Nothing prevents anyone from participating, but it may be difficult to find people interested in or capable of effectively collaborating.
- Killiondude: As mentioned above, California has quite a bit of diversity. Wikipedia editors who live in California might enjoy editing film related topics (Hollywood), technological related topics (Silicon Valley), etc. I don't think there's been a concerted effort to necessarily "attract" editors to the WikiProject. That might be an idea the project takes into account.
How can a new member help today?
- Amerique: There is plenty of work, that's for sure. Any sort of "help" would be helpful, I think.
- Killiondude: As linked above, the cleanup list is never ending. ;-) I enjoy visiting User:AlexNewArtBot/CaliforniaSearchResult from time to time and helping out (or just reading) some new articles posted to Wikipedia that relate to California. There's also usually several articles that are good article nominees or featured article nominees that fall within the scope of WPCAL, and editors are always welcome to help those pages out or work on another article to bring to those venues.
Next week, we'll munch on a tasty morsel. Until then, cure your cravings with old reports in the archive.
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