This week, we found a quiet project with a lot of potential. WikiProject Algae was started last January by EncycloPetey. The project has one good article (Postelsia), although Diatom and Coral bleaching are not far behind. The project keeps notes on taxonomy which include lists of red-linked articles with which the project could use some help. We interviewed Kleopatra.
What motivated you to join the project?
- Kleopatra: As an IP editor, I edited en.wiki's "algae" (sensu lato), "protist," and human pathogen articles for years, but I only recently decided the algae need to be a group effort--and that's where projects comes in, coordination of group editing efforts.
- In the area of algae, there are few editors and lots of messy organisms and supercomputers gene sequencing molecular phylogenies, sister taxa, and horizontal gene transfer events faster than Macrocystis pyrifera can hit the surface.
- Okay, what's with the "algae" in quotes, sensu lato, and "messy organisms?" "Algae" is a common name for a large group of organisms that are only distantly related to each other. Phycologists, scientists who study algae, have traditionally focused on everything from the prokaryotic cyanobacteria to eukaryotic multicellular green algae known as Charophyceae, the algae most closely related to the land plants.
- That's where WikiProjects in general and WikiProject Algae, in this specific case, come in: how do we bring together the dynamic world of algae, the community of encyclopedia writers, and the information that a user should be able to find in a general encyclopedia on everything from a bacterium to a coccolith to sea lettuce?
What are some of the challenges your project faces?
- Kleopatra: Although many of the "algae" articles are monitored by general plant or "protist" editors. The articles get a lot of help from general editor members of the Wikipedia community, also. There is an editor who corrects the templates and categories that I create, for example. There are a handful of editors who follow my contributions and edit my spelling errors (sorry to have to admit that, though). I have a couple of bot operators who help me out, and there are some bot editors generally interested in the algae articles. There are plenty of editors with little knowledge of the topic who monitor and revert vandalism on a number of the more familiar algae. But, Wikipedia need more algae editors.
- The biggest challenge, though, is the algae. It's not a tidy group. It encompasses prokaryotic to eukaryotic organisms and billions of years of earth history. Many of the organisms are very unfamiliar and microscopic. But their importance should not be underestimated (photosynthesis!)
Does your project collaborate with any other projects?
- Kleopatra: I ask the plant editors questions, and I try to get their input on phylogenies and editorial decisions involving the algae groups most closely related to land plants. Some plant editors monitor the project talk page. Some of the algae articles are maintained by editors from other projects due to their evolutionary or food relations with other organisms (land plants probably evolved from a green algal ancestor, snails eat kelp).
How can editors help with the project?
- Kleopatra: Edit articles from algae textbooks that are less than 10 years old. Edit algae articles in one limited area: brown algae, for example, or diatoms. Volunteer to change cats or templates as I subdivide huge groups. Come by and voice your opinion at the project or on an article talk page. Spell check the articles. Simply watchlisting a single group of algal organisms, even if you know nothing about them, could improve the quality of algae articles on Wikipedia by your checking for spelling errors, formatting references, monitoring for vandalism.
- And taggers delight: Remove orphan tags from species' stubs, and add them to all higher taxa not linked to anything else. Tag unreferenced algae articles. Tag articles needing wikification. Tag confusing articles, then post your confusion on the article talk page and add a link at the WikiProject talk page. Subcategorize stubs. Remove copyvios, tag suspected copyvios and post at the project talk page. Search government images for free images.
- There are a lot of editors on Wikipedia who like to help out with vandalism (not a big problem with the obscure algae articles), categorizing, reference formatting, spell checking, deadlink locating, tagging. If you are one of these editors and feel underworked, please join the project, and I, or another editor, can you help you find a way to contribute. Your contributions are needed and your help will be greatly appreciated.
- Also, technical editors, template and photo editors could be of great use. Please stop by and offer your services!
Anything else you'd like to add?
- Kleopatra: I'm organizing the algae on en.wiki prior to trying to get scientists and microscopists to donate images of as many organisms as possible.
- I've gotten some nice images for Wikipedia by just asking scientists to donate them. I've never been turned down. Include the permissions e-mail directions with your request, be specific about the image you want, and ask! Ask!
- There was a big controversy a while ago about a bot creating articles from a database. There were multiple problems with articles and, eventually, thousands were deleted. One issue that arose was the creation of cyanobacteria articles with taxoboxes listing the organisms as eukaryotic organisms rather than as the prokaryotic bacteria they are. It's usually the other way around with many of the single-celled algae, such as diatoms--I see them classified as prokaryotes. The general public knowledge about fundamentals of organismal evolution is poor. Mistakes like this, incorrectly listing organisms as eukaryotes or prokaryotes, are exacerbated in the algae because of the overall unfamiliarity of many of the microscopic members, in addition to the broadness of the group that falls under this common name. Although the cyanobacteria are only distantly related to the remainder of the group called algae, the cyanobacteria are traditionally included in the study of algae. Their symbiotic relation to the evolution of the other algae groups means the cyanobacteria articles is of top importance to the project. Since the algae started there, it might be a good place for the project to start working on a featured article.
Next week, we'll sail with the majestic titans. Until then, cruise over to the archives.
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