Talking wicket with WikiProject Cricket
This week, we turn our attention to WikiProject Cricket. Started by Jguk 2 in December 2004, it is one of the most active projects around, with 194 members. An enduring WikiProject with six years under its belt, it boasts 59 Featured articles, 48 Featured lists, 76 Good articles, a Featured portal and a Featured topic – with a total of 21,039 assessed articles. It might come as a surprise to some that cricket is the world's second most popular sport, after association football. First documented as being played in southern England in the 16th century, it had become the national sport of England by the end of the 18th century. The sport's growth is tied to the expansion of the British Empire, and by the mid-19th century, the first international matches were being held. Today, the game's governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), has 105 member countries. With a history spanning over 400 years, there is a wealth of cricket content out there, with Wikipedia becoming a major source of information related to the sport.
Lord's Cricket Ground
(known as "Lord's") is widely referred to as the "home of cricket", and houses the world's oldest sporting museum.
Sir Donald Bradman
had a Test average of 99.94 and an overall first-class average of 95.14, records unapproached by any other player.
The Signpost interviewed project members Harrias, Dweller, SGGH, BlackJack, AssociateAffiliate, Moondyne and Mattinbgn, and asked what motivated them to become members of WikiProject Cricket.
Both Harrias and Dweller were working on cricket articles and as a result, were invited to join the project. SGGH, Jack, AssociateAffiliate, Moondyne and Mattinbgn have all been avid cricket fans since they were young, and it was natural for them to gravitate towards the subject on Wikipedia. Dweller said, "We try to be a friendly bunch and in turn, I often invite others I spot editing about cricket to join the Project. We're good at collaborations, working on important articles and Featured material, and that alone is a good reason to join. I think the work we did, led by YellowMonkey, on "The Invincibles" Featured Topic, is a model of this kind of group editing." Jack has written material on the subject elsewhere, and when he started using Wikipedia, he noticed that there was a lack of coverage prior to the start of Test cricket in 1877, and decided to get involved and rectify that. Long-time member Moondyne added,"I think my very first cricket article was creating a stub on Bill Lawry in late 2004. That led me to join the [then] recently created Cricket project. It's possibly because of the nature of the game that WikiProject Cricket members are the most courteous and helpful bunch of Wikipedians I've come across. Many have come and gone but all have been fine people to collaborate with." Mattinbgn has a reasonable library of cricket books at hand: "It seemed like the one place where I could contribute with an adequate level of background knowledge using high quality sources. It also seemed like a place where collaboration on articles was positively appreciated with little sense of ownership of articles."
With over 20,000 articles associated with the project, how do project members keep up? Everyone agreed that the project benefits from a large number of committed editors. Some, like Harrias, concentrate on specific areas, such as Somerset County Cricket Club. Reinforcing this point, AssociateAffiliate said, "It is all down to the commitment of members, many of whom have contributed answers here and who contribute amazing articles to the project. Last year, I went through all the Hampshire redlinks and created articles for outstanding redlinked players, without going into too much detail on each. But contributors like Harrias can find the most obscure of players and find out so much info about them! My focus is on county cricket and minor international cricket, with thousands of players needing articles, expect that 21,029 to increase rapidly!" There is also good coordination on the project's talk pages, and any urgent matters are dealt with swiftly. "There's such a diversity of interests and we have so many members, it just seems to happen. As long as there are defined and achievable goals, people will gravitate towards completing them," added Moondyne.
We asked how the project managed to get so many articles promoted. Almost all said that YellowMonkey's FA drive for the "The Invincibles" was one major factor. Harrias believes that statistics also play a role; "we are lucky to be writing about a topic about which there is a lot written, and perhaps more importantly, a formal level of recognition (for example, Test cricket), and a lot of statistics. Without those statistics for example, I doubt there would be even half as many FLs. I think the key thing for other projects is to get some formats they are happy with for certain types of articles, formats that have passed FA/FL themselves, and use these as rough templates for any further articles that look to progress along that track. It might not guarantee success, but it certainly helps." For Dweller, the tremendous enthusiasm for the subject helps to generate high quality content; "this is mirrored in the offline world by the enormous publishing industry revolving around cricket. With such a long history – around 300 years of so-called "Major cricket" and about 130 years of "Test match" international cricket – it's unsurprising that there is much to write about. And there is so much quality material freely available on the internet. This, combined with the collaboration mentioned above, is a great basis for developing quality material." Jack offers a different perspective: "I have always taken the view that the project needs quantity because we have far too many redlinks. I would rather see the massive list of biographical redlinks produced by Bobo192 turn blue before we get any FAs. I see the priority to be our breadth of coverage. But all credit to those who have produced prize articles and I would say the main reason for CRIC's success in the FA sphere is "The Invincibles" topic... I must also mention my fellow Yorkie Sarastro1 who has written several major articles working mostly by himself, especially Wilfred Rhodes, an article about a world-class Yorkshire cricketer which I once condemned on its talk page. That was before Sarastro joined us and the article isn't rubbish now."
With a lot of emotions of national pride on the table, how do project members maintain a neutral point of view? Most agree that this is not a problem for them, although it is a concern for SGGH; "Ha... this is my biggest grumble. A lot of articles out there have been written long ago in this emotional flair Wisden-style "his crisp drives like sniffing at a newly mown lawn drew the most poetic of vernacular from astonished supporters" and all that nonsense that fits beautifully into Wisden but not into Wikipedia. So, so many of the articles out there still have this problem, most of them saying "he was the best so-and-so" and so forth. It takes a lot of pruning. You can write with flair and passion in an article and still keep it suitable for Wikipedia..." Dweller believes that much of what is written about precedes the lifetimes of the editors; "The POV is less about national rivalries–as an Englishman, I've contributed far more to Australian biographies than English ones–than trying to avoid hagiography. Fortunately, cricket literature abounds with material about controversies and the foibles of former greats. Even Donald Bradman, whose feats dominate not just cricket history, but arguably, the history of sport, has generated a substantial daughter article about controversies involving him." For Jack the "national pride" is 99% good-natured as the sport itself is the thing and not national affiliation; "Several of my favourite players over the years have been non-English. I admit I write mostly about English cricket because that accounted for nearly the whole sport until the second half of the 19th century, but I have tried to develop coverage of other countries too and wrote outline histories of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, for example." Despite being a patriotic Englishman, AssociateAffiliate manages to keep well within NPOV, but as for others, "It is one of the more annoying aspects of the project that you can go on, say articles about Sachin Tendulkar and Shakib Al Hasan, they're like patriotic cult worship articles at times, with all sorts of "he is the best", "he is a god" nonsense appearing. Kevin Pietersen and Shane Warne are cricketing gods, but you don't see me include that in their articles! One of the newer cricketing nations, Afghanistan for example, has such a fan following. Thus far I've managed to avoid articles like the Afghanistan national cricket team, or player Hameed Hasan becoming the opposite of NPOV. Hard work, but I'm winning so far!" Moondyne said, "Bias from national pride often appears in hagiographies particularly from the sub-continent and star players like Tendulkar seem to suffer from it the worst. But it's nothing that can't be managed." On the other hand, Mattinbgn believes that national pride is not really an issue among the major contributors, "but dealing with "drive-by vandalism" during big matches and tournaments can be annoying."
We wanted to know what are the most pressing needs for WikiProject Cricket, and what new contributors can do to help. Despite the project having over 20,000 articles, all who were interviewed wanted to see more content. In addition to this, Dweller laments that in addition to the prime need of removing redlinks (listed here), "following some debate, we have just amended our notability criteria, which means we need to review some of our biographies, as some may no longer have the automatic notability of WP:ATHLETE." SGGH thinks that the Project needs more adherence. "We need to be writing neutral, properly worded articles not just flowery phrase-fests. We could always use a few less "no, he is the greatest" arguments over at Tendulkar, Richards and Lara pages, but I suppose they keep up the spice and the interest." Jack would like to see more articles on international matches and tours, while AssociateAffiliate is very concerned about redlinked players: "Over the last year I reckon I've created about 1,000 articles on cricketers. So help in that area would be nice! As of October 2010, the first 10 teams on the redlink list had 2,029 players needing articles. Also, anybody with knowledge of cricket in the smaller cricketing nations of the Associate and Affiliate members of the International Cricket Council." Mattinbgn also thinks that a more geographically diverse group of contributors would help; "Australian and English content is reasonably well developed but other areas of the world have great scope for improvement. The Indian sub-continent is the epicentre of modern cricket, but there are relatively few large-scale contributors from that area of the world. The same applies for South Africa, New Zealand and the West Indies. A more topically diverse set of featured content would also be very welcome. The project is strong on biographies but weaker on venues, seasons, national, sub-national and club teams and "national articles" such as Cricket in South Africa."
When asked if there were any final words, there was friendly banter regarding the recent Ashes series, which was won by England. Moondyne brought up the Wikipedia Cricket Quiz, which has been running for over five years with 1,275 questions posed and answered: "I guess it to be the most popular cricket quiz in the world and has led to countless improvements to Wikipedia articles." For Mattinbgn, WikiProjects such as WikiProject Cricket are great pools of in-depth knowledge about their subjects and as such, a very useful resource for Wikipedia. Those editors who focus on site-wide systems and standards such as templates, categories, Manual of Style, etc. could make much better use of these projects by speaking to them before proposing major changes in areas for topics covered by these projects. I think that WikiProject Cricket has been very approachable when its views are sought in a cooperative, collaborative manner."
Next week, we'll catch up with the 51st state of the United States where the license plates read "taxation without representation." Until then, take a self-guided tour of the WikiProject International Archives.