The Signpost interviewed three of the project's members. Serendipodous joined the project in 2007 and is one of the project's assistant coordinators; active WikiProject Solar System member Kheider joined Wikipedia in 2006; and Ckatz is an admin who joined Wikipedia in 2006.
What do you like about volunteering for WikiProject Solar System?
Serendipodous: I am not trained in science or in Solar System studies; my main real-world preoccupation is history and archiving. However, I got into Wikipedia completely by accident over a critique of Wikipedia's definition of the word "planet", which eventually evolved into its own article. I have long had an interest in planetary science, which has only intensified with the current golden age of planetary exploration. I find science articles are easier to work with on Wikipedia than historical or literary articles, first because there is less room for interpretation, and second because the most relevant and useful sources, scientific journals, are available online.
Kheider: I have had an interest in astronomy since I was in middle school back in the 1980s. It was my interest in astronomy that encouraged me to borrow books from the school library and read for reasons beyond a teacher assigning reading material for a class. On Wikipedia, I enjoy adding to a knowledge base of astronomical subjects. I think it is wonderful to have one place on the internet where people can add and share ideas, knowledge, and references in the form of an overall overview of subject instead of using a general discussion board. Discussion boards are great, but the conversations have a tendency to jump around, making it impractical for a casual reader to follow what the final consensus may be.
Ckatz: Many aspects of what I do on Wikipedia involve technical or administrative duties covering a wide range of articles. Astronomy topics, however, have always been a personal passion. Working on these articles is one way to keep on top of the newest discoveries and learn more about space.
How long have you been working on WikiProject Solar System?
Serendipodous: I don't think I ever made the conscious decision to become a part of Wikiproject Solar System, it simply flowed naturally from the articles I first wrote. I have honestly only dabbled in other Wikiprojects, so I have really been focusing on this area since I joined in 2005.
Kheider: I first start editing Wikipedia in August 2006 when Pluto was being re-classified as a dwarf planet, and quickly opened my Wikipedia account in September. I have always been fascinated by the under-rated small bodies in the Solar System that do not get as much coverage as the dominant planets. When I was young, small objects like Ceres, 4 Vesta, and 2 Pallas were never more than a half page blurb in common textbooks introducing people to the Solar System. I was not even formally part of the WikiProject Solar System in my first few years on Wikipedia, since I was more interested in the article content than I anything to do with wiki-policies and groups.
Ckatz: I can't recall when exactly I signed on to the project. I think that at some point I realized that, given the amount of time I was spending on related topics, it just made sense to join up.
What is the most interesting article that you have seen covered by WikiProject Solar System?
Serendipodous: I'm an instinctive historian, so my personal favorite articles are those of a historical bent: Definition of planet and Planets beyond Neptune. Those articles combine scientific knowledge with references to Shakespeare, Martian canals, and Roman poetry.
Kheider: I found Formation and evolution of the Solar System to be very interesting. Though I did not know it at the time I was editing the article, I think this is the one that really drew me in as a long-term Wikipedia editor. I still passingly wonder if Earth will or will not be swallowed by the Sun during the Sun's red giant phase. Will Mars one day be the closest planet to the Sun? Is Mars' orbit stable enough over the next 5+ billion years to survive to that point? All we really know is that the Solar System is still evolving and trying to accrete.
Ckatz: Any of the articles involving the formation and future of the Solar System. I've always been interested in learning about where we came from and where we are going.
WikiProject Solar System has quite a lot of Featured articles. Have you been a main contributor to any of them?
Serendipodous: I have co-created 25 Featured articles and 2 Featured lists on Wikiproject Solar System. I'm of the opinion that there's no point in dedicating yourself to an article if you don't plan on getting it featured.
Kheider: I have contributed to several of the featured Solar System articles. But I know I could not have done anything better than GA-article quality without a good group of editors to work with, and expand ideas. One editor can make an article good, but it takes several motivated editors to make an article great.
Ckatz: I have contributed to many of the Featured articles, although I'd be very reluctant to take credit for them reaching FA status. The vast majority of my work with this project involves helping to maintain and copy-edit articles, as well as keeping a regular watch for vandalism. You'd be amazed at how many people seem to think it is vitally essential to add comments about a certain planet's name.
How can new members contribute to WikiProject Solar System?
Serendipodous: I got started on the project in Wikipedia's "Wild West" period, when standards were a lot lower than they are now. I like to think our group is more inclusive than most, but, because this project has so many FAs, simply wandering in off the street is probably not the best way to get involved. The best way to get into our project is to start work on one of the pages that have not been seriously worked on yet. We're a fairly small group, so we're easy to get to know!
Kheider: When I first started editing on Wikipedia, I did find it intimidating to follow Wikipedia protocol when editing Featured articles. My advice to anyone starting out on Wikipedia would be to always have a reliable reference (url) for their edits to Featured articles, so that established users can quickly confirm that the edit is in good faith. Another recommendation, is to work on B-class and C-class articles that still have a lot of room for improvement. Since my writing skills are not always the best, I frequently add numbers and references to articles and then allow more experienced writers to give the article a more encyclopedic feel. One simple thing that I have done is to add and edit Start-class articles on select Small Solar System bodies, to help support larger articles such as Scattered disc, List of dwarf planet candidates, Resonant trans-Neptunian object, List of notable asteroids, and List of non-periodic comets. There is always room for new editors and improvement to Wikipedia's articles.
Ckatz: Many of the core articles, such as those on the planets, are or have been Featured articles. In addition, given that they are very popular pages, it can be difficult for a new editor to start out there given the expectations for sourcing, verifiability and maintaining the high-profile articles. I'd suggest that a novice editor interested in contributing spend time reading through an article's talk page and archives, as there is a good chance that the issue has been brought up in the past. Also, be sure to state clearly in your edit summary why you made any changes; that goes a long way to helping make sure that your contributions are properly understood. I'll also echo the excellent suggestion above about starting new articles or expanding underdeveloped ones. There is a lot more latitude to learn the ropes if you are helping to expand content at the same time as you are learning. Above all, please don't be afraid of asking for help and suggestions. We love to help!