A project in overdrive: WikiProject Automobiles
This week, we took a drive with nine members of WikiProject Automobiles. Started in February 2004, WikiProject Automobiles has grown to include 9,000 pages, including 7 Featured Articles and 26 Good Articles. Project members follow updates to the Automobile watchlist, add requested images to articles, contribute to the Automobile Wikibooks, and display their work on the Cars Portal. We interviewed Mr.choppers, Daniel J. Leivick, OSX, Typ932, IFCAR, DeLarge, Mariordo, Trekphiler, and Pineapple_fez.
What motivated you to join WikiProject Automobiles? What is your favorite vehicle?
- Mr.choppers I was having some issues with the use of different methods for measuring power, and jumped into a discussion on the project talkpage. My favorite car is hard to say, but I think I'll nominate the Suzuki Fronte.
- Daniel J. Leivick I've been interested in vehicles since my early childhood and I've always been hungry for information, particularly about obscure or rare vehicles like the Lancia 037 or the Soviet made Wankel engined VAZ-2108. Wikipedia is unparallelled in its depth and breadth of coverage regarding automobiles and it was only natural that I was attracted to improving it. WikiProject Automobiles has a good track record of acting as a central point of discussion for car related issues and I've been proud to help decide broad issues related to our coverage of the topic.
- OSX I realised that anyone could edit this a short while after seeing this website a few too many times courtesy of Google (which started sending me here in early 2006 and I was editing by mid-year). Cars being one of my primary interests led me to make a few small changes here and there. Then I started adding very crufty features lists to various car articles to accompany the myriad of non-free images that I uploaded. After seeing the WikiProject badge on the user page of another editor, I too decided that the aesthetic improvement would be a worthwhile addition to my user page. There was nothing systematic about it, but I slowly became more involved with the internal politics and discussions at the project over the years. My favourite car? Don't ask me that... there's just too many to list. If I must choose, then at the moment the Rolls Royce Ghost and Range Rover Evoque would be up there, but ask me again next week and I'm sure you'd get a different answer. We are spoiled for choice!
- Typ932 As being car nut, I found the English Wikipedia (just note that I mainly edit this Wikipedia and not my native one) had a quite large article base of automobiles, this happened around 4 years ago. So it was very interesting to join this particular Wikipedia and making its article base even more comprehensive. I don't have any particular favorite vehicle, but Italian cars are closest to me as I have been driving with those my whole life.
- IFCAR A former active user here put out a call for photos on an automotive forum I'm active on. This was right when there was a movement against the fair use manufacturer shots that were in use across most articles, and I've helped fill that void. I still mostly contribute photos, but if I see another obvious change needed, I'll step in.
- DeLarge: I was in a Mitsubishi car owners' club, and someone wrote a Wikipedia article about our vehicle. It didn't conform to Wikipedia rules, so I straightened it out. Then I realised coverage of Mitsubishi Motors in general was pretty dreadful (e.g. WP:Recentism, WP:Systemic bias), so I stuck around to try and improve things.
- Mariordo I actually did not formally sign up for the project, but I have contributed significantly in articles related to green cars. My motivation comes from my interest with sustainable transport in general, and began with the lack of information in the English Wikipedia about the Brazilian motor fleet, which is one of the cleanest in the world (I was living there at that time). My favorite vehicle is the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, and I hope to see the flex-fuel version soon.
- Trekphiler. Like others, I more or less stumbled into it, after finding the project tag on a movie page. I've found the coverage of rods and customs pretty awful, unfortunately... and an amount of hostility to customs that I also find unfortunate. If I had to pick a favorite car, I'd say the 911 or 912 Porsche.
- Pineapple_fez I came to Wikipedia as a solution to my problem of using various (and sometimes contradictory) different automotive websites. Wikipedia was just the most comprehensive--or so I thought. When I saw missing information, articles that I had exist and poor formatting in some articles, I felt compelled to contribute. But it wasn't until a while later when I joined WP:AUTOS. At first I was still inexperienced with editing, so I left editing automotive articles to experienced and instead practiced with mostly obscure non-automotive articles. As for my favorite car, I don't think I will ever have one. All the time do I fancy certain cars over others cars in particular, but never do I have a consistent favorite. At the moment though, two cars that I have become interested in are the Susuki Twin and DOK-ING XD; I like their design and efficiency. However next month I will probably prefer different cars.
The project is home to 7 Featured Articles and 26 Good Articles. Have you contributed to any of these? Do you have any tips for editors working on bringing an automobile-related article up to FA or GA status?
- Mr.choppers I may have, I don't know and cannot say I care very strongly about how an article is rated. For me, Wikipedia is really a depository of information, and I only worry about whether the content is correct. The ratings system feels more like politicking, and often the concerns addressed in the nomination process are completely irrelevant - sometimes even making for worse articles.
- OSX I have worked on several good and featured articles, but like Mr.choppers don't really care about the ratings anymore. That said, both the good and featured article processes are invaluable for developing skills as an editor. One does learn a lot in the process—the rules and regulations, the ability to recite entire verses from the bible, and catering to the general capriciousness and hair-splitting requests from all and sundry. So my advice: just pay attention to what the reviewer is asking and follow through as requested and you should be fine. You can only get better by practice and by taking on board the feedback from those more experienced.
- Typ932 I have just made some adjustments for these articles, but I'm not yet so familiar with this rating system, but I think it is good way to get one article in greater interest and gather more editors to edit it.
- IFCAR I happen to have photos in a few of those articles, but I have no contributions to report toward the more formal process.
- DeLarge: One GA (and another that has nothing to do with cars), plus I was credited with helping out on a (former?) FA too. Don't really have any tips. I think I'd rather see the general quality raised before I'd worry about getting shiny little badges for individual articles.
- Mariordo I am the main contributor and went through the GA process of seven articles (plus five in other subjects). If you decide to go for a GA, normally be ready to work hard, though not all reviewers are so strict. For me a GA at least guarantees that the content is properly backed by reliable sources and a decent NPOV.
- Trekphiler. As far as I know, I've had no contact with an FA or GA article. I agree with Mr. Choppers, I treat Wikipedia as a depository of information, and I want it to be complete and accurate.
- Pineapple_fez I have contributed to a handful of WP:AUTO's good and featured articles, however not to a great extent. I did however try to bring the Proton Saga article up to Good Article status without success. The tips I have learned from that process are to really read over and check much of the article and to reference almost everything, the latter which was impossible for me.
How difficult is it to locate good images for articles about automobiles? Does the age or price of the vehicle play a role in whether usable pictures are available? What pitfalls should photographers avoid when taking pictures for automobile-related articles?
- Mr.choppers It can be. One of my main occupations is to mine Flickr and other places. The cars I find interesting (older Japanese cars, especially those sold in tertiary markets such as Chile or Malta) are very hard to find pictures of, especially unmolested examples. As for taking photos, be aware that older cars have often been customized and don't feel bad if others think that yours is not the best available photo of the car in question.
- Daniel J. Leivick We have a couple of really dedicated automobile photographers, the standout being IFCAR, who have contributed many of our images. Wikimedia commons is also an excellent source of images, particularly for vehicles not sold in the English speaking world. At WP:AUTOMOBILE, we have particular standards for our images which are outlined in the conventions section. I've made a couple of good images based on these standards, including the Porsche 944 (It was my car at the time, unfortunately I had to sell it to pay for graduate school) and the Toyota MR2. Any image is better than nothing, but I'd say the biggest issue with images is distracting backgrounds, pictures of cars taken in parking lots surrounded by other vehicles are not that useful.
- OSX it depends on the car. If it's a best-seller car, then finding something reasonable is usually not too difficult. Getting quality with quantity has always been an issue, but as this project has matured we now have several users uploading what are generally very reasonable photographs. Like how many of us started out, most of my original images are far from reasonable, but my newer images aren't too bad. My personal advice is to avoid taking photos when it appears to be even remotely sunny (any form of grey outside is an excellent sign to get out there with a camera). This is because the good old sun doesn't work very well with car photos. You can get the odd image that comes out perfectly, but shadows and reflections are whole lot worse with sunshine. My second tip is to take photographs of cars parked on quiet suburban streets as opposed to busy parking lots. This way you can get nice backgrounds of gardens and the streetscape as opposed half a dozen other cars. I also tend to stand back a fair way from the vehicle in question, as not only does it produce better proportioned images (compare this to this), but the unobtrusiveness of this technique makes the neighbours less suspicious (another user has claimed to have been mistaken as a terrorist). Going back to my earlier point, this distance is not possible in busy car parks where the vehicles are parked together closely.
- Age does tend to be an issue. As most people don't drive around in 40-year-old cars, they are unsurprisingly an uncommon sight. However, as I am more inclined to photograph rarer vehicles, they disproportionately account for many of my personal uploads. Pricier vehicles also tend to be harder to photograph. Firstly, they obviously sell in fewer numbers than mainstream models at affordable prices. Secondly, the owners of such prestige/performance vehicles tend to park their best cars undercover in garages, relegating their lesser vehicles to the driveway or kerbside.
- Typ932 Usually its quite easy to find some images, but sometimes it takes a quite long time before we can find good quality image, for old and rare vehicles its sometimes very hard to find free images.
- IFCAR We definitely have a great repository of photos to choose from now, with a wide selection from prolific photographers in North America, Europe and Australia (whom I know about) and presumably others elsewhere. We're at the point for those models where we're rarely trying to fill a vacant photo hole so much as upgrade the illustration from good to great or great to outstanding. My personal knowledge, and therefore focus, is on modern everyday cars; I'm sure it's more difficult to illustrate something older and more obscure. @ Leivick: Awww, shucks, yer makin' me blush.
- DeLarge: Haven't noticed any difficulties myself. In fact I think there's too many images, many of them redundant. I've seen editors insisting the vital importance of photographically illustrating that a car's front grille has changed slightly from one year to the next.
- Mariordo I also have contribute my share of pictures, particularly of green cars. The fellow editors have already summarized what is required for a good pic, nevertheless, sometimes you see on the street that vehicle that has no picture in the Commons, and you simply have to take the opportunity.
- Mr.choppers One minor addition, to minimize the troubles with sunshine, is to get a polarizing filter. My favorite aid. Also one should memorize which cars are missing from Commons to know whether to take a photo or not; my proudest such capture is that of a Daewoo Chairman. At a wide and distortive angle, and in a crowded parking lot, but still better than no photo at all!
- Trekphiler. I tend to mainly ignore "mainstream" vehicles, figuring they're easier to find images of. (And they tend not to catch my eye.) For the specialist areas I'm mainly interested in, free-use pics are extremely hard to come by, and good ones even more so. This isn't helped by the widespread perception Wikipedia is unreliable, so enthusiasts (rodders, customizers and model builders) tend to avoid Wikipedia, where their access to some of these cars, or their own pictures of them, would be a great help.
- Pineapple_fez Commons does have a great collection of images of cars, thanks to editors from around the world. Flickr and Picasa can usually supplement the images on Commons, but sometimes cars go unphotographed. The age of the vehicle does help a lot, though. Major auto shows are always covered by Commons users, which provide a steady, year round (in a sense) flow of images or brand new and classic or vintage cars. It's the ones that do not fit into either category which are the hard to photograph ones.
WikiProject Automobiles maintains a Japanese Cars Task Force in collaboration with WikiProject Japan. Has this task force produced any content or discussion? Should more task forces exist to cover automobiles from other countries?
This image of the 1928 Ford Model A
is another Featured picture
- Mr.choppers I'm a member, which has gotten me a nice infobox for my userpage. Other than that, nothing at all whatsoever. Perhaps if the editors in ja.wikipedia who work on cars joined in, we could have something happen. I think it would be better to focus on the core automobile project, it's not like we're running out of room or anything.
- Daniel J. Leivick These task forces tend to be rather low activity and personally I think the main purpose of projects tends to be standardization of coverage. Individual countries don't really require special coverage in my opinion.
- OSX I was asked to join this taskforce by Mr.choppers, but since it doesn't do anything, I decided not to join as a protest to the poor choice of userbox image, depicting a vehicle that I don't like. On a more serious note, if such taskforces were actively utilised, my guess is that they would be counterproductive by burdening everyone with just that extra layer of bureaucracy.
- Typ932 In my opinion we don't need such task forces as seems that we dont have enough active members for sub forces. If we would get much more active editors these kind of country forces could work well anyway.
- DeLarge: No, there should be fewer task forces, wikiprojects, and general bureaucracy. There seems to be an entire sub-species of editor on Wikipedia who enjoy slapping "ownership" banners on talk pages despite never having contributed one iota to the article itself. All these little factions are for the benefit of editors, not readers.
Are there any disagreements over terminology for automobile parts or related products that differ from country to country? How are these differences resolved?
- Mr.choppers Very little. Usually only from new editors. Our system (use the terminology used in the cars main market, if such a one is easily discernible. If not, then use the terminology originally applied for the entry) works fine, and there are plenty more interesting things to worry about.
- Daniel J. Leivick Automobiles have a lot of terminology which varies from country to country. Boot/trunk, bonnet/hood, saloon/sedan, petrol/gasoline, the list goes on. We don't seem to have much problem though, WP:ENGVAR covers it well and if we just stick to the policy we don't waste much time with this stuff.
- Typ932 We have had many conversations about these issues and most of them are solved and we have good policy which is followed quite well, there are still some issues which I would like to solve like timeline templates which have differences between Europe and USA vehicles.
- IFCAR The biggest one I can remember is the use of model year a car is designated versus the calendar year in which is was produced. Cars sold in North America use the latter system to eliminate overlap between generations (e.g., when a redesigned car appears in June 2007, it can be branded as a 2008 model to distinguish it from its 2007-model predecessor that was built in May), but few other markets tend to follow suit. This can make it confusing to refer to a specific model in a way that is clear to readers everywhere.
- DeLarge: Loads, but as DJL says, as long as we pay attention to over-arching guidelines (i.e. ones penned for the encyclopedia as a whole and not for our little WikiProject) then things can usually get sorted.
- Mr.choppers The one I get the most aggravated about (aside from the "model year" troubles) is that units of measurement differ slightly throughout - not only in Wikipedia but often in the sources themselves.
Does the project collaborate with the Wikimedia Commons WikiProject Automobiles? Do you feel cross-project collaboration is possible for other WikiProjects on Wikipedia and the Commons?
- Mr.choppers I did not know there was such a project, but I will check it out. Seems like it could be fruitful.
- OSX I initiated this project a couple of years back to try and unite the various editors involved in photographing cars from all language versions of Wikipedia. This was in response to the emergence of several photographers based in Japan and Germany among other countries, but the project has yet to mature into anything of value.
- DeLarge: I never consciously did when I was active, although I may have benefited from it.
What are WikiProject Automobiles' most pressing needs? How can a new contributor help today?
- Mr.choppers I don't know that there is anything very pressing. We cover most cars made, and while just about all of them deserve more work, there's no particular problem areas that I see. US trucks of the fifties, sixties, and seventies are woefully underrepresented.
- Daniel J. Leivick There are a couple of really messy articles which go into far too much detail without covering information that would be useful to someone who wasn't a owner or diehard fan. Subaru Impreza WRX come to mind, I've been meaning to clean it up for a couple of years now. New contributors are often very helpful and I'd advise them to dive right in and listen to the advice of experienced users when needed. The thing to avoid is unneeded crufty additions like popular culture appearances (The Internet Movie Car Database does this much better).
- OSX The WikiProject seems to oscillate strongly from periods of far-fetching activity and conventions reform to months where nothing much happens at all. While this doesn't affect the editing of articles as such, it certainly gives the impression of not much happening when in reality, editors are probably spending the time saved making more productive edits to actual articles. Like any other WikiProjects, we could do with additional editors but we get by on what we've got.
- IFCAR A new contributor can look at what makes a solid article, then adapt or expand an existing lesser one to meet that standard. We have no shortage of articles that need assistance, and because I for one don't have the time or energy to fix them, I'd welcome anyone who would.
- DeLarge: 95% of "our" [sic] articles are inadequately sourced, and I'd reckon a depressing percentage of them are lacking references entirely. Don't know how things are now, but during my period of greatest activity with WP:CARS (2007–09) I'd say at least half the active editors in our little car clique wouldn't have known a citation template from an elephant's arse.
- Mr.choppers And also keeping the fanbois at bay. Any articles that deal with tuneable Hondas, water-cooled VWs, any modern cars marketed in India, any car featured in The Fast and the Furious, many muscle cars, and so on: they all tend to attract the worst kind of anonymous editors. An inordinate amount of my time is dedicated to repairing or undoing this kind of edits.
- Trekphiler. I would nominate any articles on hot rods or custom cars, especially "name" customs like The California Kid or Polynesian. In a related vein, bio pages of major customizers, like Pete Chapouris, are dreadfully lacking. There are also pages translated from foreign-language sources that could use attention, in particular those related to Ilario Bandini. (Yes, I've edited them; that's how I know they're in a sorry state, and I read no Italian.) New contributors, I think, are best advised to stick to areas they know well, at first, and if creating new pages, copy well-formatted pages and just change the particulars.
- Pineapple_fez I think that the articles covered by WP:AUTOS are too often edited by "fanboys" of particular manufacturers, models or design companies, who tend to delete all of the existing information and replace it with long, overly-detailed, unwikified and unreferenced essays. Current Wikipedians who would like to join WP:AUTOS would help greatly by patrolling and generally fixing these articles, which although I'm sure most contributors to WP:AUTOS do anyway, essays will always keep popping up. Just the other day I saw this happen to the Gruppo Bertone article, which I slightly reformatted.
Next week, we'll go crazy for kiwis. Until then, snack on some kiwi while searching for records on endangered kiwi in the archive.
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