This edition covers content promoted between 13 and 19 May 2012.
After a hiatus of several months, the Signpost is again bringing its readers a series of interviews with editors who create featured content in under-represented areas. This week we interviewed Lemurbaby, who has written four featured articles and a featured list since she began editing in July 2007. Lemurbaby shared with us what it is like to create high-quality articles on African topics. One was promoted this week.
I decided to start writing articles on Wikipedia when I noticed how important topics were underdeveloped or non-existent, including those on Africa—in particular, Madagascar. The lack of a Music of Madagascar article spurred me to make the leap from reader to editor: Madagascar has one of the richest musical traditions in the world, and I realized that by contributing to Wikipedia I could help more people to discover the island and its cultural heritage. My work has allowed me to spend long periods overseas and I've come to appreciate that every country, every culture offers a wealth of knowledge, history and meaning. Immersing ourselves in a variety of cultures enriches us and our own world view enormously. Yet language and Euro-centrism, particularly in the way we hear about history and current events at school and in the media, has made it harder for the average anglophile to access this knowledge. Wikipedia is incredible because it allows anyone to bring what matters locally to the attention of the wider world.
What are the challenges in writing about these topics?
Most (but certainly not all) African countries have a less developed publishing infrastructure and only rarely are locally published books made available internationally. Many universities in Africa have brilliant students, but less library or classroom access to the material it takes to sustain a thriving research culture on campus. As a result, African voices are under-represented in print and especially in published research, so the sources we have to work with (often written by non-locals) reflect their authors' selectivity in their focus and in their decision about what's important enough to put down in print. The challenge is compounded by the fact that many pre-colonial African communities traditionally had a strong oral culture instead of a written one. When history did begin to be written, Europeans were often the ones doing the writing – once again colouring the selection and interpretation of what was recorded for posterity. That's why it can be very helpful to draw on histories in other disciplines, where the historians are potentially less caught up in the same kind of politics that may influence a traditional historian. To really understand anything well requires objective comparisons between many sources, but this is even more true when sources are limited and of questionable objectivity or quality themselves.
Why such a broad spread of topics? For example, why not write about animals and plant species?
Ranavalona I, as depicted in a recent featured article about the queen by Lemurbaby. This week the editor's article on Ranavalona III reached featured status. Lemurbaby switches between politics and more general topics.
I leave the wildlife articles to my fellow Mada-phile, Maky, who is the undisputed champion in that area. I think our work is complementary, and between us we've put a good dent in the work to be done on the most essential Madagascar topics. I try to balance articles on key political topics (figures like Ranavalona I, and important sites like the Queen's palace) with topics relevant to the average Malagasy person's life; these include those on music or food, because the latter are as relevant, if not more relevant, to the average person than the political topics. That's especially the case in a place like Madagascar, where political instability and abuses of power have been the source of so much disillusionment for the average person there.
Do you need to rely on French/Malagasy sources?
These days plenty of books have been written in English about most broad topics. One challenge is that English-language books on topics related to developing countries often tend to focus very heavily on the political elements, and frequently cover daily life topics in a cursory and exoticized way. That happens when not enough time is spent putting things into context to help the reader relate to and get beneath what seems "different" on the surface – to enable them to understand how things came to be and identify the meaning behind the superficial observations. Books are a good starting point, but usually journal articles will provide much more detail than books when the topic is narrow and detail is what you're after. Being able to research developing-country topics in the language of the former colonial power or the national/official language(s) really does open up options, though, and especially improves the opportunity to draw from resources written by nationals of that particular country (rather than relying on the interpretations of outsiders)."
How do you think Wikipedia can improve its coverage of Madagascar in particular, and Africa as a whole? What kinds of outreach are necessary?
I've considered writing about a country or a culture I don't know intimately, but came to the conclusion that for me, at least, it's really difficult. There's just too much information to sift through and it's hard to know how to prioritize it, synthesize it and bring out what matters in a coherent way without having a basic first-hand knowledge of the place and people. I'd feel like I was running the risk of not doing the topic justice and only perpetuating a superficial outsider's perspective rather than contributing anything really meaningful. But these topics urgently need to be covered, and there are many people with that basic knowledge who may be interested in sharing information about and promoting a country, but don't realize how easy it is to edit a Wikipedia article. The US Fulbright program, for instance, is known for sending US students overseas; it also brings students from developing countries to the US to complete graduate degrees. Reaching out to people like these through universities could be a good way to start. Similarly, development organizations (NGOs etc) have staff composed of locals and expats who are all typically multilingual, know the country very well, and tend to have a humanitarian spirit that lends itself to unpaid work like this! It's important to draw on those of us already committed to writing on Wikipedia by making sure all users are aware of the no-cost resources out there to support their research. Together we can make sure the developing countries of Africa and the world can get the coverage they've always deserved – and we'll all be the richer for it.
A new featured article this week is on Steve Lukather, shown here performing in 2007.
Final of the Challenge Réseau Ferré de France–Trophée Monal 2012 (épée world cup tournament in Paris): Diego Confalonieri (left) and Fabian Kauter (right). A new featured picture.
Seven featured articles were promoted this week:
Steve Lukather (nom), by Laser brain. Steven Lee "Luke" Lukather (born 1957) is an American guitarist, singer, songwriter, arranger, and record producer best known for his work with the rock band Toto. A prolific session musician, Lukather has recorded guitar tracks for more than 1,500 albums representing a broad array of artists and genres. He has also contributed to albums and hit singles as a songwriter, arranger, and producer. Lukather has released six solo studio albums and is working on his seventh. Influenced by such blues-rock guitarists as Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page, and such jazz fusion players as Al Di Meola and Frank Gambale, Lukather is known for a "melodic and intense" playing style.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store (nom), by Silver seren and WWB Too. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. is an American chain of combined restaurant and gift stores with a Southern country theme, founded in 1969. As of 2011, it operates at 608 locations in 42 states. A casual dining family restaurant, Cracker Barrel is designed to resemble an old-fashioned general store, and its menu is based on traditional Southern cuisine. In the 1990s, the company was criticized for its policy against gay and lesbian employees, and for discrimination against African American and female employees and minority customers. These were resolved through an agreement with the US Department of Justice and an official change in company policy in 2002.
Herne Hill railway station (nom), by Tommy20000. Herne Hill railway station is a passenger railway station in Herne Hill in the London Borough of Lambeth, South London, England, on the boundary between London fare zones 2 and 3. The station building on Railton Road was opened in 1862 by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. Initially passengers could travel only to Victoria, but by 1869 direct services were available to the City of London, King's Cross, Kingston (via Wimbledon) and Kent, including express trains to Dover Harbour for boat trains to continental Europe. The arrival of the railways transformed Herne Hill from a wealthy suburb with large residential estates into a densely populated urban area.
Santa Maria de Ovila (nom), by Binksternet. Santa María de Óvila is a former Cistercian monastery built in Spain in the 13th century on the Tagus River near Trillo, Guadalajara, northeast of Madrid. Over the next four centuries, construction projects expanded and improved the small monastery. Its fortunes declined in the 1700s, and in 1835 it was confiscated by the Spanish government and sold to private owners who used it to shelter farm animals. The new government of the Second Republic declared the monastery a National Monument in June 1931, but not in time to prevent the mass removal of stones. American publisher William Randolph Hearst bought parts of the monastery. Today, the remnant buildings and walls stand on private farmland.
William Jennings Bryan presidential campaign, 1896 (nom), by Wehwalt. William Jennings Bryan ran unsuccessfully for president in 1896. A former Democratic congressman from Nebraska, he gained his party's presidential nomination in July of that year after electrifying the Democratic National Convention with his Cross of Gold speech. Abandoned by many gold-supporting party leaders and newspapers after the Chicago convention, Bryan toured by rail to bring his campaign to the people. He was defeated in the general election by the Republican candidate, former Ohio governor William McKinley. This race is generally seen as a realigning election; the coalition of wealthy, middle-class, and urban voters that defeated Bryan kept the Republicans in power most of the time until the 1930s.
Ranavalona III (nom), by Lemurbaby. Ranavalona III (1861–1917) was the last sovereign of the Kingdom of Madagascar, ruling from 1883 to 1897. Her reign was marked by ongoing and ultimately futile efforts to resist the colonial designs of France by strengthening trade and diplomatic relations with the United States and Great Britain. French attacks on coastal port towns and an assault on the capital city of Antananarivo led to the capture of the royal palace in 1896, ending the sovereignty and political autonomy of the century-old kingdom. Although Ranavalona and her court were initially permitted to remain as symbolic figureheads, discovery of anti-French political intrigues led the French to exile the queen to the island of Réunion in 1897.
Hurricane Lenny (nom), by Hurricanehink. Hurricane Lenny was the second-strongest November Atlantic hurricane on record. It was the twelfth tropical storm, eighth hurricane, and record-breaking fifth Category 4 hurricane in the 1999 Atlantic hurricane season. It formed in the western Caribbean Sea, attained hurricane status south of Jamaica and rapidly intensified over the northeastern Caribbean on November 17, attaining peak winds of 155 mph (250 km/h) about 21 mi (34 km) south of Saint Croix in the United States Virgin Islands. It gradually weakened while moving through the Leeward Islands, eventually dissipating on November 23 over the open Atlantic Ocean. Significant storm damage occurred as far south as Grenada, where high surf isolated towns from the capital city.
List of Somerset CCC Twenty20 players (nom), by Harrias. Somerset County Cricket Club, formed in 1875, became a first-class county club in 1882. The club played their first Twenty20 match in the 2003 Twenty20 Cup against Warwickshire. They reached the domestic Twenty20 competition final four times: they won the 2005 Twenty20 Cup and were runners-up in 2009, 2010 and 2011. They qualified for the 2009 and 2011 Champions League Twenty20 and are invited to the 2010–11 Caribbean Twenty20. In total, 54 players have appeared in Twenty20 cricket for Somerset. James Hildreth has played the most matches: 100 since his debut in 2004.
List of Major League Baseball player–managers (nom), by Muboshgu. Major League Baseball is the highest level of play in North American professional baseball. Founded in 1869, it is presently composed of 30 teams. Each team has a manager, who is responsible for team strategy and leadership on and off the field. The dual role of player–manager was formerly a common practice, dating back to John Clapp, who performed the task for the Middletown Mansfields in 1872. Today, player–managers are rare in baseball. Pete Rose is the most recent player–manager, serving from 1984 through 1986 with the Cincinnati Reds.
List of Georgia Bulldogs head football coaches (nom), by Patriarca12. The Georgia Bulldogs college football team represents the University of Georgia in the East Division of the Southeastern Conference. The Bulldogs compete as part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Football Bowl Subdivision. The school has had 25 head coaches since it began play in the 1892 season. Five coaches have led the Bulldogs to postseason bowl games: Wally Butts, Vince Dooley, Ray Goff, Jim Donnan and Richt. Since December 2000, Mark Richt has served as Georgia's head coach.
Six featured pictures were promoted this week:
Delias eucharis (nom; related article), created and nominated by Jkadavoor. Editors generally commented on the quality of this image, though a slight blue tone was detected and the image was adjusted to reduce it. The Delias eucharis is a medium sized Pieridae butterfly found in many areas of South and Southeast Asia, especially in the non-arid regions of India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand.
Flèche in fencing (nom; related article), created by Jastrow and nominated by Crisco 1492. Editors commented on the excellence of the image and its high encyclopedic value. It is a photo from the final of the Challenge Réseau Ferré de France–Trophée Monal 2012, épée world cup tournament in Paris. In it, Fabian Kauter (right) performs a Flèche on Diego Confalonieri.
Alena Zavarzina (nom; related article), creator is uncredited, nominated by Tomer T. Editors noted the excellent detail and liked the subject's expression and posture. One commented that her "expression is priceless". Alena Zavarzina is a snowboarder from Russia. She competed for Russia at the 2010 Winter Olympics in parallel giant slalom.