News and notes
Core content competition in full swing; Wikinews fork taken offline
Core contest enters final 10 days
Previous winner, Ecology
|The first prize in the previous core contest was won by Guettarda for improving Ecology. The topic involves the full scale of life, from tiny bacteria to processes that span the entire planet. Ecologists study many diverse and complex relations among species, such as predation and pollination.
The Core Contest is a month-long competition among editors to improve Wikipedia's most important "core" articles—especially those that are in a relatively poor state. Core articles, such as Music, Computer, and Philosophy, tend to lie in the trunk of the tree of knowledge; by analogy, featured-and good-article processes generally attract more specialist topics out on the branches. Casliber, the main organiser of the contest, told the Signpost that "core articles present particular challenges in their broad scope, conceptual difficulties, and the balancing of comprehensiveness with Wikipedia's limits on article size." Nevertheless, he says, core articles are an essential part of an encyclopedia, are popular with readers, and serve as launchpads to more specific articles."
The first core contest ran for two weeks in late 2007, and the second for three weeks in March this year. For the March contest, Wikimedia UK kindly donated £250 in Amazon vouchers, which were shared by six editors. The first prize went to Ecosystem, improved by Guettarda, and the second prize to Ealdgyth, for Middle Ages. We asked Ealdgyth what problems she faced in improving an article on such a huge topic:
The biggest challenge was figuring out what not to include. Unlike most of my articles, where I start with nothing much more than a stub, there was already a pretty substantial article at Middle Ages; so I had to verify that information and cull out large chunks of unduly weighted information—for example, there was an extensive discussion of Hungarian late medieval history that was clearly unbalanced in the context of the article.
Balancing and weighting is always difficult on a big topic. No matter what you do, someone has a pet theory that they want included! In this case, I had to negotiate whether—contrary to most sources, which consider the Middle Ages a purely European subject—the article should cover the whole world.
The referencing I deployed on Middle Ages is a bit different from what I'd normally use: I went with much broader and less specialized works; so instead of journal articles and monographs, I used a lot of college textbooks and wide-scope histories. This helped to keep the balance and focus of the article on the broad sweep, instead of the minutiae of the various subtopics that are, anyway, better covered by daughter articles.
The original 2007 contest focused on producing new articles; consistent with the maturing of the English Wikipedia, this year's contests instead reward the improvement of existing articles rather than the creation of new ones, with a priority to lift the standards of articles in poor shape. The current event started on 1 August and will finish 31 August, Saturday week. It was felt that four weeks would lead to a more inclusive event, which seems to have been confirmed by increased participation: with a week and a half to go, 18 nominations in the running, up from 10 in March. The UK chapter has again funded the prizes.
Casliber told us that it's definitely not too late to enter, provided new nominators are willing to put in a bit of time: the judges want to choose from as many eligible items as possible. Editors select from lists of vital or core articles, although if they give an acceptable rationale they're welcome to nominate a broad or important article outside these two lists. A priority is to improve those core articles in the worst state of disrepair.
After the close of the contest, a panel of judges—Casliber (talk · contribs), Brianboulton (talk · contribs), Steven Walling (talk · contribs), and Binksternet (talk · contribs)—will weigh up the improvements made and the "core-ness" of the article, to determine the "best additive encyclopedic value" to Wikipedia. The judges and other editors are already providing feedback on the wide range of articles represented among the entries, which include Sculpture (entered just three days ago), Transport, Marie Curie, Language, Alps, and Indian subcontinent. Signpost readers are encouraged either to consider making a late run for the gate or to contribute helpful feedback for contestants.
The winners and prizes will be announced in September. For editors who would like to enter the competition, the rules are on the main page of the contest.
Wikinews fork OpenGlobe folds
OpenGlobe, a fork of Wikinews started last September (see Signpost coverage: 12 September, 19 September), has gone offline.
OpenGlobe was forked from Wikinews (WN) by several contributors who felt that the approval process on WN was needlessly complicated and bureaucratic. With a host (TechEssentials) ready to take them on, they made the final decision to depart in September 2011. The project's founder, Tempodivalse, told the Signpost that the first few months of OpenGlobe went very well.
Yet, the success belied a fatal flaw: a previous Signpost report put the number of active OpenGlobe users at nine, so losing any of them would have been a major blow. As such, the site ran into difficulty when real-life pressures after the new year forced a few contributors to stop writing. The authors left were unable to match a similar level of productivity: the number of contributors and stories published declined over the next several months until there were just two to three active authors.
This may not have been the project's death knell if OpenGlobe had been a typical wiki project, but Tempodivalse notes:
If we were running a project that wasn't so time-sensitive this wouldn't have been as big a problem. But a news site must have a constant stream of articles to present, or it will lose relevance rapidly. When only a few editors are available, the pressure intensifies to keep news coverage fresh, and burn-out is likely since you just can't be publishing stuff all the time – kind of a vicious cycle. I suspect that's what happened here.
With hardly any new content coming in, there was little incentive to donate to keep the project running. OpenGlobe could not meet its financial obligations to TechEssentials by March, and the consequent conflicts and stress drove all of the remaining contributors off the project. The site was finally taken offline last week.
The Macedonian language is principally concentrated in the country of the same name, shown here along with the historical region of Macedonia
(dotted line). The Macedonian Wikipedia has reached the milestone of 60,000 articles.
- Arbitration report: The Arbitration Committee continues to have no open or pending cases before it.
- Signpost Android app: The first-release candidate of a Signpost Android app is free for download. See this week's Technology report for more information.
- New administrator: The Signpost welcomes the English Wikipedia's new administrator Ekabhishek (RfA). Ekabhishek has been a Wikipedia editor since 2008 and has more than 106,000 edits, with a remarkable 88% of them in article space. He concentrates on historical and cinematic topics from India.
- Milestone: The Macedonian Wikipedia has reached 60,000 articles. Macedonian is a South Slavic language spoken as a first language by 2–3 million people. It uses a similar Cyrillic script to Russian.