Wikipedia rivals The New Yorker: Mark Arsten
This edition covers content promoted between 19 and 25 August 2012
- This week the Signpost interviews Mark Arsten, who has written or contributed significantly to ten featured articles; most have related to new religious movements (NRMs), and some have touched on other controversial or quirky topics. Mark gives us a rundown on how he keeps neutral and what drives him to write featured content; he also gives some hints for aspiring writers.
On editing and featured content
Like most of us, I read Wikipedia articles for some time before I began editing. In my view, one of the best parts of Wikipedia is accessibility. I recall digging around the library back in college having a really hard time trying to find references for the papers I was writing. Having easy access to a quality article with a solid reference section would have made things much easier for me. I became fascinated by the unusual articles on Wikipedia, and that's what led to my registration and writing for the project. It's great to be able to read a comprehensive, well-written article on a strange topic without having to buy a copy of The New Yorker or Harper's. One example is the Museum of Bad Art, which I visited after learning about it through Wikipedia. I've been able to write some decent articles on unusual topics myself, like the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, and it feels great to have been able to give other readers that same experience.
If I try to work on a boring topic, I'll never be able to finish the project. Take sand for example—I'd hate to do hours and hours of research on a sandy topic. To bring an article up to featured status takes a long time, so when I started attempting to bring articles to featured status I realized I'd have to find subjects that would keep my interest. I settled on NRMs, which I find very interesting. There's usually a mix of heroes, villains, and mystery in them—and in many cases the founders are morally ambiguous. In addition, several NRMs have cosmologies that make most science fiction seem unimaginative; Martin Gardner once said that The Urantia Book (whose publisher I've written about) is a work that "outrivals in fantasy the cosmology of any science-fiction work known".
When writing about NRMs, you have to avoid the temptation to try to make a point about the group. With most NRMs there are some people who want to make a point that the group is an evil cult or a scam, while there are others who want to communicate that it's objectively no stranger/more evil than established religions or that it genuinely helps people. So you have to strike a balance between the Rick Ross or South Park viewpoint on one side, and the militant universalist viewpoint or the public relations people on the other.
In general, the best way to stay neutral is to use neutral sources. Ensuring that an article is well cited to clear, unbiased sources is the foundation. After that, feedback is very important. It's hard to realize all of your mistakes but somewhat easy to notice the mistakes of others. I'm always surprised by how many issues people can find in what I thought was the "perfect version" of an article. In many cases, others will notice small issues with my wording that never would have occurred to me. Also, an important consideration when working with controversial topics is whether you can achieve a sort of distance from the issue. For example, it would have been harder for me to write neutrally about Trayvon Martin than Jesse Washington, even though Washington's death was far more barbaric.
There are definitely some topics I consider to be "untouchable". The primary reason I'd avoid a topic is the involvement of other editors that would make it difficult for me. My goal is usually to improve the sourcing/comprehensiveness/prose of an article and bring it to GA or FA. There are some editors whose goal is to make sure the article exactly matches their point of view. Having dealt with some of them, I've realized that life is easier and more enjoyable when I stay away from such people. A general rule of thumb is that if an Arbcom case has been named after the article, you want to keep your distance.
On participating at FAC
The most important thing a newcomer to the featured article process should do is to get help from others. A lot of the time in the featured article candidates (FAC) forum, we see articles with issues that should have been taken care of before their nomination. These articles are time-consuming for reviewers; but more importantly, the nominator often becomes discouraged by seeing their article fail. What newcomers need to do is approach users who have experience with the FA process and ask for help. It's not fun to beg for help, but it's more fun than watching an article fail. In my experience, most people who take part in the FA process are very relaxed and good-natured, and I think some of the nicest people on the project work at FAC: a community of brilliant people who are interested in producing quality work. So I recommend you find active reviewers and writers, and harass them mercilessly until they help you—get advice on sourcing, neutrality, prose, MOS, everything. A lot of people think that the featured article standards are too difficult and don't make an effort to get involved with the FA process, but with enough help, almost any committed writer can produce a featured article.
Eight featured articles were promoted this week:
- SMS König Albert (nom) by Parsecboy. SMS König Albert was a battleship of the German Imperial Navy which served during World War I. Laid down in 1910, König Albert was commissioned in 1913 and participated in most of the major fleet operations of the war. After the war and shortly before the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, the fleet's commander ordered that the ships – including König Albert – be scuttled in Scapa Flow.
- Osiris myth (nom) by A. Parrot. The Osiris myth, concerning the murder of the god Osiris and its aftermath, is the most elaborate and influential story in ancient Egyptian mythology. The myth, integral to conceptions of kingship and succession, conflict between order and disorder, and death and the afterlife, reached its essential form in or before the 25th century BC. It is still known, although no ancient Egyptian sources give the full myth.
- Rex Ryan (nom) by The Writer 2.0. Ryan (b. 1962) is an American football head coach for the New York Jets of the National Football League. The son of another coach, he became an assistant coach after graduating from university and, in 2009, was signed to the Jets. He is known for his outspoken manner, boisterous attitude and successful coaching; players under Ryan consider him friendly.
- "Say Hello to My Little Friend" (nom) by TBrandley. "Say Hello to My Little Friend" is a 2012 episode of the American television series Awake, in which the main character switches back and forth between two similar realities, struggling to figure out which world is "real". Directed by Laura Innes, the episode generally received positive reviews and was seen by 2.51 million viewers.
- Louie B. Nunn (nom) by Acdixon. Nunn (1924–2004) was the 52nd governor of Kentucky and first Republican in twenty years. Starting his political career as a judge and working on several national campaigns, in 1967 Nunn defeated Henry Ward to become governor. Nunn enacted many legislative changes but faced race riots and anti-war protests.
- Sons of Soul (nom) by Dan56. Sons of Soul, the third studio album by American R&B group Tony! Toni! Toné!, was released in 1993 and paid homage to the group's musical influences. Recording mostly took place in Trinidad, which influenced the sound of the album. Sons of Soul was a critical and commercial success, being named the best album of 1993 by Time magazine.
- Peter Sellers (nom) by SchroCat and Cassianto. Sellers (1925–1980) was a British film actor, comedian and singer. He began his stage career as an infant, accompanying his parents in a variety act. He became a regular on BBC programming after World War II and became a film actor in the 1950s. He has been described as "one of the most accomplished comic actors of the late 20th century".
- Trait du Nord (nom) by Dana boomer and Tsaag Valren. The Trait du Nord is a breed of heavy draft horse developed in the area of Hainaut. Originally meant to work on farms, the horses were later bred for size and for their meat. Weighing upwards of 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lb), the horses are currently used for recreation, and are considered endangered owing to a low number of foal births.
Five featured lists were promoted this week:
- List of Grey's Anatomy episodes (nom) by TRLIJC19 and Jonathan Harold Koszeghi. The American medical drama Grey's Anatomy has broadcast 172 episodes since "A Hard Day's Night" on March 27, 2005. The series is scheduled for another season starting in September.
- List of international cricket centuries by Inzamam-ul-Haq (nom) by Sahara4u. The Pakistani cricketer Inzamam-ul-Haq scored 25 centuries in Test matches and 10 in One Day International matches during his 15-year career. He was the tenth player to score 25 or more centuries in Test cricket.
- 2008 Summer Paralympics medal table (nom) by Miyagawa. The 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing saw 146 National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) send 3,951 athletes. A record-breaking 76 NPCs won medals, with five winning their first golds.
- Kelly Clarkson discography (nom) by Woofygoodbird. American recording artist Kelly Clarkson has released five studio albums, two extended plays, two video albums, twenty-one singles and twenty-two music videos since winning American Idol in 2002. Her best-performing album was 2004's Breakaway.
- List of Guillemots songs (nom) by A Thousand Doors. The multinational indie music band Guillemots have recorded more than 80 songs since the band's formation in November 2004. Several have not seen official release, instead being leaked or played in concert.
Three featured pictures were promoted this week:
One featured portal was promoted this week:
- Maryland Roads (nom) by Dough4872. The Maryland highway system consists of roads in the US state of Maryland that are maintained by the Maryland State Highway Administration, with three main systems: Interstate Highways, US Highways, and Maryland state highways.
One featured topic was promoted this week:
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