Where Are They Now? Episode IV: A New Year
A goalkeeper dives to stop the ball from entering his goal
The dawning of a new year offers both a fresh slate and an opportunity to revisit our previous adventures. 2012 marked the fifth anniversary of the WikiProject Report (this is how it all began) and was the column's most productive year with 52 articles published. In addition to sharing the experiences of Wikipedia's many active projects, we expanded our scope to highlight unique projects from other languages of Wikipedia, tracked down all of the former editors-in-chief of the Signpost for an introspective interview, and rediscovered two early articles of the WikiProject Report that have been missing from the archives for years: a 2007 overview of WikiProject History and a 2008 interview with WikiProject Australia. While last year's "Summer Sports Series" may have drawn yawns from some readers, a special report on "Neglected Geography" elicited more comments than any previous issue of the Report. Following in the footsteps of our past three recaps, we'll spend this week looking back at the trials and tribulations of the WikiProjects we encountered in 2012. Where are they now?
Around the world
As with previous years, the WikiProject Report was well-traveled in 2012. An interview with WikiProject Maps helped us find our bearings as we visited countries as far apart as Brazil, Korea, and Poland. The Indian Cinema Task Force showed us that there's far more to the Indian film industry than just Bollywood. The US state of Connecticut and the English county of Yorkshire also invited us to see their corners of the world.
Strangely, our interviews with the projects for two large metropolitan areas, Toronto and New York City, were among the shortest interviews last year and each drew only one participant. It remains to be seen whether this resulted from the time constraints of the projects' members, a lack of interest in promoting their projects, or more dire concerns about each project's level of activity. We are grateful to the two lone editors who did respond to our inquiries, without whom these projects would not have been mentioned in the WikiProject Report.
Our boldest experiment in 2012 was the inclusion of three WikiProjects from other languages of Wikipedia. The first, a project from the Czech Wikipedia that develops articles about protected areas in the Czech Republic, was actually pitched to the Signpost by members of the project. They were excited to share their successes incorporating social media, collaborating with NGOs, spearheading classroom projects, and even distributing a memory game that used images from the Wikimedia Commons. As always, anyone who knows of an extremely active project or any unique initiatives undertaken by a project, regardless of what language of Wikipedia the project calls home, is encouraged to leave a message at the Signpost's WikiProject desk.
To coincide with last summer's Tour de France, we interviewed the French WikiProject Cycling and were surprised to discover that the project had no special plans for the race. Real-life commitments and an overall malaise at the French project signaled that cycling needs greater attention, even in communities that celebrate the sport as exuberantly as the French.
In our final trip to the farthest reaches of Wikipedia, we interviewed the German WikiProject Computer Games. Their responses highlighted not only a difference in project structure in which Portals are supreme, but also a different working environment with regard to the use of images.
The most talked-about WikiProject Report was by far our special report on the unequal coverage of certain parts of the world. Limited spurts of activity have been sighted at some projects that were mentioned in the special report, but in general the report stirred more conversation than immediate action. Debates continue on talk pages around Wikipedia about the consolidation of lightly-active WikiProjects, with many dissenters feeling that being a "big fish in a small pond" has its benefits. Additional debates have arisen regarding how best to determine the activity and productivity of a project. A proposal under discussion at the WikiProject Council seeks to develop tools that automatically keep membership lists updated and possibly determine how frequently a project's articles are being edited by project members.
Arts, entertainment, and sport
Our interview with WikiProject Star Wars last May painted the picture of a project in decline. At the time, the WikiProject was shedding members and living under the shadow of the more prosperous WikiProject Star Trek. However, a new surge of interest in Star Wars resulted when the Walt Disney Company bought Lucasfilm in October and announced the production of three new Star Wars films. The project's page still remains rather quiet, but a flurry of activity has been going on at the article for the Star Wars sequel trilogy and various discussions at Articles for Deletion.
When we interviewed WikiProject James Bond before the release of the newest Bond film, the C-class article for Skyfall was the only blemish in the Featured Topic for the James Bond series. Today, the article is B-class and preparation is underway for a Good Article nomination. The article has even received attention off-wiki, with mentions in publications like the Chicago Tribune and Business Insider.
To members of WikiProject Doctor Who, a mysterious new companion in new episodes of the television series offers fresh meat for articles. More importantly, with the long-running British programme entering its 50th year and growing in popularity overseas, there is plenty of motivation for editors to improve Doctor Who articles.
For a television series that has been on hiatus for several years, WikiProject The X-Files is surprisingly vibrant. Five months after our lively interview, the project's members began tallying articles that were nearing viability for Feature Article status. The project's talk page continues to be an active exchange point for information, even for editors who are not typically working on X-Files articles. One contributor shared some resources for X-Files articles that he stumbled upon while searching for sources to use in Doctor Who articles. Another editor posted kudos on the project's talk page, commenting that "I see you guys everywhere—FAC, FLC, FTC, GAN—and wanted to thank you for your hard work. The statistics speak for themselves; 250 out of 620 X-Files articles are at least a GA. I've never [seen] such numbers in five years on Wikipedia!"
On the literary side, WikiProject A Song of Ice and Fire appears to be in hibernation for now, but the return of the Game of Thrones television series in March should bring renewed activity.
WikiProject Visual Arts and WikiProject Science Fiction provided a look at much broader projects that have remained active, albeit dependent upon their child projects and task forces for many active contributors.
A variety of music genres were explored this past year, from jazz to rock to punk. However, WikiProject Songs remains the most talkative project of all those we interviewed, with lengthy debates springing up nearly every month on the project's talk page. Commonalities we found among these music projects are concerns that large seas of stubs are in desperate need of expansion, more eyes are needed to watch articles to prevent the addition of fancruft, and more freely-licensed images need to be uploaded to illustrate articles about bands, tours, and albums.
In celebration of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, we revisited WikiProject Olympics to see how preparation for the summer games differed from their efforts for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver (see our 2010 interview). Now the project is busy tidying up their 2012 articles while a countdown on the project's pages is ticking down the days until the 2014 Winter Olympics begin in Sochi.
From late June to early August, we experimented with a set of themed articles under the banner of the "Summer Sports Series" (Winter for our friends in the south). Highly active projects like WikiProject Football, WikiProject Horse Racing, and WikiProject Athletics were presented alongside the moderately active WikiProject Martial Arts, WikiProject Motorsport, and the aforementioned French WikiProject Cycling. While all of these projects remain active today, WikiProject Football is certainly the most direct in setting goals for project members. WikiProject Horse Racing appears to be driven primarily by a small number of very active editors who provide answers to nearly every question posed on the project's talk page. WikiProject Motorsport went through a frenzy of activity from July to September, but activity at the project appears to have slowed in recent months.
However, the activity at the projects that we interviewed hides the large number of other sports projects that didn't make the cut. We also researched or approached the members of WikiProject Sports, WikiProject Gymnastics, WikiProject Rowing, WikiProject Swimming, WikiProject Water Sports, WikiProject Golf, WikiProject Snooker, and the English-language WikiProject Cycling. In most cases our inquiries were met with silence. In the case of the English WikiProject Cycling, we were actually told to look elsewhere because the project's members felt that the "Cycling WikiProject is not exactly one that others should look up to..."
On a more lighthearted note, WikiProject Beer may be suffering from excited, overactive editors building lists of red links to be filled in later. The project has been busy dealing with new and expanded lists for breweries in different parts of world, triggering discussions about notability and whether such lists are too much like directories or advertising. Here's to your health, WikiProject Beer!
Science, history, and society
The earth and life sciences saw a lot of coverage this year, from WikiProject Geology and WikiProject Palaeontology to the projects covering fungi, turtles, butterflies and moths, and all amphibians and reptiles.
WikiProject Chemicals became the newest addition to a collection of chemistry-related projects we've interviewed in the past, including our 2009 interview with WikiProject Chemistry and 2011 interview with WikiProject Elements. All three remain very active and, despite their closely related topics, each project tends to have its own unique community of editors.
We revisited WikiProject Tropical Cyclones, which continues to track its goals and hosts a very active talk page even during their "off season" times of the year.
While WikiProject Robotics now has very few unassessed articles, the project could still use help addressing the large category of robotics articles tagged with cleanup templates.
During our revisits to the always jovial WikiProject Biography and WikiProject Military History, we learned how to tame huge collections of articles and ways to reward the efforts of a large project's members.
Among the newest projects interviewed was WikiProject Women's History, a project that was only a year old when we interviewed it last March. The project is still going strong, using its talk page and growing membership to promote edit-a-thons, discuss the categorization of articles, and draw attention to topics ranging from birth control to midwifery to honor killings.
The recently interviewed WikiProject Human Rights is currently seeking editors interested in improving biographies ranging from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Malala Yousafzai.
Members of WikiProject Languages had hoped to bring many of the project's stubs up to at least C-class status, a goal that still requires a lot of work. The project still needs help from people familiar with many languages and any English experts hiding out there.
Specialty projects are our specialty
In addition to the topic-based projects mentioned above, we visited with several projects that work behind the scenes at Wikipedia to ensure articles are tidy, the encyclopedia remains organized, and the community is updated with news that impacts them. We learned which projects are in charge of sorting short articles and deletion discussions. We also learned that vandals are no match for the Counter-Vandalism Unit, which even offers a training program for would-be crime fighters.
When times get tough, new editors can head to the Teahouse to relieve their anxieties and clarify any confusion they may have. When editing gets heated, WikiProject Dispute Resolution may have some ideas to try before going into formal mediation. Both projects are growing and could use help from interested members of the community.
Finally, the Signpost's interview with the Signpost ripped a hole in the space-time continuum that we've been trying to patch-up all year. We managed to drag all four previous editors-in-chief out of retirement for what turned out to be one of our longest articles of the year. We're still waiting for that Pulitzer Prize...
So, where is the Signpost now? Well, that depends on you. Our readership continues to grow, but we always need writers and copy editors. For the WikiProject Report, we could use your help finding active WikiProjects that have been around long enough to develop their own character. We're looking for editors who have stories to tell. We want to hear about projects that are trying unique initiatives that could enrich the encyclopedia or stimulate Wikipedia's community. Leave your ideas for news items or full-fledged interviews at the WikiProject desk. We're also interested in intriguing questions you may have about the ways WikiProjects function, grow, falter, and evolve. Ask your questions on our talk page and you may see an answer in an upcoming special report.
Next week, we'll shoot for the moon. If we miss, at least we'll land among the stars.
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