This week, our travels brought us to Pittsburgh, the American city known for steelworks and bridges. WikiProject Pittsburgh was started in August 2006 to cover the 5,000 articles about Pittsburgh. Included in that total are 9 pieces of Featured material and 26 Good Articles maintained by 12 active and 14 semi-active members. The project's relative WikiWork is a tough 5.42, placing the average article between start and stub class. WikiProject Pittsburgh maintains the Pittsburgh Portal, monitors several to-do lists, and collects helpful resources for writing Pittsburgh articles. We interviewed CrazyPaco, Marketdiamond, and Piotrus.
What motivated you to join WikiProject Pittsburgh? Have you been involved with any of the project's Featured or Good Articles? Do you contribute to any other WikiProjects covering Pennsylvania or Appalachia?
CrazyPaco: Joining the WikiProject was just a natural extension of my interests in topics related to Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. Years ago, I was first drawn into editing Wikipedia articles because of the poor shape or absence of some topics related to the region so I naturally migrated to the WikiProject in order to discuss approaches and concerns about article creation and improvement.
Of course, spending any length of time editing in any one topic will result in one's work ending up in some Featured or Good Articles, at least to some degree, but my interest has always been more towards creating new articles, adding and sourcing content to existing articles, and illustrating articles, more so than polishing them for review. So I can't take credit from the hard work of people who have made that a priority for their editing.
I do contribute to other regionally-related WikiProjects, particularly the University of Pittsburgh Wikiproject and the Pennsylvania WikiProject, where perhaps my largest effort was helping to create lists of the state's 2,000 historical markers. Regarding Appalachia, although there are geological or socio-economic reasons that place Pittsburgh in he Appalachian region, Pittsburghers and Western Pennsylvanians really only identify with Western Pennsylvania itself. In my experience, people that are drawn to topics about Western Pennsylvania aren't necessarily going to share similar interests in another region just because it happens to fall within Appalachia. Appalachia, as a region of self-identification, isn't really in the thought process of Pittsburghers or other Western Pennsylvanians, at least in my experience.
Marketdiamond: A desire to retain and link some of the many factoids, stories and events of the region that I run across spurred me to join wikipedia. Pittsburgh being hard to pigeon hole--everything from the midwest/eastcoast/Appalachia divergent opinions to its unique nature of being a tiny landmass city in a region that has more municipalities than Montana, its playing second fiddle to Philadelphia despite being closer to Cleveland and D.C. and finally the whole "smoky city" stereotype by out-of-towners that somehow persists--has a wealth of factoids that always made me go hmm. After years in Florida, New York and elsewhere and thousands of encounters with both positive and negative misconceptions of the area that I knew were false but forgot where I heard/read/saw it, wikipedia's great citation and database approach that encouraged consensus proved to be very helpful in my own goal of remembering what those "sources" were.
The featured or good articles I see as very important and valuable, however for the foreseeable future I have no plans to focus on attaining that although I always contribute in ways that can add to an articles featured or good status. There's simply not much time left after linking, listing, categorizing, and contributing the data I find--although time consumptive that ability to organize the data in multiple ways and platforms is why I appreciate wikipedia so much. Other wikiprojects such as Pennsylvania and Appalachia do not interest me at this moment--partly because of time constraints and partly due to the cultural differences, both real and perceived. "Pennsylvania" to many people I run into is synonymous with "metro philly", it may be a unique thing but I personally find contributing to the Pennsylvania project the same as contribution to the Philadelphia wikiproject or even the Mid Atlantic or Atlantic Coast wiki articles, the perception though false exists. I have contributed some to the Appalachia articles thou I am not a member of its wikiproject (due mainly to time--I have considered joining), I agree with CrazyPaco that the vast majority of Pittsburghers both in the metro area and transplants to the sunbelt and NYC do not identify with "Appalachia" thou from my travels through West Virginia and Kentucky etc. the cultures are remarkably similar social class to social class. Parts of the southern/western Pittsburgh metro area also relates with West Virginia, including the part I hail from, although even some in Northern WV don't consider themselves "Appalachian" first. In short, I would join the WV and Appalachia wikiprojects before I considered joining the Pennsylvania one, my years of living outside Pittsburgh have taught me that to the average American "Pennsylvania=Philadelphia/East Coast" and my limited experience on wikipedia in that area confirms that.
Piotrus: I have joined this project as I've lived in Pittsburgh for several years; I think it is only good form to try to became involved in local projects. I have not been very active in writing for this subject, mostly due to the fact that I prefer subjects more affected by WP:SYSTEMICBIAS. I did contribute a number of photos from my time in Pittsburgh, thus, and I still fondly remember writing up on Edward Manning Bigelow - even if he didn't make it past start/DYK, it was fun to research a street name and find such an interesting if obscure persona behind it.
The activity at WikiProject Pittsburgh may come as a surprise considering that there are many stagnant WikiProjects covering mid-sized cities in the United States. What has made WikiProject Pittsburgh different? Is there something unique about Pittsburgh that has helped your online community grow?
CrazyPaco: To be honest, I do believe it is something unique about Pittsburgh. I did not grow up in Pittsburgh, and even though I haven't lived there in over 15 years, I still remain drawn to it and I think this is true for many other ex-Pittsburghers. There is a deep-rooted pride in the city and region that few other places that I have lived can match, and it is contagious. My girlfriend thought it was just me until we recently moved to the east coast and she realized that my affliction was mild compared to other Pittsburghers that she has now met. And there is good reason for this pride because Pittsburgh today is very much the antithesis of the stereotype of the smokey, industrial, rust-belt city that many still imagine it to be. I'm not going to suggest that it compares, point-by-point, to metropolises that dwarf it in size like New York or San Francisco, but aesthetically, culturally, and socially to is a beautiful and interesting place to live. There is a reason it has gotten so much press lately and won so may "most livable" city awards, and Pittsburghers, past and present, are somehow ingrained to want to let you know about it. Having accurate, informative Wikipedia articles on Pittsburgh-related topics is one way that some have determined to fulfill that mission. But then, you also have to keep an eye out for WP:SOAP, too.
However, I would be remiss not to mention the role that Piotrus has played. Piotrus has organized Wikipedia meet-ups in Pittsburgh and even conducted area workshops on teaching with Wikipedia. He is very active and experienced Wikipedian and having a Pittsburgh-based editor so active in both the Wikipedia community and in the real world helps quite a bit with maintaining the activity of the project.
Marketdiamond: I think CrazyPaco has expressed it very well, having lived up and down the east coast and great lakes as well as being very wonkish and deep into culture and anthropology people from the Pittsburgh "Tri-State" seem to have a very intense sense of place and regional pride. Wikipedia has given those internet savvy a medium for that pathos in some ways.
Piotrus: Luck, perhaps. With a thanks to CrazyPaco for mentioning my activities, the local meetups died out after a year; I gave up when the only two people at one was myself and a visitor from another state :/ I am still clueless to the reason that we didn't achieve the critical weight needed to transform to a community that could've supported regular meetups, but I am glad to see that the project has a visible virtual wiki presence.
Are there any Pittsburgh topics that are better covered than others? What can be done to fill the gaps in Wikipedia's coverage of Pittsburgh?
CrazyPaco: I think the universities and sports teams are pretty well covered. Many of the articles on historic landmarks and buildings could be fleshed out with more information. However, I may feel that just because I have a tendency to concentrate on historic sites within my own editing interests.
Marketdiamond: Again I think CrazyPaco is extremely well acquainted with this. Pittsburgh is a sports town more than anything. In my experience people contribute and join wikipedia because they are passionate about a topic, possibly local meet ups that do some outreach to include area residents from different segments of society could fill gaps in coverage both known and unknown. To me gaps are few but again I learn some new topic exists every day on Wikipedia.
Piotrus: As everywhere, people like to write about popculture. Not sure how we can change it.
How difficult has it been to acquire images for articles about Pittsburgh? What are some missing images that could be easily provided by someone who lives or works in Pittsburgh?
CrazyPaco: Pittsburgh is filled with rivers, valleys and architecture that makes it a pretty photogenic city, so we are pretty lucky as a project to have a fairly good selection of images to work with from those already uploaded to Commons or transferred from Flickr. However, we've also been pretty blessed with some great collaborations between editors. For example, one of my other projects was creating list articles about Pittsburgh's historic landmarks (building off of the national registry listings example, we created a list for the city's own local registry as well as one from a local, independent landmarks foundation). I was working on this while living in San Francisco, and while I would transfer creative commons released photos from Flickr when I could find them, it was locally based Leepaxton who would tramp around the region taking photos of landmarks that weren't otherwise available. So far, we have images for almost 300 of the ~500 landmarks designated by the private foundation and all 87 of the city's designations are illustrated. You can't find illustrated lists of these historical properties and structures anywhere but on Wikipedia. Building the type of informational resource is what Wikipedia is all about, as well as being an example of a successful, if not incomplete, collaboration between distantly located editors within the WikiProject.
As far as other photos that are needed, were still missing images for that landmarks list, which is something that I'd personally like to see completed. Often pictures of living individuals are hard to come by for biography articles. I think images of the architectural details of building interiors are always more scarce than those of exterior façades, and the project can always use photos of major events that occur throughout the Pittsburgh region. We're always looking for better images than the ones we currently have for any article.
Marketdiamond: CrazyPaco covered this well, all I would add is that I would love to see some images of the mayors, police chiefs, city council presidents of the past added to those articles. And a big thanks to the many that have added some great images, I'm a huge fan of them, and the historical landmark articles are wonderful works!
Piotrus: It would be nice if more people contributed to Wikipedia rather than to Facebook or such, alas, that's hardly a problem unique to WP:PITTSBURGH area.
Does the project collect any resources for editors to use when building articles? What are some of the better sources for historical and contemporary information about Pittsburgh?
Marketdiamond: Not much left to add (great job CrazyPaco), I do wonder about the project collecting these resources at a central page, could be something to look into, in a round about sort of way I have done some of this on the On this Day section of the portal, but could be expanded and centralized into a single page.
Piotrus: CP, as always does an excellent job covering the sources. We should probably copy his statement to the WikiProject page :)
What are the project's most urgent needs? How can a new contributor help today?
CrazyPaco: This is probably a similar question to the one above regarding the gaps in the project. Any new contributor can look into those gaps if they are looking for a direction to edit in, and it may be particularly useful to take a look at the project's Assessment table, but any contribution is helpful and appreciated. I think probably the most important thing is to make sure that you having fun, and that usually involves, at least for me, participating in areas where your own interests lie.
Marketdiamond: Agreed with similar to gaps, if an editor wanted to help today and had the resources images of mayors, police chiefs, city council members etc. would be helpful. Also expansion of the Three Rivers Film Festival article is something I have worked on. Long term view is correct like CrazyPaco said, any contribution no matter how small is always appreciated and helpful, goes without saying though to follow wiki policy on adding a citation and being neutral etc.
Piotrus: More contributors are needed - hardly different than the urgent need of every single WikiProject out there.
Anything else you'd like to add?
CrazyPaco: I have to give a shout out to all the editors, including some anonymous IPs, that have made so many important contributions to Pittsburgh-related articles. Personally, in addition to those editors that I mentioned above, I am thankful for the collaborative work of Marketdiamond, GrapedApe, Grsz11, and Notyourbroom, but really, I could list every editor listed on the WikiProject page.
Marketdiamond: A huge thank you to all editors, anon IPs and even retired editors for hours of hard work in all sorts of specialized topics concerning the area. To think that a "committee" actually did build a thorough bred like the Pittsburgh articles is amazing to me. Also a thanks to those at the help desks for technical and resource/citation assists on some items, even though not part of the project or even interested in Pittsburgh those highly skilled editors have always been very kind, prompt and instructive in my experiences.
One thing we could do as a project is present a monthly award or even yearly award to members, good for morale and encouraging the wikipedia way sort of thing.
Piotrus: I'd love to see the meetups resume, so then when I come back visit one day I have more great people to meet :)
Next week, we're answering your questions. Until then, look for answers in the archive.