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This week, we moved to the esoteric world of WikiProject Australian Roads. The project is surprisingly new, having been formed in just April 2013. It has slightly over 1,000 articles under its scope, including one featured and four good articles. We interviewed Evad37, Nbound, Wiki ian, and SatuSuro.
What motivated you to join WikiProject Australian Roads? Have you contributed to any of the project's Good Articles?
Evad37: I have been improving road articles in Perth and the rest of Western Australia since I first registered as an editor last year. It's an area that doesn't see that much activity, at least not in recent years, and the average article is either little more than a stub, or has a number of referencing and cleanup issues. I did manage to get the first Australian road to Good Article status (Mitchell Freeway), mostly by myself, but it's a lonely and daunting task to improve an entire subject area by yourself. I created (and therefore joined) the WikiProject in April this year, following encouragement and advice from other Wikipedians, including SatuSuro and Rschen7754. I have contributed to four of the project's good articles, one of which was recently promoted to featured article status.
Nbound: I joined AURD as Ive always found roads and their histories somewhat interesting. Ive had a major part in two Good Articles, Majura Parkway and Abbotsford Bridge, and have helped review some of AURD's other recognised content. I currently have an article (Monaro Highway) awaiting review, and plan to bring other roads upto at least GA level as time and resources permit.
Wiki ian: Being a loyal Wikipedia:WikiProject Highways member for some time, I jumped at the opportunity to join this group when I became aware of its existence. I like most engineering related topics and feel Tasmania related articles lag behind their interstate counterparts. I have at times used this project to benchmark my edits. I have not contributed to Good articles on this project as I feel my contributions are put to better use on articles of lesser quality.
Do Australian roads receive as much attention as British or American roads? Has the project received help from contributors living outside Australia? What can be done to attract more Australians to edit Wikipedia in general?
Evad37:I don't think they receive as much attention. There isn't really an iconic road like U.S. Route 66, which receives 2000+ page views each day. Most Australian road articles get less than 100 or 200 views per day. In terms of editors, there's less project members than the US or UK road projects. As far as I know, all the project members live in Australia, and most of the contributions also come from Australia – apart from minor edits, like spelling and simple cleanup. Some US roads project members have participated in discussions, and Fredddie made a ton of high quality, accurately designed SVG route marker graphics for us. I'm not really sure what can be done to attract more Australians to Wikipedia... perhaps some more real-world interaction. A new GLAM project, Freopedia, was launched earlier this year, and there was some discussion at the Australian Wikipedians' notice board about the feasibility of bringing Wikimania to an Australian city.
Nbound: Not usually, Australia has less people, and a very urbanised settlement pattern, this leaves few editors covering a majority of roads. Overseas contributors have helped the project by reviewing our articles, and helping create imagery of shielding (Thanks Fredddie!). We don't always see eye-to-eye with some of our sibling projects, but for the most part we all get along and help create good articles; after all we all have the same goal at heart, better roads articles. As far as new editors, I dont think theres much that can be done to target Australians specifically, but hopefully Wikipedia can solve some of its editor retention issues and there will be a trickle through for all Wikiprojects. Interestingly, Ive noticed a few Australian editors who arent official participants who also contribute and engage in discussions, but arent specifically listed on the participants page. I hope that they will join, as if everyone knows who the other roads editors are, and their preferred areas of work it helps with sharing of resources.
Wiki ian: No. Since becoming an active editor in 2006, Australian road articles have come along way. However, there is still much work to be done, particularly in standardization of the articles - There needs to be more conversation on how to make state-to-state articles the same. I have seen this taking place with the infoboxes, but not the layout/content of the articles.
How does the project determine notability for roads in Australia? Are sources difficult to find for articles about Australian roads?
Evad37: Unlike many other countries, road articles are based on road names, as numbered road routes are generally not notable. Sources availability varies by state - some government websites have plenty of information, others don't have so much. Reliable sources are out there, but it might require a visit library archives or extensive digging through government websites – which has resulted in articles which are "sourced" to self-published road fan websites that come up in the first or second page of internet search results.
Nbound: Theres no hard and fast rules for notability within AURD, its largely left up to commonsense and the basic rules for Wikipedia. In general though; motorways, highways, and arterials are very likely to be notable. Your local street or a nearby fire trail is not. It largely depends on whether there is any history applicable to the road. Sometimes you might find when you edit an article, that there is an interesting history that noone knew about, I think having any kind of codified rule in this regard would be a mistake. The participants can (and have) dealt with problem articles on the rare occasions they have appeared. Sources can be very difficult to find for Australian Roads, its largely a function of which state the road is located in (and can become very hard for roads that cross borders). Some states have a wealth of information available online, such as Western Australia, and to an extent New South Wales; while others have very little at all. Not everyone has easy access to hard copies of official documents as they are often located in state libraries and archives. Newspaper archives (such as Trove) can sometimes trawled for information that wouldnt otherwise be easily accessible. In general though it can be difficult to write articles for many roads. "Roadgeek" websites are also an issue as they are not reliable sources, but sometimes editors cite them as they struggle to find appropriate sources to base claims upon. One of the project's goals is to remove these citations.
Wiki ian: For Tasmanian based articles, sources can be very difficult to track down. I rely on Trove, archived material at libraries and the media for citation.
The project's noticeboard includes several initiatives regarding highway shields, article merges, infoboxes, lists, and templates. Have you been involved in any of these efforts? What challenges do projects face when trying to accomplish large-scale housekeeping like this?
Evad37: The main problem is participation. It's probably not most peoples idea of a fun time going through hundreds of articles, making adjustments that are a bit mundane for a human, but too complicated for a bot. I've done some of these, and and you really have to be in the right sort of mood. But there are plenty of other areas of the wiki that need attention, and no deadline for these tasks.
Nbound: Ive been involved in most of them; and as Evad says, you really need to be in the right mindset. Thankfully the project's editors seem to realise the amount of behind-the-scenes organisational stuff that goes into Wikiproject management and content creation, and are quite patient and appreciative of the tasks being done. Some of the major tasks (such as converting all our shield images to an easy-to-use template) have widespread participation from most editors.
Wiki ian: Not with this particular project. I did some major work to Tasmania based articles prior to the conception of this project. Now days people seem to be quick to jump into this line of work (I feel I'm not needed as far as this aspect of the project goes).
Does the project have any difficulties acquiring images for articles? What important features or landmarks still need to be illustrated by photographs in Australian road articles?
Evad37: Australia is a big place with a relatively small population, and plenty of uninhabited or sparsely populated areas - its not easy to get a photo of a road section that may be hundreds of kilometers away from a major city or town. So if anyone does happen to be travelling along a remote road, some photos would really be appreciated - such as this holiday snap. Roads under construction can make interesting photos.
SatuSuro: Distribution of known active editors in wikipedia tends to be towards the southeast of Australia, while a substantial number of highways and interesting roads tend to be a very long away from populated areas, to the extreme point where on the opposite side of Australia - Wapet Road is not only isolated and not a maintained track, but is one which requires permission to access, and a very well prepared adventure set of vehicles (one would not be enough) that are usually well beyond the usual motorists way of driving in The Outback. There are many roads throughout the country where no photographs exist of roads or their context, and where a photo from a holiday snap is always welcome.
Nbound: There is a distinct lack of free imagery for most roads (including major highways and arterials), even ones in quite accessible areas. Images of any roads would be greatly appreciated, images of remote roads and tracks even moreso. As far as features and landmarks along Australian roads go, you'll probably make a fair few friends at AURD if you can get these. I should also give Bidgee a shoutout at this point; he is pretty handy with a camera as has got quite a few good snaps in his travels.
Wiki ian: I can't say I notice issues with photos. I really dislike the inconstancy between articles as far as detailed maps go.
Has WikiProject Australian Roads collaborated with any of the transportation projects for other countries? Has your project borrowed any resources or templates from others?
Evad37:WikiProject Highways is a parent project for all the country specific road projects, and a venue for inter-project collaboration. A-Class reviews take place there, and there is a dedicated highways IRC channel. The Highways project oversees a number of shared templates, such as those for constructing road junction lists, and for displaying KML maps in the WikiMiniAtlas. The WikiProject Australian Roads talk page banner was based on the Canadian Roads banner, and borrowed elements from the US Roads banner. And the design of the project pages and project navigation box is based off those at the Highways and US roads projects.
Nbound: While some of our templates and resources are AURD specific; most of what is used is shared with our sister and parent projects, or with minor modification to suit the Australian context. Much of the wikiproject structuring is based on the US Roads Wikiproject.
What are the project's most urgent needs? How can a new contributor help today?
Evad37: The biggest problems are the number of articles that are unsourced or poorly sourced, and the amount of stubs that need expanding. The project's resources department can help with those tasks, but there's plenty more to do! The project's talk page (WT:AURD) is the best place to start. At the top, there is the to-do list, including a link to the project Cleanup listings. Below is the Project noticeboard. Newly created articles listed there can be checked for things the creator might have missed, such as categories or an infobox, or otherwise copyedited or expanded. The article alerts link to relevant discussions, where you can give your opinions, and there are various tasks listed in the progress indicator table. Or just post a message on the talk page if you want to introduce yourself, or need any help.
Next week, we'll fly the flag and shine our arms. Until then, decipher symbols in the archive.