Game Time in Russia
The world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1
In celebration of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, we revisited the team at WikiProject Russia to learn how the project has changed since our first interview in 2011. The project is currently home to 115 pieces of Featured material and 287 Good Articles. we interviewed Ezhiki and Ymblanter.
- How long have you been a member of WikiProject Russia? Do you live in Russia or speak Russian? Have you ever contributed to the Russian Wikipedia?
- Ezhiki: I've been involved with the project in one form or the other almost since its inception in 2006. I am a native Russian speaker, but I've been living in the United States for many years now. I have contributed (and occasionally continue to contribute) to the Russian Wikipedia, but I can hardly be called a regular there.
- Ymblanter: I am not formally signed up, but I was following the activities of the WikiProject since mid-2011, and much of my interests in Wikipedia are related to geography, history, and culture of Russia. Russian is my mother tongue, but I moved out of the country in 1994, though I visit on a regular basis. I have not contributed to the Russian Wikipedia since mid-2011, and I am not planning to resume my activity there. I am an active user and an administrator of the Russian Wikivoyage.
- Has WikiProject Russia noticed an increase in activity on the project's article related to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi? Have you contributed to any of the articles about venues for the Olympics? Have you had any contact with WikiProject Olympics?
- Ezhiki: Yes, of course there was an increase in Olympics-related activity. Setting up stubs infrastructure for all of the Olympic events is a Herculean task on its own, and from what I see it's progressing nicely (although much of the credit for this goes to editors normally uninvolved with WP:RUSSIA). On the other hand, this activity did not really transfer much onto other articles—while articles like Sochi do enjoy an influx of new edits, it, sadly, does not seem to affect other, closely related, but not really Olympics-specific topics. It will be interesting to see if this changes come February 6.
- Ymblanter: I might be the only Wikipedia user who has both WikiProject Russia and WikiProject Olympics on the watchlist, and I created a number of articles on Olympic competitions. I am also working on articles on subdivisions of Sochi. By the start of the Olympics, we must have articles on all four city districts of Sochi and hopefully I might have time to work on some of the most important microdistrict. So far, they indeed did not enjoy much of attention.
- When we first interviewed WikiProject Russia in 2011, members of the project were open to collaborating with the projects of neighboring countries, but few of those other projects were active at that time. Has the landscape changed since then? What can be done to revive projects covering countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia?
- Ezhiki: Despite its enormous scope, WikiProject Russia is not particularly bustling with activity. We have our ebbs and flows, but in the long run participation level does not fluctuate much and remains fairly low. I would imagine that for the WikiProjects covering countries neighboring with Russia the situation is rather similar, with an added disadvantage that their pool of potential editors is even smaller. In that regard, one can say that the landscape has not changed much, if at all. This, however, is to be somewhat expected: it has always been a challenge to attract editors knowledgeable about subjects where English-language coverage is limited.
- Ymblanter: I agree with Ezhiki. WikiProject Ukraine is somewhat active, other projects are essentially dead.
- Are there any struggles with keeping Wikipedia's articles about Russian politics neutral?
- Ymblanter: I do not have many articles on Russian politics on the watchlist, but I did not see much of the problem in those I watch (though I decided to unwatch 2014 Winter Olympics after being groundlessly accused in a POV by an incivil editor). The major problems I see are actually with articles on Medieval and pre-Medieval Russian history, such as Varangians. There academic literature is scarce, and users happy to introduce marginal theories are too numerous.
- Do some geographic areas of Russia receive more attention than others? What can be done to improve Wikipedia's articles about overlooked locations in Russia?
- Ezhiki: As someone editing mostly geography-related articles, I can't say any geographic areas are more popular than others. Topics related to Moscow and St. Petersburg are naturally high on the list, but so are more obscure regions like Chukotka or Murmansk Oblast. All in all, I'd say the coverage is surprisingly even (although rarely as thorough as we'd like to see). As for helping out, if anyone has good knowledge of a particular region, it should not be hard to find a Stub- or Start-level article to improve. Much of the "infrastructure", so to say, is in place; what we need most is people willing to grow meat on that bony skeleton.
- Ymblanter: Much of my activity of Wikipedia is bringing the articles of Russian district from such state to such state. So far I have done 5 federal subjects of Russia out of 83. I think even if we get all the articles about the districts to this level, it would already be a huge step forward.
- Has the project had any difficulties acquiring images for articles? What can Wikipedians visiting or living in Russia contribute to the project's photography? Are there any locations or objects that could be easily handled by anyone with a camera?
- Ymblanter: Images are a serious problem, and quality images are even a bigger problem, but the point is that the countryside of Russia, and towns which did not become tourist centers see no foreign visitors at all. If somebody happens to travel to such areas it is most likely that we need images. Do not forget that there is no freedom of panorama in Russia, and images of modern buildings or monuments will not be accepted.
- What are the project's most urgent needs? How can a new member help today?
- Ezhiki: Our needs are too numerous to list here, but Olympics coverage is probably going to be of the highest priority in the coming month. Other than that, a good starting point for anyone willing to help out and unsure where to start would be the task force pages like this one, where Greyhood (talk · contribs) (now sadly retired) compiled lists of most pressing needs. Another option is to peruse the lists of popular pages (like this one; one is available for each of the WikiProject's taskforces) to identify underdeveloped but popular articles. And then there is always the WikiProject's talk page, where one can ask for pointers.
Next time, we'll discuss some of Wikipedia's shortcomings. Until then, explore our vast archive.
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