Wikipedia talk:Featured article candidates/archive53

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Make science a featured article

I (and others) suggested above that collaboration was a way around some of the problems that can arise with very broad articles; and I also suggested working on the elite nine articles. Looie496 responded that they would be willing to work on science. I'd like to try it; I would love to be part of getting a "top of the pyramid" article to featured status.

I don't believe this is achievable without a group of several editors experienced at FA, and a further group of editors very knowledgeable about the topic. Are any FA regulars interested? If so, I would like to post a notice of intent at Talk:Science, and start canvassing editors with a background in the practice, history or philosophy of science to see if they would like to participate. It would be a significant test of Wikipedians' ability to collaborate on a large topic, and I think it would also be helpful to have participants who have successfully collaborated on a large scale on articles in the past. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 11:55, 15 October 2011 (UTC)

I do not have any competence in the field, but I will be happy to help out with the grunt work of copyediting and so forth.--Wehwalt (talk) 11:57, 15 October 2011 (UTC)
I don't have much background in the field, either, but would also be happy to help with "grunt work". Dana boomer (talk) 12:38, 15 October 2011 (UTC)
I've got a couple of vanilla history of science books (and thick ones, at that :) Barring that, I'd be fine with grunt work. Buggie111 (talk) 17:53, 15 October 2011 (UTC)
I'd be up for that. The history of science has long been an interest of mine. But as to whether I can do the collaboration thingie I'll leave for others to judge. :-) Malleus Fatuorum 20:35, 15 October 2011 (UTC)
I totally heart (RESPECT!) what y'all are doing here. I am such a troll, so not sure if it is better if I stay away and stay gadfly or jump in. In any case, I did bookmark the article to read it. I think the major challenge is content. Deciding what should be in/out. Which is GOOD actually. Now of course different people will make different decisions. And it is not a deterministic problem to solve. All that said...looking at that article, I can see obvious issues (like lacking some description of the major subfields, emphasis on neoliberal points (and leave them, keep the peeps happy, but just tone it down in amount and add an occasional small alternative). Omitted areas like "big science". Heck...go get ORLady and Carch in there to help a bit...those are some smart dude/ttes.). Anyway...congrats. Be hard. Good luck!!!! (talk) 23:52, 15 October 2011 (UTC)
The best thing about a mix of science folks and laypeople is we should be able to balance jargon vs accessibility. M'kay?
NB: The biggies that I've gotten to FAC have been interesting in their epicness - quite a different experience to the more esoteric ones. Casliber (talk · contribs) 23:56, 15 October 2011 (UTC)
Cas, without wanting to flatter, you'd be a good guy to drive this and make it happen. What is needed here is someone to bring people together. I hate to put you on the spot, but know you are an idle bastard on wiki with feck all else to do. But for some reason people seem to respect you. So.... Ceoil (talk) 01:22, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, but I'm not one to be herded, so I'm afraid it'll be down to you Ceoil. Malleus Fatuorum
Wouldn't it make sense to wait for Cas to say something? I'm not one to be herded either, but I'm not too worried about it. Looie496 (talk) 03:19, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
It was meant more as a quip, but as large a project as Mike proposes (and I really welcome his proposal, its very exciting) needs a center to my mind. Wheather that is an individaul or a group I dont care, I was just hoping that the idea does not die out. Malleus your about the last person I would ascribe the word "herd" to, fair play to you, and as somebody who grew up on a farm dealing with very cranky cows and sheep indeed, I know what I'm talking about. I dont want to put pressure on Cas either, though. Ceoil (talk) 03:40, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
(sticks fingers in mouth and whistles) hey, I figured some folks would check the talk page while gasbagging over here....say something Rents... Casliber (talk · contribs) 04:23, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
I was going to say the only way to approach an article like that is systematically, and I'll say more on this on the talk page over there, but commenting here on the general approach, the issue is usually whether the subarticles are in a good enough state to aid the project of improving such an article. You don't want to get to a state where the main article has been rewritten to such an extent that it contradicts the daughter articles, so for topics like this some degree of working on a set of articles, rather than just one, is needed. Not all the way from the bottom up to the top, but at least ensuring that the foundation is there underlying the article. Carcharoth (talk) 18:21, 16 October 2011 (UTC)

Avoiding possible doubts about impartiality

A possible conflict of interest arises in any case in which a delegate directly supports or opposes a nomination at FAC. The question arises because a delegate may be seen by reviewers, nominators, and other delegates as more powerful than other editors involved in the FAC process. To please a delegate or to avoid irritating a delegate, nominators, reviewers, and other delegates may give undue weight to a delegate’s declaration of support or opposition. To prevent hard feelings that might arise from any possibility of such a conflict, I suggest that paragraph 4 of the FAC instructions be altered to say: "The FA director, Raul654—or one of his delegates, SandyGeorgia, Karanacs, and Ucucha—determines the timing of the process for each nomination. For a nomination to be promoted to FA status, consensus must be reached that it meets the criteria. Consensus is built among reviewers and nominators; the director or his delegate determines whether there is consensus. Although the director and the delegates may comment during the process, they will not directly oppose or support promotion. A nomination will be removed... " The suggested change is italicized here only to make more clear what change I'm proposing. If the change is adopted, it should not appear in italics. Finetooth (talk) 00:05, 16 October 2011 (UTC)

Is there an occurrence that this is in response to?--Wehwalt (talk) 00:32, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
No. Finetooth (talk) 01:55, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
The delagates, in fairness to them, seem to be scrupulous aware of this and tend to recluse if there is even a chance of a COI, precieved or otherwise. Ceoil (talk) 01:31, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
They might like my idea. It's not an anti-delegate proposal. Finetooth (talk) 01:55, 16 October 2011 (UTC)

I only accepted a position as a delegate with the caveat that I could still review occasionally. It's good for me to put on each of the hats (editor/nominator, reviewer, and delegate) in turn. None of us is going to promote an article that we've entered a declaration for. Karanacs (talk) 15:50, 17 October 2011 (UTC)

Thank you for responding. I'm not suggesting that delegates be precluded from reviewing or editing or nominating, just precluded from registering a support or oppose during the FAC process. If I were a delegate, I would find it more difficult to disagree with another delegate than I would with anyone else. Although the tilt might be imperceptible, I would have a self-interest in supporting the people I have to work with every day. My proposal is meant to reduce the importance of any such tilt, which I think is part of human nature, not just my nature. The change would be minor in its importance and effect, but it would draw a more clear distinction between the functions of a judge (delegate) and the functions of an advocate (supporter or opposer). Finetooth (talk) 18:30, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
Ah, I understand the concern now. If it helps ease your mind - Sandy has no problem promoting articles where I've opposed if I haven't made my case very well, and I believe she's archived some where I've supported! It's also important to note that comments play just as large a role as an actual declaration. I've archived FACs where there may have only been one oppose (and several supports) but multiple "neutral"s listing as issues whatever it was the oppose was based on. So for your proposal to have the full effect, we'd have to stop delegates from reviewing at all. Karanacs (talk) 18:45, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
My concern is with the process rather than particular cases or people. A support or oppose by any delegate (now or in the remote future) may be thought by anyone else involved in the process to carry more weight than a "regular" support or oppose. While it's true that comments by delegates might also be seen to carry more weight than "regular" comments, the impact of an oppose or support is greater than the impact of a comment. Finetooth (talk) 19:40, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
The same bias could be for editors who come by and review a lot as opposed to those who do fewer reviews.Jinnai 20:12, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
From a delegate perspective, Finetooth, this isn't necessarily true - "the impact of an oppose or support is greater than the impact of a comment". In terms of perception, perhaps, but not in terms of weighing consensus. Karanacs (talk) 20:17, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
I think what Jinnai says is extremely true - a long-time reviewer who is known to have a solid grasp of the FAC criteria is going to have their support/oppose weighted more heavily than a user who no-one has ever seen around the page and who demonstrates little knowledge of the FA criteria ("SUPPORT!! This is an awesome article and I really liked reading it and I think it'll make a great FA!) And long-time reviewers (Malleus, Dank, Jimfbleak, Sasata, the list goes on) are people the delegates have to work with every day too. So should these people be barred from supporting/opposing too? Their !votes are not going to be "weighted" any less than those from Karen/Sandy/Ucucha... - and, for example, I wouldn't blame delegates from giving more weight to Sasata than Karen if it was a mushroom article, but the reverse could be true if it was an article on Texas history. I see no reason to bar delegates from supporting/opposing - I have never seen evidence that they are biased in favor of their own, nor have I ever seen anyone suggest that they are (I have seen them blamed for/accused of many things, but never this!). I think you have a solution looking for a problem here... Dana boomer (talk) 20:32, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
What a fantastic idea ... if you ban me from FAC, I'll make more money and write more articles. - Dank (push to talk) 21:00, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
Karanacs, Jinnai, and Dana boomer all make good points. I withdraw the proposal. The best course is to assume good faith, which I do. Thank you all for taking the suggestion seriously and not simply dismissing it out of hand. Finetooth (talk) 22:25, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
The perception of impropriety can be as dangerous as actual impropriety, so if there are ever any cases where reviewers/nominators feel that there was some collusion/improper weighting going on, please bring it up here so we can address it - either by explaining the thought process or identifying and learning from a mistake. Karanacs (talk) 13:59, 19 October 2011 (UTC)

Random articles

Someone asked me at my Meta talk page to make a tool for a random featured article. I've already got two tools that can be used for that: random article and random article - simple. They both redirect to a random article in a category. So both may be of interest for you. In most cases the simple tool will suffice as it uses less resources and is therefore more likely to work for categories with many pages. I explained the differences at Template_talk:Random_page_in_category#New_tool. In any case:

Perhaps you'll find them useful. --Erwin (talk) 10:41, 16 October 2011 (UTC)

YOU ROCK!!!! (talk) 12:48, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
Thanks.Jinnai 17:37, 18 October 2011 (UTC)

For the delegates

There are some routine notifications that I've been making directly that the delegates have asked me to put up here at WT:FAC. I'll add stuff here as I get to it. - Dank (push to talk)

Thanks, Dank-- doorbell is ringing, I will look as soon as I can (unless someone else does first)-- I do appreciate the heads up here as they will get more eyes when delegates are busy. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 14:23, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
As a practical matter, wouldn't a note on the affected FAC be sufficient? If it is simply a note to the delegates, don't they have a page where they communicate in Sandy's userspace?--Wehwalt (talk) 14:28, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
Wehwalt, Dank has previously posted such notices at Sandy's userspace page, but she has requested that they appear here instead. Nikkimaria (talk) 16:50, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
That explains it then. Ho hum, back to Mark Hanna then.--Wehwalt (talk) 00:05, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
I'll put my responses here, so others can see why it's helpful to have this here (that is, other FAC regulars can help when others are busy):
  • Hobey Baker: this was my message-- has Nikkimaria been pinged?
  • Uxbridge-- I said to have him ping me, I did not say I would reinstate it, although we can discuss whether that exception to FAC instructions would be fair to other nominators. In the interim, Malleus's circumstances changed, which is why I haven't taken action on that. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 14:33, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
    • I'll ask him to withdraw his request, just so we're all clear. - Dank (push to talk) 16:09, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Please, by all means archive the RAF Uxbridge nomination. I'll nominate it again once the two week limit is reached. Harrison49 (talk) 18:00, 27 October 2011 (UTC)

Dealing with disruptive editing

I've opened a discussion on whether/how to change the process with which WP deals with disruptive editors. All input/ideas are welcome - I'd love it if we could develop some proposals to put to the broader community. Karanacs (talk) 19:00, 28 October 2011 (UTC)

Question about repeat links

There is |an RfC regarding best practices for repeat links ... it is asking if LINKS should mention the convention used in many FA articles, where links are repeated when first encountered following the lead. --Noleander (talk) 22:53, 29 October 2011 (UTC)

Wikipedia talk:Verifiability RfC....

Dear all, there has been ongoing armwrestling for years about the wording of the WP:V, which finally might be laid to rest now with over 300 folks commenting and counting. I obviously have an opinion on it, but did wonder about other folks who do alot of content and referencing work (i.e. FA writers), as I didn't see a huge number of our names there...just saying is all....and I won't hold it against anyone who likes the wording as is (chuckle) Casliber (talk · contribs) 23:44, 3 November 2011 (UTC)


I have noticed an increased use in the text of articles at peer review and FAC of the plural form "behaviors" (I've also seen "literatures"). Perhaps I am being pedantic, but to my rheumy, 1970s-educated eyes these are abominations. "Behavior" and "literature" are examples of abstract mass nouns that do not have a separate plural forms; there are many such cases. Can anybody cite usage of this form (outside Wikipedia) which indicates that it is acceptable in professional-standard prose? Brianboulton (talk) 14:30, 21 October 2011 (UTC)

"Behaviors" gets 15 million Google books hits, "behaviours" 2,340,000. Grandiose (me, talk, contribs) 14:43, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
"Behaviours" is commonly used in the social sciences, as in Meaden and Hacker's Problematic and Risk Behaviours in Psychosis (2011). I'm no so keen on "literatures" though. Malleus Fatuorum 14:45, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
I'm not absolutely convinced that the Social Sciences is the best authority to quote concerning proper English usage, since psychology in particular has rather a history of mangling and jargonising the language. Consider this: If two children have behaved badly, would it be acceptable English to say "Their behaviours were appalling"? or "Due to the behaviours of this pair the games room is closed"? etc etc. Brianboulton (talk) 20:21, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
Psychology, sociology, and anthropology discuss ranges of behaviors. If the article is about a range of behaviors, or behaviors that fall under a personality disorder, that would be appropriate. If it addresses two children stealing cookies, that's just naughty behavior. Yet completely justified. --Moni3 (talk) 21:07, 21 October 2011 (UTC) lists two definitions for behavior that are susceptible to pluralization. 2c is "a stereotyped, species-specific activity, as a courtship dance or startle reflex". 3 is "often, behaviors. a behavior pattern". Looie496 (talk) 21:44, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
Yes it is entirely respectable in zoology, as well as the social sciences. I think the fly-swatter should be kept handy for non-technical usage though. Somewhat the same with "literatures": "Both the Franks Casket and the Ruthwell Cross have large literatures" is ok I suppose, but it should be kept for that sort of context. Johnbod (talk) 23:09, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
Before this vanishes, I'll just note that OED "Literature" 3b is "The body of books and writing that treat of a particular subject", first cited from 1860, & presumably always capable of taking plural form. Johnbod (talk) 16:14, 12 November 2011 (UTC)

Knowle West

I think all comments on this FAC have been answered, is there anything else that is needed? Jezhotwells (talk) 20:59, 1 November 2011 (UTC)

One of the delegates is going through FAC every few days, often Karanacs on Wednesday and me on Friday or Saturday. There isn't much for you to do at this point, I think. Ucucha (talk) 21:24, 1 November 2011 (UTC)
OK, thanks. Jezhotwells (talk) 01:28, 2 November 2011 (UTC)
Not FACs were promoted for the week of 30 October -5 November Hawkeye7 (talk) 22:34, 8 November 2011 (UTC)

Bolded supports, etc.

From time to time, delegates haved asked reviewers to bold their support or oppose and put it at the beginning of a line (with or without a bullet in front). I was just tidying up a support here and I realized I didn't quite know what I'm supposed to do. I changed "That's all the comments I can muster, so I'll support now." to: "Support. That's all the comments I can muster, so I'll support now." Also, the reviewer started off with a bolded Comments (which I personally prefer to starting with Oppose or Support) ... I added their name, but I wasn't sure whether to strike the "comments" when I added the "support" below. (I'd prefer not to, if that won't be confusing.) - Dank (push to talk) 02:24, 12 November 2011 (UTC)

Thanks, Dank ... what you did was fine, except that you split a reviewer commentary in to two lines-- I restored it to one line.[1] Don't worry about comments ... when I read through on my first pass I just don't want to miss a FAC that might be maturing and ready for a solid look because the Support is buried in a mass of text, sometimes with colorful sigs. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 15:50, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
Sorry about that. Will try to remember to put the support in front in the future. Giants2008 (27 and counting) 21:43, 12 November 2011 (UTC)

A little time, please

I am currently "at sea" but will return tomorrow to full access to the Internet unmetered and all the joy that brings. I'd appreciate it if Raul and delegates would allow me a little time to drum up reviewers for Indian Head gold pieces. That is, if we do not unexpectedly hit an iceberg off Miami.--Wehwalt (talk) 15:01, 12 November 2011 (UTC)

No problem ... Watch out for the sandbars. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 15:51, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
There are reports coming in of icebergs off Miami. Its probably best to quitely archive Wehwalt's nom. Pity. Ceoil (talk) 18:28, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
Yes, well, Cuba showed up off the port bow. The Captain says he was expecting it but I have my suspicions.--Wehwalt (talk) 09:27, 13 November 2011 (UTC)
Your captain needs to give me back my 1 million dollars. Ceoil (talk) 18:05, 13 November 2011 (UTC)

Spotcheck advice required

I've been spotchecking a couple of articles at the bottom of the list to help out. This has involved selective sampling of probable, or available, sources to test whether copyright violation, plagiarism or inaccurate representation of the source has occurred. A couple of times I've come across "minor" issues: typos, true claims that are not cited, but are citable to another source, or close paraphrase (adjustments of nouns only, with the verb phrase and order remaining the same). This isn't a case where I can clearly say, "Well, 3/15 sources checked, and 1 minor issue, that means there are 4 undetected minor issues, better Oppose then." So what do I do? Bold a Hold pending changes and a report from the nom? Confuse the hell out of the delegates? I need advice from colleagues on this. Fifelfoo (talk) 22:34, 15 November 2011 (UTC)

The few times I've done spotchecks and found marginal problems I've lifted the text from the source to compare to the text from the article and asked the nominator to fix. Some issues are easily fixed but need to be pointed out. Hope this is helpful. Truthkeeper (talk) 23:02, 15 November 2011 (UTC)
it is helpful, but the issue is the rate of minor errors projected into unspotcheckwd sources, and to what extent such an expected rate should cause opposes? (talk) 23:18, 15 November 2011 (UTC) [forgot to login] Fifelfoo_m (talk) 00:27, 16 November 2011 (UTC)
I suggest, Fifelfoo, not opposing, but asking the delegate to wait to promote until your concerns are addressed (this is, by the way, one reason why I think VanishedUser1123581321's suggestion of having assigned delegates to FAC nominations is at least worth discussing). Forgive me, IP, if you are in fact that editor.--Wehwalt (talk) 23:23, 15 November 2011 (UTC)
Ah, sorry Fifelfoo, I wasn't sure who had written that and thought it might be TCO back from the Great Turtle in the Sky--Wehwalt (talk) 00:32, 16 November 2011 (UTC)
I wouldn't oppose unless it were a chunk of text obviously plagiarized. I've found problems in only a few reviews and simply point them out as a comment. Usually the problems are fixed. Truthkeeper (talk) 23:28, 15 November 2011 (UTC)
I'm worried about Brain and feel inclined to oppose after checking another tranche. With Boston I'm not fundamentally concerned. Kiapit needs all of it's last available source checked anyway. But what distinguishes my response to Brain from Boston or Exchequer? A119 is a clear oppose, and Nobel Peace 2010 is clearly safe after nominator response. I'm trying to work this out so I'll have a clear view on how to do this regularly; given that it is a spot tater than an exhaustive check. Fifelfoo_m (talk) 00:27, 16 November 2011 (UTC)
Do you want another set of eyes? Truthkeeper (talk) 01:17, 16 November 2011 (UTC)
I had a look at Brain and I think what you've done there is fundamentally correct. When I run into issues like that, and I understand that it's tedious work, I tend to dig a bit deeper. And then wait for nominator response or leave it to the delegates to decide. Truthkeeper (talk) 01:26, 16 November 2011 (UTC)
Conflating several issues here: true claims that are not cited — whatever the practice is at FAC, the official policy (and the practice in proper journals and books) is that you only cite what might be challenged. I'd ignore an uncited obvious fact. I was asked recently if I should cite the lack of a pub in a village, which is, well.... With listy type material, like the Spotted Woozelum eats only apples, bananas and carrots, there is a limit to what can be done in terms of paraphrasing. WP:GF seems to be going out of the window to be replaced by an assumption that everything is either made-up or plagiarised. But then, I'm a irresponsible bully, what do I know about content? Jimfbleak - talk to me? 06:47, 16 November 2011 (UTC)
I encourage you to spot check a bunch of articles in a row. The disconnection between sourcing and content is disturbing. See my comments on Brain regarding a primate specific Nature paper being used to describe all mammals; or, a paper on Bats whose abstract directly contradicts the content placed in the article. Fifelfoo (talk) 06:58, 16 November 2011 (UTC)
The structure encourages that. There is rarely an actual check of a printed source because a reviewer is unlikely to be in possession to it unless there's a Google books preview. I believe that was also pointed out by TCO before he retreated into his shell, the normal reaction of course, under the circumstances.--Wehwalt (talk) 12:55, 16 November 2011 (UTC)
I don't tend to do more than 1 or 2 spotchecks, but if I do find issues, I check a few more. Then, I file nominations into three mental categories of action:
  • Minor errors and low rate of error. Inform nominator and wait for fixes. Support would be conditional on fixes.
  • Minor errors and high rate of error. Recommend broader checks by an independent reviewer, and generally oppose.
  • Major errors or blatant plagiarism. Usually recommend withdrawal of nomination.
The endgame is determining based on sample size and rate of error the likelihood of additional errors or deliberate plagiarism. There is no hard answer for whether you oppose over it, but in my opinion, you have a responsibility to oppose a nomination over anything more than a handful of actionable problems. Either way, let the delegates know whether you are satisfied or unsatisfied with the sourcing so they can judge the weight of your comments. --Laser brain (talk) 15:05, 16 November 2011 (UTC)
That can't be Laser brain, I thought he was on the Mars mission. His account must have been hacked. I knew I saw my block button only last month ... let me look ... oh drat.--Wehwalt (talk) 15:11, 16 November 2011 (UTC)
Per Laser, and either way, if you find and indicate anything of substance, whether or not you oppose, I'm unlikely to promote anyway until another reviewer has had a deeper look. Don't worry, Fifelfoo, the process sorts it out-- say what you found, oppose if you feel you should, but as far as I know, all of the delegates take comments seriously too :) SandyGeorgia (Talk) 15:13, 16 November 2011 (UTC)
My response is that articles need to be checked, and errors corrected. It is easy for an article under editing to have the citations start to drift out of alignment with the text. An example came up in my Kaiapit article. The text said something like "taking advantage of an improvement in the weather, 99 sorties were flown". The source said: "we flew 99 sorties". Fifelfoo asked whether the weather improvement was implied. Possibly; but it was just as easy to added another source which commented on the weather. I do not actually rely on the sources for fact checking; wherever possible I verify them against the primary sources. That is to head off citogenesis. Hawkeye7 (talk) 02:01, 17 November 2011 (UTC)
One citing question: source A says A1; source B says B1 and B2. A1 and B1 happened at the same time, so I say that A1 and B1 happened, cite it to A, then later in the same paragraph, I cite B, intending that to cover both B2 and the earlier B1 fact. S'okay? - Dank (push to talk) 12:52, 19 November 2011 (UTC)
I would expect anything before the first cite to be found there. I would either cite twice to B or else put both cites (A and B) at the end of the paragraph.--Wehwalt (talk) 21:44, 19 November 2011 (UTC)
This is a matter of personal editorial style, and not subject to any policy. I would expect, and have found that, natural editor behaviour for long paragraphs is A1, B1;[A][B] B2.[B] On the other hand Wehwalt's alternative is also very popular: A1, B1; B2.[A][B] When there's a doubt, and there's a mixture of technical points with analytical coverage, I'd encourage explanatory citations that indicate which source supports what, but that would be completely optional. In this short burst of spot-checking, I didn't have any problems identifying which citation supported which content. Fifelfoo (talk) 12:11, 20 November 2011 (UTC)

Cool script available

The featured article SS Edmund Fitzgerald has several errors in the citations that are highlighted in red by the script available at User:Ucucha/HarvErrors. I repaired everything I could, and placed a note on the article talk page. It might be a good idea for people who are reviewing featured articles to install this script, as it points out referencing errors of various kinds if the article is using Harvard templates. It would also be great if the {{sfn}} template was widely used on our featured articles (and all our better articles) as it makes checking the citations easy via script. Regards --Dianna (talk) 00:05, 12 November 2011 (UTC)

I doubt that you'll find consensus about using templates in articles at any level. Imzadi 1979  00:07, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
There were 28 citation errors on this article when it appeared on the main page; they were highlighted in bold red by this script. Tools such as templates and scripts that can help us produce better articles with less effort are a good thing imho. --Dianna (talk) 03:10, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
Ouch! That's a lot of errors for a TFA. - Dank (push to talk) 14:18, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
I'm dumber than the average bear, but I can't decipher where these 28 errors were (but then I hate Harvard and sfn tempaltes and would never use them)-- the only thing I can figure is that the Wolff-Holden citations were changed to Wolff which is wrong. I guess I'll have to install the script to understand the problem, but I certainly wouldn't want any template imposed on FAs or any other article (and that has been PERENnially defeated). SandyGeorgia (Talk) 15:55, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
Many of the errors were {{sfn|Wolff|1990 should have been {{sfn|Wolff|Holden|1990. The author names and the publication years have to match. In some cases there are multiple publication years for works, and information might appear on different pages in those different editions, so it is important that this stuff be right. There was one invalid ISBN caught by a different script. I'm not suggesting everyone start using templates, but they will certainly become more common as time goes on (Amundsen's South Pole expedition uses them, for example), so it might be worthwhile for some of the reviewers to install the script. It's easy to install and easy to use. Regards, --Dianna (talk) 17:35, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
Hi Diannaa - I used to use Harvard templates but have stopped because on a very long page it slows load-time. Also, as you've mentioned above, the syntax has to match perfectly otherwise they don't work, and quite frankly it can be a maintenance nightmare. Personally I've found it's much easier to format freehand cites and references; formatting citations is done on a case-by-case, page-by-page basis and it wouldn't be a good idea to impose a specific style. Truthkeeper (talk) 17:53, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
No one is proposing the imposition of a specific citation style, but I agree that when you do use Harvard-style citation templates, you really should use this script, because it makes it's very easy to make errors and without the script it is difficult to find those errors. Ucucha (talk) 18:40, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
That is not so, Ucucha: Dianaa specifically said "It would also be great if the {{sfn}} template was widely used on our featured articles", and now she's trying to impose that citation style at Ernest Hemingway. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 04:52, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
That is not true. I made some corrections to the Harvard citations on the Hemingway article on Saturday the 19th, and expressed an opinion on the talk page that I thought {{sfn}} templates are better than {{harvnb}} templates. I have not been back to the article or its talk page since that day, and do not even have it watch-listed. --Dianna (talk) 05:50, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

Getting reviews

Speaking of unimportant subjects, is it unseemly to solicit reviews on my latest FAC? I was going to leave a note at a couple of Wikiproject talk pages, but I don't want it to look collusive. What's the etiquette here? --Coemgenus (talk) 15:21, 23 November 2011 (UTC)

Bring new people into the process. Posting here is treating the whole thing too much like a zero sum game. Circulate in article space (not just projects) and use personal requests. You can find people who know the topic who can do content reviews at least. The orange bar is much more powerful at motivating help (and feels more personal, more of a connect as we do our work) than the talk page plea. I would not worry about "appearances". You know if you are being honorable or if you are trying to pack the court. Go get the best damned reviewers and bring them back here. Heck, maybe they help someone else out as well. Grow the pie!TCO (talk) 15:25, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Good point. I'm informally helping out one of the classes, perhaps I will ask the prof (maybe during finals, when he has nothing better to do) to join my current PR, Mark Hanna (advertising, anything wrong with that?) As he is a history prof, should be right down his alley. And I'm sure he has access to JSTOR, which I don't (big hint here about one of my grievances towards WMF).--Wehwalt (talk) 15:32, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Ask the librarains and archivasts and such as well. I assume you get their business cards, right? It's just a quick email. I bet less than 50% will play, but it's just a couple sentence email with a link. Bread in the water. I had a couple of top reptile professors in the field who were going to write reviews (but picta and state reptile passed too fast). (talk) 15:40, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
I find a lot of them are too busy even to read my article, but I'll take that on board as a good suggestion.--Wehwalt (talk) 15:53, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Act like you are a player and (some) people will buy it. (talk) 16:02, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
I did mention that your article is on the "urgents" list over at WT:MHC#FAC update, Nov 20. - Dank (push to talk) 18:44, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Thanks. that was the first wikiproject I'd planned to pester. --Coemgenus (talk) 21:00, 23 November 2011 (UTC)

Image check please

Could someone do an image check on Walking Liberty half dollar, please?--Wehwalt (talk) 01:28, 27 November 2011 (UTC)

Ditto M-185 (Michigan highway). (U.S. Route 2 in Michigan would be nice as well.) I'm still out of town, but I can pop online intermittently for the next few days. Imzadi 1979  01:53, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
Will take a look. Nikkimaria (talk) 02:48, 27 November 2011 (UTC)

Request for a collaborator

If anyone is interested in collaborating on taking New Worlds (magazine) to FAC, please let me know. I have it mostly in shape now, with a few paragraphs towards the end that need cleanup, but I don't have access to JSTOR or a university library and I know a lot of scholarly articles have been written about its influence and role in New Wave science fiction. If anyone who has access to that sort of material is interested in helping expand coverage for that area, please let me know on my talk page. (I also plan to post at the science fiction Wikiproject.) Thanks. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 14:30, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

I lack the necessary qualifications to be your collaborator as I sadly lack JSTOR. I look to the foundation and our representatives to remedy that situation, and thereby improve the articles WMF boasts about. No one wants systematic agriculture here, but our ancestors found early on that a little encouragement to the plants can lead to better fruit.--Wehwalt (talk) 14:56, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Ditto. Mike, I flagged my interest in collaborating with you on SF mags not long ago and I'm happy to honour that but you already have all the encyclopedic SF sources in my personal library, and much more. So I can't really assist in expanding the article's coverage but if you'd like me to review and copyedit prior to FAC, I'll certainly do so. Cheers, Ian Rose (talk) 03:03, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
Well, I have a nasty feeling there's going to be a lot of reading of the literary articles I don't have access to -- I have an offer from one editor already to send me relevant PDFs to read, but if you'd like to do first pass at filtering those down to what needs to be included that would be very helpful. Of course I would expect anyone who put in that kind of help to join me as a conominator of the article. I'll make the same offer to the other editors who've offered help; and if anyone else with the ability to read literary articles and digest them effectively wants to conom, please let me know -- it's not something that comes up a lot on my articles and I think I could use some help. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 03:54, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
Mike, that's not a topic I'm really familiar with, but I do have both JSTOR access and a general familiarity with literary articles, so I could try to help out. Nikkimaria (talk) 04:16, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
Thanks; I'll respond at your talk page. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 04:38, 29 November 2011 (UTC)

Sue's talk at WMUK

You guys may by now have heard about a talk Sue Gardner (executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation) gave over a week ago at a Wikimedia UK board meeting. There were some bits that could be interpreted as disparaging of FAC, and I choose to see this as an opportunity for some give-and-take. Skomorokh will be doing an interview with Sue for next week's Signpost, and I've submitted a question for the interview that I hope will elicit some clarification. I'd rather give her a chance to reframe the discussion, if she wants to, instead of pouncing on what she said. - Dank (push to talk) 21:49, 29 November 2011 (UTC)

It would really help if non pouncey editors ask questions. This is especially as all the questions I've asked so far have had their origins in jokes about the Soviet economy in the 1960s: I feel like the editor retention drive is a Virgin lands campaign, and the visual editor is the economically useless but politically useful Baikal-Amur Mainline; quality has a quantity all of its own. Fifelfoo (talk) 22:16, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
What criticism did she have of FAC? Hawkeye7 (talk) 00:27, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
Ha ha - that is indeed the question. Here's the video, see if you can tell. There are prizes. See also the very long section above, intermittently, and here. Johnbod (talk) 00:45, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
Her response. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 00:59, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
And a draft of an opinion piece to run in The Signpost along with a review of Sue's UK talk, here (for a look at how her talk is being used and interpreted wrt FA). SandyGeorgia (Talk) 01:03, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
That is a very solid piece, I must say. I agree just about entirely. In my view it doesn't go far enough. I think we should give serious consideration to semi protecting all FAs to slow decay issues.--Wehwalt (talk) 01:37, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
Just to forestall any more misunderstadings, that's an outdated earlier draft of a submission not due for publication until it's been further developed and approved. If anyone would like to give constructive commentary on the latest version, it would be most welcome. Skomorokh 01:45, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
You are a brave editor, Skomorokh.--Wehwalt (talk) 01:51, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
I see it's getting better, but in spite of substantial cleanup from ResMar's writing, it still has references that address my point about how Sue's work is being interpreted. The simplest and ultimately best thing you can do to reverse editor loss is, whenever you come across a discussion on increasing the standards for a particular process, pitch in by saying "but what about the little guys? has been removed, but it still has: "... every quality bump you make is damaging to the new editor population." Could someone explain how editing at "the top" is a barrier to editors entering not necessarily at the "top" level of quality (new editors may enter at a lower quality level than FA or GA)? (BTW, there's an "irregardless" in the last sentence.) SandyGeorgia (Talk) 02:02, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
I'm not sure what exactly you mean by "how Sue's work is being interpreted" or how you think it should, and I would really like to hear it so I address the most salient points in the report on the talk. I made some suggestions on the earlier draft of the opinion essay visible here that the author has been incorporating, but there's still room for improvement. I'm sure ResMar would very much welcome pre-publication constructive suggestions, especially from those experienced writers who share the thrust of the view of the piece. Skomorokh 02:15, 30 November 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Ok, let me try to take it in steps. The (draft of the) main piece (about the talk linked at the top of this section) is Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2011-12-05/Special report: is that right? Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/Newsroom/Opinion desk/Accessibility versus quality is an opinion piece to accompany it, if I understand what you said in other discussions: is that correct? Sue G's talk discusses editor retention relative to "quality" issues (which ResMar calls "quality creep"-- strange term). The gist of ResMar's "opinion"-- which is a response to Sue G's quality/editor retention talk-- seems to be that we don't retain editors because of this "quality creep", and we need to "think of the little guys" and resist whenever we see a "bump in quality". Now, through editing his original opinion, you (Sk) have watered it down some, but that's his apparent take-home message from Sue's talk. If any of that is correct, my question is, how is quality, which typically occurs at the "top" (which we assume to mean for the context of Sue's comments about FA to mean something akin to GA/FA/et al) related to editor retention or barriers to editor entry, when new editors don't all, or typically, enter at that level? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 02:37, 30 November 2011 (UTC)

  • The problem is not the bumps in quality per se. Certainly improving the quality of our product is not an evil thing... is it? But the problem may be the "pouncey" nature of those who defend those bumps. It causes friction, and valued (but sensitive) editors skitter away with hurt feelings... But even that "pouncey" response may be forgivable. Anyone who has ever lost an argument to a WP:Randy from Boise knows how the experience can induce a slow burn in your gut: it is discouraging to know you are right, but feel you've been shouted down. It makes you... "pouncey". Excessively so, in fact. But there it is. There's also a bit of personal pride involved, I suppose. It's a bit demeaning to work hard on a project, trying to set standards that improve quality, and then see those standards either disregarded or disparaged. Etc. NotSixBodies (talk) 03:28, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
The emphasis in Sue's talk, & the feature in the new Signpost, is at least as much on bots as actual pouncey editors. Johnbod (talk) 03:40, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
I am not saying Sue has in any way pounced on people who pounce, nor am I pouncing on Sue or her remarks for any reason. I am just twiddling with the meme somewhat to lend it a little more clarity. Moreover, the WMF (in my opinion) strives so hard to avoid a top-down approach to the editing process that they contribute nothing to the actual content creation and interaction with editors. They maintain they equipment, they sign the checks and handle legal matters. That's all, AFAIK. They need to contribute a little more non-binding moral suasion, support and rah-rah to the editing process, its subprocesses (see: FAC) and its editors. NotSixBodies (talk) 04:38, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for the alternate way of understanding it, NotSix (which is not at all the way ResMar's opinion piece is framed btw), but my original question still applies: why is this "pounciness" at the "top levels" applicable to editor entry barriers and retention, when new editors don't typically enter at "top" levels? The bots, twinklers and hugglers would be hitting them wherever they enter. In other words, why are people using this editor retention issue to aim the problem at FAs? And to those who say Sue didn't do that, I say she did, and her response hasn't clarified or retracted that satisfactorily and The Signpost has decidedly taken an editorial stance in that direction, now combined with a proposed editorial stance on social skills and that a reason that editors defend "quality" is that they are compensating for a lack of social validation elsewhere.

I suspect Wikipedians generally don't have high social status IRL), I will want to defend that status against external criticism. "I am a valued and important person in a valuable and important group." [2]

SandyGeorgia (Talk) 15:14, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
Sandy, you may have put your finger on something there. One of the means by which we measure that value (perhaps only inwardly, I don't believe there is overt competition) is the star. At least, there is a strong perception of that. Kudos to you and the other delegates for keeping that star from being devalued.--Wehwalt (talk) 15:23, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
I don't know how much that star means to people generally; perhaps I'm different than most, but I never sought it. I was drug to FAC by other editors who first took TS to PR, then took it to and got it GA'd while I was off practicing my lack of social skills, and then twice tried to FAC it while I was again off practicing my lack of social skills, and then told me that if I didn't bring it to FAC, they would (again, interfering with my lack of a social life, as each time they brought it to some content review forum, I was otherwise busy IRL). I didn't want or need the star (in fact I feared it would draw more attention and more vandalism from the then-very-active Danny the Tourettes guy internet crowd): I was motivated by the fact that there was no single piece of information on the internet that was freely available and gave decent information in a navigable format about Tourette syndrome. My "reward" was that our article gave people looking for accurate info on TS on the internet a resource (since it is information very difficult to find elsewhere). In the useless trivia dept, I do have a favorite FA (of course I can't identify it :), and it gets about 30 page views a day. It is beautifully written, a history piece, I think it represents Wikipedia at its finest, there's nothing like it anywhere, it may be true that very few people go to that particular historical designation, but when they do, and when they seek info on it, they will find a Wikipedia article that is just gorgeous, regardless if someone in here considers it "vital" or if folks "out there" hit on the page often. I'm tempted to say "irregardless". Or to add that the author has moved on to his lacking social life, since Wikipedia proved to be a hostile place. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 15:42, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
I take more pride in doing the work than in the actual star, I agree. The amount of time that all of us incurables put into this place means it is a labor of love, regardless of what we think of the star.--Wehwalt (talk) 15:51, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
Ok, I haven't commented (since I was out of town, etc), but here's my take on the overall situation. I have a niche area hobby: US roads/highways, specifically the ones in Michigan, but also adjoining states. To me, the star is validation that my hours working on, and refining, a single article has achieved something: namely that the article has measured quality. It also means that these articles are the most complete compilation of information on the Internet about these niche topics. We might have a great resource for the history of these roads in Michigan Highways, but it only details the history, not the locations, landmarks around the road. In some cases, like Capitol Loop and M-6, our articles contain a lot more interesting historical information than a dry timeline of events. TCO, and those of his ilk, might not consider these types of articles important, but there aren't a lot of places you can read of the story about how Henry Ford stopped the construction of a state highway for personal gain online, or in print. Imzadi 1979  22:00, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
I was moving along fine until I hit the word "ilk", can you send a road crew out to fix that pothole?--Wehwalt (talk) 22:06, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
I've linked it to M-W, if that helps. - Dank (push to talk) 22:19, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
The talk of stars and social skills is a distraction from the real, underlying issue: why do folks quit etc.? Why the editor shortage? I for one will never criticize anyone for seeking stars (again, if you must). I also think many people love Wikipedia for many different reasons. But why do people quit: so far, bots and bitey-ness are the two suggestions. NotSixBodies (talk) 00:12, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
The focus of Sue G's presentation was very much that the real issue is neither "why do people quit" nor "why don't enough people start" but instead "why do so few starters stay around". People have always quit, for all sorts of reasons, not to say that this may not have got worse recently, for the reasons you give and others. But we now no longer grow enough experienced editors to replace them, even though plenty of people still start editing. Johnbod (talk) 01:08, 1 December 2011 (UTC)

(undent) Aha! I have the solution! I think we should start a petition requiring Sue to work here at FAC for nine months. Then she can... you know... know more about what she's talking about. More seriously, has it occurred to anyone that being a Wikipedian is no longer new, cool and hip? NotSixBodies (talk) 07:51, 1 December 2011 (UTC)

Sue doesn't get paid $300,000 a year to work at FAC.
I recently had to mediate between where a newcomer was trying to improve his article by adding unsourced information, and a more experienced editor who was removing the unsourced information in order to save it from AfD. The idea of footnoting seems natural to me, but I have an academic background; it seems quite arcane to some. So too is the prohibition on close paraphrasing. In academia, paraphrasing is to demonstrate understanding; here it is to hew to esoteric copyright laws. The result is very intimidating to newcomers. The image of FAC among newcomers is that Featured Articles are just awesome. Eyes pop out, and the reaction is that they could never write anything remotely like that. Hawkeye7 (talk) 21:44, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
Very valid points, Hawkeye7. It takes a certain type of person who's willing to hit the books -- not for a grade or a chance at publication in a scholarly journal -- but solely for (dare I say it?) fun. Nerdy academics will always be cool, IMHO. *pushes glasses up* María (yllosubmarine) 21:53, 1 December 2011 (UTC)

FWIW, watching Sue's presentation again, now it looks to me more like an "if the shoe fits" comment than a scattershot attack. I'm looking forward to the interview in the Signpost. - Dank (push to talk) 14:09, 2 December 2011 (UTC)

FA categories

Compared to the last two times I ran these numbers-- haven't checked my math, in case anyone wants to do so. Sorting by percent change is instructive. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 00:23, 1 December 2011 (UTC)

Extended content
FA Category as of Sep 16,
Sep 16,
Dec 1,
Pct chg
Sep 2008
Num chg
Sep 2008
Art, architecture and archaeology 72 117 128 78% 56
Awards, decorations and vexillology 26 28 27 3.8% 1
Biology 155 261 326 110% 171
Business, economics and finance 19 22 44 132% 25
Chemistry and mineralogy 31 34 37 19% 6
Computing 17 17 18 5.9% 1
Culture and society 48 61 65 35% 17
Education 34 36 38 12% 4
Engineering and technology 37 38 40 8% 3
Food and drink 11 9 13 18% 2
Geography and places 158 181 185 17% 27
Geology and geophysics 12 18 20 67% 8
Health and medicine 36 42 43 19% 7
History 154 189 201 31% 47
Language and linguistics 15 13 13 -13% -2
Law 34 41 49 44% 15
Literature and theatre 134 161 191 43% 57
Mathematics 14 19 17 21% 3
Media 171 221 231 35% 60
Meteorology 78 111 126 62% 48
Music 182 232 254 40% 72
Philosophy and psychology 13 12 12 -8% -1
Physics and astronomy 82 98 101 23% 19
Politics and government 67 98 117 75% 50
Religion, mysticism and mythology 44 73 84 91% 40
Royalty, nobility and heraldry 90 94 108 20% 18
Sport and recreation 162 268 298 84% 136
Transport 74 107 128 73% 54
Video gaming 96 127 137 43% 41
Warfare 173 318 366 112% 193
Total 2,239 3,046 3,417 52.6% 1,178
Side note to Wehwalt: I just noticed that Law is at 49, so pls watch it for the "Underrepresented" point at WP:TFA/R (once it passes 50, no longer gets the underrepresented points). SandyGeorgia (Talk) 00:27, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
I have been, also Business, with 44. As I only have two more of the latter in process, I won't break the bank. Thank you for running these numbers, Sandy, most interesting indeed.--Wehwalt (talk) 00:37, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
Good point, Sandy, given the concentration of the "core" subjects of the school curriculum on the low side of average (not all, but many), I suspect notes are being taken ... Sigh.--Wehwalt (talk) 00:40, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
While secondary school curriculums are useful, I think we have other failures in the FA project. I looked around for an encyclopaedic taxonomy, and found one completely unrelated to our project, produced from a scholar known for dubious practices in work, drawn from a pre-modern encyclopaedic project, that may or may not have existed: Foucault's Chinese encyclopedia from The Order of Things. In particular the FA project is failing to promote articles on subjects that have recently broken the water pitcher. Our article on "sucking pigs" is start class!!!!one!! Finally there are no FAs at all on subjects drawn with a very fine camelhair brush. As someone who doesn't write content for Featured Articles, who doesn't slog through hours of source reading, summarisation and appropriate synthesis, style and prose excellence, and being such a person who has never had the agony of callous citation reviewers pulling their article to shreds: I demand that the FA project improve the entire wikipedia in the areas of spurious taxonomy I'm seeking to force against consensus. Please reply immediately and surrender or I will PDF this talk page comment and send it to The Times. Fifelfoo (talk) 00:58, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
I wish to subscribe to your newsletter, religious leader. And to know from where you get your mind-altering substances. --Moni3 (talk) 01:04, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
Taxonomy and notability disputes in the theory and history of soviet-style societies. It is the kind of editing that makes you want to blow your mind. Fifelfoo (talk) 01:09, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
I thought we were going to send a few barrels of what Moni was drinking to FA writers at foundation expense. Now we're going to ask them to cover drugs. Hm. Where exactly is this distribution supposed to take place? I need to get in line gather more evidence.--Wehwalt (talk) 01:17, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
More seriously to Sandy, and to all FA editors and FA authors: well done. 50% growth over a 3 year period is bloody amazing. Fifelfoo (talk) 01:09, 1 December 2011 (UTC)

Updated to include almost four years

I don't know how to generate and upload a graph: could someone help me? If so, I'll let you know what I want to graph (or maybe you can figure it out).

I'm sure as soon I decide what data I will be selecting to support my thesis, then this will very much prove my point. Yomangani, 02:00, 29 November 2011

I found old data from Feb 2008 (from when it was fashionable to bash the leaders at that time-- Music and Media-- which was the equivalent then of our current hurricane- and ship-bashing), our top six categories have not changed in almost four years, but Music and Media did get beaten down in the relative order, probably because folks used to beat the heck out of "zOMG Popular Culture FAs!!!!!". Are we going to see same among ships, biology and hurricanes because they're now the categories under fire? I'd like some graphs of the data I'm reworking over at WP:FAS (had to split out cats that had been divided since the Feb 2008 data was generated), and if the cats are too many to show in one line graph, then at least show what has happened over time to the top six, bottom six relative to the overall. I also find it interesting that the categories that are under fire now-- just as what happened to "zOMG Pop Culture" back in 2008-- are the ones having the hardest time getting through FAC now, since no one will review them (and it's interesting that the hurricane numbers are right in line with average growth, dispelling another meme currently circulating). Can we learn anything by looking at the trends over time by category, beyond the fashionable memes? I'm still doing the math over at Wikipedia talk:Featured article statistics#Dec 1 2011, but am interested in graphing the categories over time, starting with the data generated by Carcharoth in Feb 2008. Wouldn't mind if someone checked my math :) On first glance, it appears the old naysaysers were successful in beating back Music and Media from the number one slots, and with biology next in the line of sight, do we want to let same happen? Those who don't know history ... etc. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 16:20, 1 December 2011 (UTC)

I added the old data I found (already tabulated) from Feb 2008. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 17:39, 1 December 2011 (UTC)

FA Category as of Feb 23,
Sep 16,
Sep 16,
Dec 1,
Pct chg
Sep 2008
Num chg
Sep 2008
Pct chg
Feb 2008
Art, architecture and archaeology 65 72 117 128 78% 56 97%
Awards, decorations and vexillology 24 26 28 27 3.8% 1 1.3%
Biology 130 155 261 326 110% 171 151%
Business, economics and finance 16 19 22 44 132% 25 175%
Chemistry and mineralogy 29 31 34 37 19% 6 28%
Computing 17 17 17 18 5.9% 1 5.9%
Culture and society 40 48 61 65 35% 17 63%
Education 30 34 36 38 12% 4 27%
Engineering and technology 35 37 38 40 8% 3 14%
Food and drink 11 11 9 13 18% 2 18%
Geography and places 148 158 181 185 17% 27 25%
Geology and geophysics 9 12 18 20 67% 8 122%
Health and medicine 31 36 42 43 19% 7 39%
History 146 154 189 201 31% 47 38%
Language and linguistics 17 15 13 13 -13% -2 -24%
Law 29 34 41 49 44% 15 69%
Literature and theatre 108 134 161 191 43% 57 77%
Mathematics 13 14 19 17 21% 3 31%
Media 159 171 221 231 35% 60 45%
Meteorology 61 78 111 126 62% 48 107%
Music 153 182 232 254 40% 72 66%
Philosophy and psychology 12 13 12 12 -8% -1 0%
Physics and astronomy 67 82 98 101 23% 19 51%
Politics and government 62 67 98 117 75% 50 89%
Religion, mysticism and mythology 36 44 73 84 91% 40 133%
Royalty, nobility and heraldry 75 90 94 108 20% 18 44%
Sport and recreation 119 162 268 298 84% 136 150%
Transport 47 74 107 128 73% 54 172%
Video gaming 72 96 127 137 43% 41 90%
Warfare 145 173 318 366 112% 193 152%
Total 1,906 2,239 3,046 3,417 52.6% 1,178 79.3%


Well, on the JSTOR proposal, Philippe has now been provided with pricing, so we are making progress on that front. Obviously the Foundation will have to cough up some cash (I do not feel comfortable disclosing the dollar figures) but per editor, I would not consider the cost large. Bigger than a breadbox, but not too much bigger. So that's something that the Foundation can fix short term to support editors.--Wehwalt (talk) 17:07, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
Kudos on that, Wehwalt-- I am always reluctant to bother other editors for medical journal articles, and having medical journal access would allow me to work on more "important" topics (since my work on Tourette syndrome wasn't important enough, in spite of 3 to 5,000 views per day :) SandyGeorgia (Talk) 17:45, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
Thanks, but nothing's happened yet, but we've done what we can from this side of things. It would certainly make it easier for you to keep up on new developments! We shall see, though. I should say it would mark a transition between them treating us as crowdsourcers to contributors.--Wehwalt (talk) 17:48, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
I would suspect that a larger cause of Music/Media's demise was that standards rose past the general quality of the articles in that area, and that those areas have always tended to attract editors with more enthusiasm than skill with a keyboard. GA still finds itself awash with mediocre music/media articles that will never be able to approach FA level without someone else taking them in hand. --PresN 17:54, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
Overall, the top categories haven't changed, just got shuffled a bit. It's hard to generate old data because some categories got split and the numbers have to be re-tallied (one of the reasons I resist changing FA cats until we absolutely must), but that might suggest that changing standards have little to do with what articles editors choose to work on, along with a reflection that MilHist is successful precisely because of the early structure and leadership (Kirill, Roger Davies, Woody, et al) on that WikiProject. Just some other things to look at. If Music and Media were to have the same sort of support for writers that MilHist has ... Do we know who or what is responsible for the uptick at Business, economics and finance? That may be something to look at. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 18:16, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
I suspect some of it is the coinage articles that have recently been coming through FAC ... they go into business. (Although I did add one to business myself a while back..) Ealdgyth - Talk 18:19, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
I think between RHM22 and myself, we did about sixteen. I don't plan any more anytime soon, although three are still in various stages of review. (four if you count United States Assay Commission)--Wehwalt (talk) 18:25, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
Ah, I see ... working fast so I forgot :) Darn you, Wehwalt, for working on those obscure coins. I mean, who cares, ya know?  :) :) :) SandyGeorgia (Talk) 18:29, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
So now it is obscure vice presidents! Therefore I increase the prestige while keeping low clickage. Win-lose. Hm.--Wehwalt (talk) 18:31, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
Star collector! SandyGeorgia (Talk) 18:38, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
Battleship!--Wehwalt (talk) 18:40, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
Watch it, those ships are "she", and I'll accuse you of furthering the "gender gap". SandyGeorgia (Talk) 18:41, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
  • economics doesn't have leadership in their project, are regularly FRINGED and scintillating prose is hard outside of biography and economic history. There's currently a business bio on FAC languishing because of lack of interest. On the labour side of economics there are few editors with the capacity to write and little leadership. Fifelfoo (talk) 23:37, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
I passed my last language FA in 2008 - and stopped caring after a discouraging experience in 2009. The people I used to collaborate with Ling.Nut and CJLLWright are no longer active. A copyeditor could probably pass Otomi language and Greenlandic language if they wanted to. I have currently initiated a collaborative project to improve the quality of Language, but I am not going to nominate it for FA. ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 04:44, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
I gather we can agree that strong leadership in an area, not necessarily by one person, leads to better prepared articles at FAC and also more FAs for that area?--Wehwalt (talk) 14:12, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
Only if we mean leadership in the sense of initiative and organization - not in the sense of authority.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 14:59, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
I think big articles cry out for a kind of leadership that is usually antithetical to the Wikipedia experience. For it to work, I think, you'd have to gather a group of editors and then get them to agree among themselves to put one of them in charge. And I mean really in charge -- the others would have to agree to let the leader assign out portions of the article and to abide by his/her decisions in case of dispute. If that happened, you might end up with an FA/VA to be proud of. It still deosn't account for people who drop by halfway through who aren't party to the agreemeent, nor does it help with randoms and IPs who, thorugh inexperience or malice, fill high-traffic articles with unsourced crap, but it would be a start. --Coemgenus (talk) 14:48, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
I don't believe in that kind of leadership, I don't use it and I don't respond well to it, and I also think it is antithetical to wikipedia.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 14:59, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
A little homespun wisdom: people are constantly talking about what they learned from failures (their own and other people's), but you learn a lot more from studying what works than what doesn't work. Milhist and a number of other projects crank out FACs, so watch what they do if you want to do the same. Woody Allen says that 80% of success is just showing up, and I'd tweak that on WP to: 80% of success is finding people you respect and participating in what they're doing. - Dank (push to talk) 15:09, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
I also don't believe that "cranking out" FA's is necessarily a good thing. If it works for them then more power to them - but I don't see them writing FA articles about languages and linguistics following that model. Most of the topics that "crank out" FA's work with a topic that lends itself to standardized templates, that just need to be filled in. Language and linguistics don't. Different topics are...different that way. ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 15:14, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
I didn't say it wasn't antithetical, I just thought it might be effective. I don't know that I'd like it as a general matter, but for a specific project, with the right editor leading it, I might like it. There are a few editors who I'd be content to take direction from on a limited basis. As the project gets bigger and bigger, our freewheeling every-man-for-himself style begins to become ineffective for the more complex tasks. --Coemgenus (talk) 15:44, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
I'm pretty sure there haven't been any Milhist FAs for a long time that got filled in from a template; everything has been thoroughly researched from a wide variety of sources (including articles on politics, kings, saints, the history of technology, architecture ... it's not all warfare). I agree that some subjects, such as linguistics, have a tougher job with big articles at the FA level because there's more hard-to-find, abstruse and contradictory stuff to synthesize. But then, FAs aren't IMO the "goal", they're part of a well-balanced diet for some wikiprojects, a place to get useful feedback from outside the project. - Dank (push to talk) 15:56, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
@ Wehwalt, re strong leadership. Sort the table by either number of FAs or percent growth in FAs, and you see at least three things-- in some cases, some very strong WikiProject leadership or collaboration; in some cases, solo editors; in other cases, a group of collaborators. So, yes, leadership, but it may be individual, collaborative (Ima Hogg), or WikiProject (MilHist). The place where experienced Wikipedians can bring more to bear on the FA process is, for example, via the old work Kirill Lokshin used to on WikiProject Council-- he used to help WikiProjects operate with the organization and efficiency of MilHist. Individual editors helping out (for example, as Malleus does with just about anyone who asks him) can't have as large of an effect as an entire WikiProject can. Also consider the old WP:1FAPQ, a Marskell initiative.

Next, look at the categories at the bottom, and note that they've ALWAYS been at the bottom-- no change in standards, FAC processes, have affected the fact that, for example, WikiProject Psychology is and has always been a wreck, and those articles attract whacky edits (or, recently, student edits-- not adequate to bring them even to B-class). So, at the bottom end we surely see a lack of WikiProject leadership. Again, that is where WMF could spend some effort, but not in recruiting students, pls.

@Maunus, if you consider for example the Psychology realm, it's not only a problem of churning out FAs-- the quality across the board in psychology is horrific. The few FAs they do have were done by WP Medicine folk or Fainites, but most of the psych articles we could consider "important" on any scale in the psych realm are utterly dismal. In other words, where there are problems, there have always been problems, independent of what those areas do or don't do at FAC. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 15:23, 2 December 2011 (UTC)

Yes, I agree that this is also a symptom of a general problem with attracting competent editors in social and behavioral sciences. Of course the lack fo FA's reflect a general lack of quality in those topics. This has to do with the systematic bias and the kind of editors that wikipedia attract. That is also why I am now focusing more on trying to lift content quality in general in the areas I am knowledgeable about, rather than strive for article milestones.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 15:27, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
Well yeah, I've given up on the coins and am working on the McKinley administration. I'm not sure of any clickage improvement, but at least it feels more important. The first one, Mark Hanna will go to FAC as soon as the current coin is spent.--Wehwalt (talk) 18:12, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
No, it's a question of motivating editors to work on articles where they have specific expertise. I could go through the psychology and computing articles like a dose of salts, for instance, but the way that Wikipedia works I find it incredibly frustrating to have to find citations for things that everyone in the field knows to be true. Added to which my lack of JSTOR access makes the effort unproductive. Malleus Fatuorum 22:36, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
I agree. Of all the virology tomes I have, not one says "viruses are small".Graham Colm (talk) 22:45, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
It can be deadening to establish the basic statistics relating to a place. I gave up for now on Panama Canal Zone because just establishing the area (and if it changed over time) was very difficult to source reliably.--Wehwalt (talk) 22:50, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
That's the kind of {{cn}} thing that gets on my tits; some things are just self-evidently true. I think Wikipedia's move towards improved quality has gone somewhat awry, and I'm seeing it more and more with the increasing trend to cite every bloody sentence in an article. Malleus Fatuorum 23:02, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
In my field of social sciences we're still building basic academic concepts. Answering questions on refdesks, I produce about three viable redlinks per week that relate to fundamental concepts (Specialist baiting) and start or stub them. Then, of course, deletionists who can't eliminate fancruft to save their life wipe out material cited to academic papers through prods. There's no peer group or pay off for this, and the leadership I identify at MILHIST: peering, review, recognition, help, a writing structure; don't exist as social reality. Fifelfoo (talk) 21:33, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
You mean don't exist at MILHIST? You surprise me.--Wehwalt (talk) 21:40, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
I meant that those good things that exist at MILHIST as a result of community leadership; those good things don't in relation to labour/business/economics/political economy/theory of post-capitalism. I review with MILHIST because it does some good, rather than pouring water out onto sand that investment into my area of expertise would be. Fifelfoo (talk) 04:04, 4 December 2011 (UTC)

Place to upload podcasts?

GamePro website is going offline soon and all their links will die. I have a podcast that is being used in an article I planned to bring up to FAC here in the near future. I am wondering if there was someway to archive it as I'm not certain if Webcite does (just in case I've downloaded the podcast).Jinnai 17:17, 2 December 2011 (UTC)

If the podcast is available at iTunes then I suppose swapping the link to that wouldn't be a particularly problematic thing. Melicans (talk, contributions) 03:41, 4 December 2011 (UTC)
That only works if the podcast is already being hosted at by iTunes or if its publishers uploaded it there. If not, depending on the copyright status of the podcast, uploading it to iTunes/Youtube/similar could result in accusations of copyright violation, and may prevent us from linking to such an upload (disclaimer: I have not checked the specifics of this particular case, but am speaking generally). Is there any way to verify whether Webcite or Internet Archive archives podcasts? Nikkimaria (talk) 04:00, 4 December 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, I meant swapping it out to an already existing link if GamePro had uploaded it there; didn't mean to suggest that Jinnai, or any other editor, should do so of their own accord! Melicans (talk, contributions) 04:37, 4 December 2011 (UTC)

Should newly promoted FAs be presumed ready to run at TFA?

Unless I am seeing something wrong here (the whole thread, not Lecen's comment one way or the other), I'm seeing a slight disconnect here between FAC and TFA. I've never seen before a fresh FA that was rejected on grounds "not ready to run". Obviously there needs to be a bit of cleanup on old FAs sometimes, but shouldn't fresh ones be presumed to meet the requirements if they have not been significantly changed since promotion? Again, I am not talking specifically about Lecen's article, which I have not read and have no opinion on.--Wehwalt (talk) 18:09, 2 December 2011 (UTC)

Either you buy into the process or you don't. I have no problem at all with people who don't, but I do (in general, and in this case.) Actually, striking that, it might be interpreted as a criticism of Dabomb's work. Anyway, I commented there. - Dank (push to talk) 18:42, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
I've responded on Dabomb's talk to one statement on this issue that appeared there-- a piece that concerns me. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 18:52, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
Perhaps a poor choice of terms on my part here.--Wehwalt (talk) 18:56, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
Uh, oh. Are Dank, Wehwalt and me colluding now? And now I've fixed a typo there (WP:CCC). SandyGeorgia (Talk) 19:03, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
The past couple of days, I seem to have gotten a high opinion of myself ... not sure where that came from. I'm totally in favor of Dabomb exercising independent judgment at TFA ... I just don't want anyone, even a delegate, saying something that's going to be interpreted by some as a failure of the FAC process to "get it right", without at least making the argument during the actual FAC. - Dank (push to talk) 19:09, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
That is kinda what I was hinting at but didn't want to say it that bluntly.--Wehwalt (talk) 19:10, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
(ec @ Dank) Maybe because we're highlighting MilHist leadership in other discussion? :) :) You've confused me there, Dank. I'm not clear what you're saying. If Dabomb were to participate in the actual FAC, wouldn't his impartiality be questioned? And I fersure believe that other delegates or director should be free to disagree with me, anytime, regardless if they've participated in the FAC ... just can't tell what you're saying. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 19:12, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
Agreed on both points, and it's above my pay grade to say what should happen at TFA ... what I'm saying is, regardless of what ought to happen, I can see a variety of potential negative consequences here, including confidence in my judgment and the judgment of other reviewers and delegates being undermined ... which I don't mind, exactly, just say it some place where I'm watching so I can decide whether it's something I want to respond to. I hadn't really thought of TFA as a place I needed to keep an eye on, but maybe I do. Specifically, I'm objecting to Dabomb saying that there were "actionable comments on the prose", which I'm interpreting to mean, the FAC was closed incorrectly. If it's appropriate for another delegate to say that, and I'm not taking a position on that, then I think it's important to say it at a time and place where the reviewers are likely to see it, so we can respond. - Dank (push to talk) 19:32, 2 December 2011 (UTC)

Thanks, Dank-- I haven't looked, but I guess that means you're concerned that you may have supported that particular FAC, so your judgment of prose may be suspect? Baloney-- we're all volunteers, doing our best, and no one is perfect. I don't think you should worry about "gotcha"-- no FA is perfect, and anyone claiming that such-and-so article is set in stone because it passed FAC-- even if recently-- is just plain wrong (pet peeve). WP:CCC applies to FAs as much as any other article. All we ask is that new editors respect FAs to the extent of raising controversial issues on talk to see if consensus changes (and in many cases, they may be bringing forward an issue that in fact was not covered at all on the FAC-- I sometimes see FA writers asserting that such-and-so was recently reviewed on the FAC, when you can review the FAC and see that no such thing happened-- some things do escape reviewer attention).

Here's how I see the dilemma you all have raised.

FAC delegates judge consensus at FAC (and sometimes have to exercise their own discretion-- for example, if they see glaring omissions in reviews). FAR delegates judge consensus at FAR: consensus can change, and if they defeature something that was only FAd six months before, it could be because something new came to light, or review was incomplete, or a FAC delegate screwed up, or a FAR delegate screwed up, or a whole host of issues I may not have thought of. It's not personal :) A much worse issue would arise if we all agreed all the time (collusion). TFA delegates judge consensus at TFAR. Again, consensus can change, new information can come to light, reviewers may show up who didn't show up on the FAC, etc. If Dabomb87 decides that consensus says that an article isn't ready for the mainpage (in this case, needed some tweaks), that doesn't mean he's saying it's not an FA or needs to go to FAR. It just means he's saying there is not consensus that it should be on the mainpage just yet. I don't see a problem here-- I would see a problem if Dabomb87 felt he had to go along with other delegates. We're judging different things, consensus can change, and being able to work independently is what makes the whole thingie work. Dabomb87 is only looking at new information that was brought forward-- not judging the FA status of an article. Nor is he saying the FAC was closed wrong: he (like the rest of us) knows we are judges of consensus. Consider the alternative-- that Dabomb87 is forced to always agree with Karanacs, Ucucha, me regardless of new info that comes to TFAR-- consider going down that path and see where it leads :) SandyGeorgia (Talk) 20:02, 2 December 2011 (UTC)

I thought FAC was an exception to CCC, that is why we have FAR. Also, I need to get my head around the idea that articles need consensus to be on the mainpage.--Wehwalt (talk) 20:17, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
There could be multiple reasons why an article might not be on the main page that have nothing to do with how its been an FA article. Consensus decides that.Jinnai 20:27, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
What happened to "FAC is not a vote?" I'd say it's the only place on Wikipedia where consensus rules (the strength of the argument matters more than the number of !votes). And if Dabomb isn't judging consensus, just what is he doing? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 20:53, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
I took no part in this article's FAC, and I make no comment about the reviewers who did. All I can say is that when I looked at the article – I don't automatically assume that all FAs are created equal – I saw many glaring problems with the prose, and I was not the only one. Lecen has it in his head that I opposed as part of a grudge match, but if he believes that then he doesn't know me at all. Malleus Fatuorum 21:52, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
Well ... I had the wrong end of the stick, sorry. I thought that Dabomb was saying that comments in the FAC were actionable ... that is, that the FAC was wrongly promoted. Apparently he was saying that comments in the TFAR were actionable, which is of course exactly what he was supposed to be doing. Nevermind. - Dank (push to talk) 22:12, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
This will be my only comment here. I don't want to jeopardize my FACs because of this discussion. The real issue has been ignored by everyone here, it seems. Princess Maria Amélia of Brazil was promoted to FA on April 2011 after eight different reviewers gave their support. A little more than six months later I suggested this article as the next TFA to be shown on 1 December. The article was virtually the same since it was promoted. When Dabomb placed himself against the article by saying that it had issues he was indrectly saying that all eight reviewers were wrong (including Dank), that Astynax and I (the guys who wrote the article) were wrong and lastly, that SandyGeorgia (the editor who promoted the article) was wrong. In sum: he said that the FAC process is flawed. Because if two editors are capable of nominating a crappy article, then eight reviewers can give their support for this same crappy article and finally SandyGeorgia can also make the mistake of allowing this very same crappy article to be promoted, then there is something very, very wrong. A lot of people allowed a crappy article to be shown as one of Wikipedia's best. Who's to blame?
Princess Maria Amélia's article was butchered by several editors (DrKiernan, MONGO, Harizotoh9 and myself) in a futile attempt (I warned!) to please MF. All a huge waiste of time. Damn! Even MF edited the article and even so was not good enough for him![3][4][5][6] Again: still not good enough for him. In the end, the best excuse he could find was that "she was not blonde, look at the picture!"[7]
The article is really, really good in my opinion. I don't care what he believes. It's still a very good article. If SandyGeorgia, Dank and the others here are OK if one delegate, based on MF's words, says that they were all incompetent enough as delegates or reviewers to allow such a crappy article to pass, then it's not my problem. We should get rid of FAC then. --Lecen (talk) 22:50, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
Isn't there a relatively simple fix for this problem? Couldn't we just address the problems brought up in the TFAR (which I haven't seen yet)? - Dank (push to talk) 23:00, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
I suggest that you look at the TFAR, and mine and Bishonen's comments on the article's prose. Malleus Fatuorum 23:09, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
Dank, you're still missing the point here. The issue isn't the article anymore. The date passed. It's over. Gone. The issue here is about what to do with the FAC if a delegate says that several people failed by allowing a supposedly crappy article to be promoted. P.S.: All Bishonen said was: "Sorry, MONGO, I'm with Malleus, and I also see other problems besides the prose". Great help! Now I now what's wrong with the article! Or not... --Lecen (talk) 23:13, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
I can think of some other possibilities ... for instance, I may have been completely wrong. I'll go have a look. - Dank (push to talk) 23:19, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
Just to clarify the point that Lecen is making, Bishonen emailed a list of prose issues to User:MONGO, who proceeded to work on a few of them before supporting. Why that list wasn't made available to Lecen I have no idea. Malleus Fatuorum 23:25, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
Why emailed? That does seem unusual. Lengthy lists can be put on FAC talk pages, if not on article talk pages.--Wehwalt (talk) 23:31, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
Wehwalt, notice that Bishonen emailed a list of prose issues to User:MONGO, not to me, the person who wrote and nominated the article for TFA. You can imagine how helpful it is when someone says "hey, it's awful, but I won't tell you why". --Lecen (talk) 00:00, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
Lecen, my asking the question raised that point.--Wehwalt (talk) 00:15, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
No idea, and nowt to do with me. I think it would have been proper for MONGO to have forwarded on Bishonen's concerns to Lecen, but for whatever reason he obviously opted not to do so. Malleus Fatuorum 00:08, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
If the delegates pass a article, then it is ready for the front page. Dabomb87 is forced to always agree with Karanacs, Ucucha and SandyGeorgia, just like the rest of us. Anything less is going against consensus. If an editor believes that there is a problem with a Featured Article then the proper place is FAR, not TFAR. Anyone who claims to see "many glaring problems" is to be ignored. Hawkeye7 (talk) 23:38, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
I for one welcome our new TFAR overlords. Seriously, if I support on prose and then someone points out glaring problems, they're doing me a favor. - Dank (push to talk) 23:49, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
An interesting spin Hawkeye. But what about those who list at least some of the glaring problems? Are they also to be dismissed? Malleus Fatuorum 00:26, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
They can vote "no".--Wehwalt (talk) 00:32, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
As I did, and now this nonsense. I think this an abuse of the idea of consensus. I don't care how many editors argue that an ungrammatical sentence is actually correct, or that sentences without verbs is the current style, as it's not a fucking vote. Or is it? Malleus Fatuorum 00:38, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
You have two options: you may correct what you regard as an error yourself or you may tell other editors on the article's talk page. That's being helpful. That's the entire idea about Wikipedia: a bunch of people helping each other make great articles. Or you could follow the third option: not help and try at all cost to prevent an article from being nominated merely because you regard the nominator a "dickhead".[8][9] I wonder myself what option you would pick... --Lecen (talk) 00:42, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
I'm going through the article now. You brought up some good points at TFAR, Malleus ... I've addressed those and I'm going through the whole article myself, hopefully this one will get its day on the main page soon. In the future ... if someone opposes at TFAR on prose for an article I supported on prose, I'd like to hear about it ... the worst that could happen is, I'd learn something. And generally, it seems to me that the relevant reviewers at FAC should be notified if TFAR reviewers disagree ... but I can't volunteer anyone else for extra work, only myself. I'll let Dabomb know. - Dank (push to talk) 00:46, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
Let's be realistic. I've never looked at the FAC, so I have no idea whether you supported on prose or not, and neither do I care. And I am certainly not about to go looking for those who feel they need to be informed when I see crappy prose being presented at TFAR, or anywhere else for that matter. Sort your own house out. Malleus Fatuorum 01:04, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
Getting back to the consensus issue, I must admit I had not thought of it as a consensus operation. I had thought it an odd but workable mix of democracy and dictatorship, in which we support or try to "vote off" articles, in order to give advice to the confirmed Feature Article Director, in whose authority it exclusively is, and who has delegated some authority in this matter to his appointed delegate, Dabomb. That's why I am having difficulty with CCC on this one. Interesting.--Wehwalt (talk) 15:57, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

I was under the impression that the TFAR page was a place for the community to nominate Featured articles and to voice their opinion on whether they believed an FA was suitable for TFA on a certain date. It seems only reasonable that if other editors present valid concerns, I take them into account. This was not the first time I had rejected a nomination based on issues raised by other editors. If y'all believe that TFAR should be more of a rubber-stamp process (subject to common sense, of course), I am more than willing to treat it that way. Dabomb87 (talk) 21:12, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

I don't think that anyone wants you to put aside your independent discretion, but perhaps a note posted to the talk page of the nominator of an article that wasn't used wouldn't be taken amiss.--Wehwalt (talk) 21:19, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for the suggestion; will do. Dabomb87 (talk) 21:20, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
Great! Let's go for a drink, it is much too hot in here and people keep throwing stuff.--Wehwalt (talk) 21:26, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
So what I'm uncertain about now is what it is that editors are voting on when they support or oppose at TFAR. Is it just for an article's main page appearance on a certain date, nothing to do with the quality of the article? if so, then the instructions need to make it clear that it doesn't matter what state an article's in so long as it's an FA. Malleus Fatuorum 21:46, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
I mentioned over at WT:TFAR that I don't understand why we often see editors Supporting articles that may need some tuning up, and queried if we should at least remind Supporters to read the older ones (which we know are old because they get extra points there for being old). SandyGeorgia (Talk) 00:01, 4 December 2011 (UTC)

FAC spends too much time on trivial topics

Have put some issue analysis down here:

PowerPoint: Wikipedia's poor treatment of its most important articles (talk) 14:52, 23 November 2011 (UTC) (TCO, via IP)

I'm reading it. Very interesting. Once I'm done, I'll make a few comments about it. --Lecen (talk) 14:56, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
I agree with the broad thrust, & have said many of the same things myself. You will find it hard to get much traction, here or on WP in general. The lists at WP:Vital articles are themselves deeply flawed; for the Humanities at least they consist very largely of biographies, which is frankly babyish, and bypasses our very worst weakness, which is articles on broad abstract topics - in other words what most other encyclopedias concentrate on. Much of the detail in the presentation is rather unclear & subjective-seeming; I'm not sure why you think that The Magdalen Reading received a poor content review when I had edited and discussed it on various talk pages, and checked against the most significant source for the painting, the exhaustive 12 large pages in small type in the Campbell NG catalogue. Not many FAs are compared in that way to the major sources; perhaps my final comments didn't make that clear. The key point is that it is just much harder to write on large topics with huge literatures, whether for FA, GA, or at any level. Who did you say you were, btw? Back to dabbling now, Johnbod (talk) 15:47, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
I am "TCO". I have seen your analysis before. Need to reread it. Not meant to slight you. I'm sure there are mistakes in individual ratings (and I put the details on a slide, so people could nitpick). And I did that part a little fast. That said, I sincerly doubt it changes the overall story, given I looked at 30 reviews. There is a pattern of lack of content review at FAC (almost to the extent that people think it is normal/OK/what we do here). It's not awful since the more important topics definitely get looked into. That said, there is something there, I think. 16:29, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Like you I have a general sympathy for the idea of improving important articles, but deep misgivings about the vital article list. For instance, I consider the world's first stored-program computer to be an important topic, but whoever made up that list doesn't. And I didn't write that just because I wanted to collect a star. Malleus Fatuorum 15:53, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
I have a couple comments in the deck about not getting hung up on debating individual examples, when trying to think about the class of items (see VA reccs and then the slide on VAs in background). (talk) 16:11, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
But the list is a collection of individual examples. I think it's inevitable that there will be disagreement after the obvious stuff like planets, elements, and so on. To pursue my example, I note for instance that ENIAC is included at level 4, but neither the SSEM or the Ferranti Mark I, both of them also important world firsts, make the list. Malleus Fatuorum 16:29, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Just one initial point; because an article isn't "vital" doesn't automatically mean that it's trivial. Malleus Fatuorum 15:48, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Good point and agree: (1) It's not digital, but analog (the property of triviality or its converse, relavence). (2) Importance by subjective rating and by web views are incredibly highly correlated (definitely pass a t test by a mile). They are not exactly the same thing...but close enough so that VAs do fine even in a system that priorities purely by page views. And the Gorbatai slide (first one in the relevance section) shows that subjective ratings and page views have roughly the same "story" in terms of the basic implications. (talk) 16:07, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Although I do take your general point, we may have to agree to differ on the contents of that vital articles list; I find it very hard to consider an article like house in any way "vital". Malleus Fatuorum 16:14, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
"Dinner with Jimbo". I admire your notion of reward. Yomanganitalk 15:52, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
hush you, no humor allowed. zis is serious. (talk) 16:17, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
This is a very interesting presentation, and not at all light reading, so I can't dedicate a lot of time to it while at work. I might have more later, but on the topic of vital articles: When I look at the level 3 list (1000 articles), I count 82 FAs and 70GAs. That means that 1 in every 12 articles on this list is an FA, 1 in 14 is a GA, and 1 in 7 is either. For Wikipedia overall, the figures are 1 FA in 1120, 1 GA in 288, and 1 of either in 228. The quality of Wikipedia's vital articles are well ahead of that of the project as a whole. Add in that 451 articles are ranked as B or A class, and I would argue that we aren't necessarily failing as badly as is suggested.
There is also the issue, brought up above, in the definition of what makes a "vital article". A lot of the entries are no-brainers, but regional differences matter. For instance, I would say Terry Fox (FA) is a vital article to Canadians, as is ice hockey (B). Bing Crosby (B) and Association Football (FA) would not be so, in my view. That all being said, there is little doubt that encouraging ways to improve our basic articles is a good thing. Resolute 17:01, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
There absolutely is a positive correlation of quality and importance. The question is, is it enough? I warrant if we paid for articles to be written, there would be a substantially different patter (less hurricanes) and that this is a substantial market failure when you look at the outcome. 85% of VAs are sub-GA. Or the Gorbatai academic paper on project ratings or web traffic. (talk) 17:23, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
I think one of the most important retorts to this is that people already know about most vital topics. I know what history is. There's no real meat and blood behind history. It gets written, apparently, by winners. The article describes generalities. That's not as interesting as what how the Donner Party or Birmingham campaign happened. I already know what art is. How was Walt Disney influenced by it though--and how did he in turn influence it? And how is Walt Disney not on any vital list? I already know the general meaning of what technology is. How did a typewriter turn into a keyboard? That's more interesting. --Moni3 (talk) 20:12, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
I just checked the stats for the Donner Party a few minutes ago: 84,188 views in October,[11] but not considered an important article. Malleus Fatuorum 20:23, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
As you know, even the sources writing about the incident don't consider it all that important to the overall migration westward in North America. That's included in the article. But regardless, the elements at play in the story of 90 people are riveting and horrific. And fascinating. --Moni3 (talk) 20:49, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Page views don't tell you that much, though. Look at Hubert Walter - this is a man who served two of the more important kings of England ... and served as Archbishop of Canterbury as well. He went on Crusade, hobnobbed with Saladin, reformed the English administration, set up the coroner system, along with a number of other reforms, but his page views would tell you that he's utterly unimportant in history or worth knowing anything about. I should stop writing on these types of articles and write on "house" instead, when really ... anyone can find out easily what a house is? Or maybe I should concentrate on something pop culturish instead? Yes, work should go on with the more general articles, but really, labeling other editors isn't going to help your case. All I can tell you is that I was quite offended to have my efforts labeled, and especially by someone who keeps dodging whatever it was that got you to leave your account, TCO. If you're going to continue contributing and stuff, can you please stop editing as an IP and return to your account? All the rest of us are accountable - you certainly feel obligated to call all FA participants on the carpet - but yet you don't feel the need to allow us to hold YOU to account. Yes, I'm feeling a bit cranky ... but I'm tired of being denegrated. Ealdgyth - Talk 21:00, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
I think we all get tired of being denigrated. However it happens; whichever direction it comes from. Truthkeeper (talk) 21:11, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
I was no more sanguine about being labelled a star chaser than you were Ealdgyth, and like you I found it mildly insulting. The house example is interesting though in a sense, as it's clearly not in any rational sense a vital article, and the high page view count is no doubt because readers are looking for this. Malleus Fatuorum 00:51, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
On page views as a determining factor of importance, I would submit Wikipedia:WikiProject Canada/Popular pages into evidence. Bluntly, Leduc No. 1, with 50 views a day, is a more important article to Canadian history than Justin Bieber is with 30,000. While it is obvious that broader topics generally have more page views, this is a distressingly bad metric from which to judge importance/value. Resolute 21:14, 23 November 2011 (UTC)

There is a tendency among commentators on Wikipedia (at least, among those who have never edited it) to make general statements such as "Wikipedia ought to improve coverage of X", as if there were some entity, Wikipedia, capable of exerting some kind of control over what content is contributed. Other commenters above have pointed out that FA writers work on topics they're knowledgeable about and have the sources for and which are doable without hundreds or thousands of hours of research. All true, but beyond that, the idea that there is any entity that can be "blamed" for Wikipedia's lack of coverage in an area seems silly to me. Those of us who care about the encyclopedia would of course like to see better articles in more areas, but analyzing existing coverage doesn't move us towards that goal. There have been multiple attempts to organize drives to do more collaboration with subject matter experts; there have even been some minor successes. The presentation spent much of its time making a point that almost nobody would dispute -- that FAs are frequently quite specialized; it spent less time on the harder problem of what to do about it. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 21:39, 23 November 2011 (UTC)

Well establishing a basis of facts to work from is always useful. However you've missed that the evidence strongly suggests that FA is becoming dissociated from the wider wikipedia. With a focus on articles on the fringes of the project and standards set and enforced by people who are to a large extent interested in getting articles of their own through FA rather than more general subject area experts. The result is a considerable risk of what Chip Morningstar called genetic drift "resulting in the intellectual equivalent of peacock feathers".[12]— Preceding unsigned comment added by Geni (talkcontribs)
Well establishing a basis of facts to work from is always useful. Yes, but this particular body of "facts" has so many methodological errors that it hasn't done that-- in fact, quite the opposite, it contains pages of a good deal of misinformation (and enough good information to make it appear plausible and reasonable, ala "a little information can be a dangerous thing" or "anyone can write anything on the internet") stemming from faulty assumptions. However you've missed that the evidence strongly suggests that FA is becoming dissociated from the wider wikipedia. The "evidence" show no such thing, since there are significant methodological problems, but even if it did ... You say that like it's a bad thing. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 00:45, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
It is also putting the blame on the process rather than the editors. Nine of my eleven FAs aren't hockey-related because of how FAC is run. It is that way because of what I like to edit. FAC can't begin rejecting submissions on the basis of "importance", so if one desires better general topics, they need to focus on finding interested editors rather than complaining about the process. Resolute 00:53, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
I'm not sure what the real point is here. This approach seems backwards to me. Every editor coming to Wikipedia should be prepared to use sources to add content. It seems the editors who add the most content--FA writers--are being chastised or maligned for not covering different topics. A fundamental shift needs to occur all over this site. We've grown into more than 3.5 million articles and instead of everyone doing tiny tweaks and copy edits here and there and leaving the content to some expert somewhere, all editors should bring sources and start writing. It should be expected of everyone. No more pissing around here. It's not that there's FA writers and everyone else and a growing divide between the two camps, but Wikipedia needs to become that place where you understand that you're going to have to work to participate. So TCO, your campaign to get more vital topics to FA is just highlighting a symptom of an overall problem. You need to address the attitude that has allowed these articles to stand as they are for so long. You need to bring this to the entire community and ask them these questions. If you can start a shift in attitudes that promotes more work on a deeper content level, I will jump on your bus. --Moni3 (talk) 01:03, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
Actually for shear volume of content added you would probably be looking at the mass stub creators and some of out sports and pop culture obsessives. FA writers would be a fair way down the scale. You are also missing that the report makes it fairly clear that FA and its standards are not very relevant to the wider project and to readers. Now it could be that we say fine, wall off FA and get on with the rest of wikipedia without it (you know make it the radio 3 of wikipedia). Alternatively we could try and work out why the current FA process isn't producing featured articles in areas that have either long been identified as important or are actually widely read.©Geni 01:20, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
Long been identified as important by whom? And on what basis? Malleus Fatuorum 01:23, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
The bit of the community that spends far too much time thinking about such things. I think the basis was the result of prolonged debate.©Geni 00:23, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
Again, I don't understand this approach. Why would you not take these problems to the stub creators and ask them why they're not expanding articles? Why not ask entire WikiProjects why they are actively arguing about articles but not producing any content? And I disagree with the sheer volume of content claim but that you compare stubs to FA writing makes me think we're not addressing the same issue here. And my exact point is that FA standards should be relevant to every editor. If it were, vital topics might be better quality articles. The culture on Wikipedia is to accept whoever stumbles in the door whether they want to crack open a book or not. It's time for that to end. --Moni3 (talk) 01:32, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
So your response to discovering that FA is drifting into peacock feathers territory is to advocate exclusionism. This doesn't worry you at all?©Geni 19:46, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
What does peacock feathers territory mean? It would help if you could say what you're trying to say in a straightforward manner. I'm not concerned with your issues of exclusionism. People do the least of what is expected of them usually. I don't have a problem with this site forcing people to make a decision either to change the way they edit so they can improve articles based on the five pillars--reliable sources especially--or stop editing. While one downside is a dropoff of casual editors, an upside will be the increase of serious editors who treat sources with respect. I don't favor discrimination in the way that would limit editors based on educational background or anything else. Serious intent to improve Wikipedia with excellent sources and writing should be the only factors involved in deciding who gets to edit. Experts and novices/amateurs alike as long as they're serious about reading the best sources available and discussing them to improve content. Any other approach makes no sense to me. --Moni3 (talk) 15:43, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Oh you are not familiar with the works of Chip Morningstar. I did reference the relevant one earlier (his 1993 work "How To Deconstruct Almost Anything"). Part of his argument is that isolated academic communities undergo something akin to genetic drift "resulting in the intellectual equivalent of peacock feathers". The PDF makes a good case this is happening to FA. It is fairly isolated. There is a very small prolific group of FA writters and its standards are so out of kilter with the general run of wikipedia that only those prepared to buy into its world view are likely to write FAs in any number. Thus we get into peacock feathers territory. Featured articles on subjects mostly chosen for ease of getting through FAC's standards rather than more ah encyclopedic criteria (we really should run a comparison in the EB1911 list, outdated but it is PD).
This sounds like the often-heard complaint from outsiders to any process on WP that they don't like the way things are being done. The usual answer is: try participating. - Dank (push to talk) 19:13, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
I really rather doubt it. In any case I have actually had some, admittedly rather limited, dealings with FAC from time to time. Quite a long time period too. Oh then there was the times when COTW actually managed to produce an FA so technically I've been involved since june 2004. Good enough for you?©Geni 00:21, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
Perhaps Geni would consider Lies, damned lies, and statistics. Add some pie charts, colors, PowerPoint, and you've got enough to make it "look" like a real analysis. A little bit of information is a dangerous thing. From a (former life) statistical analyst and long-term and strategic planner in five cultures, three languages, and two companies (noting Carcharoth's unique ability to offend even when he's not trying to). SandyGeorgia (Talk) 19:19, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
I would but I'm having far to much fun watching your always attack criticism handling strategy. ©Geni 00:21, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
Good, then we can form a mutual admiration society, since I'm having far to much fun watching your always make more typos and grammatical errors than I do (and that's take some doing!) SandyGeorgia (Talk) 01:04, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
Spelling flames? Is that all you have left?©Geni 01:42, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
Um, only if I can also "spelling flame" myself. No sense of humor either, I see. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 02:21, 26 November 2011 (UTC)

Will come back in a day to make replies

Going to resist the urge to respond to each comment. I had the opening shot. Will engage in toto, later. (talk) 17:20, 23 November 2011 (UTC)

I'm not sure why I'm supposed to be faulting a writer who restricts themselves to a topic they can actually research and master. And small topics that attract few readers aren't necessarily unimportant; sometimes the best way to get past people's preconceptions is to talk about what happened in specific cases, rather than trying to say something grand about a general subject. Having said that, if we survey people who write high-quality articles on narrow subjects and find that specific things go wrong when they try to tackle "vital" articles, then maybe we will learn something that winds up giving us higher-quality vital articles. - Dank (push to talk) 18:36, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
While I agree with the general thrust that we don't incentivize working on the most "vital" articles, I take issue with you pulling out a case study on a specific editor (Uchuha) where you spend the whole time explaining how their FAs aren't good enough to be FAs. I also don't understand how explaining how you don't feel that obscure species have enough details known to be worthy of FA, even though they got the star, supports your main point. --PresN 19:43, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
I'm also not sure that dismissing everyone who predominately writes FAs and the people who run the FA program as being unfixable is really going to help have a useful result from this conversation. --PresN 19:50, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Agreed. In addition, dubbing specific authors catchy monikers like "star collectors", "champions" and "battleships" -- based solely on the articles' page views -- seems incredibly counterproductive. I suppose I'm a "champion" because The Red Badge of Courage (promoted in April 2011) receives almost 600 page views a day from disgruntled Am. Lit. students? Go me? On the other hand, several other articles I've written are lucky to receive 50 page views a day. Does this make me a champion star collector? Point being: branding content writers by way of traffic is silly talk. María (yllosubmarine) 20:11, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
I'm with Maria on this. I was a little taken back to myself dubbed a "battleship" & thought, "huh, I don't write about battleships". Two things you missed: one is burn out. A year and a half after promotion I'm still fighting on the Ernest Hemingway talkpage - take a look at it, and the talk page for the Ernest Hemingway template (I'm purposely not linking). I brought Ezra Pound to FAC and it didn't go well, big page, hard to balance, but the biggest problem was that I had to bail because of an unexpected side-effect after routine eye-surgery (a four month migraine!) This brings me to the second point: Olivia Shakespear was an off-shoot of Ezra and I really never expected to bring it to FAC. Not important enough I thought. But here's the thing, aside from sleeping with Yeats as your summary says, she supported (financially) many modernist writers and artists - single handedly. So she's much more important in that respect as far as I'm concerned, but more important is that page is probably the best on the internet about her. The same with Edmund Evans an obscure Victorian printer who changed how children's books are made. Almost all the source material about him lives behind a pay-wall, but we have a nice page here, open to the public. Bottom line: how many people get burned out after working on Big Pages, and how many people are writing pages that are free, not behind paywalls, available on the internet. Even if on relatively obscure topics. Consider adding to you analysis. Truthkeeper (talk) 20:41, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
I must admit I could never comprehend the idea of coming to WP and looking up "history" or "geography"...or "science" for that matter. Are we sure these are people looking at them? The benefit of hte esoteric is that there is often nowhere where the material has been made so organised and accessible to lay readers . Casliber (talk · contribs) 20:16, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Quite. And I could add house and many others to your list of ridiculous "vital" articles. I mean really, who's going to come to Wikipedia to learn about houses? Malleus Fatuorum 20:20, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Well over 100,000 per month apparently, probably mostly with homework, as for many of these articles; but they still deserve a better article than they currently get. Or maybe they want to know why the plumbing is bust, in which case, tough. What really pisses me off is truly dire stubs like English Renaissance, where (until today) some 17,000 readers a month were told that "William Shakespeare, composed theatrical representations of the English take on life, death, and history", which had of course remained unchanged since 2005 (when the article overall was far better than this morning, I now see). That's over a million views. I do think that editors who are able to improve the worst of these without much effort have a responsibility to the project to spend some of their time doing so. At all levels we put far too much effort into new articles, as opposed to the long-untouched rubbish on significant topics we already have. Johnbod (talk) 21:30, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
I've got Thomas Becket cleaned up of the worst cruft, and have been slowly working on Norman Conquest of England - I've also got some of the Crusade articles on my watchlist and have worked on them also. I also try hard to keep at least the worst junk out of the various English monarch articles I've got watchlisted. There is only so much time, honestly. Eventually, I'll get the whole complex of articles around the Norman Conquest up to snuff - but really, on a high traffic article, it's discouraging enough to deal with the usual vandalism. Check out horse, where the other day we had a well meaning but obviously unknowledgable editor who felt that a self-published website that didn't mention its sources was equal to a college text book. Because the web site disagreed with the information in the article that was cited to the text book - the information needed a "dubious" tag. And you want us to work to bring horse up to FA standards? Why? It's hard enough to keep it at GA. And gods - Thoroughbred and Appaloosa are not much fun to deal with either. I try. I really do try. But it's very very hard to keep trying when my efforts get me a denigration as a "star collector" from someone who can't even bother to return to his abandoned account. Ealdgyth - Talk 21:54, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
TCO may do, but I regard improving from embarrassingly awful and wrong to merely inadequate as job done for many articles. Johnbod (talk) 22:01, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
I agree. Keeping Abraham Lincoln at GA is a full-time job that takes up several editors' time as it is. FA is the goal, but I doubt we'll get there. Didn't we have this discussion about a month ago? --Coemgenus (talk) 22:08, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Don't feel bad Ealdgyth, I'm a star collector as well. Malleus Fatuorum 22:11, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Any thoughts on how to get more participation from GLAM employees, history grad students and professors? They might be interested in tackling some of the higher-profile articles. (I've been talking with some of them lately, and I could use some fresh material.) - Dank (push to talk) 22:51, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Only one. That Wikipedia ought to consider cherishing its contributors instead of pissing them off at every turn. To pick up on your GLAM example, star chaser Ealdgyth worked this museum exhibit up to FA. And I've got no idea how many page views that gets each day, and couldn't care less. Malleus Fatuorum 23:13, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
well since wikipedia doesn't piss off its contributors at every turn (unless you mean the markup which is being worked on) I'm not sure what we can do about your suggestion. Broad Ripple Park Carousel gets about 3% of the page views Carousel although the involvement of the The Children's Museum of Indianapolis means that that is probably irrelevant in this case. Incidentally the article at no point mentions what the motive power source actually is. Given it's age I'd guess electric but I don't know offhand when they stopped making steam carousels.©Geni 23:39, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Are you for real? Malleus Fatuorum 01:03, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
Before you all go and spend your month bringing house to FA, I believe it's 125k hits per month are a search/disambiguation failure since House_(TV_series) receives 800k. That one's already FA, so you can kick back and have the month off :). --99of9 (talk) 01:00, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
I believe I've said the same thing at least three times here and elsewhere, but nobody seems to be listening. Malleus Fatuorum
One forgets - you should add a reminder next time you bring it up as an example, or switch to cooking, also a Vital (and poor) article, with 46+K views a month. Johnbod (talk) 02:29, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

Oh, wait. I scrolled through the entire PowerPoint. You, like...put a list of FA writers and assigned them categories and identities. Then you came here to show everyone what you did. That's pretty impressive. Your testicles must scrape the ground--an unfortunate social faux pas, no? No, really. You really did that. You pigeonholed a group of editors with your chosen set of standards then came here with a flip chart to illustrate your many points. It blows my mind. And shame on me for treating your arguments with respect. I'll not do that again. --Moni3 (talk) 01:47, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

But wait, there's more. Someone is already using this .pdf (and the ridiculous "star collector" label) to dismiss the "debacle" that is FA, as well as those who defend the quality of articles promoted to the highest standard. Joy. María (yllosubmarine) 04:03, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
Here's background. WT:USEP is a WMF-inspired program to recruit student editors that has resulted in widespread copyvio and other problems because it wasn't well conceived or launched, the community wasn't consulted, and there weren't adequate ambassadors to oversee the program. That involves JimmyButler and Piotr-- which is the nexis with TCO's FACs. Legit criticism of FAs would be one thing, but acknowledging "good timing" of lobbing this grenade and retaliatory criticism because of a WMF program that has resulted in widespread copyvio ... oh, my. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 05:51, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
I just read the talk page of Ernest Hemingway again. It appears the cranky comments here at WT:FAC may be the least of TCO's concerns when editors with some kind of grudge or motive wield this study commentary with the same lack of knowledge it took to construct it. I'm hard pressed to rationalize the most offensive part of this study commentary. You know: the part where TCO lists all the FA editors then puts them into categories, then comes here to show us all what he did. This is actually a pretty good example of trolling. Wikipedia Review kind of "these are the incompetent people and their cliques" kind of commentary. Instead of the low power of one or two cranks addressing one or two editors on a site few read or know about, it has the bonus of being posted at the place where most of the people you targeted frequent to get their attention and under the guise of academia. Then, it's used as an argument against FA writers on the pages they constructed! Flawless victory eh, TCO? --Moni3 (talk) 12:50, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
I'm characterized as a battleship, but I'd actually call myself a star collector, sort of. I take things to FAC because the process generally improves the article in ways that I don't think of, and, at least lately, it's been pretty painless. I write about stuff that I like, that I know, that I have the sources for, and what I want to learn about. I really don't give a damn about page views, but I do care that the quality of some of the core articles on the topics that interest me aren't very good. I have yet to do anything about that because the task of mastering and synthesizing the state of the (often contradictory) research is quite daunting. Compounded with the task of defending the article from every moron who's just finished a popular history or a program on the Military Channel. I think the best thing I got out of the report was the idea to semi-protect articles GA and better. That would save some effort in reverting the near-vandalism perpetrated by a lot of IP editors.--Sturmvogel 66 (talk) 05:48, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

I read all the comments, thanks. I'll think about how to respond most efficiently.RetiredUser12459780 (talk) 03:55, 25 November 2011 (UTC)

Why, please? Seriously, why? I have a good case for you trolling WT:FAC. You're going to continue this why? All this shit you created here just not enough? --Moni3 (talk) 14:35, 25 November 2011 (UTC)

Added a caveat slide for the individual ranking/labeling list. I've added a slide explaining the ranking/labeling is based on a contributions in a section of time.TCO (talk) 15:32, 26 November 2011 (UTC)

Even a strong negative reaction to this list and its labels shows the power of intangible Internet rewards. In the Moni3 translate-a-thon, that comes out as: if you're upset it's your own fault and not mine for putting together these categories and telling you what you truly are. I feel like I'm having a strange argument with a high school student who just learned how to be passive aggressive.
Obvious question time: no...too many obvious questions overwhelming me. Ok, let me try again. You added this "too bad if you're upset" caveat, but did not bother to clarify why you came up with this shitty commentary in the first place? You never told your audience, and if you did in person, or something...did you give this in person to the WMF? If so, ick. But you never told your audience why you thought it might be worthwhile for them to read through all this crap? FAC is broken! Here's how to fix it! Let's go now and fix it! That's not the theme here. It's FAC is responsible for writing articles X-34. They haven't. Silence, tumbleweeds. And you are both maligning rewards like the WikiCup and Four Awards, which I have no problem with (and you neglect to state that the Four Award was created by an editor to give himself awards--the rest of us get it whether we like it or not) as ineffective motivators, then suggesting rewards for editors who get FAs in vital articles. Consistency? --Moni3 (talk) 15:54, 26 November 2011 (UTC)

Feedback from one "champion"

Tourette syndrome gets 3,000 to 6,000 hits per day, consistently-- 130,000 hits this month. According to both Looie496 and TCO, that makes it an important topic and me a "champion"; they're both wrong for different reasons.

Problems with both analyses:

  1. "Reader interest" is correlated with page views. Wrong. First, do these guys understand how Google's algorithm works, and the ways the templates added to medical articles increase their google rank? Or factor that hits are driven to an article like TS by advocacy and support group hits, which wouldn't be the case for other types of articles? Or factor that, unlike TS (where our article is the single most comprehensive thing available freely and easily on the internet), many other topics have scores of other internet sources available, so that readers may hit them first and never come to Wikipedia? The whole idea that page views correlate with reader interest is faulty.
  2. "Vital topics" equates to "important topics". Others have already outlined the number of ways this reasoning is wrong, so I'll just add that Looie496 thought TS to be an important topic-- it's not. It's an obscure medical topic that most physicians will never encounter. How about heart attack, breast cancer, stroke, diabetes for important topics? There is quite a bit wrong with any rubric one can come up with to determine "importance", already explained on this page. Anyone's personal opinion of "importance" is subjective, but TS is not "important" by just about any rubric, yet it gets the page views.
  3. There is some "entity" on Wikipedia that can drive certain types of articles to FAC or encourage editors to work on certain topics. Good luck with that. I collaborated to some extent on Samuel Johnson, who is surely more "important" in many ways than TS, but gets far fewer page views, and the FAC was a nightmare because certain editors who had no clue about the sources, the research, the topic, showed up with cockamaney input that had to be dealt with. That's part of why bringing "big" topics to FAC is difficult-- it's the "encyclopedia anyone can edit". And that's without getting in to what it takes to defend those articles once they pass FAC. The idea that Wikipedia can ever work like a journal is just wrong; we can't keep out the kooks, the POV pushers, the clueless, the vandals, etc.
  4. Oh, the idea that we can make Wikipedia work like a journal peer review is just wrong-- it's a Wiki-- oh, did I already say that?
  5. The idea that FAC delegates can somehow encourage groups of editors to bring certain topics to FA is equally interesting. With the way TCO chose to shoot down the work of some stellar editors, I'd not be surprised that more would stay away in droves.
  6. FAC delegates should make sure content is reviewed, similar to images-- (faulty) assumption that they don't.
  7. WMF has a goal for article "quality"-- that's not what Sue Gardner said the other day-- quite the opposite, she (pretty much) said (while ignoring the significant copyvio issue at DYK) that the drive for quality was fallout from an overreaction to the Essjay controversy and the Siegenthaler incident. Again, like that's a bad thing?
  8. Wikipedia as a whole is failing, why pick on FA or GA? Like Ealdgyth, I find it very strange to observe the way TCO alternates between IP, Vanished and signed in editing to lob these misguided assumptions, rather than focusing on the much bigger problems that predominate across the Wikipedia, and WMF's failure to address them while putting forward program after program only designed to get more editors and more articles, not better editors and better articles. I'd say put your resources into FAC bashing once we've dealt with the non-neutral, non-reliably sourced, undue, original research, poorly sourced articles written by POV pushers and advocates in an environment where behavioral norms are absent and dispute resolution is decidedly broken. FAC can't work like a journal peer review because it's part of a dysfunctional process-- deal with the bigger issues, the rest may follow (not holding my breath, though).
  9. One FAC delegate should oversee each nomination-- there is so much wrong with this idea, but why should I engage in discussion of this with a sometimes IP, sometimes vanished user, sometimes signed in user who further has the discourtesy to quote people without diffs, out of context?
  10. One more: reconcile please your objections to "obscure" topics that make FA with the WMF push to recruit student editors, who know nothing of Wikipedia policies, to stub up obscure topics like klazomania? Why is it that WMF can push for more inferior articles that NO ONE will ever read, but hurricane FAs are a problem? Inconsistent. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 02:48, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

So, TCO, your analysis doesn't impress, nor do your posts from various accounts. The one worthy take home message is to try more outreach to engage more editors to write more articles at a higher level. Good luck with that; you don't need to trash the work of some good Wikipedia FA writers to put that message out. I'm a "champion" by your rubric, but I've not delivered more "value"-- it's just the nature of the topic I wrote about. But since this is the internet, where anyone can write anything, I fully expect that the WMF employees-- who have never engaged content and don't endorse "quality"-- will jump on your bandwagon and quote your "report" "data". SandyGeorgia (Talk) 02:48, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

TS gets some of the page views, but less than half of Diabetes mellitus - not sure what your point is here. Sue Gardner said pretty clearly that her priority was not to "get" more editors but to keep more of the ones we have, both new & old. In fact in the discussion section she said explicitly there was little point in drives for new editors while we remain so good at rapidly driving them away - the Indian fiasco was planned a long time ago, and maybe the global south remains an exception. "more articles" remains an aim on the WMF plan (set by the board, not management, btw) but the main thrust there seems to be non-English wikis, rightly. Quality also remains an aim in the plan, and (as Jimmy Wales has also said often enough) became one after Siegenthaler in particular. Again, not sure what your point is. Johnbod (talk) 02:58, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
TS gets the same range of page views as those highlighted at the top of the TCO list as "valuable", and he references Looie's analysis which also considered TS "important". TS is not an important medical topic by any measure: it gets high page views because of its google rank, which is partially related to how often it most likely is referenced by support groups which may also be related to issues like the NIH information is incorrect and incomplete, and the Tourette Syndrome Association website is a navigational nightmare, so our article is first on Google. Contrast that with truly "important" and "vital" medical topics like the Common cold, which gets the same range of page views as the TS article. Ditto for influenza. One likely reason the common cold doesn't get more page views-- although it's "important"-- is because unlike TS, other websites come up first on google (NIH and CDC). My point, rather plainly, is that page views has nothing to do with reader interest, and more to do with any number of other factors. Whatever "plan" the WMF board has allegedly set to paper is irrelevant when they're not singing that tune in talks they deliver, and they are putting programs in place that are demonstrably affecting article quality (negatively), and they are overlooking copyvio issues at DYK in favor of vaguely useless statements about FAs, and how the "quality" problem is a result of an overreaction to Siegenthaler and Essjay. I don't know how to make that more clear, but for that, we have Moni3 aptly pinning the tail on the donkey. The measures TCO looked at have little to do with anything; faulty assumptions--> faulty recommendations, but nice intent except for singling out of specific editors from behind his constantly changing posting status. It reads like a Manic Manifesto to me-- shoot a bunch of points out there and hope something sticks (which always works on the internet, where anyone can say anything). SandyGeorgia (Talk) 05:05, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

Sour grapes are so unbecoming, tsk. Fallout from WT:USEP-- if this is how you all conduct yourselves in public, I fret to think of what you're like in private. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 05:36, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

Yet another extended response

  1. Trivium derives from the three basic elements of a medieval university education, and was considered trite due to its foundational status. I am not going to claim that FAs based on the social impact of swearing in southern England is trivial—it isn't foundational. Thus I'm going to talk about "foundational" and "non-foundational" topics and articles.
  2. Work expended on non-foundational articles comes from resources (writers) that are non-transferrable to foundational articles. This is due to: concentration of expertise; incommensurability of expertise in foundational versus expertise in non-foundational topics; an unwillingness from expert non-foundational writers to put up with the shit you have to put up with to write articles that come under systemic public attack.
  3. Work by FA reviewers on non-foundational articles is not a significant impact on the capacity of FA reviewers to review foundational articles. Most writers of non-foundational articles are either inexperienced and require significant coaching by the FA community, or they are highly experienced and their FA candidates are low impact in terms of economic cost. Training writers to be the best kind of editor is part of our responsibility here. Moreover, foundational articles will be written by both kinds of writer.
  4. From page 4: 55% of "vital" articles (B, A, GA) are in the area where immediate work to promote to FA could be considered. In contrast, 85% of "vital" articles are in a position to be moved to A or GA class. The bulk of the work lies further down the chain from FA.
  5. Your proposal on a writing vital articles project leading vital article writing is good. I strongly suspect that writing vital articles requires a different kind of expert editor, willing to put up with different kinds of shit, and willing to write as if they were gnoming.
  6. Your metaphors are deeply insulting to volunteers: "Wikipedia should be assessed versus what its customers want, not just what it happens to produce." "Dropping quality (like a marketer dropping price) is NOT the ONLY way to increase volume. Think about more factors that affect production." "(core business versus growth business)" Go bite your head. I'm not here for this; I get labour discipline at work, and I don't expect to get KPO'd here. Go away and rephrase that as an encyclopaedic statement. Actually, I'll go further, the day I think that Value is being extracted from my work here, that my work is being turned into labour power, I'm gone. I'm not here to reproduce Value in an expanded form, I do that in order to subsist. Wikipedia is a break from the experience of reproducing value in an expanded form for recooperation by the market for me. Pedagogy, free learning for others, is a motivator. Liberation, freedom in collaborative work, is a motivator. Enhanced performance outputs over the five year plan is not a motivator.
  7. "Many Featured Article Candidates (OCT 2011) are on unpopular topics." showing Brain leading with 100K+ views. Brain is currently opposeable because its citations do not substantiate its claims.
  8. "The more Featured Articles a user writes, the lower the average relevancy of his articles" This indicates that vital articles are gut-busters to me
  9. I enjoyed the detailed analysis of one project, and one author. They made me reflect on my behaviour as a reviewer deeply (and were tastefully done to my mind, and don't read as criticisms of the project or author). In particular it made me rethink my behaviour as a sourcing/spot-check reviewer; and, that I don't spend any time grappling with "content" (even though my content speciality rarely appears).
  10. ALoan's 2006 suggestion on turning series of articles into high quality articles makes me very very suspicious of Wikipedia's false taxonomies of importance in social science, and history.
  11. I am impressed with your finding in relation to the US National Archives challenge, particularly its conclusion that respondents need to be drawn from outside the existing FA community.
  12. FA community pedagogy needs to improve, particularly with authors we can "observe" have an ongoing interest. I try to write my reviews so that they're comprehensible, but this isn't always easy.
  13. I am amusingly reminded of the quantity into quality problem for the Soviet economy. Interestingly Nikita Khrushchev is a FA.
  14. Thank you for putting the effort into this analysis. It is interesting. It has immediately modified some of my opinions about appropriate source, citation and spot checking. Fifelfoo (talk) 01:52, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

Thoughts from Sp33dyphil

I have no problems with trivial articles being nominated for GA/FA. However, this generally comes at the expense of vital articles not receiving enough attention and are being left to be derelict. I think it'd be good if the same number of VAs are being nominated as the number of trivial articles, but I think that's asking a bit too much. I believe an ideal situation would be to have experienced editors who are extremely successful at FAs to cut back on creating articles to teach a younger generation how to write and give guidance on everything Wikipedia, while writing more VAs. This would result in many more trivial articles, but at the same time VAs are being produced. Any comments? --Sp33dyphil ©© 10:04, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

PS. It was a pleasant surprise to have my Aviation Master Plan included in the presentation.

False dichotomy. That many editors choose to focus on so-called "trivial" articles has no bearing on whether or not an editor focuses on a so-called "vital" article. If I wasn't writing about hockey or Canadiana, I wouldn't be writing about philosophy or 19th century composers instead. So no, one does not come at the expense of the other. Resolute 15:15, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
Not entirely. Most of us have a choice allocating our time between improving larger numbers of very poor articles in our area of interest or concentrating on a few, probably relatively obscure ones, and bringing them to the high state of polish needed for FA. That may not work so well in a narrower field like ice hockey, but is certainly the case in most areas, and perhaps especially so in my area of the visual arts, where the sort of analysis TCO quotes is amply justified and most articles on major topics are crap (Indian art, Italian Renaissance sculpture, in fact anything to do with sculpture, Baroque, Rococo, Romantic art etc etc). All of these are exactly the sort of thing people are likely to look in an encyclopedia for, and do, & they are being badly let down. I've increasingly chosen to spend more time on the former, mainly in the belief that this is best for the project. So I don't get stars, but can comfort myself with the much higher page-views my work is getting. Johnbod (talk) 15:30, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
Indeed, but that only further invalidates TCO's arguments. According to him, your work is not good enough because you aren't trying for a Good article or Featured article. And yet, by improving these articles, you are furthering the project's goals. As I said somewhere else in one of these dozen discussions TCO started, he's blaming the FA process when it has nothing to do with why people aren't editing these topics. Resolute 15:42, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

I have no problems with trivial articles being nominated for GA/FA. However, this generally comes at the expense of vital articles not receiving enough attention.[citation needed] I can bring TS to FA standards-- I can't bring heart attack or diabetes or cancer to FA standards, and bringing TS to standard didn't stop me from working on core or important topics; we all do what we're able to and enjoy. PS. It was a pleasant surprise to have my Aviation Master Plan included in the presentation. Were you also pleasantly surprised to see your FA work described as it was (I'm not going to troll through the faulty analysis again, but I believe the word used to describe your FA work was "rough", feel free to provide the exact wording), after I've had to engage on several of your FACs because content and prose were prematurely endorsed by involved reviewers. Curiously, the author of that same opinion piece claimed that FAC delegates needed to make sure content was reviewed-- notice any contradiction? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 17:00, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

"we all do what we're able to and enjoy" - to confabulate with a totally separate topic but with similar stakeholders, I think this is also true of editors who choose to help out with school class projects when they could also spend that time writing featured content themselves. They enjoy the process of helping out, so it's their choice to do that - it doesn't take anything away from other work that might be done.
"to see your FA work described as it was" - Sp33dyPhil doesn't have any objections to how TCO characterises his work. He knows there's scope for improvement. --Demiurge1000 (talk) 18:22, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
I don't know anyone who has a problem with well supervised school projects run by engaged and knowledgeable professors (Jbmurray for example)-- the issue is that we don't have enough of such people (or online ambassadors) to keep up with professors who aren't engaged and have several hundred students working on scores of articles, encouraged by WMF employees who have never engaged the project at the content level. And JimmyButler, when given the chance to present some of the reasons his collaborations worked, was unable to do so, saying he had no idea why his collaborations worked,[13] and wouldn't present some simple data for comparison to the large projects that aren't working.[14][15] So, not sure what your point is.

Yes, we know that TCO recognizes scope for improvement in Speedyphil's work, yet he highlights that work as a "success" (while recognizing that it hasn't been at the FA level-- it's "rough") while at the same time taking issue with other editors' (better) work, and while failing to mention that FAC delegates do strive to assure that content and prose get both independent and topic expert review (which doesn't happen normally in airline FACs, in which I've had to intervene because of premature involved support on prose and content that wasn't up to standard). So, again, not sure what your point is or if you're attempting to make a different one, but TCO overlooks the facts when it's convenient. My point is that he specifically recommends that FAC delegates need to assure that content is reviewed, while specifically highligting the nominator of several FACs where that did have to and did happen.

So, to summarize, we have DYK and USEP under fire for copyvio, TCO involved with USEP via JimmyButler et al, and yet TCO and WMF employees deciding to take aim at FAC, while overlooking copyvio at DYK and the significant problems caused by the ill-conceived and overstretech WP:USEP. TCO had an axe to grind, did some analysis that looks "real" but is entirely based on faulty premises, and The Signpost will give him the forum (controversy sells, that's what journalists love). (To their credit, they've at least taken on the other issues as well.) It's the internet-- ain't it grand! SandyGeorgia (Talk) 18:44, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

"the nominator of several FACs where that did have to and did happen" - so it happens in some FACs? Well, that's good.
"wouldn't present some simple data" - so flatly refused to provide data that was asked for, or just had other priorities when first asked? Would co-operation have been forthcoming faster if he hadn't been given a patronising lecture about how in the USA people are expected to work for their dreams, or whatever nonsense it was?
As for TCO, if he's trolling, you're feeding - and by the bucketload. --Demiurge1000 (talk) 18:52, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
I don't think anyone who frequents this page thinks FAC or its participants are fault-free. I think we'd be pretty good at enumerating the faults of FAC and each other in proper cage match style. Anyone who intends to highlight problematic areas of FAC however, should do it in the spirit of improving the project. How this ever helps to improve FAC, its participants, or Wikipedia itself I simply don't know. Certainly the pdf in question was not considered with sociological or cultural motivation in mind. It promotes awards and pay for work and denigrates the work, however questionable, of current participants at FAC. I cannot imagine what its mission is and it's so clueless in motivation I can only imagine we're all being trolled. --Moni3 (talk) 18:42, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
The salient point is that FAC was trolled, ala abuse of RTV, multiple TLDR IP posts, etc. Had TCO engaged FAC in good faith, he might have been more able to be objective, and in fact better able to make a good analysis of the actual problems (which curiously he never even mentions, presumably because he's not even aware of them). No, he chose to launch his "analysis" from behind a facade of multiple accounts and IP editing, without ever having engaged (for example) Ucucha's articles on talk, where Ucucha could have pointed out TCO's errors. What a shame to put so much effort into data analysis without considering the right data to analyze :) But then, Wikipedia functions best via collaboration, and that isn't the way TCO and his various accounts work. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 18:49, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

Thoughts from Pesky

My views and responses on the subject are here. Much easier for me to make this a link than to cross-post same text to multiple areas! Pesky (talkstalk!) 10:24, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

Vital is as vital does

House? Cooking? Do people need actually to go to Wikipedia to find out what "house" means? Or cooking? Someone's idea of "vital" is not very well thought out. I should think we need to push articles about people and ideas that are a bit less painfully obvious, but still influential in human life. Moreover, why bust FAC reviewers for what is or isn't nommed? NotSixBodies (talk) 14:04, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

Or to put it another way, let's not give ourselves airs by pushing the idea that such-and-such is a vital article when what we really mean is a vital subject. No matter how good our article on brain or sex or John F. Kennedy, it will have plenty of competition out there in the world. Yet our FAs on more obscure subjects may be the most comprehensive around. This is a volunteer project and unless someone wants to make top writers an offer they can't refuse, they'll write not simply on what interests them but where they see a gap, and so they should as long as it meets notability criteria. Cheers from your friendly Star Collector of the Galaxy Rangers, Ian Rose (talk) 15:17, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
Good point. - Dank (push to talk) 20:52, 24 November 2011 (UTC)


According to Skomorokh, the Signpost will be addressing the study. Skomorokh doesn't make very clear in what way it will be addressed. TCO himself suggested it be covered, natch, whereupon in apoplectic frustration I offered to write a rebuttal. Skomorokh says "Tell your friends" and I always follow the advice of people on the Internet. Tomorrow I have to meet someone I met in a chatroom--he's going to pick me up in a rusted cargo van with "Free Candy" painted on the side. --Moni3 (talk) 16:05, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

Anything that manages to piss off our high-end article writers to this extent is worthy of news yes, and the Signpost would like to extend an invitation to the author to defend their work, and to the rest of you to critique it. Parameters to be worked out, suggestions welcome. "Free Candy" displayed for aesthetic purposes, should not be taken as in inducement of journalistic bribery. Skomorokh 16:14, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
Skomorokh, the trend towards less than factual reporting at The Signpost, in favor of more editorializing, has been an issue since Ragesoss left, and peaked during HaeB's term. I hope that's improved under the new leadership, and that you'll be looking for independent writers, who attempt to vet all the facts professionally rather than put forward an opinion piece that will further publicize an analysis based on several faulty assumptions (well outlined on this page). Piotr specifically has axes to grind in this issue (his citation density proposal rejected at FAC and two times elsewhere, and USEP), which I can detail either here, on your page, or if necessary on the piece once it's published; I hope you'll be able to find an independent writer so that examining writer bias won't be necessary. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 16:52, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
Sandy, thank you very much for weighing in. I'm not going to comment on any specific individuals, as such personal politics are completely uninteresting to me and I'm here for the story. Philosophically speaking, my aim is to increase standards at the Signpost across the board, and part of that includes becoming more of a professional (in behaviour if not in remuneration) newspaper rather than a village newsletter which merely recycles news from elsewhere. Conducting investigative reports (such as our recent one on the Education Program in India and its copyvio/plagiarism issues), and commissioning thought-provoking opinion pieces (such as this) are a part of that, which is why I want to have the best and brightest minds at FAC weigh in on this vital articles issue in our pages. I am also very interested in recruiting independent writers (if you know of anyone who would be good, send them my way), yes; we are quite understaffed at present so the factual reporting on this piece I will likely conduct myself. By way of disclosure, I have played a role both in writing FAs and curating the Vital article list, but have no personal history with the study's author and no axe to grind here. I hope I can count on the interest of FAC editors to take this opportunity to educate the community at large as to the real issues this episode has touched on. Skomorokh 17:13, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
Kudos on the MRG piece-- much needed, little heeded! I've enumerated (mostly repeating what others have already said on this page) the faulty assumptions in the analysis at Wikipedia talk:Featured article candidates#Feedback from one "champion." One question: I see that you've already weighed in on the matter of TCO's abuse of RTV, which remains a concern-- since his account and contrib history is such a mess (at least three accounts plus IP editing, that obfuscates his troubled history), unless you mention the RTV and multiple account issue, how will readers be able to form their own opinion about TCO's stability and motivation and knowledge of Wikipedia processes? There is so much that The Signpost could cover, and so many worthy folks who could write good pieces like MRG's, that it's unfortunate that we enable abuse of RTV by someone who trolled this page from multiple addresses while allegedly "vanished", but you've already had your word on that. Had he not "vanished" and then posted as a disruptive IP, his "claims" might have been put to rest before he resolved to launch his faulty assumptions so publicly, but so be it. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 17:23, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
To quote the adage "Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and little minds discuss people"; it's not so much the publication of this analysis nor those behind it that ought to concern us primarily, but the idea that we as members of the FA/GA writing and reviewing community can raise our game by focusing on topics of more central importance. I'm not taking a stance on it, but I think the broader community deserves to hear the very best arguments in favour and against it, and so I am here in the hopes of recruiting those best capable of articulating them. That is my role as newspaper editor; the politics I will leave to the bureaucrats and dramanauts. Skomorokh 18:16, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
Don't look now, but you already have taken a stance on it :) Carry on, SandyGeorgia (Talk) 18:22, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
  • At the risk of arguing a little mind point, I think that TCO's credibility is valid issue here — though not the most important issue. If this was presented by someone who had practical experience writing vital articles, its conclusions would taken more seriously. Instead, it's a one-sided examination that editors who create FA/GAs (I won't elaborate here on the confusion between the article-review process and article-writing) are not focusing enough on articles on the vital list (he points out that only 2% of FAs and 0.6% of GAs are vital articles as if that was low; he ignores the fact that that represents an over-representation of vital articles as a proportion of total WP article and as a result doesn't look at what created that over-representation) and is not informed by the other-side (barriers preventing the work he wants done on vital articles). Basically, his background skewed the outcome. And furthermore...this is a 'someone else should do something about that, but not me'-thing. maclean (talk) 22:30, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
I'll admit, being called a star collector made me more inclined to work on Hurricane Andrew, so for me at least, I welcome some criticism. --♫ Hurricanehink (talk) 17:52, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
I'm a star collector as well, and that's made me even less inclined to work on the daft so-called vital articles like "house", or "cooking", or even "science". Until I'm paid I'll do whatever it is that suits me, when it suits me. Malleus Fatuorum 22:35, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

Seeking a rebuttal

Thanks all for commenting above. A restatement of the analysis' thesis, excised of the "star collector/champion" approach to taxonomising contributors and redirected towards the central intersection of importance and quality, is being drafted here. The intent is to have a second opinion, of equal length, critiquing the premise that Wikipedia's high quality producing processes (e.g. GA, A-class review, and FA) are wrongly focused or that articles deemed vital or popular ought to be their primary focus. I'd like to invite some of the many thoughtful respondents on this page to step forward and contribute to this critique, either solo or in a group, so that the wider community can learn of and join in the debates that have been going on here over the past few days. Skomorokh 03:26, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

My view

Since I have talked about this general issue before, and TCO has cited me, I would like to weigh in here. In my view the fundamental problem with FAC is the same as the fundamental problem of Wikipedia as a whole: the low number of editors with subject matter expertise. At FAC this manifests itself as a demand for unreasonable levels of referencing, in an effort to make articles verifiable by people who have limited knowledge of the topic. For topics with a small literature the consequences are usually not too harmful, but for topics with a large literature, where most of the statements synthesize dozens if not hundreds of sources, the result is to prevent articles from ever becoming FAs. It is simply futile to demand that readers with no subject matter knowledge be able to verify articles on large topics -- only an expert reviewer can properly do it. I don't think there is any perfect solution other than to bring in more editors with expertise, but maybe there are ways to minimize the difficulty. What I seek is an acknowledgement that referencing requirements should be tuned to the breadth of a topic -- the larger a topic, the lesser the need for detailed page-referencing of every line, and the greater the need for reviewers with enough expertise to have a good sense of whether an article is accurate and comprehensive without having to consult sources regarding every line. If there is no such adjustment of reviewing methods to article breadth, I fear there will never be a substantial number of FAs on broad topics. I don't believe that the changes TCO is proposing will make much of a difference. Looie496 (talk) 16:47, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

Well put. You make two separate points: one is that a reader without subject matter knowledge cannot verify articles on large topics; the other is that this leads to unreasonable referencing requirements. I agree with the first point and can see how it could logically lead to the second issue, though I have not observed it myself, probably because I haven't worked on articles on large topics. You ask for an adjustment in reviewing methods, but isn't the problem also one of a lack of subject matter experts doing the reviews? Wouldn't the FAC review for an article like brain go more smoothly if experts were reviewing it?
I am nervous about the consequences if citation requirements were to be adjusted as you suggest. What would happen to an article that was not tended by its author? Uncited material, if changed, could not easily be changed back with authority, since the authority would not be there to be consulted -- neither the editor nor any sources. I'd prefer to solve the problem with volunteer labour: if you have ten facts that seem to you too obvious to cite in brain and a citation is called for, then other FAC editors with access to good libraries may be able to help. I'd certainly be glad to respond to a question like that on WT:FAC. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 19:04, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
It's not a question of facts being too obvious to need citing. The problem I have found is that the only way to write well on a broad topic is to start with a draft based on your knowledge, and then consult sources to fact-check and refine the draft: trying to write directly from sources is a recipe for incoherence. What happens then, if the article is written well, is that you end up with broad syntheses that are consistent with the sources but can't be matched up precisely with any single one of them. What, then, do you give as a reference? Regarding your other point, I don't think it is any more possible to maintain articles properly without subject matter expertise than to write or review them. It's easy enough to revert vandalism, but hard to deal with editors who don't fully understand the sources they are using. Looie496 (talk) 23:06, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

Thoughts from Choess

Outsider to the FAC process, FWIW.

  1. As aforementioned, the analysis places too much weight on the meaning of page views. In particular, the assumption that each page view means one person demanding a well-rounded, well-written, etc. article is highly questionable. Does everyone visiting "Fluorine" want to read about its discovery, the story of Moissan, synthesis of noble gas fluorides, etc., etc. or are many of those hits just people looking up its atomic weight because we have Google juice and they know they can find that fact in our article?
    ... or indeed because a popular conspiracy theory is that "the govmint" (I think they mean some organisation in the USA) is exercising mind control, or something control, by introducing fluorine or fluorine-based compounds into the water supply. Which, well, reinforces your point :) --Demiurge1000 (talk) 00:15, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
  2. The idea that writing an article on [list obscure fish here] is on a par with writing an article about cod is silly. When writing about an obscure topic, there are a small number of sources which can be absorbed somewhat indiscriminately as the article is compiled. With a much more far-reaching subject, there's much more material to review and assess, even if it doesn't all go into the article. I tell people that when I teach a subject, I have to know much more than I teach, so that I can decide what's relevant and useful and what isn't. The same process has to occur with a big topic, and there are many more difficult judgment calls about due weight. And we haven't even touched on the higher incidence of ax-grinders and cranks.
  3. The "Waddesdon Road" case study is badly, badly flawed. I have sympathy for the argument that it's been padded out from "Brill Tramway" to an unbalancing extent, but the sourcing criticism is just wrong, because TCO isn't familiar with the field. A great deal of the reliable historical literature on railroads is self-published, and critically, accepted by the scholarly community as reliable. Datum: I looked over the entries in George Hilton's "American Narrow Gauge Railroads" for the state of Pennsylvania (as representing my scholarly interests). Hilton is a tenured professor specializing in economic history, and this book is published by a scholarly press and is clearly written for an academic audience rather than casual railfans. By rough count, over his articles on the Pennsylvania narrow gauges, he cites 28 sources, of which 11 are self-published. Of the 2 out of the 28 which he notes to be "inaccurate", none are from the self-published sources. We get very caught up at times in our policies and guidelines like WP:SPS, but I think it's important not to forget that some of them exist as "fences around the law," as Talmudists would say. Something can be outside the lines and still be useful to the encyclopedia as a whole.
  4. The critique of single-sourced articles leaves me cold. By a similar logic, we should never have an FA on dinosaurs, because we can never achieve as balanced and comprehensive a description of a dinosaur as we can of an extant reptile.
  5. I'm not convinced that the greatest value of Wikipedia necessarily lies in the so-called "vital" topics. If the Wikipedia article on dollars or tin or water or horses or apples isn't all that great, it's usually not that hard for me to get that information elsewhere. Wikipedia's value to me as a reader (not as an editor) is that I can get a reasonably coherent bundle of information on somewhat obscure topics. E.g., if I'm reading Fletcher Pratt's history of the Civil War, I don't want a high-level overview of the war and the role of slavery, I want to be able to read about, say, Andrew A. Humphreys to see if Pratt's characterization is accurate, or just what exactly happened at the Battle of Jonesboro. Choess (talk) 00:10, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Just an aside - I will say our horse article is pretty decent, although not of FA quality. It's GA and reasonably free from bias and idiocy. Eventually the equine project will get it up to FA status, but it's really really hard to do that sort of work. I think that's what annoys me most about this "analysis"... it's written by someone who's never tried bringing up a high profile/large topic article TO FA or even GA - and thus it's really easy to say "we need to do this" without having any inkling of why some folks aren't rushing out to do so. Ealdgyth - Talk 00:32, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
The apple article isn't actually that bad either (GA status, but definitely not FAC-ready)... But I also realize that the specific articles Choess listed weren't really the point :) I agree with Ealdgyth here that it is hard to take someone seriously who's never put significant work into the high-level articles that he's giving everyone else guff about. I've worked on multiple high-view articles (including horse), and agree that they are the biggest magnets for vandals, POV-pushers, sock-puppets and the general Randy from Boise type irritants. When you combine this with the hundreds or thousands of hours of work and research needed to take a high-profile article to FAC (or even GAN), compared with the work of a few days that some editors need to take a low-profile article to the same status, you have a significant reason that there is not more focus on high-profile/high-view/high-interest articles. As Malleus said elsewhere on this page, since I'm not getting paid to do this, I'm going to work on whatever I feel like - and if I feel like working on a breed of livestock with a worldwide population of less than 1000, just so that I don't have to deal with idiots inserting "Johnny is gay" and trying to push unreferenced POV, then I will. And honestly, I would have to say that dinner with Wales holds zero appeal as a bribe to get me to work on anything; however, a gift certificate to Amazon so that I can feed my book-buying habit would probably get you somewhere... Dana boomer (talk) 00:55, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
I'd argue that an article on a breed of horse with a population of a thousand or so is way more important than an article on cooking. And you're right; the real incentives would be access to academic databases, like Jstor. Malleus Fatuorum 01:06, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
No slight meant to any articles listed. They may all be very good, for all I know—but the point is that I don't know, because I don't feel the need to consult them. I don't mean to say they ought to be ignored altogether, but I think the grounds for improving them are maybe more aesthetic and functional. Choess (talk) 00:54, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
(ec) I'm also driven by a lot of what Choess describes above - anyone can pick up information on say .. horse ... heck, you can go buy a good book on the basics of horse care or your local library will likely have a number of books about something like horses or apples or other broad subjects. It's the narrow interest small subject article subjects that your local library is unlikely to be able to give you any information on - I know MY local library isn't exactly up to snuff on medieval history. But .. if I'm reading some novel and it includes say a mention of Ranulf Flambard - I won't be able to go to my local library to find out much about him. However, thanks to the narrow interests of my own writing - we happen to have a pretty dang decent article on Flambard - not FA level, but definitely better than anything you'd find outside a major research library. Personally, I think a lot of Wikipedia's strength and appeal lies in the ability to find out information easily about subjects NOT covered by traditional encyclopedias. No, this doesn't mean that more general subjects such as English renaissance or Romanesque art shouldn't have reasonably decent articles also - but that we shouldn't flagellate ourselves about the fact that some folks concentrate on smaller subjects. Many of those people ALSO work on larger subjects (myself included) it just seems to have escaped the supposed "research" done by TCO here - if he's missed the work I've done on subjects such as William the Conqueror, Norman Conquest of England, Augustine of Canterbury or other big subjects (not to mention the reviews I've done on some of the English kings at FAC) I have to wonder what ELSE he's missed from other contributors... Ealdgyth - Talk 01:10, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
User:John and I managed to get Margaret Thatcher back up to GA earlier this year after it had been delisted, But I'm just a star chaser and he's just a tosser according to TCO. Malleus Fatuorum 01:28, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
You could prove you're not a tosser by bringing masturbation to FAC ;) Hawkeye7 (talk) 03:52, 25 November 2011 (UTC)

Thoughts from Hawkeye7

  1. Whereas you can submit as many GACs as you like, you can only have one FAC at a time. Since they take over a month to get through the process, this means that you are limited to about ten per year. So no matter how speedy Phil is, it will take about three years to get 28 articles through FAC. You therefore have to chose your FACs carefully; nomming one means that another article will indeed have to wait.
  2. Most of the best articles on the Wikipedia are about small, specialist topics. The challenge is to get the "gateway" articles up to scratch, so that people will be able to drill down into an ever richer collection of subarticles. It pains me that the New Guinea campaign article is such rubbish although some of its sub articles are featured. Unfortunately, you cannot create the mains by bringing the subarticles up to FAC, because that would take years.
  3. I usually create at least one "spin off" article from each main one that I do. Most of them usually only go to GA.
  4. I am often undecided about which article to work on next. The problem is not clear cut. On the one hand, there are important articles that need work; on the other, there are less important articles where I am one of very few editors who could bring the article to FAC. I am not a goal-oriented editor in that sense; my article writing drifts with my enthusiasms. But I never sensed any imperative for "vital" articles, although there are rewards for new articles. While it is clear that American subject articles get more hits that Australian ones, it is far from clear that I should be writing them.

Hawkeye7 (talk) 02:22, 25 November 2011 (UTC)

An interesting observation; new articles are rewarded with a main page slot, but work on the so-called vital articles is not. Which is harder? Malleus Fatuorum 02:29, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Don't you mean "rewarded"[dubious ]? Ealdgyth - Talk 02:32, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Probably. Malleus Fatuorum 02:39, 25 November 2011 (UTC)

Long-term strategy

The thing that struck me most about that very long pdf was how, well, long it was. It must have taken a long time to produce that, and I doubt it was a response to recent matters. I've read some of the responses here, and was idly wondering whether, instead of rebutting or agreeing with that analysis, whether anyone here has time to come up with their own analysis. Of course, that would take time away from writing/reviewing articles and closing FACs, but my point is this: is there anyone (or any group) involved in the FAC process who takes on a quasi-leadership role and considers long-term strategy and has the time to publish updates on how things are doing, and brain-storming ideas to move things forward? Or is Wikipedia and FAC too decentralised for anything like that to ever work? At the least, a summary of some of the excellent responses made above should be written up somewhere. Carcharoth (talk) 02:37, 25 November 2011 (UTC)

Then write it. Malleus Fatuorum 02:41, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
But to have any credibility, wouldn't it have to be written by someone with more experience with the FAC process? Carcharoth (talk) 02:48, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
More experience than whom? TCO? Isn't that pretty much everyone? Malleus Fatuorum 02:58, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Their own analysis of what? Why FA writers don't concentrate on vital articles? This approach itself is faulty. Why is it the responsibility of 150-200 editors to cover specific topics? According to whom? Why doesn't the rest of Wikipedia nut up and crack open books about art, mathematics, and the history of the world? The fault doesn't lie in the standards of FA or the FAC process. The problem isn't stringent or high standards. It's that the articles getting passed at FA are written by a very small minority of Wikipedians and they have to work within a certain set of parameters just to be able to function. They write about what interests them. And they have to climb uphill battles even on obscure topics. Vital topics would be time sinks. These are the realities of what it's like to work on high quality stuff. --Moni3 (talk) 03:43, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
@Moni3, Carcharoth (correct me if I'm wrong) is diverging away from that vital article aspect and asking about broad-level trends in the FA system. Is it where we want it to be? is it going where we want it to? maclean (talk) 03:56, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Moni, have you ever thought that the reason no one "nut[s] up and crack[s] open books about art, mathematics, and the history of the world" is the fact that this is what wikipedia is? You, and Sandy, and even Malleus in his self-absorbed secretarial work (ooh, that's going to strike a nerve... sahll I use hyphens in a manner that doesn't fit the style-guide to really get his goat?) are fighting against the entire purpose of the project. It's not about "quality". It's about getting a whole heap of damned idiots contributing their damned idiot knowledge (or lack thereof). Apparently, that makes it all right in the end. The fact that this is ridiculous and goes against thousands of years of scholarship is beside the point. I agree that there needs to be a greater focus on quality. Any funtional adult can see that. But Moni, honey (and I use this with all the offensive baggage it carries), for the most part you aren't working with functional adults. (talk) 12:00, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Why, no, Anonymous IP, whomever you may be...I haven't considered this because it's no longer the case and hasn't been for years. We sailed by that lonely island right around the Siegenthaler incident. There's a reliable sources policy for a reason. It took the place of all the wonderful nuggets of knowledge you picked up from the shitty research done by the 2-stoner team at the History Channel. I can't argue with your point about functional adults, however. But that's a salient argument to have. Are we going to attempt to lure functional adults with an atmosphere that treats content more seriously or count this as an interesting social experiment that lasted for a bit and eroded away as social movements do? It's an interesting question and one you might be able to answer much more straightforward by logging in and acting like a functional adult. --Moni3 (talk) 14:44, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
I'm interested to know if that is in fact what Carcharoth is asking, but at the same time, perplexed. I get the impression that FAC has been hemorrhaging for years. I haven't nominated an article in 15 months or so and I stopped reviewing. It's not necessarily FAC but another overall problem on the site. I can't do any more because I spend most of my limited time trying to maintain and defend the articles I've already written from disruptive editors. I feel completely isolated most of the time. I can't speak for other FA writers, but in a project where editors are already spread thin and enthusiasm is waning--and shit like this dumb study never helps--I can't image how the remaining participants have the energy and resources to try to plan how the project will look in 6 months or 10 years. The right questions aren't being asked, and quite frankly, I'm doubtful the rest of Wikipedia cares about the goings on at FAC. --Moni3 (talk) 04:07, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Forgive me for pushing on this but I am genuinely wondering what questions should be asked, why do you think they should care and what would make them do so? Mahalo, Skomorokh 04:11, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Moni3 is spot on. Why place the blame on the few people in the project who actually create content and not extend it to the project as a whole. The bottom line is that very few people here actually read and write. Carcharoth's suggestion should be spun out into an analysis of how many editors create content, and how many don't. And the reasons for not creating content. The problem isn't that so few "important" pages as getting through FAC - the problem is that few pages in general project-wide are being improved - except for having drive-by editors slap on "ref-improve" tags. Truthkeeper (talk) 04:16, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
I also agree with Moni3. If I had had any kind of encouragement whatsoever to contribute FA's I would have produced at least a couple per year the last few years. The reason I don't is that it is currently simply not worth the effort. If wikipedia wants more relevant FA's then encourage and support content contributing editors - don't bug them down in minor style issues, and don't treat them as felons for not having nominated an article that already matches the subjective criteria of whoever happens to show up at the review.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 04:36, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
FAC may need a very modest bit of gentle, non-invasive tweaking, but the idea that it needs structural reform is an under-informed one. Wikipedia may need structural reforms that will spill over into FAC, but not vice-versa... As for what is or isn't truly "vital", why not get Wiki-suits to formally request various well-known individuals or organizations (Stanley Fish, Christopher Hitchens, Stephen Hawking, the American Library Association, whomever) to suggest one article they would like to see brought to FA, as well as perhaps suggesting a few refs? It's a publicity thingie. Or something. NotSixBodies (talk) 09:14, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
(responding to Maclean and Moni) Maclean, you have it right. I was indeed asking about broad-level trends in the FA system, and by "their own analysis", I meant people doing an analysis that they think is useful and would give useful results, not trying to replicate what TCO did. FWIW, I largely agree with those saying work on niche topics and broad topics is completely different (and that should be obvious to anyone who has written on both types - sometimes writers of FA niche topics have never written on broad topics but think that qualifies them to talk about it at the same time as denigrating those who haven't written on niche topics but think they can say something useful about it - would you believe that? :-) My experience with regards to niche topics and broad topics comes from outside Wikipedia (both reading and writing), though I realise that to have any credibility on Wikipedia with regards to content writing, you need to have actually produced the goods here. I just wish that some of those writing FAs were less judgemental about that and less dismissive of those that haven't gone through the process. Some of the best FA writers I have got to know are those who are calm, patient, and welcoming of others. Those who are more excitable are... harder to work with. I try to take the same approach with every FAC I review, and the thing that has struck me most is the sheer diversity in personalities and writers, with a consequent diversity in responses. Getting back to long-term strategy, I've always thought a level of external peer review would help shed some light on what level of quality FA is really attaining. That is something the WMF could really help with. Carcharoth (talk) 10:19, 26 November 2011 (UTC)

Personal experiences of a casual editor

I haven't actually read your power point yet, just about to have a look at it. It is a very interesting topic and one that I can personally relate to.

I love to write, and I have admired and added to Wikipedia over the past 5 or so year, albeit mostly dabbling here and there. I prefer to create new articles rather than to add to already made ones. I can't speak for anyone else (obviously), but the main reason why I don't help to create feature articles is because I was never really taught the skills at school to go from reading a bunch of sources to the finished product. I think that what I would find the most useful is an article that takes me on a journey into the mind of one of you as you collect your sources, extract the information, compile them into notes or dot points or whatever you do, and come up with the end result. A... black mark on my editing history is a time when I created numerous articles on films that were on the List of musical films list and almost all of them were picked up for copyvio. I really do want to help Wikipedia to grow and flourish but I think that me, and others, simply don't know what to... do exactly.. When I was editing Horrible Histories (a personal love of mine), I did try to extract all the info I could and create good paragraphs out of it. The article ended up being a list of non-cohesive sentences (essentially dot points without the dots) from the various sources under each of the headings. I think what I'm trying to say is, perhaps an in-depth Wikipedia essay on the actual method behind creating an article properly might be a nice idea, and night inspire more people to challenge themselves by editing articles with a formula rather than throwing themselves into the very deep end of a massive pool.

P.S another reason I do struggle is because I have only ever tackled article in a solitary manner. Perhaps a system that encourages collaborations, maybe a production line system of writer, editor, copywriter etc. would encourage more to join, knowing that there are others with them. I know for a fact that whilst creating articles in the Film Requests page, if every time I clicked refresh, I saw 5 red links instead of one turn to blue, it would be much more satisfying and would probably inspire me to do more knowing that there were other along for the ride with me.--Coin945 (talk) 05:33, 25 November 2011 (UTC)

I don't doubt that everyone does it differently, but given a blank sheet I usually start off with a mind map and work from there. It's rather less straightforward when you're looking at improving an existing article, but even there I still try to get the bigger picture in my head before filling in the blanks. Malleus Fatuorum 11:18, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Man, mind maps drive me batty. I'm impressed you can actually make use of one. Myself, I usually do timelines and use a top down approach. And I agree with both of you. Trying to improve an existing article is far more difficult than creating from scratch.
Coin945 - There are several essays that can help, including Tony1's set. I'm not sure how well linked they all are - that might be something we could look into: create a page collecting various guides and suggestions for writing GA/FA articles and prominently linking. But, you do touch on one of Wikipedia's biggest issues: writing an FA article is a challenge. I joined the project in late 2005, when a source was valid if it was just listed as a general reference. First FAs in 2007, and frankly, they were crap compared to today's standards. My own writing has improved greatly over the years, and I was fortunate that it improved in concert with Wikipedia's demands. If our current standards were enforced in 2006, I probably would have been just as lost. That highlights one of the project's current major flaws: a complete lack of tolerance for editors on a learning curve.
For an editor learning, my suggestions are pretty simple: Find a FA/GA on the same general topic as you wish to write and examine its layout, the topics it covers and the general writing tone. Write your article using what you've learned, then go to WP:PR stating that you are learning and are seeking feeback. Apply feedback and if necessary, another run at PR. The first goal is presenting the topic in a way that helps other readers. Just because an article does not have a Featured article or Good article mark does not mean it is not of great value. Eventually try for GA, then if people think it is ready, FA. Be prepared to fail at that, and be prepared to accept any commentary/criticism with good grace, even if you think it is ridiculous. It is a constant learning process. I've written 47 FA/GA articles, and I still learn something new every time out. It is a challenge to get to the top, and a lot of people just don't have the patience for it - both to learn, and to deal with people who are learning. Resolute 15:48, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for all the info and wisdom :) It's nice to know that the FA/GA group isn't as insular as I imagined it being (as that powerpoint pointed out :P), and willing to spend their time aiding those with less experience.
I do want to know, though, once you've examined the page and worked out all the topics you need to cover, how do you personally find the task of going through various sources, extracting the relevant info, and then putting it into your own words and into coherent paragraphs?--Coin945 (talk) 03:59, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
I also marvel at how someone like Moni3 does it, Coin ... she picks a topic that interests her, goes to the library and reads everything written of significance on the topic, and then starts writing. I couldn't do that; I wrote Tourette syndrome after years of being steeped in the research and knowing what sorts of things come up often and were important to say, and knowing what the key research was and who the key researchers were. Everyone approaches it differently, but regardless of how you approach the original writing, it's almost always a team effort to some extent. You follow FAC long enough, you get a sense of who can help you with what piece. I knew the research, but prose is my weakness, so I needed copyeditors, and I knew I was too close to the material, so I needed eyes to help sort jargon. Others who write well may have spelling issues and just need spell checkers. Others may just need someone to clean up MOS issues-- every article is different and every writer takes a different approach, but the way to build up your skills and confidence is to dig in at FAC, do whatever small thing you can initially, get to know the process, the strengths and weaknesses, and eventually we'll see you writing an FA! Here is a helpful starting place: Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2008-04-07/Dispatches. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 04:05, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
Thanks SandyGeorgia :) I think I'll do a bit of dabbling in VA writing and reviewing and see how I go. Okay, so I've chosen to take a stab at mass media because it's a stub class and it is essentially a blank canvas for me to work with... so, first off, how do I know what subsections to include?--Coin945 (talk) 04:13, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
What do you think a reader should or would want to know about the topic? If you're not sure, look to a comparable FA or to the sources. Depending on how you work best, you might try mind mapping or a similar technique, or just write first and organize later. Nikkimaria (talk) 02:46, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
That is the challenge, isn't it? For myself, I tend to look at the sources I have and pick two or three that I feel cover the topic best and use those as my primary sources. I then bring in others as supplemental sources. I work top down, so it is usually a three phase process for me. First phase is to just get the information down in a logical order and the citations in place. Sometimes this isn't all that pretty, but the more articles you write, the more natural it becomes. Second phase is to copyedit. In particular, I focus on awkward paragraphs: those that don't mesh well, sentence fragments, things I realize I have too much or too little detail on, etc. Then I usually take some time - at least a week - where I'll just ignore the article. Finally, a second copyedit. I find it is good to step away from the text for a bit, as when you're knee-deep in it, you often fail to see mistakes. I've left articles for months at a time even. Worked on something else, then came back. It's like riding a bike in some respects. As you learn the tricks, they stay with you, and you naturally apply that new knowledge to the next articles. Resolute 04:18, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
Ahhh... okay. Right now I'm just going through each source in turn and writing it in my own words on the document (I've only just finished the first one now), and put the various bits into the various paragraphs relating to it. Luckily the source in chose first seemed to have the info into nicely organised paragraphs so I think I'll use that as my template.--Coin945 (talk) 08:47, 26 November 2011 (UTC)

As Resolute said, it is very much a cumulative learning experience. One thing I would add is that it is important, early on, to get into the habit of going back to articles you have worked on earlier and applying the lessons learnt later on. If you don't do that, you can end up with a large 'back-catalogue' of articles worked on that vary in quality depending on when you worked on them. I've personally tried returning to articles worked on years earlier, and it can be quite shocking to realise that the state you left the article in was such that you have to essentially start again from scratch to try and remember where you left off. Sometimes leaving a summary on the article talk page before moving on can help, both for a future "you" and any other future editors of the article.

The key is to get the organisation and groundwork in place first. Try and do as comprehensive a survey of the sources as possible, and then list them somewhere (such as the article talk page), and try and work out which ones will be most useful and list a select number of those in the article (further reading or external links) if not already used. It is often very helpful to list the sources by type (book, online, journal articles, etc.) and year published (lots of considerations there), and who the author and publisher are (i.e. reliability), as that will help. But don't add too many. Then work out which of the sources you have access to, and get them and read them - several times. Then you are ready to start using the sources as references to actually add content to the article.

The above process is really educating yourself on and becoming familiar with a topic before diving in there, (diving in head-first without reading about a topic can do more harm than good). But for broad topic articles, as others have pointed out, that can require years of reading and immersing yourself in a topic before you can hope to write coherently about that topic. Failing that, the best thing I think most editors can do to improve such articles is to ensure that incoming and outgoing links are present and relevant and used correctly, thus enabling readers to read around a topic. And to critically assess such articles as a reader - what did you learn from the article, what obvious things are missing, how does it compare to other articles on the topic, is it internally consistent? And then either fix those things, or get help from others (WikiProjects sometimes help here) in fixing any problems you think the article has.

That way, the quality slowly improves over time until someone with a broad overview of the topic area can help make the quantum leap to the next level by giving the article a proper shakedown. One thing that it is important to realise is that when that shakedown moment arrives, much that you've done may get torn up and thrown away. That doesn't mean that your efforts were wasted, but that you were ensuring the article that readers were viewing (in huge numbers) was a little bit less bad than it was previously. Even if the edits don't survive, they were of use. Hope that makes some sort of sense. Carcharoth (talk) 10:44, 26 November 2011 (UTC)

Coin, another thing that might help you avoid re-inventing the wheel is to seek out collaborators-- editors who have already written an FA in that content area and can guide you on research, writing, MOS, article organization, etc, as well as offer another set of experienced eyes. Off the top of my head, DCGeist (talk · contribs) might be the editor to help you on Mass media, but if he's no longer active, you can go to WP:FA, find similar articles, check the contribs and the article history to see which editors worked on them, and get yourself a partner! SandyGeorgia (Talk) 02:03, 27 November 2011 (UTC)

Thanks for all the advice :) --Coin945 (talk) 05:22, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

Support from St. Petersburg

Lost in all of this is a point made independently by both TCO and Sandy, and that I think we can all agree on. Featured article writers get inadequate support from WMF. Inadequate? No support! The Foundation takes our quality articles and from what I gather (I am much too busy writing to give much attention to the WMF) uses them as a measure of improved quality, albeit in a somewhat different way than TCO has. How much would it cost to get JSTOR accounts for those FA writers who are not in school and cannot get them through local libraries? Possibly, the Foundation could start the ball rolling with a phone call. Easier access to scholarship will only improve our articles. We are individuals. We cannot easily arrange things with large enterprises. We can't get that photo pass for Rex Ryan press conference, hence we will continue to have lousy photos of Rex Ryan. This kind of thing money can't buy, but an organization can ask for, and receive. I would not like this lost amid the fray. Thank you.--Wehwalt (talk) 18:47, 25 November 2011 (UTC)

Agreed. - Dank (push to talk) 19:09, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Have we ever asked? And we have a rather fine photo of Rex, but not in the lead. If we want more we should ask his agent. Johnbod (talk) 19:20, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Asked who? And if we haven't, and we should, let us do it. (Sorry about bad example).--Wehwalt (talk) 19:23, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Asked WMF to fund some JSTOR a/cs. Johnbod (talk) 19:24, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
As I said, I don't pay that much attention to them. Who in particular would I ask? Or is it something to pass up the chain of command to be asked for on our behalf?--Wehwalt (talk) 19:27, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Rex Ryan was used only to illustrate a point. I agree with Wehwalt. Once I learned that the Brazilian National Library in Rio de Janeiro had in its collection a couple of extremely rare photos of a 19th century Brazilian statesman I sent an e-mail asking if they could give to me digital copies of both. All I got was a "You have to come here and search for them in our gigantic collection and do everything by yourself". Damn. I live in Brasília, the national capital, I won't travel to Rio de Janeiro just to get a couple of photos. It would be wonderful if WMF could make our lives easier. --Lecen (talk) 19:28, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
I am not asking them for money.--Wehwalt (talk) 19:33, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
JSTOR's been mooted a couple of times on the mailing lists and stalled for one reason or another, as I recall, but other resources have been made available (Credo/XRefer). The person who's been involved with getting subscription resource accounts "donated" in he past is Erik (m:User:Eloquence) - they might be a good first point of contact. Shimgray | talk | 19:40, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Well, perhaps we should talkback him to this discussion.--Wehwalt (talk) 19:47, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Being able to get JSTOR access would be a major incentive for me. Even getting, say, one week of access in a year would be a huge boost. The amount of time I can dedicate to Wikipedia is somewhat limited, and being able to access quality sources online is very important. Choess (talk) 03:12, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
Last year, I was in Vancouver, and when the public library didn't have a source on Diefenbaker I needed, they sent me to Simon Fraser, who let me loose on one of their computers. I am rather embarrassed at how much downloading and emailing to self I did.--Wehwalt (talk) 03:15, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
Since "they" have decided to take aim at FAs as the indication of the problem of "quality" vs "quantity" (even to the point of ignoring copyvio at DYK when the problems there were raised), who you gonna ask? One of those who want more articles and more editors via recruiting students, over better articles and better editors via FA standards? Maybe one of them thinks we should instead provide more sources for ease of DYK cut-and-paste? Maybe Carcharoth should instead be asking the question of whether the recent trends evidenced by WMF employees are consistent with the core policies of Wikipedia (minor things like WP:V, WP:OR, WP:RS, and so on) and whether their push for more editors and more (never to be viewed) articles (on obscure topics like klazomania pushed forward by an educational project) are more in line with core policies, or if WIAFA is? I don't think any of them support "quality" over "quantity", which is the only reason TCO's shoddy pseudo-analysis will get some traction via The Signpost. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 19:37, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
I don't know who either. That's a problem, isn't it?--Wehwalt (talk) 19:40, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Yep, that leads to another question I've been meaning to ask, after I recently asked on my talk if WMF had ever hired a content contributor. Where do we find a list of WMF employees and their positions? Would Moonriddengirl be the right person to approach? Who are these people and what are their positions, anyway? All I've noticed whenever I see their names come up is that they are not engaged in just about any way with the actual creation of decent content (and I don't mean "decent" as in FA/GA-- I just mean anything that's slightly better than scraping the bottom). SandyGeorgia (Talk) 19:53, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
It looks like MRG might be the go to person. I found this: [16]. Truthkeeper (talk) 20:08, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Oh, my. I don't know quite what to say about that page, other than to comment that it's strange (you know, this being Wikipedia and all) that they aren't identified by their user accounts on that page. Must we click on each person to try to decipher if they actually know how to make this thing go or have ever contributed anything? Which one is Ironholds and which one is MRG? Does anyone know if there is anyone else there who actually knows how things work in here? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 20:13, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Most of them are software engineers so don't really know much about content building I'd guess. MRG has self-identified I think but I don't want to blurt it out here if she hasn't; maybe she has a pointer on her page? Truthkeeper (talk) 20:20, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Of the two head honchos Sue Gardner does a bit, Erik Möller not so much. Malleus Fatuorum 20:30, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
I've been thinking about this for the past couple of days (and earlier, but this discussion's brought it back up in my mind!). I believe a potentially-legal issue is that WMF has always tried to maintain that it is not the organisation which writes Wikipedia, but more a publisher-slash-facilitator; having employees whose direct role is working on content might be sailing close to the wind in that regard.
Historically, Danny, Cary, & now Philippe have been the closest there was to "employed" content workers, but their role in regard to content has mainly been interventional "firefighting" - stepping in to fix or remove severely problematic content, which is a necessary piece of work but isn't what we're looking at here!
On the other hand, WMF could probably be safe having staff whose role is facilitating content creation, by directly working on-wiki, without actually being paid to do the creation themselves. For example, would it break the "separation of roles" to hire someone whose job is to do the ongoing work of rating articles (perhaps on a per-project basis), or to do specific parts of the FA process (such as image checks, plagarism checks, etc)? Could a competent team of paid "reviewers" be a solution to GA backlogs? (etc, etc - I am just throwing ideas out here, they may be terrible ones.) These roles do not directly cause content creation, but because the editors most closely involved in them tend to be people who also produce that high-quality content, freeing up their time for writing might be a good payoff. Thoughts? Shimgray | talk | 20:24, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
This sounds right to me; Moonriddengirl recently posted a comment about the WP:IEP copyright debacle to the effect that she couldn't participate in the cleanup because she was an employee of the WMF. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 20:29, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
I do not think we want someone who is paid to perform checks. Beside the legal issues, the person would have too much of an advantage in dispute. Think of it as being in a content dispute with Jimbo. I would settle for a person who can try to arrange reasonable things, who engages on here with the editors, checks in, pats heads on behalf of the WMF, and who knows how to say "no" in an inoffensive way. Alternatively, our representative can engage at the Foundation level for us, that is, the FAD.--Wehwalt (talk) 20:55, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
I agree, and I think that would cross the line they like to preserve where they don't create or control the content for legal reasons ("section 230" or something). Personally I would like a broad academic review of our coverage, though I hesitate to suggest spending money on it as it would be bound to be ignored. Johnbod (talk) 21:07, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Wehwalt may be on to something-- the WMF needs someone who educates them (constantly) about life in the "trenches", since they seem so unaware (and they seem to be influenced by those who are more inclined to spend their time on IRC, on private maillists and in meetups than in actually engaging the "open" part of the project and articles, which irks me to no end, since one of the benefits of Wikipedia is its openness-- anyone here can see everything I've ever written and know what I stand for because I don't go to those "closed" places). I nominate Mike Christie-- he'd be good at that sort of thing. Fat chance the WMF will take us up on it. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 21:22, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
I've said what I had to say. If anyone needs me, they can find me at Garret Hobart (not too many hits, but he was Vice President).--Wehwalt (talk) 21:50, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
tsk, tsk, for shame-- can't you find something worthy to work on? You're taking away from the sum of all human knowledge by working on such obscure vice presidents. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 22:37, 25 November 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Perhaps not obscure enough, judging like this.--Wehwalt (talk) 22:39, 25 November 2011 (UTC)

Other reactions

  • People nominate what they nominate. How can we curtail nominations in any way that is related to their topic? If FAC made any sort of a move to brush back noms that the author of the pdf file has judged to be too trivial, or even made serious noises about it, a bristling phalanx of enraged editors would pour out from their formerly-peaceful library carrels shrieking that FAC is an evil cabal of elitist scum. I personally think someone should generate a pdf file deprecating the (probably) well-intentioned but ultimately counter-productive calls to reform FAC, and their various consequences. NotSixBodies (talk) 02:22, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
I think you are in the wrong subsection here. We are discussing the lack of support we get from WMF as FA writers, not the question of nominations. Could you move your comments to the appropriate section? To restate, what I would like to see is the Foundation immediately arrange for JSTOR for FA writers and reviewers who do not have it, and to be responsive in future to reasonable requests such as assisting editors in arranging access to archives and photo events. And no one is talking about sending some teenager to a Justin Bieber photo shoot. Purely business.--Wehwalt (talk) 13:10, 26 November 2011 (UTC)

Comments from Graham Colm - I read the PDF a few days ago and have been biting my tongue up until now. I found it highly dismissive of content creators and, in parts, patronising. I suppose I am now going to be labelled as a "champion" by the children that overpopulate this website because I brought Virus (a so-called vital article) to FA. But of my thousands of edits, only 900 are to Virus, and Virus is only one of the 2,500 pages I have edited. To dictate what subject is worthy of FAC is a contravention of WP:NPOV as far as I am concerned. I know the work of most of the editors who have commented here, and they aren't "collectors" or "champions" or any other bollocks – they are dedicated, creative volunteers. But the whole PDF reads like some kind of employee appraisal. Given that the PDF not a user essay makes it a semi-official WMF publication as far as I am concerned and I don't like it's ethos. If the WMF feels it needs to kick-start Wikipedia out of the doldrums it should start be supporting content creators who work articles up to GA and FA level. Wehwalt is right; the Foundation should not be wasting it's time analysing what we write, they should be empowering us to write. I feel like a badly behaved employee and I guess the FA directors might share my feelings. The truth is the Foundation are the Communities' employees. And they need to be told that they are under performing. Graham Colm (talk) 14:20, 26 November 2011 (UTC)

Am I missing something? What connection is there between TCO and WMF? Johnbod (talk) 14:39, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
Yes, the pdf isn't related to the Foundation. It's the product of one editor who can't decide if he's retired or not. Coemgenus (talk) 15:29, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
There seems to be a mood of Community Department Operations Managers under the bed developing here! Johnbod (talk) 15:57, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
Looks like you just have a typo there? The page is at with an "s" on the end. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 16:25, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
Done Johnbod (talk) 19:22, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
For people who are not familiar with the structure: the important people have assistants who do their work for them. Hawkeye7 (talk) 19:18, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
Sorry? You mean Mike Christie? Johnbod (talk) 19:38, 27 November 2011 (UTC)

Comment from Brianboulton: I have worked on a large number of featured articles, and have reviewed a great many more. Of those I've worked on, some are probably important (Handel's Messiah, Gustav Mahler, Evelyn Waugh, Amundsen's South Pole expedition, etc.) while others are a lot less so. The latter get the same level of attention and thought as the former. I believe that in these minor articles are just as important as their higher profile counterparts, because Wikipedia is probably the only reference source where such a degree of research and care is lavished on minority subjects. For example, compare Wikipedia's featured articles on minor composers or operas with equivalent entries in the Oxford Companion to Music. I intend to carry on doing what I do; I'm not in the least offended by the PDF, which I think derives from a wish to stir things up rather than from malice towards other editors. I'm a bit surprised that it provoked so much discussion, though; think of all that reviewing time lost. Brianboulton (talk) 18:11, 27 November 2011 (UTC)

I think Brian's comments are very sensible and his calm an example to us all as we proceed to consider whether changes are warranted, and if so what.--Wehwalt (talk) 20:01, 27 November 2011 (UTC)

My thoughts on this are here. As I stated there, any worth in the argument is magnificently undermined by the rude/sarcastic tone the author has chosen to adopt in places. --Dweller (talk) 15:28, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

  • Two topics: The WMF and the pdf. It's shocking to me that the WMF doesn't even rah-rah for FAC (that's my comment about WMF, Wehwalt). Forex, I mentioned way above that they should solicit some semi-celebrities (mentioned Stanley Fish etc.) to do something feel-good-ish like suggest a FAC drive topic or something. Will this fundamentally change anything? Nope, but it's feel-good-ish, it gives FAC a cheery day, and oh by the way there is an extremely good chance that some good suggestions would come from those asked to give them. As for the pdf, as I said above, yapping about what is or isn't nommed is a waste of breath at best, and it certainly is misplaced to blame FAC for what comes in. If the pdf is saying that FAC reviewers and nommers overlap, well, we are a volunteer-run endeavor. People who are committed are the people who will both nom and review. Common sense. There has never been any credible charge of malfeasance etc. in the handling of noms made by reviewers. And if reviewers' noms get more attention, perhaps part of that is fallible human nature chiming in to work with a friend, but part of it is because plowing through unready junk is tedious and discouraging, and reviewers' noms tend to be far more ready. It is more pleasant to work with such a nom. Um. I'm done talking. NotSixBodies (talk) 02:55, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
  • Comment from Noleander - I think everyone is in violent agreement on two key points: (1) it would be nice if more vital articles became FA; and ( 2) there is no problem with lots of minor articles becoming FA. The big issue is incentives: what can we do to encourage editors to tackle the daunting (and often thankless) task of getting vital articles to FA status? The PDF touches on that that issue, and even though it has a bit of a condescending tone, I think it does raise some good questions. I suppose WP could create barnstars or (some comparable recognition) for editors that get large, vital articles to FA status. See, for example, Wikipedia:Four Award. Or maybe distinguish FA stars based on size/importance of the article. Somehow awards seem so shallow, but if it helps out, it may be worth looking into. Or maybe something at the project level?--Noleander (talk) 15:35, 1 December 2011 (UTC)

Observations and a proposal

Two observations:

  1. It's unfortunate that people associated with FA have felt attacked over what articles they write or don't write. I don't think this was the point of the discussion. FA writers should be free to write whatever they want to write, and every FA is welcome. The responsibility for getting VAs to FA is not theirs, but the project's.
  2. The problem is that our "anyone can edit" approach doesn't scale very well to bringing a VA to FA, especially those on high-level, abstract or diffuse topics. There are several reasons for this. First, there are too many potential sources. It's easy to research everything on a pop record, a hardware/software product, a minor historical battle, or a hurricane, if there are only a few dozen published sources covering the topic. A layperson can easily do it, compile all the published facts, and produce something complete and informative. With something like Information technology, or Literature, there are hundreds of thousands of potential sources. Where to start? It takes an expert in the field to even know which sources to go to, and assess the relative importance of subtopics. And this is where the disagreements start. The more frequently viewed a page is, the more drive-by comments and edits, including those from clueless people, a writer has to contend with. It becomes nerve-wracking. You might be a professor of literature trying to write about Hamlet, and have to AGF with school kids questioning you. People vote with their feet and work on articles they can control, and work on undisturbed – that is articles that are neither of interest to all that many people, nor particularly contentious. Many FAs are niche articles where the contributions of one or two editors represent 90% or more of all edits to the article. Working that way is often not possible in articles that get thousands of views a day, and which are not just about facts, but about ideas that have to be explained, and presented proportionately.

If we want to get vital articles on such topics as Information technology, business studies, art, literature, psychology or philosophy to FA status, we'll have to change our approach. We'd have to advertise it as a VA improvement project and get together a small group of editors, selected on the basis of demonstrable subject matter expertise, who will work on the article together as a team. We might want to try to recruit academics from outside the community. Semi-protect the article, or have editors work on a draft in userspace, add a wiki-formatting expert, add a team moderator if need be to keep interaction productive, and then have the team submit the draft to FA for community assessment, as well as expert assessment by outside academics. And if it passes FAC, be prepared to semi-protect the article again, or use something like flagged revisions, so those who put in the effort will know that their work will not be degraded the moment it is in mainspace.

I think such VA projects could work, and produce better VA content than we have now. But it would require some effort to set up, and require successful university outreach. And I am under no illusion that it would be particularly popular within the general community; there are project principles at stake. The community may prefer to stick to the open-editing approach, accept that for the time being we will continue to provide poor coverage in many vital areas, and hope for the best – it's always possible that as Wikipedia gains more acceptance in the academic community, and awareness of Wikipedia's importance grows, more subject matter experts will come along and manage to fix articles as part of normal editing. Who knows. But in my opinion the adage "If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got" largely applies. --JN466 14:47, 1 December 2011 (UTC)

  • I've started myself by making a to-do list of VA's that I have sufficient expertise to work on. If anyone want to propose a collaboration projects on one or more of those I'd be happy to participate.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 15:25, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
@Jayen466: is your proposal suggesting a new "VA&FA" article status within WP, on par with FA and GA, with its own nomination/review process? Or is it suggesting enhancing the existing WP initiative dedicated to VAs? Or is it contemplating working within existing WP projects, and creating new VA efforts within those projects? --Noleander (talk) 15:40, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
I think people could get a "bigger star" for taking a VA article to FA, if that helps. One could also think about identifying VAs on the article page, at least for logged-in users. FACs could run through the standard FAC process. But for it to succeed, it would need to be a highly visible initiative, with support from the Foundation and outside institutions. --JN466 14:14, 4 December 2011 (UTC)
The problem is that our "anyone can edit" approach doesn't scale very well to bringing a VA to FA ... One thing to look at, where I think (preliminarily) that I may disagree with you, "Core" and "Vital" problems notwithstanding, is autism, Asperger syndrome and tuberculosis. Those are "important" articles by <some measure, not necessarily accounted for in Core or Vital); autism and AS have hung in there and resisted deterioration because of a core of dedicated Medicine editors watching them, but tuberculosis was defeatured after TimVickers apparently gave up. I think one question we have to look at is how we can better support FA writers, which is exactly the opposite of what we're seeing happening now, but I'm still trying to catch up with the data. The question I raise in the section below is, are we risking losing "important" FAs by the current "naming and shaming" of specific categories and editors (TCO)? Did we lose Music and Media growth, for example, when it was fashionable to bash them back in 2008, and will others go the same direction, as it becomes harder for them to get review at FAC?

It's unfortunate that people associated with FA have felt attacked over what articles they write or don't write. I don't think this was the point of the discussion. I'm unclear how you come to that conclusion: TCO's "I had the opening shot" is telling, as are his talk page comments and the highly and unnecessarily personalized PDF, with biased selections of editors and categories to target. Other than that, I generally agree with what you've written. It's up to Wikipedia to figure out what changes in the (negative) editing environment will be helpful to bring what the community has defined as "Vital" and "Core" articles to FA standards, and to then address that in a positive manner in The Signpost, without the naming and shaming and FA-writer bashing. Let's get on to the matters that matter; how to support rather than denigrate content contributors. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 17:48, 1 December 2011 (UTC)

FWIW, I've dropped a post to the Foundation list: [17] --JN466 15:05, 4 December 2011 (UTC)
We certainly have a long way to go when it comes to topics besides hurricanes, video games, and TV shows. Before a week ago, Mexican art was still a redlink. And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to non-US/European content. Kaldari (talk) 21:59, 4 December 2011 (UTC)
Hey, I'm feeling a little left out of the conversation with battleships not characterized as pointlessly numerous.--Sturmvogel 66 (talk) 22:19, 4 December 2011 (UTC)
Imperialist capitalist powers built too many dreadnaught and pre-dreadnaught battleships. Damn all empires (the US republic-style empire included) and their subsequent distortion of topic based encyclopaedic quality. Fifelfoo (talk) 22:35, 4 December 2011 (UTC)
I'm thinking all these weird Australian birds and plants are purely a figment of the imagination brought on by too much Foster's and most of them are actually rabbits. I'm just trying to figure out how they got the camera drunk.--Wehwalt (talk) 23:03, 4 December 2011 (UTC)
"There is nothing wrong with your television set computer. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure."--Sturmvogel 66 (talk) 23:13, 4 December 2011 (UTC)