Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Opera/Archive 106

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This is a special archive covering the discussions in December 2011 concerning bannering, importance assessment, and recruitment as a follow-on to WikiProject_Opera/Self-assessment.

Self-assesment

Self-assessment: Where could this project improve?

I think I said that I would contribute to this discussion if at least four other people took part. Well, that never happened, but here's my penny's worth anyway:

Perhaps the biggest drawback of WP is the inclusion of poor, irrelevant and/or utterly arcane/ minor/ obscure articles. To gain respect, the dictionary-definition-style stubs and the pointless fluff should either be removed, or made filterable. There IS good stuff in here, but the perception of the site generally does seem to come from the poorest articles. If someone finds an incomplete, erratic or unbalanced article (NBBB all completely licit under WP's rules and guidelines), then the reputation of the whole undertaking is tainted. I have no idea what a filtered WP that showed articles of GA standard or above might look like, but it might just be WP's salvation to support something like this.

One possible staging post to this is the number-limited list. Wikimedia's List of articles every Wikipedia should have is restricted to 1000 articles (so we have a "one in, one out", prioritised list). Wikipedia France's Top importance France articles is restricted to 100 "core topics about France. Generally, these topics are sub-articles of the main France article, vital for the understanding of France or extremely notable to people outside of France. This category should stay limited to approximately 100 members". A key project goal is how well it covers these articles "vital for the understanding": ie to "build all Top Importance France Articles to Good Article status, at a minimum (FA is preferred). Current progress: 7 out of 93 articles meet this criteria."

At the moment, articles falling within WikiProject Opera are rather too egalitarian. Every article, every subject is treated equally. The rather overly-fetishised "opera corpus" covers the first-rate to the sixth-rate. What's missing is balance, perspective, prioritisation .. in a word "editing".

Which articles are the most read (ie which ones are having the biggest contribution to the visitors' impressions of the subject area)? Which articles are the most significant for the subject? A list of the top 50 (or 100) articles ("vital for understanding") about opera would be a good first (small) step.

Scarabocchio (talk) 22:43, 6 December 2011 (UTC)

The problem with being too directive is that this is a volunteer project and not everybody likes every opera equally. Let people write about what they enjoy. Further your preference for depth over breadth does not necessarilly match readers needs or editors' resources best.
Large opera companies will each produce a number of operas into double figures a year. There are smaller houses and festivals that specialise is less well-known work. Public service broadcasters, such as BBC Radio 3 may broadcast about 100 operas a year. There is therefore a need among potential readers to find out about relatively obscure works. People who want to hear about Tosca will have plenty of places to look, people who want to find out about Twice Through the Heart don't. However, the latter receives a run somewhere most years (most recently this month at Sadlers Wells). So there is a steady trickle of people who may want to know something about this work before making a decision on whether to go to a performance.
As I have been to a number of performances of more obscure works, I have resources such as programme books that very few other people have. By using these, I am able to construct articles about these works which are unmatched elsewhere on the web. I don't necessarilly enjoy these works as much as The Ring or Boris Godunov or La Boheme but it is a lot easier to produce a good introduction to a rarity one knows something about than it is to match the best that is already available out there on the workhorses. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Peter cohen (talkcontribs) 00:42, 7 December 2011‎
What you say is perfectly valid ... from the point of view of an individual editor, but not for the project. Surely the project should be more than the sum of its individual parts, each doing their own thing? What is the point of a WikiProject unless it directs and co-ordinates? Scarabocchio (talk) 09:07, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
Scarabocchio, you may find this article interesting, Improving Wikipedia's important articles: A strategic opportunity for the En-Wikipedia community, Featured Article regulars, and WMF sponsors. The author (User:TCO) argues in a similar vein. However, I tend to agree with Peter Cohen's views. I write almost exclusively on lesser known works, composers, and singers. Information on these subjects is very difficult (well-nigh impossible) for the ordinary person to access for free via the internet, and often much of the key source material is not in English. To me, that's where the project comes into its own. Many of the measures you propose are completely out of the project's control—they're meta-Wikipedia issues. Note that even a very modest proposal to implement a pending changes tool for biographies of living persons was rejected by WP after the trial period. We have a list of the most viewed opera-related articles here and compiling a list of the "vital articles" (irrespective of their page views) is worthwhile. We do have a list for Key article improvement made on 2008, but I think it's a bit too diffuse. There's also List of opera topics which provides an outline of the subject. Both could be improved as a starting point, by editors who would like to take this on.
Specifically addressing your question : "What is the point of a WikiProject unless it directs and co-ordinates?". Well, I would say that a key point of a project (the key point for me) is providing editor support, a space for editors in the area (whether they are members or not) to discuss article issues they have encountered and to find fellow editors who have access to reference books, have expert knowledge in a particular area, or who can help translate sources from other languages. Another key point is to provide guides to editing, formatting and researching articles in the project's scope and to keep an eye on those articles. It certainly isn't a place to direct the wider WP community. As for directing its own members, well even there... a project can't direct its volunteers to work in areas where they don't care to. It can suggest areas for collaboration and highlight the suggestion. If members want to collaborate, they will. WikiProject Military history has quite active internal coordination and collaborations, but it is a huge project (over 600 members, with multiple task forces) and in many respects a unique one. Their self-assessment makes interesting reading. Voceditenore (talk) 10:06, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
Brief comment: I have no desire to be directed nor co-ordinated, but I find the Opera WP a very useful and supportive thing. Seeing other opinions etc help me in my own thinking. While the pace may have slackened, all around I see solid work being done conscientiously almost-instinct 10:18, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
Voce, thanks for your (as always) considered response. I can see that there is a value in having a talking shop where editors can discuss items of common interest, and be alerted to developments or discussions elsewhere, but ... Wikipedia is a very significant information resource for readers. WP has, for better or for worse, a large effect on how many people learn about/ think about/ see a given subject. I am not suggesting that we should blindly and evangelically proselytise for the art-form, but there is (in my mind at least) a responsibility to support the *reader*, particularly the reader who has an early interest in the art-form. Articles on the weird and wonderful corners of the operatic world (and I've written some myself) are great, but ... I want to help support and encourage the art-form, to help people find it and become captivated by it. WP can have its place in this, and WPO could be the guide. At the moment, I don't believe it is. Scarabocchio (talk) 13:39, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
The two links to Key article improvement and the List of opera topics were as expected (exactly how many operas would have to be included in a list of key articles before Philip Glass's Ahknaten was included? etc), but wow, that first link is really relevant (if somewhat erratically (angrily?)) written! ‘Wikipedia should be assessed versus what its customers want, not just what it happens to produce.’ 'Simultaneous with delivering poor results on the most important products, "[most] high-quality articles found in Wikipedia are articles which address minutiae for specialized audiences"
Executive summary of the reader experience (weighted by page views; taken from the "Pulling it all together" section): 69% of readers are seeing a low quality article. Only 3% a high quality article. Scarabocchio (talk) 14:54, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
Peter Cohen, Voceditenore, almost-instinct. I am not for an instant saying that you should not write the articles you are interested in. When I say that the project could/ should "direct and co-ordinate", I am not in any way thinking of any restrictions on what editors wish to tackle, but guidance. Most of us could write on a variety of opera topics. If we could discuss the overall subject area, choose our own set of "Vital Articles", be aware of the quality of those articles, think about the experience of the *reader*, then at least some of us would work on the high-profile, high-readership articles that contribute to the perception of WP by the readers and by the wider world. Unless this is good, the readers (and the potential future contributors) will not come, and WP will be doomed to write-only articles, drive-by copy-editing and the heat-death of punctuation correction. Scarabocchio (talk) 15:16, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
I feel that there is a disconnect between what is right and typical for Wikipedia, and what opera fans want. Wikipedia (i.e. experienced Wikipedians) want good articles, and no stubs. I think the average opera fan would prefer to see stubs rather than no entry at all. If Wikipedia is going to give something that opera fans wants, it's better to have some information than no information (not sure I'd feel that way about other subjects). Under Kleinzach's direction, this group really forged ahead. Maybe it's the maturation of Wikipedia that causes fewer people to be involved nowadays (which I see across the board). On the one hand, you want more people to participate; on the other hand, the continuously evolving guidelines/rules for participation have increasingly raised the barrier for entry. -- kosboot (talk) 17:58, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
Just to add another point: having stubs on lesser known areas often attracts new expert editors who are drawn in by adding what they know. It's relatively easy for a newcomer to edit an existing article, whereas it's pretty hard to learn how to start a page from scratch. --Folantin (talk) 20:39, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
I agree and in general I strongly support having well-writtten stubs with at least one good reference. Frankly, a lot of the articles in Grove are basically stubs (in the Wikipedia sense). Voceditenore (talk) 21:35, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
Wow! You're absolutely right! I never realized that until you mentioned it. (And in fact, some article in New Grove are simply purchased from MGG - making them over 50 years old without revision.) -- kosboot (talk) 22:02, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
(MGG started work on making their updated databases available through a new multilingual website earlier this year ... expect a new major player on the opera information scene sometime in 2012). Scarabocchio (talk) 22:16, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
I still like the concept of number-limited 'Vital Articles' -- a subset of opera articles vital for understanding the subject. I've put a request in to add the 'importance' to the table of most popular pages, just to see how closely the page views match the noted importance of the articles to the art-form. It might be interesting, and useful, to make this a prominent part of the project welcome page (IF the importance has been set correctly!!!). Let's see. Scarabocchio (talk) 22:32, 7 December 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Um, those tables are done via a bot and the "Importance" of an article is only available if the project's banner has a parameter for an importance rating and the project itself has actually assessed the article for that parameter. The parameter could be added to the OP banner if members are in favour of that. But then there needs to be at least one editor (preferably more) who would be willing to put in the time systematically assessing the nearly 8000 articles currently bannered, perhaps starting with the 500 articles currently on the popular pages list. There also needs to be a discussion of the project's criteria, and a guidance table, e.g. [1], for each rating. Voceditenore (talk) 07:04, 8 December 2011 (UTC)

Importance relates to the subject, not the article, so no assessment of the texts is needed. It could be fun drawing up a list of 50 (or 100) "core topics for the understanding or study of opera. Of global significance. No encyclopedia would be complete without these article." Scarabocchio (talk) 09:41, 8 December 2011 (UTC)
I wasn't referring to an assessment of the texts, but to an assessment of the subject's importance. And yes, it does require an OP member to assess/rate the importance of the subject for each individual article and note it in the banner on its talk page. The table is bot-generated. It "reads" the importance rating from the project banner on the article talk page to fill in the column. The bot can only add importance ratings to the popular pages table if an "Importance" parameter is added to Template:WikiProject Opera, and it has been filled in for those pages. There's no way to edit that table manually. Once/if the Importance parameter is added to the template, the Importance column on the Popular pages table will appear, but any article which has not yet been explicitly rated on its talk page will show ? ? ? in that column. Voceditenore (talk) 10:52, 8 December 2011 (UTC)
minor query here about the bot-generated table: in assessing the Opera project as a whole, shouldn't this list include pages in the sub projects Wagner and G&S ? Richard Wagner gets about 3000 hits/day.--Smerus (talk) 11:25, 8 December 2011 (UTC)
My understanding is that the table can only do that if the G&S and Wagner projects' articles are also bannered for the Opera project. Voceditenore (talk) 07:34, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
Summary so far (in response to Kosboot's plea). Scarabocchio argued that the project could and should improve, by becoming more "reader-oriented" rather than predominantly "editor-oriented". The question remains Who is the target reader? Those already interested in and reasonably knowledgable about the subject? Or the reader who doesn't know much but wants to or should learn more? He suggested that the project should prioritise and improve articles on "vital topics" (so far, the examples seem to have concentrated primarily on composers) and to de-emphasize work on "obscure" topics. Peter Cohen, Voceditenore, almost-instinct, and Folantin pointed out that an overly "directive" approach may not be appropriate, explained the motivation of editors working on "obscure topics", and suggested that such topics can have a considerable value for the reader. Scarabocchio emphasized that he was not thinking of any restrictions on what editors wish to tackle, but suggested that more guidance for editors who wished to improve the contents of key articles should be provided. Emerging from that discussion was thread on attracting more editors via targeting university students/faculty and mentoring which now has its own section below. To further the "reader-oriented" goal, Scarabocchio suggested drawing up a list of "vital articles". The OP's previous "no double-bannering" sentiment has been questioned, and the possibility of adding an importance rating parameter to the banners has been mentioned. The issue of double bannering now has its own subsection. If editors want to discuss the desirablity of re-adding the importance rating, that too should have its own subsection. Otherwise, the conversation in this section starts going all over the place and suggestions and views can get lost in the shuffle. Voceditenore (talk) 07:17, 9 December 2011 (UTC) Updated by Voceditenore (talk) 12:55, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
Note the above is a summary by one editor, reflecting their view of the gist of the conversation. Please do not refactor it. Put any alternative summaries below. Voceditenore (talk) 12:32, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, I just missed the signature off! I've put a few lines below. Scarabocchio (talk) 14:59, 9 December 2011 (UTC)

Many thanks for the summary. Perhaps this discussion should be split up into several threads. For example, "who is the reader" of Wikipeda was one thread (I think all kinds of readers come to Wikipedia, and it's best to appeal to all levels). Bannering is another (already split). Etc. -- kosboot (talk) 14:31, 9 December 2011 (UTC)

Another summary. I am concerned that there may be some significant holes in the coverage of opera in opera-related articles within Wikipedia. Poor or minimal opera coverage in the Tchaikovsky, Britten and Prokofiev articles was noted. To investigate how widespread this might be, we would need access to a list of articles (subjects) relevent to opera. As this list would be long (8000+ entries), it would be useful to find some way of prioritising the work of reviewing the quality and extent of their opera content .. perhaps through page views, perhaps by assigning an importance to the article subject. Voceditenore notes that the WikiProject Opera template would need an edit to restore the importance parameter if we wanted to go this second route.

Smerus makes the proposal that we accept/endorse double-bannering and go through the composer main articles to ensure that opera is properly represented in them. [2]

Scarabocchio (talk) 14:59, 9 December 2011 (UTC)

Bannering

incidentally I just realised that Tchaikovsky wasn't listed under the Opera project (now remedied): moreover (see a few miles below under 'expand') his article really needs something specifically on his operas ( I will try to get round to this). We might need to do a sortie to ensure that major figures like this are indeed all tagged by the Project.--Smerus (talk) 11:34, 8 December 2011 (UTC)

You think you have found a gaping structural hole? How about Mozart is not listed under the opera project. Does anyone not think that some meta-work needs done, above the level of individual articles? Scarabocchio (talk) 13:22, 8 December 2011 (UTC)
The composer bios have always been under the aegis of WikiProject:Composers. --Folantin (talk) 13:25, 8 December 2011 (UTC)
The WPO popular pages list Vivaldi, Schubert, Handel, Shostakovich, Mendelssohn, ... why not Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven? The most viewed page in Opera was the Bolshoi (due no doubt to the re-opening) at 87k views. Mozart has 255k, Tchaikovsky 91k and Beethoven 268k. Perhaps the reason that the operas are covered so lightly in the composer biographies eg Britten and Tchaikovsky, is that the opera project has not been involved? Perhaps this should change?
Which are the core areas of top-importance for opera? Are they well/ adequately/ poorly covered? Scarabocchio (talk) 13:57, 8 December 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── The "gaping structural hole" was an intentional one. Frankly, I never agreed with it, but it was already in place when I joined the project. The reason they don't carry the OP banner stems from a sentiment here against "double-bannering". The idea was that WikiProject Composers should banner/look after composers unless they were known almost exclusively for their operas. e.g. Verdi and Puccini. (Though, over the years, some composers have been bannered anyway.) Similarly, those under the Gilbert & Sullivan and Wagner projects weren't "double-bannered". The only way pages related to opera can appear on the Opera Project popular pages list is if they actually carry the OP banner. Voceditenore (talk) 18:21, 8 December 2011 (UTC)

The problem is not bannering per se (though having an article tagged as of interest to the opera project would doubtless be valuable). The problem is one of content. How many of Tchaikovsky's 10 operas would you expect to see mentioned or even named in the rather sizeable biography under the aegis of the Composers's project? The answer is three: a single mention of Cherevichki, a single mention(!) of Queen of Spades, and a handful of Eugene Onegins. How many of Britten's operas were mentioned before I added the table of works? Fewer than half of them were mentioned by name, and none appear in the recordings (even if Britten himself conducted). Re-bannering could be the first small step to getting this sorted out. Surely we can recognise that something needs to be done, even if we don't yet have a completely clear idea and consensus of what!! Scarabocchio (talk) 18:50, 8 December 2011 (UTC)
Gee this is a long discussion. Could anyone summarize the main responses to "where this project can improve"? -- kosboot (talk) 14:44, 8 December 2011 (UTC)
Quick and not yet mulled-over thought: is there a reason why OP-bannered pages called, eg, The Operas of Tchaikovsky couldn't be created? Opera output tends to be slightly separate from the rest of a composers works, eg Mozart, and I don't think this would cause problems almost-instinct 20:19, 8 December 2011 (UTC)
It might just be me, but I thought that Mozart's position in the Western canon was due to his operas. I would argue very strongly against moving such a large proportion of his work (and even larger proportion of his most significant work) out of the main article as it would damage the balance (and mask his opera work).
[quick aside: I was brought up in an opera-free classical music world - even so, Mozart was one of the top 3 (with Beethoven & Bach) in that world's estimation. Occasionally someone might mention Don Giovanni, but only in relation to that piano concerto almost-instinct 22:50, 8 December 2011 (UTC)]
I'm obviously missing something very basic about the WP mind-set .. why can't two (or more) projects register an interest in a given subject? Giuseppe Verdi is bannered by WP Opera and WP Italy .. updates can be made by members of either group or by people in no group at all. If an article is bannered by a project, it helps keep it on the radar. Can someone explain why this is a "bad thing"? Scarabocchio (talk) 22:10, 8 December 2011 (UTC)
See also here for a parallel (mini-)thread on this issue. I am not worried too much by double-bannering, but there is a problem when Mendelssohn figures in the WPOpera list and Mozart and Tchaikovsky don't. In the case of Tchaikovsky, the main article is by now so impenetrable (and seems to me to be beyond repair without a complete rewrite, despite the FA status accorded it in an earlier incarnation) that a separate (equally impenetrable) article Music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky exists which despite its length also mentions the operas more or less only in passing. And indeed, I note there is a Symphonies by Tchaikovsky (which seems rather unfair to Boris Tchaikovsky - needs renaming). Given the existence of these latter articles, the creation of Operas of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky seems to me plausible and acceptable - indeed, desirable. --Smerus (talk) 06:13, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
It's not a Wikipedia-wide mindset, it's a view that was taken by the OP several years ago and one which I personally think should be applied more flexibly. Projects take a variety of views towards bannering. If you're interested, you can read past OP discussions on the issue in the archives, e.g. [3], [4], [5], [6]. There are more, just type "banner" into the search box here. Wikipedia-wide guidance on bannering, can be found here. Voceditenore (talk) 06:19, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
I just noted for example that Sergei Prokofiev isn't listed under WPOpera - and moreover the main article on him barely mentions the operas (although there is a section on the early ballets). There is an issue here we need to deal with I think - I would propose (to get the ball rolling) that, at least, we accept/endorse double-bannering and go through the composer main articles to ensure that opera is properly represented in them. Possible a large task but a very important one.--Smerus (talk) 06:32, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
Note that in the past, collective articles for a composer's operas followed the naming convention shown in Category:Lists of operas by composer. So the above-mentioned Tchaikovsky list should called List of operas by Tchaikovsky.
Symphonies by Tchaikovsky does not need renaming because its proper name is Symphonies by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 06:51, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
That's because I just changed it :-} --Smerus (talk) 07:05, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
This is just my opinion, but it seems to me that Scarabocchio may have exaggerated expectations of what project bannering can achieve by itself. I can point to several composer articles in a pretty bad state which have almost a dozen different project tags on their talk pages. If Scarabocchio wants to develop some composer bios, then it might be better simply to advertise for recruits on this project page. As I've said, most content improvement is done by one or two editors, not huge gangs of writers. We aren't Project:Composers and our focus has been more on opera singers and articles about specific operas, but I suppose we could change our "Composer of the month" content drive to concentrating more on the composer's biography page if that's what people want. "Operas by X" is viable in some cases (e.g. Tchaikovsky, where it might shine a spotlight on some of the neglected works) but, as I think Almost Instinct is suggesting, not necessarily for others, such as Mozart. As far as I can see, if you shunted off all talk about, say, Donizetti's operatic output to a separate page, there wouldn't be much info left to make up the bio page. --Folantin (talk) 10:38, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
I agree that the "separation treatment" isn't suitable for all composers. Note also that List articles can contain a lot expository prose, such as the excellent List of operas by Mozart—not just a list/table. Someone could do a similar thing for Tchaikovsky. Voceditenore (talk) 11:08, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
I like this idea and may even do something about it!--Smerus (talk) 13:18, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
As I said above: "The problem is not bannering per se (though having an article tagged as of interest to the opera project would doubtless be valuable). The problem is one of content.". I think Smerus' suggestion is the way to go. Whether we use the pre-existing mechanism of bannering, or create a new standalone index of opera-relevant articles, isn't really that important. I suggested bannering as it would be quicker to put in place as most of the work is done already. Scarabocchio (talk) 10:49, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
  • Re becoming more flexible about double-bannering, I'd support that. Not only because it helps with maintenance and keeping track of articles, but also because it can flag up to other editors on the article's talk page that there's a project to which they can turn for advice about the "operatic" aspects of the article's subject. WikiProject Composers has gone somewhat quiet in the last year and has a big assessment backlog, so it might help to have double bannering on the pages of composers who have written operas, even if it wasn't their only or main output. I have no objections. Voceditenore (talk) 11:08, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
  • I'm not sure if we are drifting towards a poll, but obviously I'd support it. Voceditenore makes a persuasive case for the benefits, and I can't, at the moment, see any disadvantages in adding the WikiProject Opera banner to opera-related articles. Scarabocchio (talk) 18:29, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
  • I support double banners. Not every person's life can be covered adequately by a single project (I see the same problem in other projects with which I'm involved). -- kosboot (talk) 18:54, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
  • And I support it, too. (It's rather amusing that Elsie Morison has the OP banner but not the G&S one, despite the nine recordings of their operas that she made with Malcolm Sargent.) --GuillaumeTell 22:37, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
  • Support double banners. The separation is artificial and unhelpful. –Roscelese (talkcontribs) 00:33, 10 December 2011 (UTC)
  • No objections. --Folantin (talk) 10:24, 10 December 2011 (UTC)
  • I am delighted that there seems to be consensus on double-bannering. But don't forget that this should imply making certain that the main articles for composers has some decent/reasonable coverage (ideally perhaps a heading or sub-heading covering operatic involvement) - and/or link to a further article (e.g. List of operas by...). And to this end I propose that we set up a list of opera composer articles (perhaps on a subsidiary to this page) in which opera coverage might be improved, e.g. Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev....other suggestions?....and perhaps include a page of this sort in monthly task list? and furthermore that we should all forthwith feel licenced to banner relevant composer pages.....--Smerus (talk) 11:31, 10 December 2011 (UTC)
  • Support with proviso. I personally think double bannering is not always a good thing. I think a more balanced guideline would be to banner only those composers who are primarily known for their operas and/or have written an opera which is either a part of the standard opera repertory or which has had some significant impact on the history of opera. Otherwise we will have opera banners on the multitude of composers who, while successful in other genres of composition, wrote operas which were not successful and entirely forgetable. We'll also have composers like Robert Schumann whose only opera, Genoveva, is occassionally revived and recorded as a curiousity piece. In that case it's better to just banner the opera article itself and not the composer's bio since the opera is not considered one of his more notable works.4meter4 (talk) 16:31, 10 December 2011 (UTC)
Hm, in terms of bannering I think Schumann is a "problem." Yes, he wrote only one opera, but as a critic he was influenced by opera to a greater extent than realized. Same is true with Beethoven who also only wrote one opera. Mahler didn't write any operas, yet opera figures very importantly in his career as a conductor and coach (and even as a composer of Drei Pintos). So I don't feel that you can make conclusions based on a composer's minimal output of opera. -- kosboot (talk) 23:45, 10 December 2011 (UTC)
Ummm, I don't think I was making that arguement Kosboot. Obviously Beethoven should have an opera banner as Fidelio is a part of the "standard opera repertory". One can not say that of Genoveva. Also, if a person was an important opera conductor and vocal coach than he/she could be bannered for that reason. Bannering Mahler for his work as a conductor would be fine by me, but realize that we would be bannering him for the conducting/ vocal coaching portion of his career and not for his work as a composer. I was just pointing out that I don't think its necessary to banner every composer who ever wrote an opera and/or was influenced by opera. At some point there is a line where we would be crossing over into banner spam. We also would be making a lot of un-necessary work for those of us interested in assessments by over-populating the number of articles. I agree the project's bannering practice should be broadened, but lets set some limits please. 4meter4 (talk) 00:02, 11 December 2011 (UTC)
This is will be why the Importance parameter was created. It allows a project to indicate whether a subject is of High importance to a project (Beethoven) or of some lower importance (Schumann). Although bannering is a useful way of saying whether a project HAS an interest in a topic, value is added (to the project, and the general reader) if the degree of interest is qualified. But that's another discussion ... Scarabocchio (talk) 15:17, 11 December 2011 (UTC)
Given the limited number of editors interested in assessment in this project, I don't think that an importance scale would be a good addition to the opera project's banner. I probably would end up having to do it mostly by myself since most of our editors don't like doing bannering/assessments. Voceditenore and I have kept up as best we can with the bannering/rating of new articles, but most of the other project members have contributed only sporadically in this area. I have tried to generate interest in formal assessments, but other than User:GuillaumeTell there has not been any interest. Now that my time on wikipedia is much more limited than in previous years, I really don't want to take on updating all of our banners.4meter4 (talk) 16:19, 11 December 2011 (UTC)
I am happy to take on some importance rating on an as and when basis if the parameter is created.--Smerus (talk) 17:33, 11 December 2011 (UTC)
I am also very interested in working on this -- it's one of the most valuable things I can think of doing for the project. Scarabocchio (talk) 17:39, 11 December 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Scarabocchio, the Importance rating doesn't solve the potential problems over over-bannering and it increases the "man"-hours needed for assessment. Every time you add a new OP banner, you have to rate the article on both quality and importance. I also want to echo 4meter4's word of caution and clarify my original comment. I supported a more flexible approach, but this has to be tempered with a judicial use of it. If it's confined largely to composers along the lines being discussed here OK, but take it slowly please, and if you do add the banner please take the time to assess the quality as well. I'm starting a separate subsection for adding the importance parameter to keep it from being muddled in with the double-bannering discussion. Voceditenore (talk) 19:53, 12 December 2011 (UTC)

So far There seems to be a consensus so far for relaxing the "no double bannering" recommendation for composers who have written multiple operas or even only one opera if it is in the standard repertoire, or those who have been strongly associated with opera in other ways. As the holidays are approaching, I suggest we re-visit this in the New Year re the articles in the G&S and Wagner daughter projects. Voceditenore (talk) 17:50, 20 December 2011 (UTC)

Adding "Importance" rating to the banner

This section is to gauge members' support for re-activating the Importance rating on the banner.

Pros: it can be useful for prioritising articles for improvement and for indicating to readers of the article's talk page its perceived importance within the general subject area. Note that improvement doesn't have to be a major re-vamp or expansion. In fact, some of the most valuable types of improvement can be addressing lack of sourcing, copy-editing, removing POV and trivia, etc., i.e., the kind of stuff listed here.

Cons: It's a fair amount of extra work if done properly. Starting with producing an importance rating table along the lines of this one and then working through the 7800 OP articles to rate them. If people basically only want this to prioritise composer articles, then it may be using a sledge-hammer to crack a nut. Making a list instead may be better.

General: It's not set in stone and can always be de-activated. We could run it for a trial period, say four months, and re-assess its usefulness then, especially if those wanting this parameter run out steam and there remain large numbers of articles unassessed for importance. If making a support comment, please indicate whether or not you will devote the time to do the actual assessments. For the previous OP discussion on using Importance ratings (June 2008) which ended with a decision not to implement them at that time, but possibly re-visit the subject in future, see here. Voceditenore (talk) 19:53, 12 December 2011 (UTC) Updated by Voceditenore (talk) 09:40, 13 December 2011 (UTC)


  • NOTE I've put a draft Importance scale scheme at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Opera/Assessment. At the moment, it's simply a straight adaptation from the one used by WikiProject Women's History with notional example articles. Editors who are interested in implementing an Importance rating need to tweak, discuss, and finalize it there and leave a message here on the main talk page when it's been significantly edited or a particular point is under discussion. Voceditenore (talk) 08:16, 13 December 2011 (UTC)
  • Provisional support Only if (a) A sufficient number of editors are willing to put in the work to assess importance for every OP article. (b) We evaluate its progress and usefulness after a four-month trial run. I would be willing to do some of the assessing, especially for new articles, which I already monitor anyway, but I'm not going to devote large amounts of time to it. Voceditenore (talk) 20:04, 12 December 2011 (UTC)
  • Support - I support the idea, even if there are not enough editors at the present time to do it quickly. It can always be thought of as a long term project. One thing that could make it go faster is if we draw up a list of criteria that would make it easier to determine the level of assessment. -- kosboot (talk) 20:28, 12 December 2011 (UTC)
See NOTE above. Let us know if you would be willing to participate in the work of actually assessing articles for Importance Voceditenore (talk) 08:16, 13 December 2011 (UTC)
Yes, I'd be willing to participate and share the work. -- 13:13, 13 December 2011 (UTC)kosboot (talk) 13:14, 13 December 2011 (UTC)
  • Support. I'm not always around, but can easily fit in a few (or more) assessments on most days so long as the rating table gives clear guidelines. If we can gather a group who can try to work through the (as it were) backlog reasonably quickly, then assessing new, or newly bannered, articles won't be too much of a chore. I'm assuming that assessors will include comments along the lines of the work that I and others did when assessing the Wagner project, though without the rather laborious point-counting operation. See, for example, Talk:Rienzi - click the "Show" link in the bottom RH corner of the banner. --GuillaumeTell 22:21, 12 December 2011 (UTC)
I found the example rather thought-provoking. What should be done with out-of-date quality ratings? The rating is very precise .. but inaccurate because of the later improvements made to the article. In an ideal world, the article should be re-rated. In an imperfect world, the rating could be removed to flag up that it needs re-rated. Is an incorrect rating of more or less value than none at all?? Scarabocchio (talk) 10:04, 13 December 2011 (UTC)
We used the Wagner Project as a small-scale experiment (more about it here). I was a member there on only a temporary basis for the purpose of the experiment (seems like a very long time ago now). I'd have expected that the ratings would have been reviewed and the comments annotated or amended but that doesn't seem to have happened. I spent about half an hour on each article (adding up the points and formulating my comments), but I'm a slow worker. Obviously we couldn't spend a half-hour on every WPO article (that would entail c4,000 person-hours or c1700 24-hour days...). --GuillaumeTell 11:11, 13 December 2011 (UTC)
  • Support. It would be good to make a very quick initial pass (without reference to the article texts themselves) to build an overall map of the subject area as it "should" be. We could also talk to the German WP opera project about collaborating on this. The map could then be used to prioritise the article assessments. Scarabocchio (talk) 09:55, 13 December 2011 (UTC)
Let us know if you would be willing to participate in the work of actually assessing articles for Importance. Voceditenore (talk) 10:05, 13 December 2011 (UTC)
Specifically, I would be very happy to:
  1. assess a list of subjects for importance,
  2. mark up the talk pages of the associated articles with the subject importance tag,
  3. add the WPO banner to any existing opera-related articles which lack it,
  4. create articles of at least Start level for any missing subjects of Mid-Importance or above .. hopefully, not many!!
  5. run through the top, say, 200 most important articles to produce brief text summaries (as given in the first two entries in the Rienzi example advanced by User:GuillaumeTell) ... How many will depend on how much work is found. If there is a lot of work to do in the High Importance articles, then maybe just 100 of them. If there's not much to do, then maybe more,
  6. note OR remove quality ratings if they are clearly incorrect. I don't pay these much attention at the moment, so someone who does will be better positioned to say what actions should be taken,
  7. review the outstanding work and discuss with other project members strategies to address it. For instance, can we approach a music college with a block of work?
What happens after that will depend on what we find! Scarabocchio (talk) 12:34, 13 December 2011 (UTC)
So far There seems to be a consensus to trial adding the "Importance" to the OP banners. Before this can happen, there needs to be some general consensus on the criteria, and several editors have been discussing this at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Opera/Assessment. As the holidays are approaching, I suggest we keep this section open for comments, and then add the parameter in the New Year, once the criteria discussion has come to a conclusion. Voceditenore (talk) 17:50, 20 December 2011 (UTC)

Self-assessment: How "healthy" is your project?

Would you say that your project is thriving, declining, effectual, struggling, etc.?

There are two interesting factoids to note from the Revision history statistics on the Talk page history. The first, not very encouraging, is that the project launched in 2004, built slowly, and then raced to a peak in 2007 and 2008 with ~3000 edits per year to the talk page and then declined to 1000 edits per year in 2011. Activity on WP project talk pages doesn't necessarily equate to degrees of involvement, but our starting assumption must be towards the "declining project" thesis.

The second is, perhaps, rather more exploitable ... in the peak years, there was an increase in activity in June/ July of each year. As this coincides with the end of the opera season (in the northern hemisphere), it might be an idea to co-ordinate membership drives with this time of year.

Scarabocchio (talk) 23:02, 6 December 2011 (UTC)

  • Simple quantitative anlaysis doesn't really work here. You have to see what the actual content was. For one thing the June/July in 2007-2009 increases appear because they happened to coincide with various controversies which generated a lot of comment (and heat). These include the dreaded infobox (multiple times), a controversy over introducing individual year categories for operas, the introduction of additional stub categories by WikiProject Stub sorting, and two or three copyvio crises. Observe this little beauty from June/July 2007 spread out over Archives 30, 31, and 32. I was put off joining the project for several months when the first time I visited the talk page, I found it dominated by a very acrimonious "discussion". Probably best not to start recruiting drives when there's a major squabble going on.;-)
In general, a reduction in talk page quantity in the last 18 months is also a reflection that most of the formatting and style guides have now been established, ditto the basic categorization system, etc. Thus, these only come up sporadically now. Likewise, the extra work and comment generated by past copyvio issues and Wikipedia's changed policy on unreferenced BLPs are now largely in the past (and I hope they stay there!). The Opera Portal used to be updated manually, and involved monthly discussions as to its contents. In 2009, it was revamped and brought up to Featured portal status. It now has automatic rotation and requires much less maintenance. You can read more about the history of that initiative (not without controversy at times), here and here. These discussions were very lengthy and carried on from January to July 2009, when it finally achieved Featured status. They're on the Portal's talk pages, not the main project talk page.
Do you have any other reasons for assuming the project is "declining"? Voceditenore (talk) 09:46, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
I agree with Voceditenore. This project works very well as a forum. If I ask a question here, I know I'll get a response. That has not been the case with the handful of other projects I've been involved in. --Folantin (talk) 10:52, 9 December 2011 (UTC)

Self-assessment: How can this project expand?

How can this project reach out to and nurture newcomers to Wikipedia who share an interest in the project's goals?

After I had achieved some minimal kind of understanding of the forest of TLAs, and fought my way through the endlessly cross-referenced guides of how to write articles, I sat down in proselytising mood with the archetypal back of an envelope, and noted the names of ten friends who could/ should/ might be involved in WP (though not necessarily in the area of opera) -- people who had clearly demonstrated an interest in keeping their brains and intellects active, formally through PhDs or the Open University, or informally through evening classes etc. First (slight) surprise: not one of them was currently engaged in WP. Second (slight) surprise: the reactions to WP were overwhelmingly negative: "Wikipedia was wrong", "WP was full of errors", or "WP was not very good".

I explained the mechanics, I argued for engaging in the WP project, I challenged them to improve things. I gave up after six conversations, having made no progress, no converts.

We are now in the middle period of WP. In the early days, editors were (presumably) happy to carve out plots of virgin territory as pioneers. Now, there's an expectation (or rather a requirement?) that what's there already works well, and this is not (obviously) true. One key part of my own Damascene moment (to downgrade my involvement with WP) was, oddly, a comment posted by Smerus to a BBC board to celebrate a WP Opera milestone. I had started work on addressing some of the more major problems of the rather poor Benjamin Britten article. One responder to Smerus' post noted that the Tchaikovsky article was mostly about his sexuality and no mention was made of the operas. The Britten article was the same. The Tchaikovsky article was (apparently) changed to include a list of his operas ... at least the titles would have been mentioned ... but this was later removed. I looked at the Britten article -- could I, with hand on heart, encourage anyone (newcomer, or old-hand) to try to correct its balance, its flaws, omissions knowing that the same fate might be in store? Did I want to try it myself? I found around seven biographies of Britten when I did my research, and the WP article came in at number eight in terms of quality. Could I move it up? Could 'we' move it up? As was observed on the talk page, the problems with the page are not errors as such, but balance: This article is an excellent example of why Wikipedia is not a reliable source for information. I do not regard myself as an expert on Britten, but I am a doctoral student in music composition presently, and I have closely studied Britten’s music and his life. The facts stated in this article seem to be accurate—i.e., dates of works, and the chronology of Britten’s life, but ...

The simple ability to add information is not enough. Any article that reaches for coherence and balance as well as truth and accuracy needs an informed and capable editor (in the general sense of one who controls, removes and approves (seals) information).

How can this project find new contributors? It needs to offer the possibility of making lasting contributions to the encyclopedia as it is now -- established, if not yet mature throughout. It needs to find a different kind of person -- one who is interested in conferring stability and balance, and it needs to offer the tools and structures to support that.

Scarabocchio (talk) 00:28, 7 December 2011 (UTC)

Um, this is a fundamental problem with Wikipedia itself, not this project. It's pretty obvious that the major articles are often the worst. I've written several articles on Iranian history but I've rarely touched the History of Iran page, because it's always going to be dreadful, no matter what you do. There are simply too many people sticking their oar in (POV-pushers, axe-grinders, other obsessives,Randy in Boise, various taggers). There's also the "packing a suitcase for your holiday" problem: no one can ever decide what to include and what to omit. The big unspoken problem with Wikipedia is that crowd-sourcing does not work. The best articles are usually written by one or two people who know what they are talking about. But try taking charge of a popular article in the way you suggest and very soon you'll be up in court for violating WP:OWN. This is why the best content editors often prefer to concentrate on more specialised pages. --Folantin (talk) 15:21, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
I entirely endorse Folantin's views above. In fact, one of most bruising experiences I had on Wikipedia was attempting, initally single-handed, to clean up the Tchaikovsky article Scarabocchio mentions, where at the time over half the article was devoted to ramblings on the composer's alleged love-life. (It is true alas that the opera list has since been removed, but frankly my soul wilts at the thought of attempting that breach again).--Smerus 16:56, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
I identify with your experience, Smerus (I bet most Wikipedians do). I feel I learned to get over such experiences by approaching any editing as a collaborative task, knowing that whatever I write will be hashed over by others. It really helps to lower one's self-importance and creates more of a collaborative environment. I'm not writing for the ages, but writing for others to examine and emend if necessary. -- kosboot (talk) 18:03, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
I don't want to own any articles, but there's a particular kind/ degree of violence towards the Britten and the Tchaikovsky article that means that contributors don't just expect to see their work superceded by something better (great!), or the same quality but reworded (well, ok), but lesser. What might be good is a way of closing down the access a little -- to stop or slow the changes to 'problematic' or key articles. I've got used to the wait for approval on articles in de:WP. Would something similar for articles that WikiProject Opera has designated as "Vital Articles" or which have achieved a certain quality level be possible/ desirable? A sort of semi-protection for key articles that would encourage people to take more ownership (in the outside world, 'ownership' is seen as good thing as it equates to a bigger involvement, or (shudder) "buy-in")?
I completely recognise and agree with the responses of Folantin and Smerus. The question is .. how do we break this situation up?
Scarabocchio (talk) 18:56, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
Indeed, with some of the Wikipedia Loves Libraries pages, some were vandalized so often that editors didn't hesitate to put holds on them for a day, 2 days, 3 days, etc. For "controversial" articles, perhaps it could be suggested to avoid the frozen main page and write the drafts on the talk pages (like a sandbox) and when a finished version has arrived that, then to insert that in the main article. -- 20:25, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
We are veering off topic (how can the project expand) somewhat here!!--Smerus 21:02, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
Edit conflict Scarabocchio. the short answer is there is no way to "close down access", even a little, except for pure vandalism, BLP issues, or major edit warring. As I wrote above, this is a meta-Wikipedia issue and a pending changes tool (a la German WP), even for biographies of living persons was rejected. There is a bit of an unwritten rule that FAs should not be significantly altered without a proposal on their pages first, but that's about as far as it goes, and even then people will go ahead, sometimes for better, but often for worse. There's no way a project can set up a fence around an article and ask that it not be edited without project members' approval. The most an article's watchers/principal authors can do is revert or modify the changes (sometimes also having to engage in utter time-sinks on the talk page if the editor is insistent). Thus, there's no way that editors could be recruited via the incentive that they could make a lasting, and "stable" contribution. I'm also not sure that's the best way to recruit new editors who will stay the course anyway. Several were recruited back in 2005 via an appeal on the Opera-L mailing list. A few them stayed on, but most dropped out because they didn't find WP's insistence on "anyone can edit" and "no original research" congenial. I personally think that we ought to start by reaching out to existing WP editors who have made contributions to opera articles, but haven't joined or don't know about the project. We have invitation templates, we should use 'em. Voceditenore (talk) 21:12, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
OK, to stay on topic. If you want to expand, one way might be to have a kind of online editathon: people post information (with the expectation that it will be edited), then experienced editors do their editing, explaining what/what they have made changes. In that way, if you can "show" people the whole process and result, it might be more enticing. Or perhaps prepare a PowerPoint or similar presentation (e.g. Google Docs) to show the various stages and to indicate the pleasure that results from having worked on an article. Also - another appeal to OPERA-L might work - and the OperaProject can extend its "social" influence and get a page on Facebook - another means of soliciting/encouraging those who might be interested. -- kosboot (talk) 22:10, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
I just thought of a supreme way to get people: Have Kleinzach or Voceditenore be interviewed by Margaret Juntwait. -- kosboot (talk) 22:12, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
In addition to my last suggestion, I think having opera-oriented editathons would be helpful in showing people how easy (or not) it is to work with Wikipedia. Having experienced editors tutor neophytes might be the way for more people to gain entry, or at least supply information to editors who will then work with the information. An editathon could be planned in conjunction with a local wikipedia group (who, even if they have no interest in opera, would probably be interested in helping newbies). -- kosboot (talk) 14:05, 9 December 2011 (UTC)

Self-assesment summaries

I have now archived these discussions at Archive 106. Below are the summaries of the state of play as of 20 December (the date of the last posts) for the key areas under discussion. Please feel free to re-open discussion on any of these issues. Voceditenore (talk) 14:45, 12 January 2012 (UTC)

Self-assessment: Where could this project improve?

Summary so far (in response to Kosboot's plea). Scarabocchio argued that the project could and should improve, by becoming more "reader-oriented" rather than predominantly "editor-oriented". The question remains Who is the target reader? Those already interested in and reasonably knowledgable about the subject? Or the reader who doesn't know much but wants to or should learn more? He suggested that the project should prioritise and improve articles on "vital topics" (so far, the examples seem to have concentrated primarily on composers) and to de-emphasize work on "obscure" topics. Peter Cohen, Voceditenore, almost-instinct, and Folantin pointed out that an overly "directive" approach may not be appropriate, explained the motivation of editors working on "obscure topics", and suggested that such topics can have a considerable value for the reader. Scarabocchio emphasized that he was not thinking of any restrictions on what editors wish to tackle, but suggested that more guidance for editors who wished to improve the contents of key articles should be provided. Emerging from that discussion was thread on attracting more editors via targeting university students/faculty and mentoring which now has its own section below. To further the "reader-oriented" goal, Scarabocchio suggested drawing up a list of "vital articles". The OP's previous "no double-bannering" sentiment has been questioned, and the possibility of adding an importance rating parameter to the banners has been mentioned. The issue of double bannering now has its own subsection. If editors want to discuss the desirablity of re-adding the importance rating, that too should have its own subsection. Otherwise, the conversation in this section starts going all over the place and suggestions and views can get lost in the shuffle. Voceditenore (talk) 07:17, 9 December 2011 (UTC) Updated by Voceditenore (talk) 12:55, 9 December 2011 (UTC)

Another summary. I am concerned that there may be some significant holes in the coverage of opera in opera-related articles within Wikipedia. Poor or minimal opera coverage in the Tchaikovsky, Britten and Prokofiev articles was noted. To investigate how widespread this might be, we would need access to a list of articles (subjects) relevent to opera. As this list would be long (8000+ entries), it would be useful to find some way of prioritising the work of reviewing the quality and extent of their opera content .. perhaps through page views, perhaps by assigning an importance to the article subject. Voceditenore notes that the WikiProject Opera template would need an edit to restore the importance parameter if we wanted to go this second route. Smerus makes the proposal that we accept/endorse double-bannering and go through the composer main articles to ensure that opera is properly represented in them. [7]

Scarabocchio (talk) 14:59, 9 December 2011 (UTC)

Bannering

Summary There seems to be a consensus so far for relaxing the "no double bannering" recommendation for composers who have written multiple operas or even only one opera if it is in the standard repertoire, or those who have been strongly associated with opera in other ways. As the holidays are approaching, I suggest we re-visit this in the New Year re the articles in the G&S and Wagner daughter projects. Voceditenore (talk) 17:50, 20 December 2011 (UTC)

Adding "Importance" rating to the banner

Summary There was a consensus to trial adding the "Importance" to the OP banners. Before this can happen, there needs to be some general consensus on the importance criteria. Several editors have been discussing this at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Opera/Assessment. Once the criteria discussion comes to a conclusion, we can consider implementing a trial. However, the issue is currently on hold, as one of the key movers behind instituting Importance ratings has unfortunately had to take a Wikibreak for the next 2-6 months.

Self-assessment: How can this project expand?

Summary Suggestions for attracting new editors:

  • holding an "online editathon" possibly planned in conjunction with a local wikipedia group (kosboot)
  • reaching out to existing WP editors who have made contributions to opera articles, but haven't joined or don't know about the project. We have invitation templates here. (Voceditenore)