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WikiProject Report: Indigenous Peoples of North America

A Zuni girl with a pottery jar on her head, photographed in 1909. Most Zuni live in Zuni Pueblo in southern New Mexico.

Wikipedia’s community-written newsletter, The Signpost, recently talked to a number of participants in WikiProject Indigenous Peoples of North America. Encompassing more than 7,000 articles, the project currently boasts sixteen featured articles—articles that have gone through a thorough vetting process and are considered some of the best on the encyclopedia—as well as 63 WikiProject good articles, which have been through a similar, though less rigorous, process. The WikiProject aims to improve and maintain overall coverage of the indigenous peoples of North America on Wikipedia.

Members CJLippert, Djembayz, RadioKAOS, Maunus and Montanabw were asked for their thoughts on various aspects of the project. All five have a strong interest in the topic, though not all have direct ties to the indigenous peoples of North America. CJLippert, who works for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, a federally recognized American Indian tribe in Minnesota, comes pretty close. “Minnesota is a cross-road of where the Indian Removal Policy ended and Reservation Policy began and where the old and small Reserve system and the new and large Reservation system intersect,” he explains.

He adds, “As I work for a Native American tribal government, though not Native but also not ‘White’, I have the privilege of participating as the third party between the two. This also means I get to see both the strengths and weaknesses of both in regards to the relations between the Native Americans and the majority population. As that third party, trying to help to close some gaps in understanding is what led me to participate in Wikipedia and then to join the WikiProject.”

Maunus, a linguist and anthropologist, focuses on Mexican indigenous groups, which he feels is an underrepresented topic area on Wikipedia. “I am one of the only people doing dedicated work on these groups, but I have been focusing on languages and I agree that Mexican indigenous people require improved coverage compared to their Northern neighbors,” he says. “There are some articles on the Spanish Wikipedia of very high quality, mainly because of the work of one editor, but likewise other articles that are of very poor quality, with either romanticizing or discriminatory undertones. They also tend to use very low quality sources.”

Wikipedia Signpost report: WikiProject Film

The logo of WikiProject Film

The English Wikipedia’s community-written newsletter, the Wikipedia Signpost, spoke to five members of WikiProject Film recently. One of the largest projects on the wiki, it boasts around 500 members and has existed for more than ten years. Its goal is to improve and manage articles directly related to film, the project’s main focus area. Though it has a broad scope, currently encompassing more than 100,000 articles, several smaller groups have split away to focus on narrower topics such as actors and screenwriters.

Those interviewed were Corvoe, Erik, Favre1fan93, NinjaRobotPirate and Lugnuts, all veteran editors possessing varying levels of experience. All five are, naturally, fans of film and share the common goal of improving Wikipedia’s coverage of film-related topics.

“Though I’d worked on music articles for a considerable amount of time beforehand, I’ve never felt more at home than at WikiProject Film,” says Corvoe, who has been a member of the project for a year. “Its collaborations far outweigh its solo ventures, and there are a large amount of us just wanting to improve as many articles as much as we can. I want others like me to have any amount of information that we can find at their fingertips, so that those as curious as I am have one centralized hub for any films they might be interested in.”

Wikipedia Signpost report: WikiProject Cities

Rotterdam in the Netherlands, seen during a commemoration of the Rotterdam Blitz in a featured picture from Trebaxus.

Last week, the English Wikipedia community-written newsletter, Wikipedia Signpost, interviewed two members of WikiProject Cities, users Student7 and JonRidinger. A WikiProject is a team of contributors who wish to improve Wikipedia. Every WikiProject has a special focus area (for example, medieval history) or a particular task (such as, proofreading recently created pages). WikiProject Cities aims to provide up-to-date information in a consistent format across Wiki articles. The term “Cities” is used generically and encompasses towns, villages, hamlets, townships, unincorporated communities, sections of municipalities and neighborhoods.

Interested in cities and motivated by the desire to produce more articles in a standardized format, Student7 and JonRidinger saw WikiProject Cities as a great opportunity to contribute to articles on a subject they were passionate about. The amount of effort put forth by many contributors usually leads to extensive contributions to specific articles, as JonRidinger explains. “I was largely responsible for getting Kent, Ohio to FA [featured article] status and helped with Stephens City, Virginia too.” Naturally, this level of commitment and scrutiny can have its drawbacks, “The issue I faced was burn-out…(but) yes, there were some genuine improvement that were made by going through the process, plus I learned more about what kind of content to include and how to word things better, says JonRidinger.

Deciding which city merits an article or integration into an existing article is a common question. “If It has sources that cover it specifically, it can have a decent article, though if it’s not a large amount of info, I typically don’t see the point of having an article separate from the city article,” says JonRidinger. Student7 adds, “If a country has aggregated people, it should be using these Project standards for the article. A village has to be ‘noticed’ to be ‘notable’ I suppose.”


Wikipedia Signpost report: WikiProject Neuroscience

Fast fission brain

Last month, the English Wikipedia community-written newsletter Wikipedia Signpost ran a feature on WikiProject Neuroscience, a project which began in September of 2005. It currently boasts fourteen Featured Articles (FAs) among the 1,700 total articles under its umbrella, including topics like areas of the brain, stimulants and the central nervous system. It counts some highly-qualified editors among their ranks, including no fewer than three PhD holders.

The Signpost spoke to Looie496, Mark viking and Tryptofish, three editors who are active participants in the project. Looie has been a member since 2008 and holds a doctorate in neuroscience. He has more than 22,500 total edits, a large proportion of which have been on articles under this topic. Most of the articles covered by the WikiProject have been primarily his work.

“My first motivation was the poor condition of the article on the hippocampus, the brain area that I worked on,” he said. “I started editing it very tentatively, and then when nothing bad happened, I ended up doing more and more, until eventually the article was completely rewritten.”

Mark Viking is no slouch either. A scientist by trade, his work revolves around theoretical physics — a subject in which he holds a PhD in — and computational neuroscience. Much of his editing has been in the background but he still performs a vital role in the running of the project.


Wikipedia Signpost report: WikiProject Chess

The other day, the Wikipedia Signpost – the English Wikipedia’s community-written newsletter – provided an update on Wikiproject Chess, which was founded in 2003 and counts over 100 Wikipedians as members.

ChessSetWikiProject Chess editors have written extensively on a cornucopia of chess topics like strategies, endgames and notable players, including four Featured Articles (FAs) and 15 Good Articles. The project’s main article, “chess,” is actually one Wikipedia’s oldest FAs, achieving this quality rating back in 2002 when the FA process was still called “Refreshing Brilliant Prose.” Over the following decade, the article has had to be reviewed a few times to meet the rising FA standards.

The Signpost interviewed one of the project’s members, Sjakkalle, who is no slouch of a chess player himself, as he is an active tournament player and has a FIDE rating of 1944.

“I started working on chess articles shortly after I joined Wikipedia in 2004-2005,” explained Sjakkalle, who has created nearly 40 chess articles. “At the time, there were a number of good chess-related articles, but many were underdeveloped and many significant topics lacked articles altogether.”

On his user page, Sjakkalle self-deprecatingly recalls losing a game in his first international chess tournament last year, starting his international career by committing a blunder of exactly the kind that he himself had warned Wikipedia readers about two years earlier by making this edit to the article blunder (chess). “I should have known better,” he said. “Apparently, I didn’t.”

Even though there is no shortage of literature on chess—Sjakkalle says it’s possibly the most studied game ever—WikiProject Chess does have its challenges. According to Sjakkalle, they are missing a number of articles on the games’ grandmasters—particularly the Russian ones—and while there are many articles on openings and endgames, coverage of the middlegame tends to be underdeveloped. He also says that although many articles are well-illustrated with diagrams of chess positions, finding missing images of some of the game’s legendary players can be difficult.

Although they have already done a ton of great work, Sjakkalle is quick to put the word out that WikiProject Chess is always looking for new contributing members. “Anyone who wants to contribute will be a most welcome addition to the project!”

For more info on WikiProject Chess, read the full interview on the Signpost.

Darrin Fox, Communications Intern

Wikipedia’s largest WikiProject celebrates its 10th birthday

Portrait of Simón Bolívar

As the largest WikiProject on Wikipedia, WikiProject Biography boasts over one million articles dedicated to the lives of notable figures throughout history. In honor of WikiProject Biography’s tenth birthday, Wikipedia Signpost has published a great essay detailing the extensive work involved with developing and maintaining biographies on Wikipedia.

The WikiProject began after editors discussed a number of issues regarding the most effective way to format birth and death dates. These initial discussion boards grew from ten members to a thriving community of nearly 800 active participants currently. In this week’s Wikipedia Signpost, three members of WikiProject Biography – KaldariRoad Wizard, and John Carter – discuss their involvement in the project and what it takes to navigate a biography on Wikipedia.

The three editors agreed that the appeal of a biographical article lies in its innate simplicity. “The subject area is in general much more clear-cut than many other articles,” John Carter explained. “This is not saying that some biographies of disputed people from early history are not also at least a bit contentious, but the same holds true for most non-biographical articles related to those eras well.”

WikiProject Biography’s tremendous scope reflects the complexity of Wikipedia itself. “Every article on Wikipedia involves people in one way or another,” said Road Wizard. “If it is about a book then someone wrote it; if it is about a natural phenomenon then someone observed it. Biographies are a logical extension of the encyclopedia.”

For more insights into Wikipedia Biographies, read the full interview on The Signpost.

Zoe Bernard, Communications Intern

Meet the Wikipedians behind WikiProject Visual Arts

A hamsa, the identification symbol of the Visual Arts WikiProject. (From the interview: “Universally, visual art involves the eye and the hand, perception and creation. [The Hamsa] seems like a good iconic representation of these principles.”)

Who wrote the English Wikipedia’s articles about Vincent Van Gogh’s and Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings, or about sculpture, landscape art and abstract impressionism? There’s a good chance it was a member of WikiProject Visual Arts, a collaboration of editors who contribute to Wikipedia’s visual arts coverage. The current issue of the “Wikipedia Signpost,” the community’s weekly newsletter, has an interview with several Wikipedians involved in the WikiProject, which was started in 2005 and whose scope now encompasses nearly 16,000 articles. The interviewees include an art librarian, an artist and an art history student, but also several people who developed a deep interest in art besides their own professions. Here are some of the things they said about their work:

On motivations to contribute:

I’m a student who vacillates between making art and writing about it. “Early 20th century German art” probably best defines my academic research focus, but what I enjoy about editing WP is how it allows me to write about anything and everything from Nasreddine Dinet to Master L. Cz. to Double spout and bridge vessels to Inuit culture to Hus. I guess my greatest fear as I prepare to go on to graduate school for art history is becoming what the Germans would call a “fachidiot” – an academic so engrossed in their particular field of specialization that they lose sight of the wider range of their subject. If nothing else, editing WP keeps me familiar with areas of art history that would otherwise be outside my specialty.
I’m interested in contemporary international art. The art world can be international and easily span continents. Artists hail from countries but there seems to exist a world stage on which artworks are viewed with disregard for nationality. I think English is a language more employed across the international art world than any other language. I think this would place a responsibility on the English Wikipedia to strive for excellence in its coverage of the visual arts.

On the value of collaboration:

I work primarily as a copyeditor, though at the time I had access to an excellent library as well, and what made the articles so much fun to work on was the knowledge that I had a solid group of editors collaborating with me. These editors [...] all had their own strengths and specialties and could always be relied on both for help and constructive criticism.

On the collaboration with cultural institutions (GLAMs):

I find myself at the Chicago Public Library‘s Harold Washington Library Center quite often when the public online resources and my local Blackstone Library are insufficient for a topic. They have been quite helpful in researching in general. Recently, I have been creating numerous painting articles in an effort to provide a resource for the largest ever Roy Lichtenstein exhibition that is being held at the Art Institute of Chicago. Prior to May 9 only one of his paintings had an article. Now, Category:Paintings by Roy Lichtenstein looks pretty respectable. I am trying to get at least 25 of his works on the main page via WP:DYK. I had fallen a little short on more than a half dozen articles and the visual arts reference librarians came through with a lot of things that enabled me to find sufficient content to make many articles DYK-eligible. The library has also hosted an official Wikipedia Loves Libraries event.

On challenges:

The most difficulty that I have encountered in my time editing Wikipedia has been in relationship to Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh is an enormously famous figure who generates tremendous interest worldwide and consequently controversy goes with the territory…

On opportunities to get involved:

There is plenty for new members to do, so long as they have good and up to date references, which most libraries have, and can also increasingly be found online. We very recently got a huge release of good images to Commons from the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore which need further categorizing and using in articles – there are nearly 20,000 images at the Commons Category:Collections of the Walters Art Museum. Anyone who wants help or suggestions will be very welcome at the project talk page, where we have a very incomplete “To do” list. This is the home of the supposedly extinct “low-hanging fruit”…
Translation is a great way for new people to get involved, as translating an article is certainly less of a reach than researching the entire thing yourself. Every time I go onto foreign language wikis I run into great articles without English equivalents, just waiting to be translated. Etruscan sculpture (FA [featured article] in Spanish, Portuguese, and Catalan), Spanish Baroque painting (FA in Spanish), The Yellow Cow (a Franz Marc painting, FA in German), Loss of books in late antiquity (FA in German, also a substantial article in French and Danish) etc. etc. Any takers?

Examples of visual art covered in Wikipedia:

Read the full interview with Wikipedia editors TonyTheTiger, Modernist, Johnbod, Kafka Liz, Ceoil, Lithoderm (Petropoxy) and Bus stop in this week’s Wikipedia Signpost:

WikiProject report:Views of WikiProject Visual Arts

and check back early next week for the upcoming issue of the community newsletter.

Tilman Bayer

Senior Operations Analyst (Movement Communications)