Instead of interviewing a WikiProject, this week's Report is dedicated to answering our readers' questions about WikiProjects. The following Frequently Asked Questions came from feedback at the WikiProject Report's talk page, the WikiProject Council's talk page, and from previous lists of FAQs. Included in today's Report are questions and answers that may prove useful to Wikipedia's newest editors as well as seasoned veterans.
- What is a WikiProject?
- Per the official definition, a WikiProject is a group of editors that wish to work together as a team to improve Wikipedia. These groups often focus on a topic area (like tropical cyclones) or a specific task (deletion sorting). The WikiProject Council maintains a guide for starting and maintaining a WikiProject as well as a directory of WikiProjects.
- What was the first WikiProject?
- WikiProject Sports was created by Manning Bartlett in September 2001 to illustrate his proposal for the new entity he called a "WikiProject." However, there are a few modern projects like WikiProject Tree of Life that existed as loose collaborations prior to the invention of the WikiProject concept that were later adapted to serve as WikiProjects.
- How many WikiProjects are there?
- It is difficult to get an accurate count of WikiProjects since anyone can create a project at any time and the process for merging and deleting obsolete projects varies. Our best estimate comes from the Wikipedia 1.0 assessment system, which currently tracks the banners of 2,117 projects. However, it should be noted that this number may be inflated by projects that have merged into other projects or were reduced to task force status without updating the project's old banner template. On the other hand, this number excludes many WikiProjects that perform important functions but do not tag and assess articles, such as the Guild of Copy Editors.
- What's the biggest WikiProject?
- The size of a WikiProject depends on how you measure it. Looking at the number of articles tagged with the project's banner, the largest WikiProject is clearly WikiProject Biography with over one million articles under its scope. However, if we want to know which project has the most participants, there isn't a clear answer. participant lists are not standardized and many projects rarely update their participants rolls. As a result, the identity of the WikiProject with the largest number of participants remains a mystery.
- What's the smallest WikiProject?
- There are dozens of WikiProjects that have not tagged a single article, despite someone at the project taking the time to set up a banner that tracks articles. There are also project participants pages where none of the listed editors remain active.
- Is there a standard definition of a "successful" WikiProject?
- A successful WikiProject contributes toward Wikipedia's mission of building an encyclopedia. However, each project achieves success in their own way. Some projects set goals for themselves and track their progress, like WikiProject Military History. Others deal with a continuously changing landscape, responding to the concerns of editors (Teahouse) or trying to keep the growth of backlogs to a minimum (WikiProject Wikify). By tracking changes in a project's relative WikiWork over time, the productivity of projects that assess articles can be measured. Many projects showcase their successful endeavors by using JL-Bot to maintain galleries of their Featured content and Did You Know submissions. Ultimately, the only unsuccessful WikiProjects are those that don't do anything.
- How do you know if a project is active?
- Determining which projects have been abandoned can be difficult if nobody was left to turn out the lights. A project's automated functions and archiving may still be running, even if nobody is watching. Some projects feature outdated participants lists comprising people who have left Wikipedia or otherwise disappeared without much fanfare. Activity on a project's talk page may be the clearest sign of life available, assuming this activity isn't simply unanswered questions from editors outside the project. Further complicating matters, the editors of some projects prefer to work independently or communicate through external methods like IRC, resulting in an active project with an inactive talk page. The writers of the WikiProject Report often struggle with deciding which projects to interview since many interesting projects may look active on the surface, hiding a more depressing reality.
- Who determines whether a WikiProject is marked as active, semi-active or inactive?
- The terse answer: The project does. The real answer: Having a project determine its activity is like asking a corpse to decide when the deceased became deceased. While a few editors are courteous enough to hang a notice on the project's page when they know they're the last one to leave, most projects tagged as inactive or semi-active were tagged when someone outside the project stepped in.
- Under what circumstances are WikiProjects deleted from Wikipedia rather than marked as defunct or historical?
- Typically, projects are only deleted when they are "false starts" (incomplete projects that never got off the ground), serve as a repository for material that infringes on copyright laws, exist solely as an attack page, or have no other redeeming value. It is more common for semi-active projects to be merged into their parent project, sometimes as a task force. Most inactive and defunct projects are simply left intact with the hope that the materials and discussions collected by the project may become useful at a later date.
- How do you revive an inactive WikiProject?
- We've written extensively on the subject. Keep in mind that some projects have run their course while others have a scope that is too narrow or too broad to attract a sizable community of editors. If you still want to revive the project, a good way to start is by updating the participants list, inviting new participants, reaching out to active projects for help, and fixing any broken templates and automation. Start discussions on the project's talk page about how to improve the project's organization, goals, and collaborations. Reviving a WikiProject often feels like an uphill battle. Just don't get discouraged.
- Who can add articles to a WikiProject?
- Anyone can add articles to a project by attaching the project's banner to an article's talk page. Likewise, anyone can remove banners, so don't be surprised if the participants in a project determine that the article you tagged is not within their scope. Further discussion may be necessary at the project's talk page.
- Who can assess articles?
- Anyone can assess articles, although it is wise to read and follow any assessment guidelines unique to a particular project before deciding what "class" and "importance" should be assigned to an article. For instance, WikiProject Biographies has a unique importance structure with 200 "core" articles. Good Articles, Featured Articles, and Featured Lists are determined through processes independent of the WikiProject, so using those assessments inappropriately may have negative repercussions.
- Is there a limit to the number of projects that can add their banner to an article?
- No. Each project determines its own scope and can include whatever articles they like. For instance, Elizabeth II is under the scope of 18 projects and task forces while Barack Obama is handled by 22 projects and task forces.
- Some WikiProjects provide a WikiProject Watchlist and some do not. Why?
- As with all tools available to WikiProjects, not every project has set up a watchlist and some projects may not desire to have one. There are multiple types of watchlists a project can use, from Tim1357's watchlists to new article notifications to article alerts to hot articles. A project can choose whatever watchlists they want to use or even devise their own unique tools.
- What's the difference between a sister WikiProject and a related WikiProject?
- People tend to use them interchangeably, but the term "related WikiProjects" is broader than "sister WikiProjects." The terms "parent," "sister," and "child" provide a way of categorizing projects. An example of sister projects would be WikiProject Pittsburgh and WikiProject Philadelphia, while related projects would also include their parent projects (WikiProject Cities and WikiProject Pennsylvania in this case), and any child projects or task forces (WikiProject Pittsburgh Steelers and WikiProject University of Pittsburgh come to mind). However, one confusing bit about the term "sister projects" is that it has also been used to compare different wikis or languages of Wikipedia (i.e. Wikisource, Wikinews, Chinese Wikipedia, German Wikipedia, etc.) which is evidenced by the Signpost's defunct sister projects column.
- How do I participate in a WikiProject?
- Participating in a WikiProject is easy. Most projects have a participants list to which you can add your name. Next, you'll want to add the project's talk page to your personal watchlist so that you can keep up to date on the latest discussions and help editors in need. Check out the project's Featured and Good Articles for ideas about how to improve articles under the project's scope. Take a look at the project's goals or browse the project's stubs and start-class articles to find areas where you can help today. Projects may offer a userbox you can add to your user page as a sign of pride that also doubles as a way to add yourself to categories listing all users who are interested in a particular topic.
- What can I do to improve Wikipedia's community of WikiProjects?
- The WikiProject Council is welcome to anyone with ideas for building stronger collaborative links between WikiProjects. Feel free to suggest ideas for interviews, special reports, news, and announcements about WikiProjects for the weekly WikiProject Report in the Signpost. Participate in discussions at a variety of projects and try to answer the questions of newcomers. If multiple projects are working on the same article, try to recruit participants from these projects to collaborate. Host meetups for the participants in projects in a particular geographic area. Create contests and backlog drives that anyone can enter. We've interviewed projects that have used social media to recruit participants, partnered with educational institutions, and even manufactured their own games. Be creative and share your experiences with us.
Next week's interview will be earth-shattering. Until then, shake it up in the archive.
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