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Quality vs. Quantity

The Wikipedia community struggles with the quality and quantity, as do all classroom teachers. Reading a lot is way better than not reading at all. But at some advanced stage, lots and lots of reading as well as writting is less important than the quality of the literacy elements. The same struggle holds true in sports as well. Swimming lots and lots of yardage is great, as is documented in the first swim text workout book I published, Tide Teamwork by Jonty Skinner and Don Gambril. But swimming quality practices with shorter yardage is important too, as that was the topic of the second swim workout book I published, Sprint Salo, by David C. Salo, Ph.D.

During Wikimania 2006, Jimbo Wales challenged the English Wikipedia community to work more on quality than sheer quantity. Danny's essay, What next, in September 2006, on his contest page, said:

"Rather than getting another million articles, I believe that we need 100,000 more Feature-quality articles."

Present Benchmarks

The Wikipedia:Version 1.0 Editorial Team has a summary table for article assessments that have been done by WikiProjects.

As of February 2009, half of the 2.7 million articles in Wikipedia had been assessed - around 2 million are assigned to a project. Of those assessed, 60,000 were assessed as B class or better.

On 20 December 2008, the featured-article count was 2,408 FAs, up 619, so the rate was a net increase of 1.6 FAs per day ([2408-1789]/397) or 567 FAs per year. Using 1.6 as a predictor, the goal of 100,000 FAs would require 171 years (97,592/569). Processing FAs 50 times faster that that, e.g. with more people/faster referencing/locating good quality free content, would mean the goal would be reached in 3 years.

Defining wiki Literacy

Wikipedia's criteria of a Featured Article (FA) defines our aim of literacy

  1. It is well written, comprehensive, factually accurate (and verifiable), neutral and stable.
  2. It complies with the standards set out in the manual of style and relevant WikiProjects, including:
    • (a) a concise lead section that summarizes the entire topic and prepares the reader for the higher level of detail in the subsequent sections;
    • (b) a proper system of hierarchical headings; and
    • (c) a substantial but not overwhelming table of contents (see section help).
  3. It has images where appropriate, with succinct captions and acceptable copyright status.
  4. It is of appropriate length, staying focused on the main topic without going into unnecessary detail (see summary style).
  5. A subject-area expert should be able to look over the resulting article and subjectively rate it "pretty good, no glaring omissions" at the least.

Time and Quality Differences

Wikipedia requires good research and good writing.

While writers and researchers plugging content into Wikipedia may not be subject-matter experts themselves, the Wikipedia project requires good research and good writting. Wikipedia isn't an ideal place for edits from middle-school students at our Olympicpedia Camp. However, our wiki sandbox presents that ideal space for our students. Olympicpedia Camp has a wiki sandbox, http://CLOH.wikia.com, that encourages students editing.

Regulars at Wikipedia estimate that a quality article takes 50 hours to craft. Quality pages at our site take 50-minutes to craft. Our camp's goals need to be realistic. Our best developments support the efforts at Wikipedia. Our process matches that of Wikipedia too.

Wikipedia editors and Olympicpedia Campers engage. Our easy entry of meaningful literacy activities includes these tasks:

  • Look at articles that originally did not quite achieve featured status and fix them.
  • Look at stub articles our our wiki and expand them. [1]
  • Take a look at any of the lists that exist for vital articles, pick one and fix it.
  • Look through the projects and portals and see what needs to be done.
  • Take a 1911 Britannica article and make it a uniquely Wikipedia article.
  • Look through the categories of articles needing citations and find the citations.
  • Pick a topic you know little about, go to the library and learn about it, then write about what you learned. It can be very rewarding.
  • If you speak another language, translate. Wikipedia:WikiProject Echo is a project that includes identifying where other languages have featured articles. Might be useful see what the ratio of FAs per total articles is on other languages as compared to English, please may someone find this out.

Teamwork among editors and students

A camp goal will include the setting up of an assembly line for feature-quality articles. Campers and teachers learn each of the tasks. People of different skills can contribute in different ways:

  1. Research
  2. Rough outline
  3. Note-taking
  4. Writing up the researched outline
  5. Writing rough draft (stub)
  6. Better format articles
  7. Move old discussions off of the articles main page and to the discussion pages. And, cut or condense old and trivial discussions on discussion pages.
  8. Expanding article
    1. Inserting categories into articles
    2. Inserting hyper links to names, places, countries and concepts within the articles.
  9. Inviting others from around the internet to edit the article
  • Email: At summer literacy camp, I just made a wiki page about YOU. Could you check it out and help me better understand the topic.
  1. Linking public domain art to the article
  2. Creation of art for the article
  3. Use correct citation techniques
  4. Polishing the prose
  5. Copyediting and formatting per manual of style
  6. Feedback
  • Seek feedback from others:
  • Within the camp, such as other students, teachers, coaches.
  • Byond the camp, such as journalist, coaches, players, graduates, school mates, and relatives.
  • Give thanks and heap praise on the editors of a page that already contributed efforts to the wiki page.
  1. Repeat as necessary.

Experienced editors of wiki pages can combine many steps at once.

The teamwork approach requires a swarm of people as well as coordinating people's efforts and strengths.

How can an editor who loves to and is good at, say, polishing prose find those articles that need polishing and are worth polishing? (Both parts are important. A few clicks of Special:Random will generate articles which seem to need polishing, but not everyone might find it worthwhile to ensure 100% deathlessly captivating prose on, say, a random Pokémon character's article.) Meanwhile, the students in the Olympicpedia camp might enjoy the reading and editing of content on a Pokémon page.

Motivating writers

Most of the drive that motivates good writers is intrinsic reward:

  • Improving an article, filling-out a subject area and satisfaction of knowing you have contributed in a lasting way to Wikipedia's quality helps sustain the progress.

Recognition of good writers exists:

Olympicpedia Camp motivation gimics are expected:

  • Camp rewards
  • Notice by teachers
  • Notice by adults from beyond the building
  • Extra swim instruction, team assignements
  • Extra leadership role

How to generate steps for improvement

  • Wikipedia:Peer review provides suggestions for what might be missing from an article aiming for FA quality.
  • Get subject-matter experts to critique articles.
    • Email: Could you look and list for us what is obviously missing from this wiki page. Make that list a to-do list for the wiki article.
  • Ask other like-minded contributors to review the article, particular if they have written articles in a related area.
  • Ask for feedback from a relevant WikiProject.
  • ...

Finding the good articles

Where can we find candidates for improvement?

  • It would be nice if everything that passed the wikipedia:WP:FAC process meets these criteria. But even if this were beyond dispute, the FAC process is not necessarily suitable:
    • The FAC criteria have been tightened over time to represent only the best of the best.
    • It's an ad-hoc committee of regulars, and committees do not scale as fast as editors and articles
    • It's adversarial enough to upset people on a regular and basis; subjecting this to those not expecting precisely that would not be good for community health and integrity.
    • The criteria being applied are not always either the best criteria, or competently applied.
    • Most FACs are very specialised; the open part of the process means general topics are sometimes harder to pass as more people are likely to object to parts of article
  • Featured articles from other language Wikipedias could be worth checking out. If you write well in both English and the other language, you may be able to do very well for en: by going through the other language's featured articles and bringing the en: article up to scratch. The English wikipedia is often the most developed as it is the oldest but it is possible to find higher quality for some subjects particularly if they are more pertinent to that language e.g. [Frankfurt-am-Main on German wikipedia is better than Frankfurt on English wikipedia.
  • Pick an article from Wikipedia:Featured article review, which will have been approved by Wikipedia:WP:FAC once already and correct the identified faults before it loses featured article status; unless the objections strike you as pointlessly querulous, in which case improve another article.
  • A few articles on WP:GA may be featured quality, but may have been worked on by editors who do not want to deal with Feature Article Candidate, (FAC). If you find a gem, discuss with main contributors, develop it and then nominate it as a Feature Article Candiate.
  • [Add other ideas]

Assessing articles

Wikipedia has a system to assess its wiki pages. See the standard assessment criteria and the lists of assessed articles.

Project status

100K Results: One million articles added to English wikipedia by end of 2007, goal of 100K FA articles not yet reached. As of 2009, goal of 100K FA's still appears to be achievable many years into the future. "Low hanging fruit" seems to cluster in Wikipedia:Featured topics such as hurricanes, the articles of which tend to be imitative of each other in structure and somewhat subject to mass-production. Missing from FA as of Feb 2009 are traditional educational subjects such as math, chemistry (outside of element/compound data sheets), biology (outside of species data sheets), physics (outside of astronomy and geological data sheets) and other hard-science subjects where peer-reviewed journals tend to cluster. A statistic of some constancy over the years is that roughly only one of every 1000 articles is FA.

Here is a year-by-year review of actual WP net FA growth results:

  • December 2003: ~170 FA
  • December 2004: 473 FA, growth rate: 0.8 FA per day
  • December 2005: 849 FA, growth rate: 1.0 FA per day
  • December 2006: 1208 FA, growth rate: 1.0 FA per day
  • December 2007: 1789 FA, growth rate: 1.6 FA per day
  • December 2008: 2365 FA, growth rate: 1.6 FA per day
  • June 2009: 2560 FA, growth rate of 1.1 FA per day

At current rate, a goal of the Wikipedia:Five-thousandth FA would be reached in around 2015.

Wikipedia:Good article statistics and Wikipedia:Featured article statistics provide up-to-the-month FA count history and the GA hopper which can feed the FA intake. See also Category:Wikipedia featured articles Wikipedia reached 1 million articles on March 1, 2006 and 2 million articles on September 10, 2007. By the end of 2007, growth patterns had dipped well below the previous exponential growth as many core notable subjects now have an article. The world marketplace for talented, capable drama-tolerant and bureaucracy-tolerant volunteers who expect no attribution may have by now been saturated by the Wikipedia® brand. A more realistic project to stimulate more FA production might be: Wikipedia:One featured article per quarter (per person), but note that only 47 FA's were reported under this program in all of 2007 and 28 in 2008. Note that in June 2006, Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2006-06-12/Thousandth FA was celebrated and the 2000th was reached in early in 2008. At the end of 2007, the wikipedia.org domain name Alexa traffic ranking seems to be holding at #8 in 2009 (see here). See also Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2009-01-03/Editing stats which suggests that editing activity (by editors with more than 20 edits per month) peaked in 2007 at the 15,000 such editors that the world has to offer, the vast majority of whom have not yet produced one GA article, let alone an FA.

Further commentary Perhaps the most daunting FA criteria is that an article must be stable to achieve FA status, so there is no quick pathway to create a lot of FA's. In practice, the dynamics of converging upon an equilibrium (whose stability may be illusory) known as neutrality is also time-consuming because it can only be demonstrated when the editorial contingent has become involved and reached consensus, which can take additional months or years of sincere, talented volunteer effort that, so some degree, pits the less-than-expert volunteers against each other.

See "Aldol reaction" reference below for an idea of an important educational article. Could aim for at least one out of every one thousand articles to be FA – the per-mille is currently well below that figure. We should encourage new people with a focus on technical content to join the Wikipedia process, but keep in mind that reaching the goal will take more work on content-building and less work on community-building formalities.

Other factoids:

  • Of the 42 articles from the December 2005 Nature review, only one, Aldol reaction is FA. The rest of the articles in Category:FA-Class Chemistry articles were elements, which are much easier to get to FA status because they are "data sheets": static and imitative of each other in form. There are other articles in Category:Top-importance Chemistry articles that should be FA, but they probably require at least college undergrads to get there. It seems that there are probably no more than 5 active Wikipedians who are expert enough to improve on the aldol reaction article at this point and they are all PhD chemistry candidates.
  • In the Math WikiProject, there are less than ten articles that are both FA and Top importance, about half of them are biographies (See also the charts in Wikipedia:WikiProject Mathematics). Most of the articles in Category:Top-Priority mathematics articles are evaluated at B level quality.
  • Wikipedia:Expert retention is an ongoing issue.
  • Wikipedia:List of Wikipedians by featured article nominations shows that very few people have ever nominated more than 20 persistent FA's. The top two nominators are American teenagers. While User:Emsworth held a commanding lead with historical British biographies, he retired from the project in 2006 and most of his early successes, under then-lower FA criteria, have or are in the process of being demoted from FA. The up-and-comer User:Hurricanehink is able to develop custom and perhaps definitive hurricane data sheets, but that kind of information is much more narrow in scope and likely to remain rated as FA for a very long time because of the non-human, static nature of the data; Hurricanehink semi-retired around January 2009.

External links