Content erosion and updated (cross-wiki) WikiProjects
Last idea from me. In the Quality Taskforce we have developed a couple of key ideas that may be useful in the context of smaller projects. No idea if either of these ideas have been raised here, though. Quick summary:
- Content erosion
Content tends to "erode" (we've called this "content erosion"). Good quality articles over time get edited, and those edits can unwittingly lower quality, not just raise it. Cutting edge research is removed by someone who doesn't realize it's relatively new in the field, sometimes the main (often sole) user nursing the page leaves the project, perhaps it's a technical subject prone to common misunderstandings, new users rewrite it but actually it's not so well written afterwards. Either way good quality content tends to erode over time. On smaller projects we suspect erosion is slower but ultimately more damaging, because although the topic is less edited, there are also far fewer users to spot and address it.
- Updated WikiProjects
One vehicle for improving quality on a given topic across projects is likely to be by creating what we have called global (or cross-wiki) WikiProjects. These would be a bit like current WikiProjects but where current Wikiprojects are local, ad-hoc, and often a bit amorphous, global projects are not located on any one language wiki, but provide similar help and support on the topic across all wikis.
As such, global WikiProjects don't have a "say" locally; they are an umbrella body for users interested in the topic, across all languages and projects. They have a list of ideas -- "things they could do if they wanted" -- and their aim would be to help support editors and articles related to their topics across all languages.
There are many advantages for smaller projects. For example, a local project's sole expert in pottery would now have an entire community of pottery-interested users for support, to check ideas, monitor article quality, and share information and knowledge between local projects. They aren't alone any more. They can get help on translation, access to users in other countries with up to date knowledge, a sense of support, others of like interest to ask questions or check impressions against. The global project can decide on "local language drives" to improve coverage in Swahili, or "lists of important articles" and useful sources which local users can draw upon, provide help with peer review if the local project doesn't have that level of users, and generally provide topic related support in the same way a current WikiProject does on a local project.
It also helps larger projects too, on a well known geographic coverage issue. The number of users speaking English + another, or German + another is large. But the ability for knowledge to spread between two languages that are not so well spoken (Czeck and Swahili? Urdu and Flemish?) means that coverage of Indian towns is better in an Indian wiki than in an English one; coverage of Scotland is (probably) better in enwiki than in jpwiki. Global WikiProjects would mean that editors working on Scottish towns, or Indian politicians, would be able to find collaborators from those places and languages, or who have worked in those areas elsewhere. They wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel, or write it all from scratch. If they don't know something there will be others in the same WikiProject from that culture or place or language; they can ask for help, sources, or specialist information.
We see this as a way that all projects can help but especially a way that smaller projects and their editors can benefit.
Copy of a post on it, explaining the details:
Right now WikiProjects are an informal (local) good idea that often achieves a lot on content. This proposal sets them up on a global basis, and gives them a structure of "things they can aim for". Again, amorphous structure tends to get lesser results than a formal list of "you can achieve this". With Wikipedia growing so large and in so many languages, WikiProjects have the scope to become a major mechanism for quality and quality sharing across all projects.
We've seen the WikiProject idea can work, but I don't think we're using the idea to anything close to its full possibilities for topic improvement and quality work.
The more involved editors there are the more they thrive. The more we set them up cross-wiki, the better we allow knowledge sharing, local knowledge diffusion, a central point for refereeing and quality review, facilitation and support -- and do so on all language wikis, not just the big ones.
There's a separate thread that lists an outline schema for global WikiProjects. Look at what we've conceived they could be doing, which individual projects could use as inspiration or a template of ideas to work from. It's greatly more than most projects imagine they can do at the moment, and setting up global projects like that, based on the local ones we know, would have a profound effect on content quality, and would help to balance and share the work of individuals and local projects.
Consider these a bit like "current WikiProjects updated and made Wikimedia-wide".
Current Wikiprojects form locally and ad-hoc. Global Wikiprojects would form outside any specific language's wiki, and be accessible as resources and support to all editors on any wiki, with an interest in that topic. They have no formal "powers" over any local project's articles (which is how current Wikiprojects work) but their aim is in principle to assist, support, pay attention to, and develop the topic area, and support editors on the topic, across all our projects.
As such they provide a Wikimedia wide resource for the topic, as a Wikiproject does locally at present. They provide a larger (hence more rich and lively) team, a venue to discuss priorities, provide central topic related services like resources, peer review, collaborative places to spread quality and discuss latest research needing to be reflected, users from multiple countries or cultures (richer user mix is good on any topic), they might contain teams who focus on "which language shall we have a drive on this month", or can support local wikis and isolated editors in smaller projects, on that topic area. They also have a set of specific (optional) suggestions -- a framework for how they might wish to organize themselves and the tasks they could help on, to save "reinventing the wheel".
This idea does not change that local WikiProjects could also exist; it's an additional resource.
I don't see how content errosion could be countered on Wikimedia projects where the main problem is the lack of editors at all though.
As for the later part I think better possibilities to cooperate across the borders would be very good. Woodwalker has made this point here earlier, but at the same time the usefulness of such coolaboration for the single editor was questioned. If there is a single editor that edits an article, what would make him put extra effort into channeling his experience to the large community? Maybe colaboration at a project containing a large amount of articles would be useful. Is this something that could be combined with the proposals of larger social networking possibilities? Giving editors not only a place to write articles about there subject of interest, but also to find others with the same interest that they can exhange ideas with. Maybe portals could have multilingual forum spaces and chat rooms.
Even smaller projects often have one or two editors interested in something. If there is a global wikiproject for that area, it may support them and encourage them in editing on it, on the local project, provide resources to do so, etc.
Separately even if no local editor exists, there is a global project whose members have an interest in the completeness and quality of that topic on all projects, including the small one with no editor. Maybe one time they decide to spend a week and translate their top 30 articles into that language as a "drive".