I agree on Wiki being judged by its lows not its highs. The best way to improve quality universally seems to be recognized as focusing on reducing clearly substandard items. In customer service it's the adage about 1 unsatisfied customer telling 20 others". In card games it's "take care of your bottom (scores) and the tops will take care of themselves". In marketing it's called "managing expectation". MacDonalds is loved because people get the expected baseline every time (even though it's basic), not because it sometimes serves Michelin-style cuisine and hopefully that fixes up the nauseating mess they served you last week. You get the idea :)
We have probably got 2 million articles we could easily get pile-on help to improve to a recognized and reasonable quality baseline with ease. We have hundreds of thousands of members of the public who'd love us to make Wiki so smooth, they'd take to it as a fish to water, knowing when they needed guidance or ideas on improvement it was "just there". We can make huge strides by addressing the easy but vast majority cases... and the beauty of it is, these are also things that are very amenable to automation too (where assessing "brilliant prose" isn't), they scale, and they encourage incremental improvement in other ways too.
Make that the goal.
We do need to take care of established editors (further skills, new things to get into), and find ways to reduce the problems we have with low quality editors... but GA / FA as articles in themselves aren't really our priority or best focus at this time and level. Ruthless, but true. They'll be taken care of and flourish as a byproduct of other proposals' benefits, if we choose wisely.
Good point about judging Wikipedia by its lows, rather than its highs. If "FA" represents our highest quality standards, maybe what we need is a basic "safe enough to eat" quality standard. It's the difference between getting a stamp from the world's greatest food critic, versus a stamp from the FDA.
I'm not sure what that would look like in practice. If FA's are well researched with brilliant prose... maybe a "safe article" has at least the core concept and its importance verified, and there are no neutrality issues.
The question is what does the baseline get us. What do we do with articles that don't meet the baseline? What do we do with articles that inherently cannot meet the baseline?
Yes, a "safe enough to eat" is exactly what's meant. Not necessarily "Good Article" but meets a set baseline for quality.
- What it gets us: Much easier to drive or promote basic improvements, and also educates the new users who write them. Hence likely to be an area we can make good inroads, automatically, on a large scale, engaging the wider public, related to what critics most notice. Each a distinct "positive".
- Example criteria (random ideas): Decent feedback from at least 30 readers... sufficient word:citation ratio in each section... fewer than X tags per 1000 words for major issues (cite needed, sourcing, npov, etc)... no major article quality tags in the last X days... Y thousand page views (to ensure sufficient eyeballs to have a good chance errors were noticed). Borrow ideas from Good Article Criteria and figure which are essential baselines, which we need but not as strictly, and which we can somehow approximate by automation.
- What we do with sub-baseline content: We set up automated systems, "Help fix this!" buttons when someone views an article, feeds for individual substandard issues, "Fix a random issue" button, everything we darn can, and drive like hell that EVERYONE can help fix basics in articles, readers, people who've never used Wikipedia before, ANYONE. "You can look up a citation, here's how!" ... "You can check a fact, or if a statement/section is fairly tagged, here's how!" ... "You just wrote an article, and I noticed some improvements that will help it stay on Wikipedia. Here are the top 2 items!" ... "This article has requests for help that match your filters, do you want to read them?" ... "This article is only rated at 2.1 for quality. Click to see if you can help Wikipedia with any of these issues" ... We push like hell for it, using automated methods, to get this kind of work automatic. That's what we do.
- Inherent fails will usually meet a brick wall as usual.