Wikipedia What? Wikiprojects and How They Run

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Anybody anywhere can contribute to Wikipedia, but new editors often find themselves confused by the editing interface, the protocols and preferences of the official Wikipedia “community,” or both. Although Wikipedia is the most accessible reference resource ever created, especially via Google’s “enhanced search results,” it can be much trickier to figure out what’s happening behind the scenes.

This blog post tries to address some of these challenges by linking directly to some of the pages that make up the site’s editorial infrastructure, which are marked off in a separate section of Wikipedia by their unique URL:

  • URL for standard Wikipedia page:[article name]
  • URLA for Wikipedia Community page:[pagename]

So What is a Wikiproject?

The helpful Wikiproject Guide (English language version) offers the following explanation of what an official project on Wikipedia is (and what it isn’t):

A WikiProject is a group of editors that collaborate on encyclopedic work at a collection of pages devoted to the management of a specific topic or family of topics within Wikipedia. A WikiProject is a group of people, not a set of pages, a subject area, or a category…WikiProject may also be a focal point for building ties between Wikipedians interested in a certain topic area, and the broader community interested in that topic area: establishing partnerships, welcoming and mentoring new Wikipedians, etc. In this respect, the role of a WikiProject may overlap with the role of a Wikimedia chapter, thematic organization, or user group.


The rest of the guide explains some benefits of drawing on the existing community of Wikipedia editors, which at its best combines rigorous practices for managing information with the flexibility of the open wiki format. Probably the best way to connect with active Wikipedia users is to make an official Wikiproject proposal, which can generate interest in and provide feedback on an emerging project. (The guide also describes how task forces can help to organize editors within or between projects.)

So what goes into a Wikiproject Proposal?

Elements of a Wikiproject Proposal

Here are the helpful suggestions/guidelines included (as invisible comments) on the WikiProject Proposal template:

Identify the subject:  Link to several major articles or lists within the scope of the proposed project.

Show the subject is big enough: Link to categories within the scope of the proposed project. Successful WikiProjects usually have thousands or tens of thousands of articles within their scope. If there are fewer than 100 articles within the scope, then a separate WikiProject is inappropriate. Try joining a bigger, existing group.

Show that you are aware of related projects: List the names of any related existing WikiProjects. (Most will be mentioned on the talk pages of your major articles.) Please notify them of your proposal, and explain why you want to start a separate group rather than working with them.

So they are basically interested in these three things, which certainly make sense as elements of a successful project:

  1. A Description: Subject, Scope, and Related WikiProjects that you might be able to collaborate with (or just join)</p>
  2. Examples: Pages and Categories you want to edit, with reference to their Talk Pages and the rankings they may have received there

  3. A Rationale: Why Start From Scratch? What might be the priorities for this project?

Of course, much of this is easy enough to just write up, especially with the help of a few Wikipedia searches via Google. But being able to assemble all of these elements as lists of articles, categories, WikiProject directories, Talk pages, and article lists is where you really have to start digging into Wikipedia’s editing interface—very useful for future edits, but a bit intimidating for a Wikipedia dabbler such as myself. I’ll share my progress in this area in a future post, as I start to put together a WikiProject Proposal of my own.

Relevant Links:

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