Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Top five tips for writing a featured article

Well, my latest foray into the featured article candidates process was a surprisingly smooth one, and my article is now featured. It was a long slog, but well worth it. When I started out, it looked like this. A mess, basically. Just over five months of hard work later, it is now a featured article. I learnt a lot during the process, and I'd like to share what I learnt with everyone.

  1. Write about what you know, or what interests you greatly.
    In my case I wrote about where I live. I know the area extremely well, and while some might argue this may affect WP:NOR issues, I did not feel it did for me. Additionally, the books I used are not published in great numbers - this is generally the case for local history books. They are, however, available in the local library. Every single book used was from the library, and were invaluable in finding facts to write about. A final point is that I enjoy finding out about my local area. I have been interested in history particular, since a young age, so it was enjoyable to research and write about.
  2. Take your time with it.
    This is a good lesson I learned. I wanted to take it to FAC earlier than I did, because I thought it was ready. However, it was clearly not, as I took it to peer review instead and got invaluable feedback. There is no need to rush it; there's no time limit, it'll still be there tomorrow.
  3. Use free images.
    It is a free encyclopedia, right? Unfree images don't help the FAC, and take up a lot of time from what I have seen. On my FA, all the images are free ones.
  4. Make use of other people.
    I was lucky enough to be working on an article that is part of a very active Wikiproject, with some of Wikipedia's best editors on it. I used them - frequently. There are some sections on the article that I did not even have to author, as someone else did them for me. Working on a FA does not need to be a solo process.
  5. Get it to GA first.
    Some may disagree with this, but I think it is a good a way as getting feedback as any. And if it fails you know you have a long way to go. But you still have feedback to work on, which is good.
A final point: make sure you enjoy what you're doing, above anything else. Stuff the MOS, 1a criterion and other minor things while you're writing up the content. Deal with the nitty-gritty bits once you've put what needs saying. Good luck, should you try a FA yourself!

Monday, 29 June 2009

Why do so many negative people edit Wikipedia?

Lately I've noticed a several people around Wikipedia whose only purpose seems to be to criticise and take offence at every single thing that goes on. These people range from new editors, to admins who have been here for years.

For example: there are numerous editors with a ridiculous idea that admins are out to "get them". To them, Wikipedia is an online battle: the fight between the editors and IRC admins... utter nonsense. It is certainly childish playground mentality at best. There are no gangs, for goodness sake.

There are other editors whose purpose is to act like some sort of martyr amongst their friends. Deliberate trolling is stuck up for under the guise of "opinions are allowed", and when the troll is blocked, the troll is made out to be a hero. Madness.

Then there's the infamous requests for adminship page. This is the best place to find negative people - just look at the oppose column on any random RFA! OK, not all opposes are dumb. I actually saw a fairly decent oppose today, based on age of all things. It's fine to oppose people - I've done it myself, numerous times. The problem is, the ideology several people have. They actually come to the RFA looking for reasons to say "no". Unbelievable - it's not like we have a limit on how many admins we can have. What's wrong with being positive, and looking for reasons to say yes? I simply can't understand the negativity of some people. And then, there's the opposes themselves. Let's face it, many opposes are scraping the barrel. But when such opposes are as blunt as "No frickin' way", we have problems. What an insulting way to say no. How completely unnecessary. Yet, people do it.

The negative people on Wikipedia are thankfully a minority. Most of us edit for fun, and have a good time doing it. We don't go looking for fights, or enemies to make, and we get on writing articles or whatnot. I hope these negative people aren't as angry and sour in real life.

Saturday, 24 January 2009


I have often thought about creating my own website, and hosting this blog under my own domain name. I first created my own website, as far as I can tell, on 5 October 2002. It's still in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, and I very helpfully put a "created site" date on it. I won't link to it, because I created it when I was naive and thoughtless with regards to my personal information, but it is extremely plain, created using HTML, no special effects, and includes pages about Disney films and the Simpsons. Pretty much, it looks just awful today in the world of Web 2.0. Obviously my ICT skills have improved much since, but I have to wonder if it is really worth creating a site about me. I have to wonder, do people actually care? I don't have a lot of hobbies: most of my time is either spent on the internet on Wikipedia, Facebook, YouTube or Yahoo Answers, or else I'm studying. Apart from this blog (and of course my Facebook profile), I don't put anything about myself on to the web. Not because of fear of stalkers or for want of privacy, but because I don't think people actually care who I am. You'll notice that I haven't created a profile on Blogger, and I tend to keep information about me on Wikipedia to a minimum (I don't use my real name, don't give my age, though I do give my general location and there are pictures of me on Commons from various meetups). I have often thought about being really open - there are some that list all their phone numbers and their home and work address, as well as giving their full name. It would be nice, but I think to myself, what's the point? Would people look at me any differently? Would they care who Majorly really is? That's why I don't create my own website. I don't think people care enough, and I don't particularly either.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Why RFA talk is useless

Everyone knows that RFA talk is a bit pub-like at times. What I mean is, it's all chitchat, no action. And I'll prove it too. Sit back, and let Majorly tell you a bit about the history of RFAs.

I have picked a recent successful RFA to compare: Icewedge's 2nd, which passed on 24th December 2008. A fairly average RFA - a self nomination, a second try, and nearly 100 participants. Quite normal aspects for any RFA, which is one of the reasons I picked it.

Now let's go back a year, and take a look at Islander's 2nd, which passed a year ago today. A self-nomination again, but with an additional co-nomination by Rudget. It's also his 2nd go, but has only 60 participants this time. Let's compare it with Icewedge's. Islander has a lot of questions: 15 to be precise, and Icewedge has 14. So, the number of questions is still just as high as it was in early 2008. Both contain "stock questions" (i.e. questions that have a right and wrong answer, such as "When should a cool-down block be used"). The rest is all similar, with similar participants as well. A major difference not on the RFA is the amount of RFAs that had passed in January 2008 was much, much higher than January 2009: 17 prior to Islander, but only 3 this month so far.

Back to January 2007 now, with a look at BozMo's RFA. At the top one can immediately see there's a minor formatting change in that there is no table of contents. The headers to produce this must have been added during 2007. Additionally, while today it is common for the bureaucrat to put "Closed by ~~~~ at ~~~~~", in those days, "Ended at ~~~~~" was sufficient. This is another self-nomination, and a fairly short one at that. I'm not sure how today's crowd would take such a candidate. According to one of the opposers, he has 893 mainspace edits, which is a significantly low amount in today's climate. A big difference between this one at Islander's is the amount of questions is halved. While the four extra questions are all stock questions, there are still significantly fewer. You may also notice the use of the word "voters" in question one. The 73 participants in this also differ quite a bit from today's RFA regulars. Another additional difference is the opposition over edit count. While today the focus is more on where one focuses ones edits, today it doesn't matter so much (for most people). The three opposes in Islander's RFA actually suggest why he would make a bad admin. The opposers for Bozmo merely make vague gestures that he hasn't got "enough" edits.

Back to January 2006 now: to Dsmdgold's RFA, from January 2006. An obvious difference here is the lack of background colours. These came into effect in 2006. The headers are still there though. This is another self-nomination. There are only 49 participants, though this is not really reflective of the period (there were at least two RFAs with more than 100 participants in January 2006). One might be wondering "Where are the questions???" Well, scroll down. They were moved up in 2006 so people actually read them. Whether this was a good thing or not I don't know. This user has 9 questions, but they're all stock questions again. The number of questions dipped up and down, but often no optional ones were asked at all. Despite having 8 opposes, that section looks suspiciously short. Normally, that section includes large conversations of some kind or another. It didn't then as much. Most of the opposes are opposing over edit summary usage - something today would probably not be heard of, and usually moves a concerned user to support on the promise the candidate will set the preferences to prompt them to use one. A user of note that appears in this RFA is Masssiveego, who some may today substitute with the name "Kmweber".

Back another year now, to January 2005, and to Jni's RFA. This one lacks headers completely, and is remarkably short, with just 26 participants (or voters, as that word was allowed then). The oppose side is nearly empty, apart from a single oppose that has nothing to do with the candidate. A cursory glance of the RFAs of that date show that most passed with no or very few opposes. An additional point is that most of the supports are votes, and provide no explanation. There is also a lack of link to edit summary usage and edit count. There are only three questions as well.

2004 now. I have not got round to making archive pages for the earliest RFAs, so this one exists only as an old page version: Morven's RFA. This is a very big difference from Jni's RFA. The obvious point is it wasn't on its own subpage, but added manually. While Jni's RFA had a few boldfaced "Supports", this one has none - the trend to bolden the vote must have come in later. There were also only 14 voters. This request has no opposes, and very votey supports. Well it was a vote then, so understandable. There are also no questions, no ending time, no tally, no sections. Also no numbers, but bullets. It's remarkably different from any RFA today.

So what has changed at RFA? In summary:
  • The requests are now on subpages (introduced 2004).
  • The requests are closed with a header and coloured background depending on the result (headers introduced 2005, colour background introduced 2006).
  • The support, oppose, neutral, and all the other headers are now actually sections (introduced in 2008).
  • A tally and end date have been added (introduced 2004).
  • Standard questions have been added (introduced 2004). They were moved to the top in 2006.
  • Links to the edit summary and edit count tools have been added (introduced 2005).
  • "Votes" are not votes anymore, but "comments" or "!votes" (changed in 2007, probably following the aftermath of the controversial closure of Carnildo's 3rd RFA at 61% the previous September). The comments are numbered now, instead of bulleted (changed 2004). The actual vote (support, oppose, neutral) is now bolded (became standard in 2005). People nowadays tend to provide reasoning more than before.
  • There was very little discussion in RFAs. Discussion is much more common today.
There are some other points missed here, obviously since only a few were analysed. For example, the edit count was actually posted to the RFA itself in 2006, before being moved to the talk page.

What is established by the list above however, that apart from a few minor formatting and design changes, the only real change on the approach to RFA is that it was very much a "Support ~~~~" thing, and very little discussion occurred. Today, while many people still support without a reason, most actually do, and there's a lot of discussion on most requests. That is probably the only thing that has changed. And it wasn't as a result of RFA talk either.

So, judging by the lack of real change produced by this talk page, I propose we stop wasting our time here and do something else instead.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Commons RFA is turning into English Wikipedia RFA

Yes, you read right. It's a bit of a late post really because it's been happening slowly but surely for months, but I thought I'd write about it now. People try to promote the idea that Commons is a lovely place to work, where everyone works together in peace and harmony. Frankly, I prefer English Wikipedia. This is one of the reasons I resigned on Commons. While English Wikipedia is far from perfect, its community is larger so there are a larger variety of people.

While not strictly an RFA, ABF is having an RFB on Commons. People make a huge deal out of bureaucratship. I wish I knew why. Perhaps it's because they have the only irreversable action that can be given to just anyone (as opposed to Checkuser/Oversight where one must be identified and over 18). I have never understood why bureaucrats do not have ability to reverse +sysop. So much so, I managed to get the ability added on Meta-Wiki.

Anyhow, this RFA has had three opposes in particular that bother me, all by respected admins on the project, one a bureaucrat, two checkuser and two steward. Such people have influence, and they know it. So it is very important they use it wisely. Let's look at the opposes in question:
Oppose. ABF is a very good contributor to Wikimedia Commons, but I feel unsure about giving him the big mop. While I have no reason to believe he'd be unfit for user renaming or SUL stuff, I am really uncomfortable with giving him the ability to promote sysops. Nothing personal, I think ABF is a good sysop, but I happen to think we have much better candidates for bureaucratship. guillom 19:14, 14 January 2009 (UTC)
What's wrong with this? There's no evidence or examples. Not a single one. While RFA is of course about giving ones opinion on a candidate, it would be immensely helpful for the rest of us to give some kind of reason for this "bad feeling". Guillom has simply not explained how ABF would be bad choice, just that he would be.

Oppose I believe ABF is a hard worker and I am grateful for all the time he puts into Wikimedia Commons. I wish, however, he would have asked the advice of sitting bureaucrats before accepting this nomination. This is a completely different role than sysop; and while I trust ABF's abilities for the sysop role, I have to oppose his nomination for bureaucrat. This is not personal, nor is it an indictment of my faith in ABF's good faith and honest intent. Bastique demandez 19:18, 14 January 2009 (UTC)
What's wrong with this? Since when do people need to ask advice before nominating? We don't ask before making an admin nomination - why are bureaucrats so special? Bureaucratship is indeed a completely different role, but only as an historical accident. If things had gone differently, admins and bureaucrats could share the same abilities. It does not require any better judgement than an admin, even less so. I trust ABF to evaluate consensus on RFDs, as we should since he's an admin. Therefore, he should be trusted to evaluate consensus on RFAs, which are really a vote count anyway. Any sensible person with a calculator can do it. Bastique continues, explaining he trusts ABF as an admin, but not bureaucrat. He neglects to explain why though, and that it isn't personal (though of course it is personal, it's ABF's RFB...)

Oppose - ABF is a fine administrator but simply is not the best choice for this role. Despite ABF's activity in nominating users for adminship (and his participation in other RFAs where they are not the nominator), I do not think they have the requisite judgement to perform promotions. This is not to say that they are untrustworthy per se, however they are not well suited for this role. I too wish ABF had consulted some trusted users (whether bureaucrats or not) prior to this request. I would have much preferred to avoid making such statements in public, however given that this is a live request, I find myself unable to support this candidate. Mike.lifeguard | @en.wb 20:16, 14 January 2009 (UTC)

Mike does not think he has the necessary "judgement" to perform promotions (though promotions are not difficult at all). As with the other two, he does not explain how he gets that idea, just that he does. And again, who is to suggest that ABF didn't contact anyone first (not that it's necessary)? He is supported by Cecil, a bureaucrat, who clearly thinks differently to the others. And there are other trusted people supporting him.

I am currently supporting him. I don't have issues with people opposing, but opposing with improper or lack of reasoning is unhelpful to the candidate, other voters, and merely looks like well-poisoning. Being opposed is not a pleasant thing, I assure you, especially from well-respect users. Pull your finger out and oppose properly if you have to do it.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Template RFA opposes

There's a lot of people who like voting in RFAs. Contrary to popular opinion, I have never been one to vote in every single RFA up there. I, like many, only tend to comment on people who I am familiar with, or who I have seen around. I also started extending support to candidates whose RFAs were getting tanked by opposers with poor rationales.

There's a particular poor rationale I can't stand and that's the old "lack of project space edits". I'm not entirely sure how Wikipedia: space matters in the grand scheme of things. We could run our project well enough without the entire project space for certain. This is fairly old news, but to those who are unfamiliar, Stifle, a Wikipedia admin and OTRS volunteer, is a regular RFA voter. What's wrong with that, you may ask. It was brought to my attention some time ago, that Stifle uses an algorithm (as can be seen on his userpage) for voting on RFAs. He has just opposed Kanonkas with a templated rationale, that he often uses (Lack of Wikipedia: space edits indicates likely lack of knowledge policy). There are several things wrong with that. First, it's an oppose that is uncertain. Stifle has no idea of the knowledge of the user, as indicated by the word "likely". He is simply assuming that because a user has fewer than 500 edits in the Wikipedia: space, they must automatically be stupid and completely clueless about how Wikipedia works. Second, knowledge policy is gained not by making tons of "per nom" edits in Wikipedia: space. It's gained by writing the encyclopedia, something that Stifle does very little of. It's also gained by reading the policy pages, something that cannot be proved the candidate did, even through the use of questions. Even as an admin myself in later days, I still had to check the policy page just in case when I wasn't sure. I'm certain many admins do the same. It's unreasonable to expect admins to know all 40+ policies by heart.

I'm sure Stifle is a lovely person, but in my opinion, his ideas and approach to requests for adminship is all wrong. Candidates need reviewing properly, not just judged by their edit count in one namespace.

Monday, 12 January 2009

RFA community is broken

It's fairly obvious, but it's not the RFA process that's broken. The same system has been used ever since it was created in mid 2003: propose a candidate, support or oppose, promote if there's consensus. Of course, it's not quite like that nowadays: over time, people were able to go "neutral" (a pointless concept if you ask me, if you can't decide, don't vote); a set of standard questions were added to every request; the bureaucrat group was created; and of course the whole "!vote/vote" thing. It is a vote, always has been. Trying to claim a numbered list with a tally on top is a discussion is astounding. Then of course, trying to initiate a discussion will get a disgruntled opposer to bite your head off with "Wah!! Stop badgering me!". So, it is a vote, and always has been.

So trying to claim RFA is broken is like saying RFA has never worked, which is simply untrue since we have created nearly 1500 admins by that process. Though our community is larger, and there are more automated tools available such as Huggle, it is silly to say RFA is broken; though numbers have been dwindling as of late, people have still been passing RFA with flying colours. If it was truly broken, no one would not be passing.

What the main problem is, causing RFA to crumble, are the people who vote. Ultimately, it's their fault numbers of promotions are low, because they oppose so often, and so easily, therefore preventing RFAs from passing, and causing anyone considering it to think again.

RyanGerbil10, a relatively quiet and uncontroversial admin, expresses his thoughts about the process here. I do agree with him - it is fairly ridiculous he would probably fail an RFA if he requested now with the experience he had when he ran. This is even sillier. It is suggesting that some of the project's most respected admins would probably fail an RFA, if they ran today with the same experience they had when they did.

I do not blame the process. When Ryan ran in July 2006, the RFA looks fairly similar to today. That's because it's more or less the same. The process has not changed. The people have. I don't know why, I don't know how. But it's for the worse.