This is an essay on building featured content.
The English Wikipedia has the text of several dozen Britannicas and As of November 2013[update] adds several hundred articles (net, after deletions) per day. The current article count is 6,092,604 articles with 157 average revisions per article.
During Wikimania 2006, Jimbo Wales challenged the English Wikipedia community to work more on quality than sheer quantity. In July 2006, Danny wrote an essay, What next, on the subject, and 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."
We now have 5,779. This essay discusses the challenge of accomplishing that goal.
Where things stand now
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Currently, there are 5,779 featured articles, and 31,864 good articles.
The Wikipedia:Version 1.0 Editorial Team has a summary table for article assessments that have been done by WikiProjects:
As of December 2014, about eight ninths of the articles in Wikipedia had been assessed - around 2 million are assigned to a project. Of those assessed, 100,000 were assessed as B class or better.
- Note there is some double-counting in the table where articles belong to multiple WikiProjects. For example, on January 4, 2008, Wikipedia:Featured articles said there were 1,789 FAs, while the table showed 2,143, about 20% more. That means the actual number of assessed B class or better articles is probably around 50,000.
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 than that, e.g. with more people/faster referencing/locating good quality free content, would mean the goal would be reached in 3 years.
The net rate of 1.6 will likely increase as there is currently a high demotion rate due to the 2006 change that meant inline citations are now required.
Defining the task
Official FA definition
Wikipedia:What is a featured article? lists the criteria for a featured article (FA):
- It is—
- (a) well-written: its prose is engaging, even brilliant, and of a professional standard;
- (b) comprehensive: it neglects no major facts or details and places the subject in context;
- (c) well-researched: it is a thorough and representative survey of the relevant literature on the topic. Claims are verifiable against high-quality reliable sources and are supported with citations; this requires a "References" section that lists these sources, complemented by inline citations where appropriate;
- (d) neutral: it presents views fairly and without bias; and
- (e) stable: it is not subject to ongoing edit wars and its content does not change significantly from day to day, except in response to the featured article process.
- (a) a lead: a concise lead section that summarizes the topic and prepares the reader for the detail in the subsequent sections;
- (b) appropriate structure: a system of hierarchical section headings and a substantial but not overwhelming table of contents; and
- (c) consistent citations: where required by criterion 1c, consistently formatted inline citations using either footnotes (<ref>Smith 2007, p. 1.</ref>) or Harvard referencing (Smith 2007, p. 1)—see citing sources for suggestions on formatting references; for articles with footnotes, the meta:cite format is recommended. The use of citation templates is not required.
- 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.
[* Accomplishing the proposed goal does not necessarily mean putting 100,000 articles through the current featured article candidacy process. That process requires a too much editor time, per article, in reviewing candidates, to be able to be scaled to handle a doubling or tripling in volume.]
What is needed
- This will require a lot of good research and good writing. Really good writing.
- We may be able to get by without the writers and researchers being subject-matter experts themselves.
- How many editor-hours per article? One FAC regular estimates 50 editor-hours. The estimate assumes one editor; two or three editors teaming up could do it faster if working in coordination.
Easy steps any editor can do right now
There is a lot of "lower-hanging fruit":
- Take a look at articles that originally did not quite achieve featured status and fix them.
- 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.
Splitting the work among editors
This goal may require setting up an assembly line for feature-quality articles. That would let us break down the tasks so people of different skills can contribute in different ways:
- Rough outline
- Writing up the researched outline
- Writing rough draft (stub)
- Expanding article
- Use correct citation techniques
- Polishing the prose
- Copyediting and formatting per manual of style
- Back to step (7)
Many of these steps can be combined into a single pass by a single editor.
Such an approach requires 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.)
Motivating good writers
Things that motivate good writers:
- Helping get an article promoted at FAC. The article may get on the front page.
- Improving an article in set-out ways.
- Filling-out a subject area
- The satisfaction of knowing you have contributed in a way to Wikipedia's quality, not just its quantity.
- Recognition that they are good writers, e.g. Wikipedia:List of Wikipedians by featured article nominations
- Any recognition from peers and other contributors in the form of thanks, plaudits, encouragement and so forth. You'd be surprised at how much this keeps the tired underappreciated editor going.
- [Insert any other ideas]
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 complain about articles. List off the top of their head what is obviously missing. Make that list a to-do list for the 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 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.
- Wikipedia:Former featured articles will have many suitable articles. Note FAs are regularly reassessed by the increased FAC requirements (e.g. inline citations), so removal does not mean a bad article. A lot of what has been removed from WP:FA by Featured Article Removal would in fact pass our list just fine.
- Pick an article from Wikipedia:Featured article review, which will have been approved by 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.
- The A-class rating from WikiProjects may also be suitable.
- Wikipedia:Collaborations are often suitable.
- 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 FAC. If you find a gem, discuss with main contributors, develop it and then nominate it for FAC.
- [Add other ideas]
Assessing the articles
"FA and GA have both become combative trials by ordeal for articles. I suggest rating articles against the featured article criteria, but: no self-nominations. – David Gerard 10:12, 21 September 2006 (UTC))"
What would it take to do this by the end of 2012?
"For those who are intimidated by all the work this entails, remember — there are a lot of low hanging fruit out there. And it's much easier to do it than to talk about it. And it's much more rewarding than to complain about this or that (person or process)" – Danny
Danny has nominated one FA, Donegal fiddle tradition in Feb 2004, it was de-listed in Oct 2004 and promoted to wp:GA in March 2008. The other main author of this project, David Gerard, has 3 former FA's and one current FA, that being Xenu.
100K Results: One million articles added to English Wikipedia by end of 2007, goal of 100K FA articles not yet reached. As of 2009, the goal of 100K FAs 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
- December 2009: 2730 FA, growth rate: 1.0 FA per day
- December 2010: 3128 FA, growth rate: 1.1 FA per day
- December 2011: 3436 FA, growth rate: 0.8 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 FAs 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 FAs. 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.
- 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 FAs. 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 been 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.