WikiProject Report: The Simpsons
This week we interviewed Gran2 about his involvement and perspective on the Simpsons WikiProject. A relatively large project with over ninety members, it has two featured topics (Season 8 and Season 9); a featured portal, 25 other forms of featured content, two A-class articles, 83 good articles and 660 other. Quite an achievement for a Project with such limited scope.
- Brief assessment
The Simpsons WikiProject is considered by a few members of the community to be the best represented on Wikipedia, in terms of the quality of its articles. Started on September 4, 2005 by Keyser Söze (talk · contribs), the Project has been going for over 2½ years (as with the the Tropical Cyclones Project, in the 17th March report). The member list has developed significantly since the near-original 6-7 to the (current) 90 members, with a few others being discounted as 'inactive' or 'retired'. Its goals and other adminstrative actions for Wikipedia are listed here. A full list of departments, sister projects and other related content can be found here.
- Does the Project focus just on the Simpsons or on other areas too? What are its main aims?
- Well the project's main aim is "to better organize information in articles related to the television series The Simpsons," as the defined by our WikiProject page. This basically means that we aim to write our articles in an out-of-universe way, using second and third-party sources to prove notability: creation, production and critical reception information for example. Fiction is a very hot topic and contentious issue at Wikipedia. Therefore we aim to reliably source and organize as much of our content as possible, and merge anything which has no real world significance. We do predominantly focus on The Simpsons, but as it is one of the most popular shows of all-time, there are many articles in our scope which branch out into other areas as well. Aside from the TV show, there's the film, video games and other merchandise. On top of that there is the staff and cast. One of my favourite articles is Hank Azaria who, although he has had a lot of fame from working on The Simpsons, has done a lot of other projects as well. We try and get a nice balance between the articles directly related to the show and those about the behind the scenes aspects.
- With such an open topic, do you feel that articles within your scope are vulnerable to mass original research?
- This is a recurring problem which we face each day. As said in answer to the previous question, we strive to source articles as much as we possibly can, particularly those with easily disputable information. When it comes to original research, "Cultural references" sections are frequent targets. Such jokes are always inserted into episodes of The Simpsons and have become one of its many hallmarks, but a lot of them can be perceived as meaning different things by different people. As such our policy has been "if you can't source it, it goes". This often leads to conflicts as people react angrily when Cultural references they have added are removed because they are not sourced. Occasionally though, there are some funny results. I remember once, someone added to the 1994 episode "Bart of Darkness" that it was based on the 2007 film Disturbia and not actually Rear Window, as is the real case. Other areas are not as bad, bias or personal opinions are quickly reverted and trivia or continuity errors are removed as standard anyway. Often, unsourced material relating to the production of the series is mentioned in the DVD commentaries anyway, and so is easily fixed.
- Do you enjoy working with the content? Have you ever used any of the comedy, for example?
- The Simpsons is my favourite show and the fact that it's a comedy makes it a lot more enjoyable for me to edit than it would be if I was editing something like Osmosis, for example. Many people may think that The Simpsons isn't exactly the most important topic that Wikipedia "should" be covering, and they’re entitled to their opinion. But, I really don't want to write an article about Osmosis or something else of worldly importance, not at this stage in my life at least. It doesn't interest me. Comedy however, does and so is the main driving force behind my chosen to edit these types of article. We try and include any really significant quotes from the staff and the show itself (most of which are funny) in order to broaden the effect of our articles, whenever it's appropriate and possible.
- Has there ever been any serious discussions within the Project that have helped it to progress in any way?
- I can think of a few occurrences off-hand. I remember back around a year ago, we decided to start a drive to improve more of our articles to a higher quality status; we selected a number of core articles and episodes to work on, and came up with a style guide for each type of page. This has really helped us shape our achievements and develop into one of the most successful WikiProjects devoted to an individual media production. Also, we've often discussed merging or deleting a large number of our articles, which have no real-world notability - primarily characters.
- Does the project's success reflect the dedication which has been displayed in the past?
- Certainly, without the dedication of our members we would not have had nearly as much success as we have done. I remember at the beginning of 2007: we had one featured article, one featured list, and one good article as well as only really three active members. Twelve months later we have greatly increased that number to 13 FAs, 12 FLs and 83 GAs, not to mention two featured topics and a featured portal. Over the year we became better at producing quality articles and focusing our efforts with schemes such as Featured topic drives, as well as recruiting a few more dedicated, active members, who have all worked more than hard. There's no doubt our success is a reflection of our editor's great work.
- What is there to introduce new members?
- We recently produced an advertising banner in the hope of attracting more members. On top of that we have a welcome template to explain the basics of the topic to new members and to encourage them to stick around and help in any way they can. We also encourage any new members to ask some of the more experienced editors in the project if they are unsure about something, to help them settle in.
- Lastly, for a little fun, who is your favourite member of the family?
- I was going to try and be groundbreakingly original, but in all honesty, my favourite family member is Homer. My favourite character overall is actually Superintendent Chalmers.