Dispatches: Main page day

If you are one of the primary editors of a featured article (FA), the day the article is featured on the main page can be one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking parts of being a Wikipedian. You and your collaborators have endeavored to prepare an outstanding article suitable for Wikipedia's diverse readership, and main page day will be a major test. Your work will be presented to the world as an example of our best work, and is likely to be scrutinized by many readers and editors who might otherwise not have seen it. From the moment the article hits the main page at midnight UTC, its readership will grow exponentially; many of these readers will have their own thoughts about the article and may edit it accordingly.

Most of your new readers will be unfamiliar with what you've been through to achieve FA status for the article: the research, the writing, the checking, the revising, peer review, more revising, and finally, featured article candidacy. They may make a comment or an edit that goes against a consensus that took weeks to achieve. They may question a sentence, a source, or even the notability of the entire article. However, with the right preparation you'll breeze through main page day.

This dispatch is intended to prepare you for that day and to help you deal with issues that may arise. If you take nothing else from this page, remember:

Preparing for main page day

You may have requested that your article appear on the main page on a certain day by application through the request process, or it may have been chosen directly by the featured article director. Either way, you will know several days ahead of time when your article is scheduled to appear, by checking Wikipedia:Today's featured article and clicking "This month's queue" or when the maindate parameter is added to the article's talk page. Determine what time your article will appear by calculating your offset from UTC (see "Date and time" under your "my preferences" link at the top of any page). For example, if you live in London, your article will appear at midnight local time on its scheduled day (1:00 am during summer time); if you live in Los Angeles, it will appear at 4:00 pm local time the day before its scheduled day (5:00 pm during daylight saving time).

When the article appears on the main page, questions will tend to pop up on the article's talk page immediately. It's hard for you to keep a 24-hour vigil to respond to these questions and to address concerns, but try to be available as much as possible for this purpose. You can count on other editors to revert vandalism, since main-page features are watched intensively. If there are other major contributors to the article, coordinate with them for maximum coverage; all the better if they're in different time-zones. Remember, no one is better equipped to address potential issues than those who worked on the article. WikiProject collaborators can also be of great help on main page day—make sure they are aware of the event and direct them to this Dispatch.

Monitoring edits: be an ambassador for Wikipedia

The opening of a featured article appears every day in the prime top-left position of the main page.
A big part of main page day is simply watching the dozens of edits that will be made to the article, to detect vandalism and unhelpful edits. The article will be move-protected, but the reason for leaving it open to editing is that many articles improve during and after they appear on the main page. With the advantage of their relative distance from the writing process, readers can catch errors, omissions, and other issues that the best editors may have overlooked.

Expect several talk-page posts requesting clarification, explanation and expansion. Treat each question as a good-faith request and do your best to answer it. If the question illustrates an opportunity to improve the article, take that opportunity. If you don't know the answer, reach out to subject matter experts at related WikiProjects who will be watching the article. If a question is an obvious attempt at trolling, it's best to ignore it. Remember that main page features are the most public face of Wikipedia: you and your collaborators will be ambassadors to the world on that day, and prompt responses are likely to generate goodwill towards the project and to increase its authority on the Internet.

Responding to criticism

Readers are likely to post criticism of your article. Most will leave a message on the article talk page; some will just edit the article and—if you're lucky—leave their criticism in an edit summary. Criticism may involve content and perceived notability. Some topics attract editors with specific agendas. If your article is about any controversial topic, you can count on editors representing every point of view to show up on main page day.

Notability is a requirement for any Wikipedia article; any Wikipedia article can become a featured article when it meets the featured article criteria and successfully passes through the candidacy process. Many featured articles are not on traditional encyclopedia topics such as animals, plants, historical figures, and geographical locations. Wikipedia offers a much wider scope, including topics that may raise notability issues; this is especially the case in biographies of living people, and in popular culture, commerce, and the media. If a main page article is on such a topic, be prepared to field comments about its notability. Some of these comments are made in good faith—the reader may not understand Wikipedia's guidelines and processes. You should respond to good-faith comments and questions about your article's notability with a brief explanation of and a link to our notability guideline. Popular culture articles may be disparaged and commercial topics may be labeled as "spam" or "adverts". Do not engage with editors making this type of comment.

Recreational criticism includes "drive-by" comments that are not actionable and do not correspond to the featured article criteria or general article policies and guidelines, such as notability, neutral point of view or no advertising. Good-faith but recreational comments such as "This is a pretty obscure topic" may be responded to with a simple "Thank you for your feedback"; uncivil, unreasonable, or just irrational comments such as "This sucks!" and "You call this a featured article LOL!" should be ignored unless the editor makes disruptive edits to the article or resorts to personal attacks. Disruptive edits and personal attacks should be reported to an administrator or to Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents. Engaging with uncivil, recreational critics is rarely a good use of your time and may not make Wikipedia look good.

Constructive criticism offers reasonable suggestions about improving the article. Respond to constructive criticism with grace and patience; if the editor requests major or controversial changes, suggest building consensus on the article talk-page first. Take the opportunity of drawing visitors who are potentially valuable Wikipedians into the project through their main page experience.

Also this week:
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  • WikiWorld
  • News and notes
  • In the news
  • Dispatches
  • Features and admins
  • Technology report
  • Arbitration report

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    Just a bit of encouragement from your designated "shepherd".... this looks like a marvellous start! Excellent.  :) --jbmurray (talkcontribs) 18:03, 28 May 2008 (UTC)[reply]

    Thanks! Other heads to be added include "Addressing concerns" and the dreaded "If your topic is controversial..." :) --Laser brain (talk) 02:05, 29 May 2008 (UTC)[reply]
    Good indeed, Laser. How do you feel about an image? I wonder whether we could insert an example of a main-page FA? TONY (talk) 09:26, 30 May 2008 (UTC)[reply]
    Sounds good to me. I'm terrible at images and graphics but I'll give it a go. --Laser brain (talk) 23:33, 30 May 2008 (UTC)[reply]

    It's great to see this so advanced in such good time. FWIW I've added a section here should there be a need for more general FCDW discussion of the dispatch's progress. --jbmurray (talkcontribs) 01:38, 1 June 2008 (UTC)[reply]

    I'll contribute more this week...I just changed jobs, am acclimating a new Cockatoo, and finishing up a project that's been on my workbench for far too long! Should have some spare time this week, though.--Mike - Μολὼν λαβέ 18:53, 1 June 2008 (UTC)[reply]


    I'm going to post elsewhere to see if we can get some content or stats on:

    1. Average mainpage hits; how much traffic does the mainpage generate, and
    2. History of the mainpage relative to featured articles, what/when was the first mainpage featured article, etc.

    SandyGeorgia (Talk) 21:51, 6 June 2008 (UTC)[reply]

    Regarding (1), monthly page view statistics are now available at http://stats.grok.se. For example here is the hit count for the Main Page in May, and here is the hit count for Elderly Instruments in the same month, where you can clearly see the jump on May 21, the day it was featured.
    Regarding (2), according to the archives of WP:TFA, the first mainpage featured article was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on 22 February, 2004. Dr pda (talk) 02:23, 7 June 2008 (UTC)[reply]
    According to Wikipedia:History of Wikipedian processes and people, FA was created out of Wikipedia:Brilliant prose in March 2004, though that page is sadly neglected. I don't know when Brilliant prose began but I think I read somewhere once that they also put selections on the Main Page. You'd have to ask one of the old-timers, since the page histories have been lost for this period. - BanyanTree 09:41, 7 June 2008 (UTC)[reply]
    On the statistics, this is a pretty stark representation :) Daniel (talk) 03:53, 10 June 2008 (UTC)[reply]


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