Dispatches: Interview with Matthewedwards, Featured list director

Matthewedwards is a longtime Featured list (FL) contributor on Wikipedia. After first becoming involved with the project revamping and promoting List of Degrassi: The Next Generation episodes at Featured list candidates (FLC) in 2007, Matthewedwards has since been the director at Featured list removal candidates (FLRC) and is now the FL director. The Signpost interviewed Matthewedwards this week.

Four months ago, the Featured list criteria were revamped. Can you describe what the changes are, and what effect they've had on the process?

Well, it wasn't just the criteria that were addressed, it was the entire way FLC worked, and it took quite a few weeks to complete. The revamp began with electing two directors, Scorpion0422 and The Rambling Man, both of whom were heavily involved with the FL process. Next the criteria were addressed. Some of the old criteria were confusing; for example, Criterion 1(a)1 stated that a list must "bring together a group of existing articles related by well-defined entry criteria", and criterion 1(a)3 stated that a list must "contain a finite, complete and well-defined set of items that naturally fit together to form a significant topic of study, and where the members of the set are not sufficiently notable to have individual articles". Did this mean lists must have either no linked articles or all linked articles? Tony1 worked hard putting together a number of different new sets of criteria, which were discussed at length. Eventually a set of criteria was agreed upon, which contained pieces of all those which had been suggested, and pieces of the existing criteria which were not thought to be contentious. The criteria now almost mirror the Featured article criteria, but are just different enough so that they work for lists.
Finally, the actual process of FLC was amended. Originally, a list was promoted if it had received four support !votes as a minimum for consensus, and had been nominated for at least ten days. It was decided to keep the ten-day rule for a number of reasons; the four support !vote rule was abolished however, because the original nominator counted as one support !vote, the nominations were open to !vote-stacking and drive-by !votes, four was an abitary figure, and because Polling is not a substitute for discussion. Previously lists were promoted if the nomination had four clear support !votes but still might not meet the criteria. Now the directors have the leeway to determine whether a list has received sufficient review, has addressed the points made in the nomination, and has met the criteria. Supports and Opposes are still made and are still taken into consideration, but they no longer have the overriding weight they once did. The directors have to put much more thought into each decision to promote or not, rather like admins have to at XfD. Things have got a lot better at FLC—I think the quality of lists has improved.

What (if any) changes would you make to the process?

I'd like to get more people involved in the reviewing, possibly steal them from Featured article candidates (FAC)! We already have Tony, who scrutinizes lists for prose and Manual of style compliance, and Ealdgyth, who checks the references for every nomination to make sure they're fomatted correctly, and meet our Reliable sources guideline and Verifiability policy. I'd like it if someone would provide comments on images, especially someone knowledgeable on fair-use images, and whether or not they meet the NFCC policy.
FLC often gets a lot of nominations for lists that are sometimes described as being cookie cutter, in that they often have the same scope. It is true that the majority of Wikipedia's lists are sport, music, or media related, but that just highlights the systemic bias that Wikipedia suffers from. I know of some reviewers who are utterly bored with those kinds of lists and only review ones that do not fall into those genres. That is unfortunate, because the lists that aren't in those genres are far-and-far between. I'd like to add a point to the criteria about observing Wikipedia:Accessibility—Wikipedia has to make sure that it allows our handicapped and disabled users to be able to read it and get exactly the same information from a page that other readers can.

FLC gets a lot of lists from three topics: music, sports and media. Do you think the lack of variety hurts the process?

Yes, I do, unfortunately. As I already said, I know of reviewers who stay away from reviewing these kinds of articles but because other genres are not nominated often, those reviewers do not review often. Quoting Wikipedia:WikiProject Countering systemic bias, "the average Wikipedian on the English Wikipedia is (1) a man, (2) technically inclined, (3) formally educated, (4) an English speaker (native or non-native), (5) white, (6) aged 15–49, (7) from a majority-Christian country, (8) from a developed nation, (9) from the Northern Hemisphere, and (10) likely employed as an intellectual rather than as a labourer (cf. Wikipedia:User survey and Wikipedia:University of Würzburg survey, 2005)." It's little wonder then, that pop culture genres are popular.

Do you think there is any way to encourage alternate, less-represented topics at FLC?

A few months ago, a contest was held whereby participants chose an underrepresented genre (and one they had never been involved with before, either through WikiProject participation or previous FLC nominations), picked a list, worked on it and nominated it. It created a bit of a buzz with about 13 entrants, although two withdrew; however, only three lists were actually submitted, and only two of those were promoted. Another contest is in the works, and anybody who is interested in taking part can add their name here.

Where do you think FLs and FLC will go in the future?

Wikipedia:Featured lists has recently reached 1,000 entries, which is good, but at the same time it's important to remember that it's not a race to see who can get the most gold stars. I think most people understand that, and that we do this to exemplify the best that WP has to offer, rather than finding an easier-than-FAC (which it is, let's be honest) way to get that star. FAC says "Users should not add a second FA nomination until the first has gained support and reviewers' concerns have been substantially addressed", and I'd like to put something simliar at FLC. I can't say enough that there is no deadline, and as well as the chance of editor burn-out, FLC can sometimes look a little daunting and even boring at times when there are ten lists each relating to basketball, hockey, discographies, TV shows and awards. There is no harm in waiting to make the nomination, so I hope that in the future the quality of FL will continue to get better, but at a slower rate.
Secondly, I think everyone is now comfortable with the new criteria; they've been in place for about four months, and if the nominations at FLC do slow down, I'd like to discuss with the FLRC delegates, and put forward, the idea of FL review sweeps, similar to that of the GA Sweeps, simply because quite a few of the older lists probably don't meet the new criteria, and FLRC doesn't get a high volume of traffic.
Finally, though this isn't just for FL/FLC, I'd like to get WP:MOS, WP:LEAD, WP:Lists, WP:Stand-alone lists, WP:Embedded list, Wikipedia:Pro and con lists, and Wikipedia:Manual of Style (lists of works) consistent with each other. At the moment, they conflict somewhat, and it's a nightmare when in a review someone says "Do this per the MOS", and the nominator says "no, LISTS says its fine".

Also this week:
  • Dispatches
  • Features and admins
  • Technology report
  • Arbitration report

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