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Copy Editors' Backlog Drive with a Note From Jimbo

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By Mabeenot

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This week, we revisited the folks at WikiProject Guild of Copy Editors (GOCE) to check out their successful May Backlog Elimination Drive. The last time the Report featured the Copy Editors was in October 2007 when the "Guild" was still called a "League" (check out the old article for a brief introduction to the project). The project has recently completed an ambitious month-long backlog elimination drive involving over 8,000 articles tagged with the {{copyedit}} tag or specifically denoted on the project's request page. The May Copyediting Backlog Elimination Drive's 33 active participants hacked away at 1,175 articles, resulting in a net improvement of 760 articles after that month's newly added tags are taken into account. Participants received barnstars based upon the total word count of the articles the participant copyedited. Special awards were given to the participants who copyedited the most articles, had the highest total word count, and fulfilled the largest number of special requests. After seeing such a strong reaction from the Wikipedia community, the project has decided to hold a second drive in July. We interviewed the drive's coordinators noraft, S Masters, and Diannaa. Wikipedia founder Jimbo Wales also dropped by to say a few words.

Are you pleased with the results of the Backlog Elimination Drive?

noraft: For a first drive, I am pleased, as we had 33 active participants, no major catastrophes, and learned as we went. However, subsequent drives are going to require better participation in order to really get the backlog under control. Before the drive, it stretched back to 2007. On Wikipedia, over 400 articles are tagged with {{copyedit}} each month. This Backlog Elimination Drive saw the copyedit tag removed from 1,175 articles. During the course of the drive 415 articles were added to the backlog, giving the Backlog Elimination Drive a total of 760 articles removed. At that rate, if we held a drive every other month with the same level of participation, it would take over a year and a half to clear the backlog. That's way too long in my opinion. I don't believe there are only 33 editors out there who are copyediting for Wikipedia. My challenge is to find the rest and motivate them.
S Masters: WikiProject Guild of Copy Editors has a request page, which had a sizable backlog of its own. There were 62 articles dating back to February 2009, and this was a cause for concern as the credibility and confidence in the work of the Guild was at stake. I am particularly pleased that the drive completely cleared this backlog to a manageable number of just three articles. One of the big accomplishments of the drive is that it has restored confidence in the ability of the Guild to assist editors who are trying to further raise the quality of their articles.
The May Drive significantly reduced copyedit tags and nearly eliminated the list of requested copyedit reviews

Walk us through some of the planning for the Backlog Elimination Drive. What preparation took place before the drive began and how much work was left after the drive ended?

noraft: It came together pretty fast, with my initial concept to the start of the drive being less than three weeks apart. I participated in the April 2010 Good Article Backlog Elimination Drive, and thought that the model could be used with lots of different projects. So I cloned it, modified it, and deployed it. To walk you through the planning:
  1. On April 9, I floated the idea at the WikiProject Guild of Copy Editors talk page. There was immediate support, and we began to kick the idea around a bit.
  2. On April 11, I cloned WikiProject Good articles/GAN backlog elimination drives/April 2010 in my userspace, and started refitting it for use with our drive.
  3. Between April 11 and 13 we discussed some of the ways our drive would need to be different. For one thing, there are both copy edit requests (people who specifically petition the Guild of Copy Editors for an article to be copyedited, commonly when a GA or FA reviewer says the article needs copyediting) and there are articles tagged with {{copyedit}}. Also, articles are of many different sizes, and it isn't fair to give the same credit to a 400 word article as a 12,000 word article. So we had plenty to discuss and eventually came up with a model that worked well.
  4. On April 18 I moved it to Wikipedia:WikiProject Guild of Copy Editors/Backlog elimination drives/May 2010, and we began limited marketing efforts, which were greatly assisted by use of AutoWikiBrowser. Marketing is really the most time intensive part.
After the drive was over, we had to put out a final newsletter, check the math of the participants, and bestow the awards.

Did you encounter any unexpected problems during the drive and if so, how did you solve them?

noraft: While there were no mission critical issues, there were a couple bumps in the road. One is that some editors were racing through the various award levels, which only went up to 40,000 words. I was afraid that when they earned their highest award, they'd stop. This was solved by 1) creating a special, very exclusive award at the 80,000 word mark; and 2) awarding the prestigious Guild of Copy Editors' Gold Star Award to the top copyeditors in three categories: most requests, most articles, and most words. This helped motivate a few super-editors that copyedited HALF of the drive's total articles between them. A second problem was that editors got into the habit of "claiming" articles. While this in itself is not problematic, sometimes they wouldn't actually work on the article claimed, and more than a couple articles never got finished because of this. That will be solved by some policy changes during the next drive. We also learned a lot with the drive. For example, editors reported being very motivated by the graphs, which were provided by S Masters. I also learned that the project is best coordinated by multiple people (in case someone has to go away) and that they should have clear responsibilities. So I deputized Diannaa and S Masters to help out about halfway through and they did a fantastic job.
Diannaa: We will be adding some charts to our home page to help editors plan their workload. They are a great visual aid.
Order of the Superior Scribe
Most Excellent Order of the Caretaker's Star
Guild of Copy Editors' Gold Star Award
Three of the unique barnstars awarded to diligent participants

When attracting editors for the Backlog Elimination Drive, how important were the drive's awards? Would you recommend other projects create similar incentives to increase participation? What other methods did you use to advertise the initiative?

noraft: I think the awards are very important. It shouldn't be hard to get your first barnstar in Wikipedia, as long as you put in some work that is worthy of recognition. Far too much worthy work goes unrecognized. I observed discussions between editors involved in the April 2010 Good Article Backlog Elimination Drive, who talked about how they commonly edited as many articles as necessary to get to a certain award level that they wanted to achieve. That's really what I did as well. People like the feeling of attainment. It makes them proud of the work they've done: they served the encyclopedia and have a token of our appreciation for that service.
I think the backlog elimination drive is a good model for almost any kind of backlog. Elements of it (i.e. "Do X and get award Y") are also directly used by WikiProjects to encourage participation. For example, WikiProject Military History gives out the "A-Class Medal" to participants who have made a significant contribution to three or more military history A-Class articles promoted since August 1, 2008. An ambitious project could even do a promotion drive, awarding points for each article promoted during a particular month.
Regarding our marketing efforts, I notified every member of the Guild of Copy Editors of the drive on their user talk pages. We also announced it here in The Signpost and on a few talk pages where we thought interested parties might be. I also invited Jimmy Wales, as I believe if people saw his name on our participation list, they'd be thrilled that in a small way they got to directly collaborate with him on a project. Plus he's an apologist for "quality over quantity," and this drive truly seeks to improve quality, so I thought it might be of interest to him. I have even more comprehensive marketing ideas for the next drive, which begins July 1.

Now that the Backlog Elimination Drive is over, what projects will the Guild of Copy Editors focus on next? How can a new member contribute to the Guild's goals?

SMasters: As the aim of the Guild is to raise the quality of articles in Wikipedia, our ability to really make a difference is dependent on the strength of our numbers. We will need a break from the Backlog Elimination Drive, and will use this time to recruit and motivate people who are interested in the craft of copyediting. There is a good demand for professional copy editors, not just in Wikipedia but also in the real world. As such, the development of any copyediting skills is extremely useful. The Guild is more than happy to assist those who have not had much experience in copyediting, and will also help raise the copyediting skills of all its members to a professional standard. For the remainder of the year, the Guild will concentrate its efforts in raising its profile and awareness among Wikipedians. There are many ways new members can contribute. Regardless of whether you are a novice or professional, you can work on a wide range of articles that will match your skill set. You can also receive coaching from more experienced members if you ask. So, if you feel that copyediting is something which will be rewarding for you, do join us at the Guild — you can be assured of a warm welcome.
Diannaa: One does not have to be a professional editor to improve Wikipedia articles. Anyone with a good command of the English language will be able to find articles that can be improved with their skill set. As more experience is obtained, higher profile and more complex articles can be attempted.

Jimbo trying to earn a Guild of Copy Editors barnstar

Following the success of the May Backlog Drive, WikiProject Guild of Copy Editors will be hosting another backlog elimination drive in July. As of 20:00 UTC on May 13, a total of 50 editors have already signed up for the July Backlog Drive. Among those editors is Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. Jimbo dropped by to share his thoughts with us.

Why did you decide to participate in the July Backlog Elimination Drive? What role do the drives and collaborations sponsored by WikiProjects (competitive or otherwise) play in improving Wikipedia as a whole?

Jimbo Wales: I was excited to learn of the elimination drive last time around, and figured I should do my part in July. To the outside world, Wikipedia seems to appear through magical chaos, but we know better: it's through the efforts of thoughtful people getting organized, rolling up their sleeves, and getting something done.
In addition to being good for Wikipedia, though, I think this drive simply sounds like fun. I hope to be working something completely random and - more or less by accident in the process - learn about something that I know little about. This is one of the great intellectual joys of Wikipedia: random learning!

Next week, the entire world will be saved by Bono. Until then, do your part by rocking the archive.

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"To the outside world, Wikipedia seems to appear through magical chaos, but we know better: it's through the efforts of thoughtful people getting organized, rolling up their sleeves, and getting something done." - Another great quote from Jimmy Wales. -- œ 13:21, 17 June 2010 (UTC)[reply]


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