Featured content

Lecen on systemic bias in featured content

Coat of Arms of the Empire of Brazil
Emperor of Brazil Dom Pedro II
The Empire of Brazil (emblem on left) was a 19th-century state that broadly comprised the territories which form modern Brazil. It was ruled for most of its existence by Emperor Dom Pedro II (right). This week, the Signpost interviews Lecen, the writer of these two featured articles and several others.

This week, The Signpost begins a six-part series of interviews with editors who combat systemic bias – bias that naturally grows from the demographic groups of the encyclopaedia's contributors. The assumption here is that the uneven demographics show up in an imbalanced coverage of topics in featured content. For our inaugural report, we interviewed Lecen, who has written nine featured articles relating to Brazil and Portugal, including Empire of Brazil, Pedro Álvares Cabral, and the new featured article Luís Alves de Lima e Silva, Duke of Caxias.

On his interest in Brazil and Portugal, as well as how they compare to topics from the Anglosphere. "The almost predominant existence of stubs was a factor, but the main reason was when I realized the true potential of the English-language Wikipedia. If Latin was once the lingua franca, nowadays this role is played by English. Writing articles for the Portuguese-language Wikipedia would severely limit the flow of information. But writing articles in English? Any person, anywhere, could easily translate articles from English to their own native languages. And that was precisely what happened. The featured article I wrote about Emperor Pedro II of Brazil has been translated into French, Spanish , Italian and even Romanian! This inter-language spreading of knowledge is one of the most admirable and fantastic traits of Wikipedia."

This inter-language spreading of knowledge is one of the most admirable and fantastic traits of Wikipedia

"Brazil has been increasingly prominent in the international arena in the past few years, mainly due to its economic power and territorial size. Unfortunately, the interest in Brazil on Wikipedia has not become remarkable yet. How many editors have been working on Brazil-related articles? They could fit in a Volkswagen Beetle. There is too much to be done."

On the challenges and special considerations/prejudices faced. "The lack of support is what bothers me the most. Ask someone to help review an article related to the American Civil War and you'll see at least a dozen editors sharing their views. Now try to do the same with a Brazil-related article. Time passes and, if one or two editors appear, you could say that the day was worth it."

"Did I find any difficulty? Of course. I successfully nominated nine articles to become featured. All are somehow tied to the histories of Brazil and Portugal. I can affirm that in 95% of cases, I had excellent relations with the reviewers, who helped me by giving their counsels and even criticisms, which allowed me to improve those articles a lot. The remaining 5% of reviewers involved only two or three editors; few, it's true, but enough to weaken anyone's will to persist writing."

If the English Wikipedia wants to become an encyclopedia ahead of its time, it must get rid of its own prejudices and become what it truly should be—universal.

Suggestions for editors interested in combating systemic bias. "When possible, use books in English as the main source and fill the empty spaces with information taken of books written in the native tongue. In Pedro II of Brazil, I based my work almost completely on the excellent Citizen Emperor: Pedro II and the Making of Brazil, 1825–1891 by Roderick J. Barman. I used dozens of other sources, but at least someone who does not speak Portuguese can verify the information given."

"Now, speaking of cultural differences is far harder. I sincerely believe that Wikipedia should be bold and, as a basic rule, keep the names of foreign monarchs (but only the ones from Western cultures) in their original form. What is the problem on reading an article about Nikolay II of Russia, or Wilhelm I of Germany or Fernando VI of Spain? We have a William I, German Emperor and Wilhelm II, German Emperor! It's unnecessarily confusing! There is also nothing weirder than reading about Dmitry Bogrov and Pyotr Stolypin and bumping into ... Czar Nicholas II of Russia. What is that? A British monarch among Russians? As I mentioned earlier, I'm referring only to Western cultures, since most use the roman alphabet. If the English Wikipedia wants to become an encyclopedia ahead of its time, it must get rid of its own prejudices and become what it truly should be—universal."

Featured articles

Garrett Hobart, US vice-president and subject of a new featured article
Life recreation of Plateosaurus gracilis, a species of the subject of a new featured article, Plateosaurus
The border between the US and Mexico at San Diego – Tijuana. This new featured picture is from the US Army.
A Ruffe in the Pärnu River of Estonia, a new featured picture
The National Library of Bulgaria, a new featured picture

Seven featured articles were promoted this week:

Featured pictures

Ten featured pictures were promoted this week:

Pieter Bruegel's 1559 painting Netherlandish Proverbs, which depicts 100 literal interpretations of contemporary Dutch proverbs. The painting is a new featured picture.


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