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While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.
This space has covered some more ebullient projects recently - Articles for creation, Urban studies and planning, and Microsoft, to name a few. However, we must sometimes remember to look at the other end of the spectrum, such as this WikiProject where a small band of dedicated editors seek to improve articles relating to a less lively topic. If you haven't yet guessed, this week's focus is WikiProject Death.
With 38 participants, the project, founded in 2009, is on the small side, but it is certainly active and looks after a large range of articles on all things death-y. From morgues, legal documents, and zombies to autopsies, cremations, and statistics, the topic is a sombre but necessary part of life that nobody outside of the "business" really talks too much about. To find out more, we spoke to the project founder Geniac, along with Boneyard90 and Cloptonson.
What motivated you to join WikiProject Death? As it is such a morbid-sounding topic, it seems an unusual project to join.
Boneyard90: I am an anthropologist. Some of my specialties include osteology, forensic anthropology, and paleopathology. These are all fields in which understanding the state of human remains is of paramount interest. It seemed my professional and personal interests overlapped with articles in the project, and I became involved in WikiProject Death fairly soon after I started editing Wikipedia.
Cloptonson: My interest is primarily historical, and I was editing pages under the project before I joined the project. I contribute details of notable people who were buried, cremated or commemorated at particular cemeteries, crematoria and military memorials; Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries, graves or memorials to the missing; give details of burial or cremation places to biographical articles; mention known death causes and discuss circumstances where the death is in complicated or disputed circumstances. Visiting churchyards and cemeteries has been one of my lifetime hobbies to look for famous or unusual graves or memorials.
Geniac: I created the project when I saw that there was some discussion around about the idea, but those discussions never quite got to the point of actually starting one. IIRC, there was a hangup regarding what the project scope could possibly be. Now in it's fifth year, we've found plenty of articles to take under our wing.
Have you contributed to any of the project's forty-one Featured or 113 Good articles, and are these sort of articles generally easier or harder to promote than other subjects?
Boneyard90: I significantly expanded Coffin birth, which gets about 8,000+ views per month, and promoted it as a DYK article and then on to GA status.
Geniac: Unlike some other members who have done an incredible job in content production, I'm more into the structure, scope and organisation of the project and covered articles.
Can you explain your scope: what sort of articles qualify to be tagged under this project and what areas you don't cover?
Boneyard90: The front page sums it up well. Cemeteries, massacres, concepts or beliefs related to death, and people noted for expanding our understanding of death or had some death so notable that it has its own article.
Geniac: The project scope has expanded over time to include a wide variety of topics including medical and physical aspects of death, social customs, capital punishment, grief, life insurance, massacres, cemeteries, plane crashes, the afterlife and people known for their role in deaths like Jack Kevorkian. We've also hammered out topics that are out of scope such as wars, terrorist attacks, earthquakes, serial killers and people who just happen to now be dead.
The "Suicide task force" is a named subdivision of this project. What specifically does that cover, and is there very much activity within the task force compared to WikiProject Death as a whole?
Boneyard90: The Suicide Task Force covers any topic that deals with suicide, not only the concepts, but other acts or organisations that are related to suicide. This was a separate wikiproject that had lost some membership in which one editor too the initiative to annexe it into WP:Death. It made sense, especially as tagging an article for both projects seemed redundant.
What is your most popular topic or article, measured by reader page views? Should it be a project aim to improve your highest visibility articles?
Cloptonson: I have not yet produced any articles on any topic, my work so far has been editing existing ones. It is easy to squeeze editing into spare time from a full time job which is a 40-mile round commute and domestic activity. I may graduate to production later.
Boneyard90: A new member can help mostly by expanding existing articles that fall short of B-class or checking, finding, and adding sources to articles where they are lacking.
Cloptonson: A new member can help by expanding existing articles on cemeteries that are at stub stage and adding names of (preferably with existing Wikipedia articles that can be linked) for listing as notable burials, cremations or commemorations.
Geniac: A new member can help by expanding articles; we have over 1,000 stubs to work on. They can tag article talk pages with the project banner. Also see our Articles needing attention section on the main project page for a list of articles that need work.