The Signpost

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I like The Signpost delivered as I currently have it - a table of contents transcluded on my usertalk. No Watchlist/notification disturbance and always where I want it and up to date. --Dweller (talk) Become old fashioned! 11:52, 17 January 2017 (UTC)[reply]

Maybe this is the same thing as Dweller uses, but I get my subscription via the userbox at right. I don't know why everybody doesn't use it. Smallbones(smalltalk) 12:16, 17 January 2017 (UTC)[reply]
Because of the importance of this publication, and because of a trend for the wiki community to more often consider using grant funds in ways that develop the reputation, outreach, and engagement of the wiki community, if anyone had any clever ideas for using grant funds to lead The Signpost to realize its potential then I would comment and support. Anyone can post ideas about The Signpost or anything else to meta:Grants:start in an appropriate place. Ideas which have been raised in the past include development of software for The Signpost', hiring of part-time staff for coordinating In The News summaries of external media mentions (said to be a tedious role), hiring or part-time staff to coordinate interlinks and summaries of other wiki-newletters, including the WMF, WMDE, tech, GLAM, Wikidata, and other ones. If there were a rotating internship program at The Signpost for journalism students then from one perspective it seems controversial to pay for content, but from another perspective for years the international wiki community has major projects with major investment which are almost unknown for lack of journalism. If somewhere were available to coordinate interviews then volunteers would offer them, and a journalism intern could be a way to surface such stories. Top stories in The Signpost get 5000 reads and external media attention after publication. This is wiki's own newspaper of record and if it has problems then I wish we could explore options to support volunteers in maintaining it. Blue Rasberry (talk) 13:02, 17 January 2017 (UTC)[reply]

Thank you all, I'm reading along with great interest, and glad to see some responses to the poll coming in as well. We left some subscription options out of the poll question, not out of antipathy toward them, but because I have no reason to think they will ever go away; in hindsight, that was a mistake, and I regret any confusion we may have caused with that decision. Your comments here (and/or in the "other" field in the poll) are helpful to see. It's heartening to know that at least some of you do value more frequent publication; we will certainly take that into account, and redouble our efforts to publish on a fortnightly schedule (or at least closer to it). Bluerasberry, thank you for the detailed comments; your thinking aligns closely with options we have discussed, and I hope to talk with you about it in greater detail. One area I want to be sure we address is, if we do anything involving money, we need to be sure to have a framework in place that ensures responsible spending and editorial independence; very achievable, I believe, but it takes some work. TeeVeeed, your byline is well deserved -- your unexpected contribution to In the Media was a nice gust of wind in our sails! We would be delighted if you'd like to continue; we'll be in touch. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 23:04, 17 January 2017 (UTC) (Editor)[reply]

I forgot to come here. I follow a link to get here but I don't want my talk page cluttered so I don't have a "subscription". That wouldn't get me here since I would just look to see what the message was and then it would be ignored. Since I don't have a lot of time to read, monthly is fine with me.— Vchimpanzee • talk • contributions • 17:58, 10 February 2017 (UTC)[reply]

How important is the Signpost to Wikipedia

Don’t know if others share my view that the fate of Wikipedia as a whole is tied to the health of the Signpost? I found out about the Signpost years ago when the signpost box was a fixture on many of user-talk-pages. I may be wrong, but it seems like fewer editors now participate or even follow the signpost:

Ottawahitech (talk) 16:47, 17 January 2017 (UTC)please ping me[reply]

What an excellent template, I wasn't aware of it. But, it seems perhaps it doesn't work so well on pages with slashes in the title? That's the only pattern that seems to stand out with a little experimenting. Here's the chart for the Signpost's main page:
I appreciate your broader point. I like to think that much of the Signpost's value lies in its ability to convene people for discussion; even when our coverage is imperfect, it often stimulates conversation that leads many people to a better understanding of various topics. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 22:51, 17 January 2017 (UTC)[reply]
@Peteforsyth: I saw this template when it was recently added to Category:Wikipedia pageviews by User: Fixuture who, I believe, has been active in trying to bring the page view tool to the attention of more editors. Ottawahitech (talk) 16:27, 23 January 2017 (UTC)please ping me[reply]
Thanks for the note, Ottawahitech. Perhaps Fixuture might be interested in writing something for the Signpost? An overview of the features of the page views tool, and this template, might not be enough in itself for a story, but perhaps alongside a couple other lesser-known Tool Labs tools? -Pete Forsyth (talk) 17:14, 23 January 2017 (UTC) (Editor)[reply]

Same graph going back to July 2015, the limit of the data. What happened in July 2015? A lot of people were angry. Other than that, not much change. Smallbones(smalltalk) 04:00, 18 January 2017 (UTC)[reply]

Smallbones, thanks for this. It's interesting, and a view I hadn't looked at; but I'm not sure exactly what it tells us. What are the circumstances that make people look directly at the front page? I wish I knew better. The stats we tend to track more closely are the views of the individual articles (and the single page edition). It might be interesting to sample some of the individual articles around July 2015 (which was shortly after a contentious WMF board election, and also during Wikimania) to see if there were certain topics driving more traffic than others. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 17:14, 23 January 2017 (UTC) (Editor)[reply]
@Ottawahitech: Indeed that was my main purpose when improving the categorization of Wikipedia meta pages. With that new category I was mainly concerned with making the pageview feature (in general) more known and accessible to readers, writers and researchers of Wikipedia. For the template I suggested to add it to all talk pages by default as it's very useful / interesting and the pageviews feature currently pretty hidden and unknown. This however was opposed with the rationale of potential performance issues (the probably load & computing costs could be investigated) and the existence of a link to the pageviews (hidden and in practice inaccessible to 99.9% of readers).
@Peteforsyth: Thanks for the suggestion! It kinda flatters me to be offered that and would love to in general. However I'm not that knowledgeable in and concerned with the pageviews tool or any other lesser known tools and I'm not sure if I could also write about something else and if so about what. For instance I'm more interested in making already existing useful tools and structures known, accessible and useful/effective. Saying: for example there are many categories and scripts and the like which could be very useful but aren't because the people for which they would be useful don't know about them. I've seen this side of the practical reality often getting neglected in all kinds of areas. Basically it really doesn't matter much how much effort is put into research, development (software development mostly) if said remains unknown. This is also one reason why I'm here editing Wikipedia: research, journalistic efforts and the like aren't worth much if said don't get known to the public. Part of this is putting them into context and basically indexing them in appropriate ways. Mostly this means making stuff findable for those who are interested in it. This is also part of the networking paradigm that has been called "Uberisation" when applied to economic agents: people already offering a service or being open to do so can easily be networked with those who look for one. In the same way information, software and concepts need to be networked with those who look for it.
Here are some pages that I recently created that might be of interest to the Signpost:
  • Wikipedia:Expert help - a page about bringing experts and those who look for experts together
  • Wikipedia:Data mining Wikipedia - a central index of Wikipedia datamining projects and research and for useful help for such (btw analysis of pageview trends is one such method)
  • Wikipedia:Reading infoboxes - relevant to the above and about the potential of making the already existing infoboxes more useful
  • Wikipedia:List of Wikipedia-related websites - a very incomplete index of websites that also gives some insights in the ways Wikipedia can be used for plus aims to be a central index
  • Wikipedia:Threats to Wikipedia - a page about potential threats and countermeasures
  • Also here I suggested some changes that may help getting Wikipedia scripts more known for those for which they might be useful.
  • Lastly I think there are countless potential improvements that could be made to Wikipedia which simply only require developer-time and hence we probably should run some kind of call for developers - such would probably be worth more than any donation-fundraising - and make it very easy for them to get started and implement new features (or fix bugs).
  • And of course I started many other things that I forgot to mention here and am planning for some new similar stuff...
From my view Wikipedia is the largest (single-)structured network of humanity's culture, perception, knowledge and concepts (e.g. also by its linguistic distinctions). By it and methods of data-mining one can gain one of a kind views into the collective mind of humanity. (Note that the Web at large is unstructured and hence it's not really possible / useful on that scale.) So for instance I'd be very interested in visualizations of article linking and categories. Meaning there could be a system that analyses all of Wikipedia's articles that takes all the various metadata into account and evaluates the relatedness of articles by their category-system and interlinking which are e.g. visualized by link-strength and/or proximity. The closest to such is
--Fixuture (talk) 16:30, 5 February 2017 (UTC)[reply]

Readers are potential, future contributors

Very good points. John Broughton, I believe an automatic notification has been discussed among the Newsletter Extension developers; an edit threshold for the Signpost would be pretty easy, but I'm not sure there's an easy way to do it for topic-specific newsletters like the Bugle. Maybe Qgil-WMF can comment.

And yes, we should tweak our invitation. It'll take a little while to get that one right, as we still have thinking to do about the best tasks to invite people into, and about how to best guide/support them once they come to us. But we'll be sure to revisit the text as we get there. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 23:39, 17 January 2017 (UTC)[reply]

Hi, in the context of the Newsletter extension we have (briefly) discussed automatic subscriptions, not notifications. As far as I am aware, currently Notifications (formerly know as Echo) don't have such feature. The closest request I have found is T154228.--Qgil-WMF (talk) 12:07, 20 January 2017 (UTC)[reply]

Make the Signpost a blog or an OA journal

Yes, very much like that. You've done that before, so you already know what to do. Also think of the Research Newsletter as part of a Signpost journal. I think both options would work — journal, or blog. But thinking about it for a while I think the WMF blog and the community blogs combined in the blog planet side by side to a Signpost journal would be fine.--Aschmidt (talk) 23:49, 17 January 2017 (UTC)[reply]

I don't think there's any question that the Signpost has been doing journalism in a wiki context for over a decade, and other examples (like Wikinews) exist as well. There's certainly room for debate about the level/quality of journalism, and the unique considerations relating to a wiki platform, but I don't see that debate as existential. We've considered moving to a different platform, but since prompting discussion among Wikimedians and Wikipedians is a primary goal, I think it's safe to say the downsides outweigh the benefits. If we do so at some point in the future, it will probably be a straight mirror, and would not mean leaving Wikipedia. The idea of an academic journal is interesting, but I think it's an idea for another entity; the Signpost has never, to my knowledge, been intended to be an academic outlet. We have not so much thought about ISSNs and library catalogues (though I welcome your further input); rather, we've thought about RSS, Google News, Planet Wikimedia, and the like. Those seem more attainable, and more directly related to our role as Wikipedia's newspaper.

Also, for what it's worth, BobCummings has been developing an academic journal about Wikipedia, and may have insights about that particular intersection.

Further thoughts? It sounds like you've put a fair amount of thought into this. Perhaps a voice call would be in order? -Pete Forsyth (talk) 23:51, 17 January 2017 (UTC) (Editor)[reply]

Thanks, Pete, for your thoughts. FWIW, I been teaching Wikipedia and blogging and everything around web 2.0, publishing, and the politics of the public sphere in adult education for quite a while. That's why I suggested to free the Signpost from wiki and to bring it either to blogs, or to Academia. Everyone is able to publish nowadays, but most content is hidden from view because it's either behind walled gardens or because the intermediaries (i.e., search engines, social media) hide it from their users. You have to make the Signpost more visible, and there are two ways, basically, to do so. Either you make it a blog you can connect almost anything else to for content syndication and SEO, or you connect to the library sphere which means you have to found an open access journal. Both paths are possible, and they do not exclude one another. You can even keep in on Wikipedia by continuing to update its archive there. The most important point is, you should do something about a phenomenon we call in German "preaching to the choir"... – A skype/hangout call certainly would be fine with me if you think I could help you, but not this week, please, because I am very busy in RL at present. Please send me a wiki mail for details, if you like.--Aschmidt (talk) 00:49, 18 January 2017 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks for the mention, talk. Yes, we're up and running with our OA journal Wiki Studies focused on the intersection of Wikipedia and higher education. Submissions and comments welcome! Bob Cummings (talk) 17:19, 18 January 2017 (UTC)[reply]

Drop the vanity pieces; delegate or outsource; focus on the irreplaceable

I love The Signpost and consider it an important community vessel and knowledge base. I would hate to see it wither and die.

Thinking about how it can be made more sustainable, my advice is threefold:

1. drop the non-essential pieces. The "traffic report" seems unnecessary to me, in the advent of modern pageview tools. It can be rounded up by bot, and the time spent writing up the narrative around it, adding photos, etc., can be much better spent. It is also of very fleeting value. Who cares what was most popular a month ago? Many (including yours truly) don't even care what's most popular today. There are, of course, legitimate uses for this data (some are motivated by those numbers; and they are occasionally useful in outreach), but the raw data is readily available, and will remain so without The Signpost's dedication.

2. Delegate or outsource. There are certain news-gathering mechanisms and groups already in place across the movement, and they should be left to do their work, with The Signpost either syndicating their content or not. I refer to the Technology Report (already a syndication, I understand; good!), GLAM news, Education program news, Media reports (ComCom), and chapter activity reports (and WMF summarization of some of them in the context of APG periodic reports). Lean heavily on those other collation and curation efforts, and re-use or re-publish unless something prevents it (most if not all is freely-licensed, after all). Perhaps the ArbCom reports (important to the ENWP community, to be sure) can be effectively delegated too?

3. Focus on the irreplaceable roles of The Signpost. To me, The Signpost is at its best when it shines a light to under-discussed or under-noticed topics in Wikipedia and the broader movement. It does so regularly, through interesting Op-Eds, News and Notes features, interviews, and (no less important than new pieces) follow-up. It is these functions that are not generally filled by other organizations or venues of discussion in the movement, and so, in an environment of scarce human/time resources, that's what it seems to me to make sense focusing on.

Finally, while ENWP is not my home wiki and I am, as stated above, not interested in some parts of The Signpost, I do want to pitch in and help if I can, so I volunteer to help curate the Op-Ed section (and very occasionally pen one myself), as I am particularly interested in amplifying thoughtful voices (with both praise and criticism) across the movement. Let me know if there's interest. Ijon (talk) 04:16, 18 January 2017 (UTC)[reply]

I love the traffic report personally. I love having it as a feature of every issue. Zell Faze (talk) 23:53, 21 January 2017 (UTC)[reply]

Thank you for these thoughts, Ijon -- most welcome. I'll come back to #1 below. #2 is something I've thought about many times, but maybe not so directly, so I appreciate your spelling it out explicitly. I see this as one of our primary opportunities for an "entry level" position; we could scope it out pretty clearly (check this list of sources by this date...) and still leave some leeway for a reporter to exercise some judgment, so it doesn't become mind-numbing drudgery. And I'll second Milowent's thanks for #3; your point about followup is an important one, and probably an area for improvement.

On #1, I do disagree rather strongly, and I think it's worth enumerating the several reasons. First and foremost, Milo and Serendipodous produce it like clockwork, putting us all (with the possible exception of Armbrust to shame in their timeliness and consistency. As editor in chief, I must say that presents a compelling argument in itself; if anyone believes a regular feature is worth presenting to readers, and backs up that belief with consistent and painless work, my hat is off to them. If our readers disagreed, that might give me pause, but they don't; readership statistics for the Traffic Report are consistently on par with other features, and it usually generates interesting - sometimes unexpected and enlightening - discussion. Also, even if you are unpersuaded of the information value, please do consider that our guidelines explicitly direct us to entertain, as well as inform. Many readers, including myself, find the interpretations entertaining (as well as, often, insightful). A final point -- having these folks on the team occasionally yields a worthwhile and, dare I say, serendipitous insight while brainstorming an apparently unrelated story. Those who diligent track readership stats are a valuable asset!

As for your stepping in to help out on a continuing basis, we'd be delighted. Let's discuss further offline. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 09:33, 18 January 2017 (UTC)[reply]

Signpost is not alone

@Carrite: I like to think of myself as a content-builder. However, I would not describe my existence as doing my thing in solitude. How many editors get the luxury of solitutude, I wonder? Ottawahitech (talk) 17:00, 19 January 2017 (UTC)please ping me[reply]


I forgot to mention, thank you all for your time and hard-work. You all don't get hear that enough. (talk) 00:41, 28 January 2017 (UTC)[reply]

Thank you for the questions. I think they are good ones, but not ones for which we necessarily have satisfactory answers at this time. Here are some attempts:
  1. No clear answer here; we could use more skilled news writers for News and Notes and In the Media, but we're not at a point where we have much capacity for training and mentoring those with less news writing experience for those sections. ITM, though, can always use submissions, which is an easier starting task. We have a new WikiProject Report writer, but it could work to have a second or even third writer on that beat. I expect GamerPro64 could use some more help in keeping track of, and discussing, ArbCom cases, and I'd imagine Evad37 could use more input for the Tech Report as well. Occasional contributors are always welcome, as well, whenever they have a news story or opinion piece to contribute. We will probably have a better-informed call for participation in the coming weeks or months.
  2. I am pretty pleased with the more narrowly-focused poll conducted in this edition, and hope to run more polls in the future to inform our coverage.
  3. Not a formal survey of current & past contributors, but lots of informal discussion, which I have found pretty valuable.
  4. Yes, we track our readership pretty routinely; Tony1 usually puts our pages into the Page Views tool. All our sections tend to get decent readership; every once in a while there's a spike, which I attribute more to the specific story than to a section's overall popularity.
  5. Still working on identifying and plotting out projects. The WT:Wikipedia Signpost page will continue to play a significant role in keeping track of such discussions. I'm overdue for a chat with Armbrust about the Featured Content section, and whether they have ideas for worthwhile adjustments, need help, etc.
Thank you for the suggestions, and for the kudos! -Pete Forsyth (talk) 23:44, 31 January 2017 (UTC)[reply]

I would note from long experience universities and corporations, that busy people naturally seek the input and tools to do the job they are called on, or wish to do. If not hungry or thirsty, one walks past tables with food and drink, however nutritious it might in principle be. Hence, whatever else is done with Signpost, it must, in my view, open each issue with some bits, one of more of which will in general be seen as sustenance to active editors new and old. This is a tall order, but there are unarguably vital pieces of organizational information, news, or process or tool information that people remain unaware of, after long periods, and news arising that gets lost in the shuffle (for this editor, major policy changes, and changes in the overall appearance or function of the editing functions or tags fall into this category of vital intel). Hence, after a marketing effort to indicate that a change was afoot, so that people who had grown accustomed to ignoring or unsubscribing to the content knew they needed to look at it afresh... readers, on seeing a "new" such Signpost would, after a small number of viewings, be trained as to its vital importance. (For further support of the notion, think about how round-about a fashion each of us learned the array of practices and tools we use each day, and how we continue, incidentally, to learn about further shortcuts and tools that have long been there, but slipped through our piece-meal training. What is it all should know, and many do not know? Answer this, and you have a draft list of the vital content to begin to include.) Otherwise, as with any communication in a large organisation, if the first or second viewing leads to a communication type being seen as clutter or a waste of time, you can be assured that any busy participant, including yours truly, will soon dispense with it. Hope this is, in its blunt honesty, of some help. Cheers, Le Prof Leprof 7272 (talk) 06:03, 28 January 2017 (UTC)[reply]

Actually, might I ask you to be a bit more blunt? I think you might be saying that we have missed stories important to our readers. I'm sure that's the case, but what would be most helpful would be some examples of specific policy changes, etc., that you wish you had read about in the Signpost. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 23:32, 31 January 2017 (UTC)[reply]

RSS feed

It would be nice with a working, stable (historically, it is regularly broken), and easily findable RSS feed for new issues of The Signpost Mortense (talk) 01:45, 29 January 2017 (UTC)[reply]

Very much agreed! This is something I'm trying to address. If you have relevant expertise, Mortense, I'd love some help on this one. Wikipedia talk:Wikipedia Signpost is probably the best place for a focused discussion. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 23:34, 31 January 2017 (UTC) (Editor)[reply]


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