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WikiProject Portals

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By Zarasophos

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  • A WikiProject for US railroads and rail transportation has been proposed by XXCooksterXx. The main argument for creation of the WikiProject is that while there is a project for US Highways, no comparable things exists for railways.
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Now that the dust has settled after last month's dramatic RfC calling for the deletion of all Portals (see this issue's Discussion Report and previous Signpost coverage), we talked to some editors working on the formerly dormant WikiProject Portals. In the last month, members of the project have started to implement a strategy of making portals much less maintenance intensive through the use of automatic article excerpts on portal pages. Another goal was the deprecation of portal subpages, of which there currently are 150,000 – for only 1,500 portals. Another point of discussion has been the general purpose of portals. We asked several project members for their thoughts.

Were you a member of the WikiProject before the recent RfC and the revival of the Project? If yes, what were your reactions? If no, what made you join?

I joined the WikiProject because I wanted to be part of bringing portals into a new age of design and automation. Right now I feel that when a reader enters an atypical portal they think 'What on God's Earth is this?' and then immediately click the back button. They are overwhelmed by links, and left confused, possibly wondering if they accidently clicked their bookmark for 4chan. Cesdeva
The RfC was a surprise in so many ways, and to be honest I'm a bit surprised it was allowed to proceed. It was a proposal to delete an entire namespace on the basis that some of the contents were poorly maintained, out of date or abandoned. Exactly the same thing could be said of main (article) space, and if somebody were to propose deletion of the whole of Wikipedia for that reasoning I very much doubt the discussion would remain open for more than a few hours at the very most.
I only became aware of the proposal once the deletion notices appeared on portal pages in my watchlist. It's a clear violation of deletion procedure to nominate something for deletion without placing such a notice on the affected pages. I dearly want to assume good faith but the cynic in me feels this was a clear attempt to hide the proposal from those who would be most interested in, and possibly most affected by, it.
That The Transhumanist was reported on the admin noticeboard for spamming and canvassing when all he was doing was placing the required deletion notices and starting a project newsletter is astonishing. There were also WP:BATTLE-like messages left on The Transhumanist's talk page accusing him of foul play, saying things along the lines of "congratulations, you won, by manipulating the process". The whole thing is the biggest example of WP:POINT that I've ever seen in my 12+ years on Wikipedia.
I'm immensely proud though that we, the Wikipedia community, allow ourselves to seriously consider whether what we are doing is adding value and allow people to challenge the way we work and the decisions we've made, and that we're able to do so in a calm and considerate way. Huge credit has to go to The Transhumanist for his calm demeanour throughout the process, as well as for the tremendous effort he's put in to get the WikiProject back on its feet again. Waggers

How has the revival of the WikiProject been going? Has the initial enthusiasm been sustained?

How will the future look for the WikiProject?

A more fundamental question: What are portals? What, for you, is their purpose?

Now, a paper encyclopaedia could be organised in many different ways – listing all the articles alphabetically for example, or breaking things down into topics. You might have a situation where each volume of a large general encyclopaedia is itself an encyclopaedia on a specific topic – and again, Portals give us the front pages, the introductions and overviews, of these mini-encyclopaedia volumes. Getting away from the paper though, the purpose of portals on Wikipedia is so much greater. They help to showcase our best or most interesting content on specific topics and draw readers in. Often portals are linked with projects and have lists of "things you can do" – a great way of encouraging readers to become editors. Waggers

Has your work on the WikiProject informed your work on others? If yes, how? Any advice for other WikiProjects?

Another is that it helps to agree some specific goals and work towards them together. The broad-brush aim of improving stuff isn't enough to bring people together and help them focus on what needs doing. And of course, keeping track of what needs doing and communicating that with interested parties takes a fair bit of time. You have to be committed.
Ultimately, communication is key. People might join a project but won't necessarily keep a close eye on the project talk page, or might not even access Wikipedia all that often, but still want to be kept informed of what's going on. So project newsletters, delivered to members' talk pages, are a really important tool to use. Of course it's important that users can set their preferences for these should they rather not receive them, but they've shown interest by signing up to be a project member so it's reasonably likely they'd be interested in what's going on. Waggers
Previous Reports
For more previous editions of the WikiProject Report, visit the archive.

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