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NPR and AfC – The Marshall Plan: an engagement, or a marriage?

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By Kudpung

Firehose of sewage reduced to a trickle

Within minutes of ACREQ being switched on, the new rule that limits creation of articles in mainspace to confirmed users, the number of totally inappropriate new pages dropped back to the level of the six-month trial.

As reported in our April issue in Special report, the switch, originally scheduled for 3 May, was urgently thrown a week earlier on 26 April bringing this six-year-long-awaited new policy finally into play.

Further developments on Articles for Creation and New Page Review work sharing

Promised by the Foundation, based on comments made by AfC reviewers during the RfC, special envoy Marshall Miller has been looking into the way AfC works, how it contrasts with New Page Patrol, and making some suggestions which have since moved to development stage.

AfC work could get better

Miller's analysis appears to have identified issues surrounding the productivity of AfC which can be addressed with software enhancements, while some editors involved in the discussion for improvement of the system suggest that the problems of AfC are social ones rather than technical: poor reviewing and too few reviewers.

Indeed, some are OK, but perhaps many of them are not, and a large number of them could be consigned immediately to the trash can. Many pages are dumped into the draft system by people who appear not to have the slightest intention of contributing anything coherent to a collaborative project, while others simply submit a substandard draft never to return. Since ACREQ, New Page Reviewers are increasingly moving borderline articles to the draft mainspace, thus adding to the workload for AfC but not on the scale that was feared. A dilemma faced by AfC reviewers, however, is that getting rid of even the most clearly unwanted draft is not so easy. Talks are ongoing on the possibilities of either introducing a special Criteria for speedy deletion criterion, a sticky proposed deletion à la Proposed deletion of biographies of living people, or the creation of a "Drafts for Deletion" on the lines of Articles for Deletion.

Although AfC is not the Article Rescue Squadron, many draft creators (and confirmed editors too), especially single-purpose accounts, submit their creation in Wikipedia expecting other editors to complete it or clean it up. They need to be informed up front that not only are notability and sources required, but that the article must also be appropriate for an encyclopedia, and that clean-up attempts by reviewers might not be the best deployment of their enthusiasm to rescue certain kinds of articles.

Dialogue with the creator is an intrinsic part of the AfC template system, and used well, more effective than Page Curation's message feature. Unlike New Page Review, whose principal task as a triage is to either tag articles for deletion or pass them for inclusion with perhaps some minor details needing to be addressed, at AfC the skill is in being able to sensibly recognise whether or not a new article has true validity and potential for the encyclopedia and offer some basic advice – the rest is about not being scared to keep or delete:

The Marshall Plan

NPP work gets better – with new challenges and a shift in focus

After the New Pages Reviewer user right was created in November 2016, the effect was to reduce a mammoth backlog of some 22,000 articles down to 3,500 in just over a year, hitting what is probably the lowest level ever of exactly 700 just before the copy deadline of this month's Signpost. Prior to the introduction of the NPR user group, poor patrols and incorrect tagging were frequent; odd uses of tags and deletion criteria still occur, but at a much reduced level.

a black hat
a black hat editor – blocked and banned. Self portrait.
The challenge facing New Page Reviewers now is in shifting their focus to copyright infringements, ever increasing spammers, and black-hat users – those subtle and sinister undeclared paid editors who exploit Wikipedia as a platform for financial gain instead of contributing truly needed content, or to promote certain products, services, or points of view.

In an April 2018 article, Foundation chief executive Katherine Maher discussed similar problems, though it was noted that "longtime Wikipedia editors are able to distinguish this kind of activity, and conduct their own investigations to weed such actors out."[2] The problem facing Wikipedia in reality, however, and which the Foundation's research cannot identify, is that many of the older and more experienced editors have long since moved on from the mundane and depressing task of repetitively tagging trash. It's then largely left up to enthusiastic but inexperienced new users who still do not need special rights to apply the tags to the articles and drafts.

Automation may be able to help. Probably hinting at ORES, Maher goes on to say:

Notability should be as much a part of the process as it is at New pages patrol. However, this tends to be more of an issue of subjective interpretation of notability by the reviewers. Unless they know them by heart through years of creating articles or patrolling them, no one knows the mass of notability guidelines properly or has even read them until push comes to shove. Just not having sources in the article is not a reason for a lack of notability if credible claims of notability are expressed in the article. That said, a raft of sources needs to be carefully examined; chances are that the more references that come with a new article, the majority of them are just Internet barrel-scraping, and what's left is barely reliable. It shouldn't necessarily be the reviewer's job to go searching for sources. Creators need to be pointed to the instructions for reliable and verifiable sources and asked to go back and do it themselves. In this respect the Article Wizard could be improved – currently it directs the creator to Citing sources which is a mind bending page with a steep learning curve for a newbie. A simpler version needs to be written.

Among the other suggestions were the possibilities of:

  1. deprecating AfC altogether;
  2. creating AfC as an officially recognised function with its own software and a proper feed, rather than an informal WikiProject operating on its indispensable helper script but which urgently needs bringing in line with today's situation; and
  3. merging AfC and NPP into a common user interface that provides both functions.

The third option has been chosen by the Foundation as the one they can address within the resources available at this time. Notwithstanding:

Replying to Miller's question – "Would you say that the biggest benefit with this idea would be 'improve communication between reviewers and authors to decrease iterations', 'increase the speed/ease that reviewers can do their workflow', or both?" – Legacypac says that it "[d]efinitely improve[s] communications between reviewers and authors and between different reviewers. Better communication improves workflow in all contexts."

An engagement

Based on Marshall Miller's findings, a summary of AfC's challenges, goals, and ideas for improvement, Community Tech and volunteers are already collaborating on developments bearing in mind that knowing what is needed and writing the code for it are very different specialisms. Miller has been posting regular progress updates and asking for community feedback. The collaboration has emphasized creating separate list of drafts in the New Pages Feed for better organisation of the way AfC agents select the drafts they wish to review and finally accept or reject. The entries in the feed will be flagged by ORES for copyright violations.

A marriage

Screenshot of in-progress New Pages Feed
Wedlock: A sneak peek at AfC and NPP sharing the same bed

Miller's list of 18 improvements included: "take steps toward a shared interface between AfC and NPP, since those processes are similar in many ways" and "automated checks for copyright violation as part of the helper script" and "rotate reviewers on repeat submissions instead of routing repeat submissions to the same reviewer".

While their tasks are as similar as they are different, both Articles for Creation and New Page Review are urgently in need of additional, competent hands on deck. If you have the required level of experience and would like to spare some time helping not only to keep the backlogs down, but helping genuine but confused new users, please check out New Page Review and Articles for Creation and apply for the use of the tools.


Further reading (history)


  1. ^ Wikipedia:WikiProject Articles for creation/AfC Process Improvement May 2018/Background
  2. ^ a b Kozlowska, Hanna; Timmons, Heather (27 April 2018). "200,000 volunteers have become the fact checkers of the internet". Quartz. Atlantic Media. Archived from the original on 29 June 2018. Retrieved 29 June 2018.

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Bamyers99@, just correcting your link. It should be User:InceptionBot. User:AlexNewArtBot, which it supercedes, is blocked. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 04:49, 30 June 2018 (UTC)[reply]
If you think your suggestion is useful, and if you are a New Page Patroller, you will be aware of this page where you can list your suggestion. That said, as far as I understand, depth and accuracy of patrolls are more important than speed - at least that what it says on the New Pages Feed. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 06:28, 2 July 2018 (UTC)[reply]
I tried, as for how it will affect quality, we only get as good a review as the reviewer has it in them to give, regardless of how easy we make it. If others still feel that a keyboard shortcut for one-stroke reviewing is detrimental, I would recommend having page info and next-in-queue get shortcuts, and review be one mouseclick instead of two. Thanks, L3X1 ◊distænt write◊ 14:52, 2 July 2018 (UTC)[reply]
Personally I thought that was in very bad taste and offensive. It was a poor joke, made at the expense of an editor. cinco de L3X1 ◊distænt write◊ 14:32, 30 June 2018 (UTC)[reply]
I agree. But the Editor having already left it in they evidently disagree, so DENY is the only pseudo-policy based argument remaining, that I'm aware of, for its removal. --Xover (talk) 15:18, 30 June 2018 (UTC)[reply]
If readers were to take the time to read up on the entire and extensive history of this affair, they will find that the joke was the editor's own, and it has backfired on him. Although declared paid editing is not disallowed per se, the community at large does not approve of paid editing. This editor was seriously using special user rights here and at OTRS, and sockpuppetry to his own ends, and the article is a message to others who might be trying to get away with exploiting the voluntary work of users who compile and maintain this valuable knowledge resource. Please see: Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/About. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 06:20, 2 July 2018 (UTC)[reply]
WP:DENY doesn't cover this case at all, as it is about vandals and trolls. The editor in question was neither. Further, are we talking about a "right to vanish" for people who have a less-than-squeaky-clean history with the community? Please note that WP:VANISH specifies "a user in good standing" right in the first paragraph. My opinion is Kudpung acted within his proper boundaries as writer of an editorial piece in this community newsletter – the piece as a whole was not a joke, but an expression of an important point of view. ☆ Bri (talk) 17:16, 2 July 2018 (UTC)[reply]


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