The Signpost

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Talking newspaper having a beer with a Mountie at a hockey match.
The drinking age in Ontario is nineteen and not twenty-one, a fact which for some reason every teenager in southeast Michigan is intimately familiar with.

Perhaps I should explain:

At sporting events, political rallies, religious congregations, riots and other recreational gatherings where large throngs of people experience emotions together, you can often find them doing chants. Most of these are pretty simple. Often they are not just simple, but simplistic to boot. There's a number of explanations for that, some more misanthropic than others; ultimately, however, our explanations must come back to physical reality. The bandwidth of the communication channel (a chant in a crowd of mostly-strangers) is fairly low, and the number of steps required for it to sustain itself is fairly high: other people in the crowd must hear the chant over background noise, understand all the words, decide they agree with it, and be able to join in themselves on the next iteration, without it being so long that everyone's voices get out of sync. It's like an Internet meme, except it stops existing if everyone stops saying it for five seconds. So the solution space is quite constrained, and chants at rallies tend to be quite short and simple. "U-S-A!" is a great example: the United States is a vast country, with hundreds of years of history and hundreds of millions of inhabitants. There are many analyses of it, and many opinions to have about it. But those are quite hard to chant at a hockey game (especially after everyone has had a few) — so U-S-A! it is.

One particularly long-lived chant, with a long and distinguished history in the U-S-A!, tends to come back every election year in which an incumbent is running for the office of President. It traces its lineage at least as far back as 1972, in which year a documentary bearing its name was released. Back then, the contenders were Richard Nixon and George McGovern; you may think that their political ideologies matter here. They do not. What matters is that in the 1972 election, Nixon was the incumbent, meaning that voting for him would have resulted in:

As it turns out, many things work this way. Religions, political ideologies, and social movements themselves have similar constraints to the chants that people shout during their gatherings: they must be memorable, they must be comprehensible, and they must align with the principles of the people who espouse them. Over time they tend to change; sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.

With that in mind, let's see how well our own chanting has gone. Here is what Michael Snow had to chant say on January 10, 2005, in the first column of the first issue of the Signpost:

Welcome to the inaugural edition of The Wikipedia Signpost! I hope this will be a worthwhile source of news for people interested in what is happening around the Wikipedia community. I plan to publish it on a weekly basis, every Monday.

The name, The Wikipedia Signpost, was chosen to be like the name of a newspaper, since a newspaper is what I would call this project. Though it will almost certainly never appear on newsprint paper, it will nevertheless take on this role for our community. It should have some resemblance to the other newspapers you may happen to read in the course of your life (which I venture to guess many of you read online anyway, rather than the paper copy).

With no slight intended to other projects or languages, The Signpost will focus strongly on the English Wikipedia. The news coming from other language Wikipedias could undoubtedly fill its own newspaper. Correspondingly, rather than trying to translate The Signpost for the benefit of other segments of the community, I hope that as other projects develop a need for this kind of resource, they will adapt and develop this idea for their own uses.

The name also especially suits Wikipedia, because it alludes to a practice here and on other wikis, in that we communicate primarily through "signed posts," as on talk pages. While the wiki system may be used to develop and publish articles, because this is original reporting the reporters will use a byline to "sign" their posts. Since this is not in the article namespace, guidelines such as "no ownership of articles", and particularly "no original research", will not necessarily apply. However, The Signpost will strive to maintain its objectivity as would be appropriate for an independent media organization elsewhere.

The need for a community newspaper is tremendous. Already long ago the speed of recent changes on Wikipedia surpassed anyone's ability to follow edits thoroughly. By now, we are well past the stage where, even when considered in broader terms, anyone can singlehandedly stay on top of events here. To attempt this, your watchlist would be unmanageable, your inbox inundated with mailing list posts, your browser overwhelmed with open tabs, and your time spent flitting from reading about Wikipedia in the blogosphere to hanging out on IRC—even when asleep! I hope The Signpost can spare people the effort of trying to be everywhere and read every discussion.

The subjects covered here should be whatever community subjects interest the readers. Some people will be more interested in things happening with featured articles, others will want to follow Wikipedia's statistical trends. Not everyone will share all interests, but I hope to have something for everyone, and to hear from readers what else they want to know. And to those who might call this navel-gazing, I merely ask—so why are you reading then?

Finally, given the size of Wikipedia that makes it necessary, even a small community newspaper is a huge task. I don't plan to do it alone, and anyone interested in writing for The Signpost should get in touch with me so we can organize the work. I especially welcome anyone who's been dying to try their hand at original reporting, but isn't really sure whether they have material worth publishing on Wikinews (and no, this project is not meant to make navel-gazing publishable at Wikinews). And really, what more logical place is there to develop our skills with original reporting than here, where news is being made and people are interested in this news?

With that, I wish you all happy reading!

— Michael Snow

I'd say this has aged pretty well, and almost all of it still holds — except, perhaps, for the "we publish once a week" and "we publish less often than Wikinews", which are now somehow both untrue.

As for myself, I look forward to the future of Signpost reporting: one may notice that, even though this issue is several days late (that's also a storied tradition), there are no blatant formatting issues, or templates that need to be manually updated on each article to make the images render properly. There are also no articles that failed to get published due to them being titled Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/Next Issue/Serendipity instead of Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/Next issue/Serendipity (NB: this actually happened in August).

Hopefully, we can also look forward to a day when the viral Reddit threads containing screenshots of Signpost source code are no longer in "programminghorror", but rather some other place, like perhaps "programminghappiness" or "stuffthatlooksreallynice".

Until then...


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Congratulations on Signpost birthday and best wishes! =)) --former Vikivestnik author --ssr (talk) 13:57, 12 January 2024 (UTC)[reply]

What a great history Signpost has! Props to User:Michael Snow, and all the Signposters over the years. All the best: Rich Farmbrough 14:12, 12 January 2024 (UTC).[reply]
Happy Birthday WikiSignPost!Vulcan❯❯❯Sphere! 14:30, 12 January 2024 (UTC)[reply]

Great to see how far we've come, here's to NINETEEN MORE YEARS, CHEERS!!! -B D A *clink!* — Preceding undated comment added 22:42, 12 January 2024 (UTC)[reply]

As Wikipedia has grown, it's become clear just how good an idea this was. It's impossible on one's own to keep up with everything going on everywhere, so something highlighting the "hot spots" really has been valuable. I'd be very happy to buy the Signpost (or those who help make it happen) a beer. Seraphimblade Talk to me 14:46, 12 January 2024 (UTC)[reply]

NINETEEN MORE YEARS! NINETEEN MORE YEARS! Kazamzam (talk) 15:38, 12 January 2024 (UTC)[reply]

Don't usually join in chants, but I'll yell this one! Been reading this worthy news almost since it began, and it is my sincerest hope that The Signpost will still be around long after I'm not. P.I. Ellsworth , ed. put'er there 17:16, 12 January 2024 (UTC)[reply]

So, the Signpost has turned 19 years old! But will Wikipedia and the Signpost still be around in 2043? GeoffreyT2000 (talk) 17:21, 12 January 2024 (UTC)[reply]

Of course that post would be featured! Better-reputed platforms than Reddit much? Aaron Liu (talk) 17:31, 12 January 2024 (UTC)[reply]

Congratulations! I just checked, and I am two months short of having 19 years as a Wikipedia editor. --rogerd (talk) 18:54, 12 January 2024 (UTC)[reply]

Even though I'm terribly late to the party at this point, I couldn't agree more with JPxG and Michael Snow: so, happy birthday to the Signpost, and thank you for allowing me to write some pieces of its history... : ) Oltrepier (talk) 20:26, 14 January 2024 (UTC)[reply]

Love the beautiful illustration! Alsoyeahcongratson19yearstoo UnexpectedSmoreInquisition aka USI (talk) 04:03, 25 January 2024 (UTC)[reply]

As a former Western New Yorker, I will raise a toast as heartily as any Southeast Michigander on this issue.-TonyTheTiger (T / C / WP:FOUR / WP:CHICAGO / WP:WAWARD) 08:07, 10 May 2024 (UTC)[reply]


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