Archive for Lipiec 2013

As author of Wikistats I always took a keen interest in how wikimedians judged about or participated in the friendly rivalry between language versions of our projects. After all I helped to make the ranking between versions more visible. Too often to my taste I witnessed on-wiki conversations that some language project had been surpassed in number of articles by another, and even a few times that “a bot will fix this”. So I became a little wary about mass article creations by bots, and the true motive of their makers. When several bots on the Dutch Wikipedia started to ‘flood’ the wiki with taxonomy stubs [1] I was really disappointed. What good would that do? Who is going to extend these articles, or even just visit them, other than via ‘Random Article’?

A few months ago I helped an acquaintance to upload images to Commons. Already for many decades she has a passion for one particular subclass of slime moulds (‘myxomycetes’) and she has shot many wonderful pictures, some of which also are stored in the archives of Leiden University (Herbarium). A small selection of these pictures now also have found a safe haven on Commons: [2]. We spent several sessions to master the intricacies of Windows, and the browser, and pitfalls on Commons (for a computer novice even Upload Wizard can be daunting). As she is of very respectable age, I admire her persistence. It would have been nice if we could have finished by adding some of these pictures to the proper article about this very species. And then I discovered these did not yet exist in many or all occasions, and I regretted it. Even a stub with just a taxonomy info-box would have been a great placeholder. Although she could create some of those articles herself knowledge-wise, I don’t see her master wiki syntax yet, and also she is far too modest to just ‘be bold’. So this personal experience made me change my mind: an abundance of well organized and formatted stubs can serve a purpose, and who knows how many articles will be extended by other bots from other sources, and some day nature lovers will turn to Wikipedia in much larger numbers and manually build on the rudimentary framework. In its earliest years Wikipedia proved an unbelievable success, it was a miracle. A few years later when Steve Coast expressed his vision for a free world wide street map it seemed already ‘tough but doable’. So who can say what will happen with up to 8 million taxonomy stubs in another decade?

The potential editor base who could add to these taxonomy articles is huge. In a Dutch context: 1:100 Dutch (152K in 2011) is member of a society for protection of birds, 6 other nature clubs are even larger, up to 5-fold. The club for nature guides/educators has 20K members. So if we can spread the word more effectively and solicit support from a tiny fraction of those nature lovers, a fair share of those taxonomy stubs could start to blossom in coming years. How about a Wiki Loves Nature picture contest?


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