Abbot's Fish House in Meare
This week, we visited the English county of Somerset, the primary subject of WikiProject Somerset. Started in September 2007 with fewer than 10 members and over 1,700 unassessed articles, the project has grown to include 24 editors maintaining nearly 2,600 articles, all assessed (see the chart below for a timeline of their accomplishments). A child of WikiProject UK geography and WikiProject England, WikiProject Somerset maintains connections to several sibling projects for other counties in the United Kingdom. The project has built a portal, works on a to-do list, and provides editors with a variety of templates and resources. We interviewed Rod (Rodw), Reaper Eternal, Jaguar, and Derek Andrews.
Rod lives in Bath and North East Somerset, a Unitary Authority within Somerset. He discovered Wikipedia in 2004 and has previously contributed to other UK-related projects, like WikiProject Bristol (he works in Bristol). He became involved in WikiProject Somerset when the project's creation was suggested in 2007 and he focuses mainly on local history, geography, and the various towns and villages in the county.
Reaper Eternal was invited to the project by Rod after working on several articles pertaining to the project. He lives in Ohio and has never been to the United Kingdom, although his "ancestors did emigrate from the British Isles." He tends to focus on Somerset's geography and archaeology.
Jaguar "was never invited to join the project - I joined it in supreme envy because I knew that it was one of the best and most active projects around in the whole of England." He lives in Hampshire, but he has been active in a variety of UK-related projects including WikiProject Somerset, WikiProject Wiltshire (which he started with the help of Rod), and several areas of South East England. Jaguar focuses on articles about settlements and local geography.
Derek Andrews was one of the founders of WikiProject Somerset, although he gives considerable credit to Rod who "has done a great job over the years keeping on top of all the tasks and showing great leadership." Derek Andrews was born and raised in Wells, but he now lives in Nova Scotia. He tends to edit articles with a historical aspect, but will work on anything that catches his attention.
The project is home to 13 featured articles, 14 featured lists, two featured topics, a featured portal, and 50 good articles. Have you contributed to any of these articles? Were you involved in promoting Somerset to FA status?
- Rod: I have been involved in several of these. They are a collaborative effort often involving many editors over the years with different people adding content (and appropriate references, pictures etc) and others providing helpful copyediting, checking and updating. Getting the Somerset article to FA has been number 1 on the projects list of goals from the very beginning as it is the highest priority for a project about the county.
- Reaper Eternal: I contributed most of the content to Worlebury Camp, but it took a team effort to get it to GA since I was not very familiar with the procedure at the time. I can fully affirm that had I not been helped with that article, I never would have made any of my three GAs. Somerset was already a featured article by the time I had started editing six months ago.
- Jaguar: I haven't been involved in bringing Somerset to FA (I hadn't joined the project back then) but ever since I have helped around with improving a lot of articles. I took a look through Somerset Levels and I wanted to see if I could help with it bringing it up to FA, but there were already many people helping with it so I decided to back out with that one. However, I have helped a lot with other things such as starting lots of new articles for hill forts and I have recently been helping bring List of hill forts and ancient settlements in Somerset to FLC. I have also brought a couple of articles to DYK.
Despite the small geographic area covered by this project, 24 editors contribute to the project's efforts and the project's talk page remains very active. What strategies would you suggest to other regionally-focused WikiProjects?
- Derek Andrews: Somerset may be small, but it has hundreds of communities, often with a rich history and including many notable buildings and residents, so it is by no means a small task. Although I have not lived there for 30 years, I still have a deep interest in the county, probably deeper than when I was there and couldn't wait to move away!
- Rod: When editing is focused on a particular geographical area it is easier to become familiar with the frequently used sources, such as the books and local government web sites etc. Many editors are also motivated when they see articles about the area in which they live or work improving and may be more willing to contribute.
Share with us some of the work that went into the featured Somerset Portal. How often is the content updated? To what audience is the portal intended to appeal?
- Rod: The portal was another of the projects goals. It was set up in 2007 as a basic page with the content being changed every six months or so (however this often got forgotten. In November 2010 inspired by some of the other portals I had looked at, this was changed to a dynamic system which rotates different content every time a reader visits. It now includes all FA, GA & DYK content (36 articles, 13 biographies, 9 pictures, 23 settlements & 20 DYK sections - each with 5 DYKs which have appeared on the main page). I add new content when articles are GA, FA etc promoted.
There are a variety of requested photographs in Somerset. Has there been an effort to fulfill some of these requests? How might people in Somerset and surrounding areas be able to help with requested photography?
- Rod: This is a constantly changing category. Many of the pages needing images have been provided with them, either by editors going and taking the photos themselves or from the excellent collection (licensed under creative commons) on Geograph Britain and Ireland, however others are added to the list. Recent work on List of hill forts and ancient settlements in Somerset has added quite a few to the list, some of which are quite inaccessible. Other problems relate to the Caves of the Mendip Hills which need specialist skills or equipment to get into them. Any contributions other can make to providing illustrations for Somerset related articles would be great.
Has there been an effort to recruit people from outside Somerset, perhaps to work on the project's to-do list which includes addressing 40 articles needing cleanup, checking external links, adding alt tags to images, and other background tasks?
- Rod: The cleanup list changes weekly and has been brought down massively from the 250+ when the new bot started to update this a few months ago. Several of the articles are "As of" tags for items which need to be updated when new news becomes available and others are incomplete lists which may never be complete. Several of the project members don't live in the county and any others to help out with the tasks identified (and others) would be very welcome. I'm not aware of any active attempt to recruit them & how this could happen - although I do add a project invitation to the talk pages of those I see frequently editing articles within the remit of the project. I think most people find the project if the project banner is on the talk page of articles which interest them.
- Reaper Eternal: I live outside Somerset (in Ohio, USA). I am slowly working on the cleanup listing, and have recently managed to clean up a couple sourcing issues. I also regularly copyedit articles, and I am familiar with British English despite living in America. The project invitation induced me to join.
Does WikiProject Somerset collaborate with any projects covering the other ceremonial counties of England? Does the project collaborate with any of the larger country-wide projects?
||Number of articles
|1 Feb 2008
|8 Sept 2008
|1 Mar 2009
|1 Sept 2009
|1 Mar 2010
|1 Sept 2010
|1 Mar 2011
- Rod: There has been some collaboration with wikiprojects for WP:Bristol, WP:Devon and the newish WP:WILTS particularly on rivers, canals, railways etc which cross the counties borders. Parent projects include WP:England and WP:UKGEO which help with guidelines etc such as WP:UKCITIES helping to achieve consistency in format and coverage across the whole of the country. There are other topic specific wikiprojects (eg Wikipedia:WikiProject UK Waterways, Wikipedia:WikiProject UK Railways) where specialists in particular areas are often willing to help.
What are WikiProject Somerset's most pressing needs? How can a new member help today?
- Derek Andrews: There are plenty of Open tasks. I would encourage new members to work on whatever aspect most appeals to them, or is within their skillset. It is much more rewarding for volunteers to do something they enjoy, than asking them to do drudge work that will turn them off.
- Rod: Over the last year or so we have had an ongoing collaboration to bring each of the settlements with over 5,000 population to GA status. This has resulted in Bridgwater, Burnham-on-Sea, Chard, Cheddar, Clevedon, Crewkerne, Frome, Glastonbury, Keynsham, Midsomer Norton, Minehead, Portishead, Radstock, Shepton Mallet, Street, Taunton, Wellington, Wells, Weston-super-Mare and Yeovil being promoted, often with the work being lead by an editor who lives there, however Backwell, Comeytrowe, Nailsea, North Petherton, Peasedown St John and Yatton still need work to bring them to this standard. The projects high importance articles include the five districts (Mendip, Sedgemoor, South Somerset, Taunton Deane & West Somerset) and two unitary authority areas (Bath and North East Somerset & North Somerset) within the county. High importance is also given to county wide articles such as Geography of Somerset, Culture of Somerset, Economy of Somerset, Geology of Somerset, History of Somerset, Transport in Somerset etc but everyone is obviously welcome to work on whatever areas interest them.
- If we were to work on the projects most popular articles then it would include a lot of biographies (as opposed to history or geography), however some of these people despite being born or living in the county, are better known for other things.
Let's get physical next week. Until then, decide which projects matter the most in the archive.