User:Kevin Baas/WikiNews Research Report, 2005

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WikiNews Research Report, May 2005, Kevin Baas[edit]

Overview[edit]

Article development process[edit]

Comparison Between WikiNews and Wikipedia
In Wikipedia, everyone uses their own watchlist quite frequently, and they each work on and mantain a variety of articles dispersed throughout the wiki, usually making minor tweaks after much discussion on the talk pages.

In contrast, on WikiNews, the workspace, along w/live recent changes (or RSS'd recent changes, new pages, latest news) essentialy replaces the watchlist. By way of this shared watchlist, the entire editing force is concentrated on a few articles in development. In contrast to wikipedia, they usually make major edits (such as writting much of the article) with little discussion. When discussion is done, it often takes place on real-time chat (irc) instead of the article's talk page, because of the benefit of speed and a larger feedback community. (access to people not working on the page - often a link to the page is provided and they say something like "look at this, what do you think?").

Users in wikinfo use a central wokspace and central and quick discussion area on irc. Development on WikiNews is by neccesity highly synchronized and concentrated, in contradistinction to Wikipedia's asynchronous and dispersed development process. The workspace, recent changes, and irc mechanisms on WikiNews aid this neccesity.

To summarize and make an analogy, whereas Wikipedia is like a million lawn mowers each mowning a lot of dispersed blades of grass very slowly, WikiNews is like a bunch of construction machinery building a few skyscrapers on a small parcel of land very quickly. Upon completion, they move onto a new parcel. The workflow and collaboration mechanisms reflect this.

"They're like locusts: they move from one planet to the next, consuming all the resources..." -Independence Day (Sorry, couldn't help myself.)

Basic site architecture[edit]

Main page - Front page of a newspaper. Links:

  • Top menu box (grey):
    • Latest news (this is a template that's already on the main page, anways)
    • Get involved - a short page with brief tutorial and links
    • Submit a story (the template is cross-delegated on the Workspace)
    • Newsroom - the only of article of import that links to this is the main page, i think it was meant to go in the side bar at some point. this is the most organized looking page, similar to wikipedia's community portal. (thou it doesn't like to the water cooler, whereas wikipedia links to the village pump) organized into boxes are:
      • Tasks
      • Polls
      • Bureas (news by region)
      • tip of the day (i've never seen this updated)
      • about wikinews
      • reporter resources
    • Audio - table of audio news w/date, time, type (full or brief), host, transcript, and vorbis sound file
    • Print - a list of daily edition print editions, pdf & sxw
    • RSS feed (RSS XML link)
  • main area:
    • 3 article leads
    • latest news article by date
    • links on side to developing stories
    • links on side to articles by topic. topic pages have a central latest news dpl, region dpls organized w/boxes
    • weather box
  • at bottom of page:
    • a number of links to wikinews: namespace articles, including Introduction_to_Wikinews - another tutorial
    • other projects


Top bar:

  • Water cooler - the main community forum, looks to me to be most analgous to wikipedia's "village pump", contents include:
    • policy
    • technical
    • proposal
    • assistance
    • miscellany
  • Mailing list
  • Site news - one page, basically
  • Real-time chat - IRC web port


Sidebar:

  • Main page - (ofcourse)
  • Workspace - this is most likely the page most accessed by editors - it is where the article workflow resides. sections include:
    • article develop
    • section to edit the main page via templates
    • link to article preparation (is on a different page)
    • submit a story/story submission
    • abandoned articles
    • disputed articles
    • requested translations
    • requested photos
  • Upload free media - wikicommons
  • Recent changes
  • toolbox

There's many more main pages linked to from these, all in the "Wikinews:" namespace. most, if not all of them, are in the "Wikinews" category. All-in-all I find the organization unclear/confusing - to be frank, convoluted.

Primary problem areas[edit]

  • Mainly manpower. It does a pretty good with the few loyal editors it has, who are trying to push it. As the statistics in sitenews show, they've been successfull in so far as wikinews is growing.
  • On the part of the current contributors, i think they could benefit from a cleaner main site architecture, and I think that turns off some potential contributors.
  • A large number of news articles become abandoned before completion - this is neccessarily a manpower and workflow problem.
  • On the technical side, I think the workflow is the primary focus area.

Distinct Items[edit]

The Main Page: Delegation[edit]

The main page itself is protected, but it is compoosed primarily of templates, which are not protected. For the most part, however, these templates cannot be accesed for editing via the main page. Instad, they are edited via the workspace - a delegation only made possible via templates.

This delegation enables a combination of protection and updatability critical to the unique functionality of wikinews. Unlike Wikipedia, the main page must constantly change to reflect the latest news, but like wikipedia, it is a prominent page and therefore must be kept safe from vandalism and editor error. Delegation resolves this paradox.

Workspace[edit]

As discussed in the overview, the workflow is central to Wikinews, and is carried out largely through the workspace. The workspace provides a central area for article submission, preparation, development, and publishing.

Proposed workspace
I have proposed a new workspace at the watercolor, and made a model of it at Wikinews:Proposed Workspace. The main feature of the proposed workspace is the use of categories and DPL's to automate the workflow. However, current issues with DPL's are problematic to this proposal, namely, caching and sorting, as discussed in feature requests I filled:

Dates[edit]

Every news article on WikiNews is in a date category, and almost every page on wikinews is a news article, so almost every page on WikiNews is in a date category. A "date" template is used to automatically put the article in a date category and display the date in the article in a stardard format.

In addition to a category for every date, there is a template for every date, composed of a header showing the date and a manually constructed list of published articles in that date category. These templates are used on the main page to display the news. It has been suggested that the lists be automated via DPL's, but caching and the lack of a sorting feature make them problematic in that situation.

It has been suggested that date categories be better integrated into DPL functionality, via relative date mechanisms and the like, here: http://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/show_bug.cgi?id=2284 .

Use of Categories, Templates, and DPLs[edit]

Categories[edit]

[[category:Politics and conflicts]]

Categories are standard on all news articles, and there is a standard set of categories for news articles. Each article must have a region category and at least one topic category. (science, politics, sports, etc.)

Templates[edit]

{{date|June 1, 2005}}

Templates are extensively used. They are used for multiple purposes:

  • Standardization - Such as for dates and sourcing. News articles must have a consistent format, and this is usually accomplished through templates.
  • Quick development - Templates are used as shorthand for common display items, such as dates and infoboxes. This helps articles be developed more quickly, which is particularly critical to WikiNews' distinct functionality.
  • Status indication - Whether and why an article is disputed. Whether it is abandoned, etc. "Tags."
  • Organization - Templates are often used in combination w/categories: the category is put in the template, and thus the addition of a template to a page automatically adds it to a category.
  • Delegation - Such as on the main page.

The | feature to pass parameters to a template is used extensively.

DPLs[edit]

<DynamicPageList>
category=Politics and conflicts
category=North America
count=20
</DynamicPageList>

DPL's (Dynamic Page Lists) are very usefull on WikiNews. They are used extensively in the news topic sections. (politics, sports, etc.) These pages consist of almost nothing but DPL's. DPL's are generally used in large concentrations like this, rather than scattered about in small numbers. They are primarily used to aggregate similiar artices in different categories onto a single page, for the benefit of organization and automation.

Their functionality for WikiNews can usefully be extended via