Grants:Project/bluerasberry/fund a Signpost publisher

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fund a Signpost publisher
summaryFund a publisher for the English Wikipedia community newsletter
targetEnglish Wikipedia
contact• lane(_AT_)
organization• The Signpost usergroup
this project needs...
created on21:25, 31 May 2017 (UTC)

Project idea[edit]

What is the problem you're trying to solve?[edit]

The Signpost is an English language Wikimedia community newsletter which has been published regularly since 2005. Its popular articles have a history of getting 5,000 views when, for context, the 2017 Wikimedia Foundation board elections got 5581 votes. This is a community newsletter for highly interested Wikipedians. Other publications and research feature content from The Signpost as a record of Wikimedia community interests. Some people would say that The Signpost deepens Wikimedia community engagement in guiding how the Wikimedia Foundation spends millions of dollars every year.

The problem is that the labor required to publish The Signpost is great and there is a long history of difficulty attracting anyone to perform the publication. The technical act of publication is complicated and a typical Wikipedian cannot do it. The paper runs in English Wikipedia, which cannot easily support a newspaper. The technical problem with publishing means that the paper has often been late, and content which people have submitted sometimes does not get published on time.

What is your solution to this problem?[edit]

This grant seeks funding to pay a staff publisher for The Signpost. The publisher would perform the technical act of printing content submitted by volunteers without being involved in the editorial process or content creation. In a formulaic, neutral way the publisher might also do some content wrangling by asking groups which regularly submit content to submit their reports in a timely manner.

This paid staff publisher at The Signpost would not be the editor, which still must be served by a volunteer. The paid staff publisher would also not write content, as content to The Signpost comes from the Wikimedia community of volunteers for the purpose of giving voice to the Wikimedia community of volunteers.

The paid publisher position is a little like a Wordpress installation. Since Wikipedia is sort of late 1990s software, its interface can be too tedious for any volunteer to use, and since the software is so clunky, then as a workaround for developing software or other technical infrastructure a human performs this robotic role in exchange for pay.

Project goals[edit]

  1. Hire a publisher
  2. Introduce publisher and editor. The editor provides content and the paid staff publisher performs the tedious technical publishing act
  3. Get The Signpost out at least 45 times in the next 12 months, approximately weekly
  4. Create an environment and platform for the Wikimedia community to submit articles and express views
  5. Track and report The Signpost readership and other performance metrics every 6 months

Project impact[edit]

How will you know if you have met your goals?[edit]

The most obvious indication of success is the weekly publication of The Signpost. Another indication of success is the regular contribution to The Signpost by volunteers. In the past The Signpost has published about 4 volunteer submissions a week, and those submissions are valuable enough to merit the funding of this project. Those volunteer contributions are lost every week which The Signpost does not operate.

Do you have any goals around participation or content?[edit]

The availability of The Signpost increases engagement of highly active Wikimedia contributors in the Wikimedia movement. The existence of The Signpost is a buffer against major problems as when the community is confident that everyone has a voice, then there will be fewer widespread misconceptions and more confidence in the Wikimedia movement and the Wikimedia Foundation.

Project plan[edit]


The goal of the publisher will be to leverage volunteer submissions by publishing them, and to relieve editors of The Signpost from the technical burden of the publishing interface. The priority in this position is publishing at the director of editors and content creators with minimal involvement in the editorial or content creation process.

The primary activity is publishing an issue of The Signpost almost weekly.


USD 5000 is requested. The publisher would be paid USD 100/week for publishing The Signpost. Weekly duties would be as follows:

  1. Wrangle contributors to be timely with submitting content
  2. Collect all content from contributors
  3. Deliver submitted content to editor for approval
  4. Publish content at the editor's direction
  5. Respond to any messages about problems
  6. Collect readership metrics and other relevant performance metrics

Community engagement[edit]

How will you let others in your community know about your project? Why are you targeting a specific audience? How will you engage the community you’re aiming to serve at various points during your project? Community input and participation helps make projects successful.

Everyone already reads The Signpost. Engagement is certain based on historical precedent.

Get involved[edit]


Please use this section to tell us more about who is working on this project. For each member of the team, please describe any project-related skills, experience, or other background you have that might help contribute to making this idea a success.

  1. I would not receive this grant. Please someone else volunteer for that. I wrote this grant proposal to advance conversation but I cannot commit to ongoing involvement in this except as an occasional adviser on the side. Blue Rasberry (talk) 21:25, 31 May 2017 (UTC)

Community notification[edit]

You are responsible for notifying relevant communities of your proposal, so that they can help you! Depending on your project, notification may be most appropriate on a Village Pump, talk page, mailing list, etc.--> Please paste links below to where relevant communities have been notified of your proposal, and to any other relevant community discussions. Need notification tips?


Do you think this project should be selected for a Project Grant? Please add your name and rationale for endorsing this project below! (Other constructive feedback is welcome on the discussion page).

  • The Signpost hasn't published since February. As it keeps the English Wikipedia informed and allows editors to speak their minds, it's clearly a good thing to have around. Having a staff publisher would bring stability to the project. ProgrammingGeek (talk) 14:55, 1 June 2017 (UTC)
  • Surely not! This late Signpost was acting as a group of pressure. And now, they are requiring for someone to be paid to make the water boil! Pldx1 (talk) 20:53, 2 June 2017 (UTC)
  • I don't see any reason to special-purpose such a role. But a prize fund to recognize the best work to automate community processes, would be lovely. And would apply to anyone finding ways to automate and streamline regular publication of popular zines or updates [especially if those tools applied to all regular newsletters: of the hundreds of small wikiprojects as well as the Signposts and Kuriers].
The bottleneck problem for the current Signpost is a complex system [which individual contributors don't feel empowered to simplify :] and an overall hierarchy that fails when one or two people are away. The technical step of publishing (now just a userscript) is not the bottleneck. SJ talk  21:41, 7 June 2017 (UTC)
@Sj: Can you say more about what the bottleneck is? I had heard other people say that publishing is not the problem. Can you identify and state the role which is essential at the top of the hierarchy? I think that "editor" is too encompassing as a top role and actually includes multiple roles. What are the essential bottleneck roles which are scarce and keep other people's contributions from getting published? Blue Rasberry (talk) 15:02, 8 June 2017 (UTC)

Bluerasberry, Thoughts on the problem (also adding to the dicsussion back on en:wp):

Having two tiers of contributors, with only a few called "editors", and a single editor in chief who has to make the final publishing decision, clearly slows things down. Most of the 20+ contributors are fully capable of deciding what submissions look ready and publishing a new issue. I don't think there's a need for an editor in chief rather than a set of people all able to make any editorial and publishing decision on the spot. [imagine having to run all admin actions by an Admin in Chief! that's expressly not the role bureaucrats or stewards fill, for good reasons.]
Beyond all of this, it would also be fine for publishing to be almost entirely automated: here are the spots to put articles, here's when and how they are published, here's where the result ends up. That would be empowering for authors (as long as you flag something as 'ready for copyediting' and another editor confirms it as ready for publication, it shows up in a signpost edition within a week), and the results would probably be pretty satisfying, even if each edition looked a bit different from the next.
To maintain a certain visual consistency, one could set up a script or default that takes any article that was too short and makes it a section of 'News and Notes', so that on light weeks the Signpost is just a single page with lots of brief notes; and on energized weeks it is full of long-form articles on single themes. And there are a lot of features that are mostly automated, and could be replaced by a fully automated draft if noone has time to make them fancier. SJ talk  19:43, 8 June 2017 (UTC)

*I support this only if the publisher being paid $100 per week also wrote at least four articles a month. $100 per week seems huge compared to the work. Jamesjpk (talk) 04:57, 12 June 2017 (UTC)

@Jamesjpk: I advocate against paying for content in this proposal. I would want funding for paid content to be another discussion.
Can I ask, what do you think would be the correct weekly pay for administering The Signpost? How many hours do you think it takes a week do do everything except content creation and the editorial decisions? What is an appropriate hourly pay rate to you? Blue Rasberry (talk) 14:16, 5 July 2017 (UTC)
I think that (changing my endorsement) it should not be a weekly pay, but an hourly pay. When you ask me "how many hours do you think it takes a week [to] do everything except content creation and the editorial decisions", I honestly don't know. In your proposal, you haven't even said this fact, just proposing the weekly payment option. An appropriate hourly pay should be given to someone that can actually write a script, for publishing The Signpost, instead of doing easily-automatable work. Even with that, do we really need to pay anyone to do this? We could ask people in the community to volunteer. With all this in mind I retract my endorsement.

-- Endorsement Retracted Jamesjpk (talk) 21:45, 5 July 2017 (UTC)

@Jamejpk: It seems that we are in this conversation with different premises. You assert that this work is easily automatable and that the alternative is asking people in the community to volunteer. Perhaps theoretically instead of hiring a publisher we could hire someone to code an automation, but I expect that would be more expensive and make the risk of failure more likely. I am not sure why you think it is easy to recruit a volunteer to do this, but perhaps you have not heard years of complaints from the volunteers about how much work it takes. Can you recruit a volunteer? Do you know someone who can? The Signpost needs someone to commit time to its schedule. Hourly pay or weekly pay is fine with me; my biggest regret in this is when there are volunteers trying to submit content for publication but the process halts for lack of technical ability to publish. Blue Rasberry (talk) 00:25, 6 July 2017 (UTC)
  • Support - Concerns about editorial control by the WMF are overblown. There are newspapers owned by corporations who have no editorial control. The Guardian in the UK is the best example (owned by a non-profit institution with no editorial control). Producing The Signpost is hard work and volunteers are not able to keep up. Tried it, not working. Yet it is crucial to building and maintaining community - it is very useful even necessary. The cost to WMF could be minimal but with a large impact. -- GreenC (talk) 21:30, 27 March 2018 (UTC)
  • This is something that is clearly needed to help jumpstart The Signpost, which has been slowly clunking about Eddie891's creature (talk) 23:34, 29 March 2018 (UTC)
  • I think paying an individual a monthly honorarium to manage the administrative issues of publishing the Signpost is a great idea!!! Other non-profits (especially academic associations) do this as a matter of course and it facilitates engagement with their members/volunteers. If others are skeptical, a trial run can be established with metrics attached. TeriEmbrey (talk) 14:31, 3 April 2018 (UTC)
  • The Signpost gives voice to the community while also informing them. The WMF should want this as it improves community output. The money is only to incentivize the performance of the drudgery task of pushing buttons to publish. Surely, WMF can see the benefits of spending a little money to help the community flourish. Chris Troutman (talk) 08:47, 6 April 2018 (UTC)
  • Yes, I want to see this funded. It's a low cost initiative that provides tremendous "bang for the buck". OhanaUnitedTalk page 03:45, 2 May 2018 (UTC)

Negative comments[edit]

  • This would remove the independence of Signpost — a volunteer community publication — from the multimillion dollar WMF. Paid influence would be a real problem, at least in the theoretical sense. Carrite (talk) 11:13, 3 July 2017 (UTC)
@Carrite: Is it correct that you are saying that quality of the publication would go down if it received WMF funding? Blue Rasberry (talk) 14:13, 5 July 2017 (UTC)
@Bluerasberry: this would cause less trust in the community. I would certainly trust The Signpost less, if it had a paid editor with the WMF, if they actually published articles that were ABOUT their money providor. Jamesjpk (talk) 21:47, 5 July 2017 (UTC)
@Jamesjpk: I do not think we are on the same page with this conversation either. I explicitly am against a paid editor as I said above. There is already a community funding system through Grants:Start. All sorts of Wikimedia projects get funding through this system and I am not aware of anyone saying that the WMF greatly influences the direction of the grant program. To me, it already seems community based. I also oppose The Signpost having ties to the WMF. The WMF already has a blog which probably costs about 100,000/year to operate, so they are not trying to start another publication at this time. I do not want anything to change about The Signpost writing. I just want it to be easier to publish. I recognize your concerns and I can agree that those are bad things to avoid. Perhaps we differ on how risky this grant is. Blue Rasberry (talk) 00:25, 6 July 2017 (UTC)