[Foundation-l] About the low-hanging fruit

Yaroslav M. Blanter putevod at mccme.ru
Fri Jun 3 10:02:54 UTC 2011

This is an essay. May be someone can find it useful.

For a number of reasons which are not appropriate to address here, three
weeks ago I voluntarily left Russian Wikipedia, which used to be my home
wiki for four years, and decided to turn to low-key activity in the
articles in English Wikipedia. I was of course participating in all these
strategy discussions, have seen the user statistics, have heard the
reasoning about the "low hanging fruit", and was under impression that
there is not so much work to do on en.wp, and that I would have
difficulties finding topics where I can easily contribute. I had very
little previous experience with en.wp, mainly inserting interwiki links,
images, and correcting typos and factual mistakes.

Well, for the first article I just happened to notice an important topic
where there was no English articles. I created an article on the famous
Russian architect Yakov Bukhvostov. That took me several days, and I
collected some material which could be interesting for the usability team
(what difficulties a novice, even with extended experience of editing a
Wikimedia project, can face), but this is not my point. In the meanwhile I
got a welcome notice on my talk page which, in particular, contained a link
to Wikiproject Russia. I was not going to participate in the project, but
followed the link out of curiosity, thinking that the project may have a
list of important missing articles, or important articles for improvement,
or smth like that. Indeed, it had a number of lists, and, looking through
them, I noticed an article on Solvychegodsk listed. Solvychegodsk is a
historical town remotely located in the North of Russia, which I happened
to visit in 2005, and which I still know pretty well. I followed the link
and found an article which was pretty much reasonably, by no means a stub,
but where I immediately could see what information I could add. Well, I
added the information, extending the article a bit, then followed the link
to the Kotlassky District - the second-order administrative unit, similar
to a county in the US, where Solvychegodsk was located. The article was
shorter than my sentence above describing the district, and had three
templates: one saying it is a stub, another one that it is too short, and
the third one that it lacks the geographic coordinates. In two or three
days, I extended it from 850 bytes to 10kbytes, using Russian sources found
in the internet (I also have some books at home, but I did not use them for
this particular article) and cleaning up some Commons categories. Then I
noticed that out of 20 districts of Arkhangelsk Oblast (to which
Solvychegodsk belongs) 10 do not have articles, 9 are in a pitiful state,
and 1 I have just extended. I started working on them, and then noticed
that some important related articles are missing as well - for instance, I
created two articles on district centers, two on (big) rivers located in
these districts, and even one on an artist who had an estate in one of the
districts. In two weeks I created or considerably improved about 15
articles. First I tried to translate parts of the articles from Russia
Wikipedia, but quickly discovered that they contain some factual errors and
in most cases also not very extended, so that the articles I created are in
most cases better that the articles in ru.wp. I have written all of the
articles myself, and used exclusively Russian sources (for most if not all
of the subjects, English sources do not exist). 

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