Pete_handsThis is a big day for WikiProject Oregon.

While we are a truly collaborative effort among a diverse group, it’s no doubt that this project owes a great deal to the hard work of Pete Forsyth. Pete has been instrumental in the organization of WikiProject Oregon, especially in public outreach work. This very blog was his idea to begin with.

So it’s with great joy that we get to wish him luck as he heads on to a new opportunity in San Francisco as the Public Outreach Officer for the Wikimedia Foundation. For those not familiar with it, the Foundation is the non-profit that helps run Wikipedia and countless other free culture projects.

As his work with WikiProject Oregon clearly shows, Pete has a gift for reaching out to the public on behalf of Wikipedia. While all of us devote our free time to editing the free encyclopedia, Pete is one of the slightly rarer individuals who work outside the wiki to educate the public about the Wikimedia movement.

Now he gets to do that not just for Oregon and Wikipedia, but for the whole of the Wikimedia Foundation. Congratulations Pete!

If you haven’t heard, Geocities is closing on October 26, 2009. This is almost two weeks away. For many, this is an end of an era. Geocities has played host to a lot of unique content that you cannot find elsewhere on small niche websites created by individuals and small organizations. Many of these sites were created in the late 1990s and early 2000s when web hosting was much more cost prohibitive. Geocities offered an alternative to that problem. As people’s interests changed, as time went on, they stopped updating their pages for a variety of reasons.

Geocities continues to be a treasure trove of the arcane information. Fan communities, genealogy communities, history communities, sports fans, school groups are going to lose a lot information.

Fan communities are going to lose their history: What did those Passions sites look like back in the 1990s? They were sprayed with purple back grounds. Sailor Moon sites were image heavy and had a lot of fancy html for their time.

Genealogy groups are going to lose hand written lists of people buried at small town cemeteries, people’s family trees and other types of records that people compiled using offline sources. For people looking for information

The history community is going to lose a lot of original research in many areas including fan communities, sports, military, women’s studies and more.

Geocities was home to a thriving sports community. People created websites for their clubs, wrote the history of their teams, etc. Some of this information never migrated to new official sites for those organizations or to other resources for the sporting community. Australian Rules Football, underwater hockey and handball are three sports communities that are going to be hugely hurt by this.

There have been four really visible efforts to try to preserve this history that I am aware of. They are:

There does not appear to have been any push for trying to preserve information of local interest in many communities. It would be fantastic if people in Oregon would go through the 43,200 plus pages that mention Oregon on Geocities and try to identify pages that have information that cannot be found elsewhere, screencap this information or otherwise save it to another location. As time permits after Geocities close, it would then be fantastic to integrate the saved information in to articles on about Oregon on Wikipedia and other wiki projects. Some topics that might be of interest for people in Oregon that are covered on Geocities but not as well as they could be on Wikipedia include GLBT activism in the state, information on historical buildings, information on state fauna, and information about clubs located in the state. If it isn’t saved in some form before October 26, 2009, this information may be lost forever.

Two cool things:

Wikimedia Commons recently added the ability to add tags to images, and…

I recently discovered that the U.S. National Atlas and the U.S. Census Bureau have online mapping tools that let you build custom maps; and because they’re made by the U.S. government, you can then upload the results to Wikipedia, etc. Pretty cool!

Here’s an example. Click on it to see it on its Wikimedia Commons page, where you can view the tags. Go ahead and do it — there are some fun surprises!

Map of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation

Map of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation

This week, I was interviewed along with several other WikiProject Oregon members for the Wikipedia Signpost, a newsletter for the Wikipedia editing community. Reporter Cryptic C62 asked some thoughtful questions, and gave us a great opportunity to talk about our work and why we think it’s important. We were asked about our outreach efforts outside Wikipedia, our collaboration in person and on this blog, and about possible policy changes like flagged revisions and tightening the reins on anonymous editing.

Read on for the full interview. (Please note, unlike most content on this blog, this interview is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.)

Interview from the Wikipedia Signpost

Here at the WikiProject Report, we generally conduct interviews with one interviewer and one interviewee. In this week’s issue, we bring to a special group discussion with five active members of WikiProject Oregon. For those readers who live outside the United States, Oregon is a US state in the Pacific Northwest region. Although the state has a population density of only 35.6 people per square mile, the project has more than 50 active members and 15 featured articles. Here to discuss the project are PeteforsythAboutmoviesEncMstrSteven Walling, and Esprqii.

1. While many projects have weekly or monthly collaborations on singular articles, most of WikiProject Oregon’s collaborations feature two or more articles. This process has generated at least 29 DYKs and 4 GAs. Why do you use a double collaboration system, and why does it work so well?

EncMstr: I’m not sure how two was chosen, but it works very well. Usually they are complementary—for example a biography and a piece of legislation—so if one article or task is somehow unappealing then the other is likely to be more interesting. (See here for previous collaborations of the week (COTW).) If the number of active members continues to increase, perhaps the right number would be three at once. I doubt the COTW is responsible for the majority of DYKs and GAs—it’s more often something that comes up on the project talk page that strikes a chord with several people. The best examples of this are Johnson Creek (Willamette River) and Cannabis in Oregon.
Esprqii: I think taking a rational approach to the collaborations has been a key part of it. For example, before the weekly collaborations started, we spent a long time rating every single article in the project both in terms of importance and in terms of quality. That left a matrix that showed, for example, which articles were of top importance but were still only stubs. Those were the first articles we collaborated on, and today, if you look at the matrix, there are no articles in that category.
In addition to the rational process, we maintain a wish list of future projects, which inevitably include pet projects of various members of the project. You can’t very well ignore it when your pet has the spotlight! Aboutmovies, who manages the whole collaboration process, has been very crafty about mixing up the rational and the irrational to make it fun, get a lot of people involved, and get a lot of good work done.
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Tomorrow (July 30), the article on Portland’s Forest Park will be featured on Wikipedia’s main page. Though many of us have worked on this article over the years, its status as a “Featured Article” is a testament to some tremendous work by WikiProject Oregon member Finetooth. Finetooth has produced a number of high-quality Oregon articles, mostly about rivers and watersheds. Take a look for a thorough examination of one of Portland’s great natural areas!

I’m a bit of a geek and a motorcycle junkie. Combining them was natural, though it’s taken some time.

I uploaded my first photo on July 6, 2003, when I realized there was no article on redcedar bolts, which are blocks of cedar used to make shingles. Yes, I was out riding- in fact, I was dirt biking in far western Washington on July 4th.

Some of the following pictures came while we were motorcycling through Latin America. Here’s a replenishment ship from the Royal Netherlands Navy, just after leaving the harbor in Cartagena, Colombia, which we saw because we were getting our motorcycle around the Darien Gap using the services of a drunken pilot with a scary-small sailboat.

Now that we’re back in the States, I’ve really been enjoying contributing with the WikiProject Oregon. I’ve recently been tackling editing every high school in the state and getting them up to a minimum standard (infobox, refs, location, coords, photo). The photo is difficult, as many of them are a long distance away.

I started playing with Category:Wikipedia requested photographs in Oregon, then User:Para pointed out the recursive category export tool, which outputs kml. Nice!

I then used gpsbabel to convert the kml to gdb, Garmin’s format. Score! I can now get the requested photos in my GPS. A recent trip to Tri-Cities Washington is a good example of how I will integrate photos into an existing motorcycle trip: plan the basic route, then add in locations with requested photos.

I added 99 miles and 4.2 hours to my trip over, and 34 miles and 2.3 hours to my trip back by taking the photos. In total, I collected 29 photos for Wikipedia. Here are some of my favorites:


I use a Garmin 60-series GPS for routing and storing tracks, and a SPOT Messenger so people can keep track of me in case something bad happens. My “big” camera is a Canon T1i (EOS 500d), and the motorcycle is a Suzuki V-Strom 650:

I hope this encourages you to get out and help take photos for WikiProject Oregon, or for any other part of Wikipedia! It can be done on foot, on bicycle, or via motorcycle/car/airplane/rocket.

I’ll be on the radio tomorrow morning with Oregon Encyclopedia editor Bill Lang, discussing our respective online encyclopedia projects and how we engage with the people of Oregon.

Hope you can listen, and call in with questions! Check out producer David Miller’s excellent post introducing the show. And for those out of state, you can listen online (or check the post after the show for an audio archive).

Tomorrow morning:

Friday May 8, 9-10 AM PDT
Oregon Public Broadcasting
91.5 FM in Portland

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