WikiProject U.S. States/General

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I have decided to create a WikiProject for U.S. States, to show what one might look like (I am hoping I have understood ManningBartlett's proposal.) I have provided below my suggestions on how U.S. States are to be organized; but if anyone feels something below should be changed, feel free to do so. -- Simon J Kissane


Simon - this is excellent! MB


Thanks. I already wrote most of it a few days ago, when I discovered an article on Delaware that said little more than "a state made famous by Wayne's World". I decided then that maybe we needed some guidelines on exactly what should be in the articles :) -- Simon J Kissane


Simon--Very exciting... I have been trying for a while to get Michigan into shape, then I stumbled on this (should have looked more thoroughly at the outset... anyway), so I am very happy that you are taking charge. I hope I can help. My first question: what should the convention be for creating city entries within the state entries? Should it be:

Parma, Michigan
with a specific entry for that specific town, delineated by Name and then State
or
Parma
And have a super entry that branches off into all of the towns of that name the world over?

Ideally there should be both - the cross-reference entry handles the case where people type Parma into the search engine (Imagine what "Springfield" will look like...). The actual content should be on the 'Parma Michigan' entry. Most people will search using just the city name, and the cross reference entries will be necessary. They will also be necessary for town names like "Georgetown" because there is a major city in Malaysia (pop 0.5M) that 'used' to be called Georgetown but is now called something Malay... (I forget offhand). However users need to be able to find the place via its most common name. MB

The same question holds true for counties. Should it be:
Jackson County, Michigan-- the specific county and state identifier
Jackson County-- the specific county, but then what do we do if there are multiple states with the same county
or Jackson-- with links off to all entries: Jackson County, Jackson Five, etc.

Or is there some standardized combo that we might try? --Trimalchio


Also, I think you will see when you click through on the above city and county links that lead to entries, that we need a standard for City and County Entries as well as for State entries. (this problem continues to inflate)--Trimalchio

agreed - the problem will inflate. This is why getting a standard organised now will be a lot easier than trying to impose one later. Also - this current discussion is specific to US state, but it should serve as a valuable foundation for all geographical entries. MB
So, should we make a WikiProject Cities and Counties? Or how should we handle the organization of that metadata?---Trimalchio
  • My opinion is kill the US States project and start the "US Geography" wikiproject or even just "Geography". Keeping it centralised is easier. We don't need to proliferate projects wildly - the Wikiproject idea is meant to simplify things, not add dozens of unwieldy parameters. MB

Good point. So what would be the levels? Nation, State, County, Municipality (City, Village, Town etc)...--T

  • Why don't you make the call. If anyone disagrees with your ideas, I'm sure you'll hear about it. Simon is more involved in this topic than I am, he'd be a good person to discuss it with. MB

--- I am not too sure if that would work. Firstly, there are a few bits of information (e.g. date of admission to Union) which are specific to U.S. states, and the need for them needs to be noted somewhere.


More importantly, countries vary widely in how they are organized -- the U.S. and Australia has states, Canada has provinces, France has Departments, the UK has countries. And the levels of organization below that vary as well. For example, in the U.S. the main substate organization seems to be counties and cities, though Louisiana I think has parishes.

The place I know most about is NSW, Australia, and just going into some detail here will show how complicated things can be, and how much they can differ across the world. In NSW, we have for surveying purposes all sorts of divisions (NSW has Division, County, City/Shire, Parish, Locality), but administratively the main division is the city or shire. Cities are general urban or suburban, and shires are generally rural, but there are also shires (such as the one I live in, Baulkham Hills Shire) which are now largely suburban, but retain the name shire due to their rural past. NSW used to have administrative counties, which administered electrical power, water and sewerage for an area composed of several cities or shires, but they have been replaced by state-run corporatised utilities (e.g. Prospect County Council became Integral Energy). When they did this, they also changed the names and boundaries of the counties, but they no longer have any importance since now they are just a surveying division. Also note that shires in England are counties, but shires in Australia are subdivisions of counties. We also have an geographical entity unique to NSW, the Division. The most heavily populated Eastern part of the state is the Eastern Division, whilst most of the state forms the Western Division. Now both Divisions exist for surveying purposes, but only the Western Division has any administrative structure -- it is headed by the Western Lands Commissioner, whose main functions are to administer leases of government-owned land for agricultural or pastoral purposes, and to act as a local government in those areas too remote or unpopulated to govern themselves.

So I think it is going to be very hard to establish general rules, even if only because the terminology and structure is different. Maybe a better idea is to establish some sort of template, e.g. "WikiProject Geographical Area", on which we can base the WikiProjects for the myriad types of individual geographical entities that exist around the world -- Simon J Kissane.

Interesting. Well, setting aside Lousiana and its Catholic/French past, the majority of the United States were surveyed and organized on a pretty stable principle:
State, County, Township, Municipality. What I think we should do is expand the US States Project to include guidelines for those four types of entries, then abstract that out to a general Geography Project. Hmmm... now, just to think this out before striking.... thanks, guys. --T


This looks excellent. May I suggest also adding each state's motto, song, tree, and bird? Also (perhaps) when the new state-designed quarter comes out (or came out)? Currently about 14 of them are out, maybe more (you can see there's not a lot of money going through my hands) :-D Also, why not different things the states are known for (this will probably come about on its own, but why not make adding it a deliberate effort: Georgia peaches, Idaho potatoes, Florida oranges, etc. But not just limiting it to produce, that's just all I can think of right now. Time to schlep off for a snack.... 16 hours straight at work... must have food....) --KQ


Sorry to be so dense: Is this format just an outline for a final, prose-style article, or is it a precise format we should follow (complete with all the bullet points, etc)? Should we literally copy and paste, then plug in the relevant details (ala Iowa)? I tried to give some organization to Vermont a while back, but it lacks indentation or bullet points. Is this incorrect? ... Also, it would be nice if we could move (potentially) long enumerated lists like "cities" to a separate statistics/facts section at the end of the article. -D


Well, I think ideally this format should lead to good, full prose articles (California looks good, though I haven't read it closely yet), except where prose just doesn't work. That is, the way I am doing it on Michigan is I am starting with this skeleton and then fleshing it out into prose as I go along. But, as you can see, I am early on and it looks pretty skeletal. But that helps me at least so that i remember what needs to be added, and it also should help others to know what needs adding (anyway, I hope that it doesn't just scare them away). So I would say if you are starting on a state, copy over the whole skeleton and fit what data that is there into it. Then, as you go, flesh the bullet points into full pieces of prose. As you go you can decide if you want to keep the actual bullet points or not. I think the main thing is to be sure that as much of that data is covered as can be covered. (Long day teaching, so my prose might be coming out a little punch drunk... sorry).

As to the cities issue, again, what i did (and that is really just my opinion, not anything more than that) was to make a subpage with the list of all the cities of that state. It's just a list page, so it qualifies in my mind as being a good subpage because it isn't really its own entry. Unlike a lot of things, lists of cities that belong to a state really constitute a subordinate piece of data. I figure that any data list associated to a state (Cities, Counties, Attractions) is a pretty good candidate for a subpage like talk. The state is its own entry, and the individual cities or counties or whatever get their own page, but the bridgepage with the list can be a subpage.

Anyway, punchdrunk. Students are insane. very tired.---Trimalchio


Okay, well my suggestion is that we add standards for U.S. Counties and Cities (either as part of this WikiProject, or as a separate WikiProject). And a WikiProject Countries of the World would be good as well. But I'm still somewhat doubtful about creating general guidelines for the subdivisions of all countries, just because practice around the world is so different. -- Simon J Kissane

    • I've created the basis for county and city entries.US States should contain data for States, Counties and Cities all in one project. This, I think, simplifies the process. On the issue of other country standards: Let's get the U.S. states standards solidified (it's daunting enough) and then let others use our project guidelines as a template... or something like that. --T

It is my intention to start moving all those countries of the world articles off subpages as soon as I get more than 10 spare minutes in a row.  :-) There's talk of that at countries of the world/Talk; any suggestions about it? --KQ


It'd be nice if we could put a little bit more meat into the Introduction. There are some very relevant facts that distinguish each state, and it would be nice to note them right at the front. Few people are going to dig deep into the Politics/Government section to learn that New Hampshire is nationally known for its State Primary, for instance. --D


I noticed on one recent article about a city, the following appeared:

Wondering how to edit this City Entry?
WikiProject U.S. States might help.

I don't much like this, maybe just because of the wording, but probably because of something deeper. Let me explain. To me, it sounds as though we are trying to give polite help on how we expect contributors to edit City Entries. (Capitalized, as if we had all decided what City Entries are and exactly what they should include.) Polite contributors will respect this and then, finding themselves under a social or moral obligation to review and follow a complex set of rules & regs, will give up.

This is precisely what we don't want to happen, but I suspect it already has happened. The reason that Wikipedia has been so successful so far is that people with useful information to impart have felt completely free to add it to Wikipedia in whatever fashion they felt comfortable with. I think one disorganized but basically correct paragraph about someone's hometown is a heck of a lot better than nothing, for our purposes.

I do think Manning, Simon, and everyone else at work on these various WikiProjects has had only the best interests of Wikipedia at heart, and I totally agree that neatly formatted and uniform entries are better than messy and inconsistent entries (everything else being equal). But I tend to think that formatting and making-consistent is something we should put off for quite a while, and when we do start thinking seriously about it, it ought to be with the input of actual professional geographers, historians, lit professors, and others with the relevant background.

What do you think?

--Larry Sanger

I wonder why the actual content of an article can be left to anyone regardless of expertise, while the formatting issues need be reserved for specialists? But, I suppose that is a seperate issue.
Actually, yes. If the purpose of WikiProjects is to up the standards, then by golly, the people who are laying down the standards ought to know what they're doing. If that's any part of your purpose, I am amazed that you'd spend so much time on it and not consult geographers who might be more than willing to help. We want to make sure the standards we're trying to impose are correct; otherwise, why bother? If I were wrong and WikiProjects did not involve upping standards, then your point would be well-taken. See below, too. --LMS
More directly on your question: Personally, I stared at Michigan for weeks not sure how exactly to approach it. If I hadn't found the WikiProject, I'm not sure if I would have made any progress. Or, rather, I would have invented the wheel on my own and tried to establish a standard for michigan (I was already starting to do that in August when I stumbled on the WikiProject). As a new Wikipedian at the time (August), I felt like editing Michigan was going to be something on the order of a Sysiphean task. Without the sense of boundaries that the Project provided, I wouldn't have been sure where to begin. It's not that I had no clue what it might look like, rather, I was just sort of intimidated by the breadth of possible ways to organize it--it could look like anything. That lack of focus for Wikipedian State articles was what was preventing me from participating. So, my experience with the WikiProject is exactly the opposite of the one you imagine for a newcomer. The guidelines offered by the project provided me with an avenue for contribution, rather than as a sort of "kind hearted" deterrence. I understand what you are saying. Essentially your fear is that we will establish a kind of gentile censorship. But that is opposite to how it affected me. Rules can liberate you from a morass of infinite possibilities. Not because the rules are finite and unchanging... not even because the rules are right... but because they are just there. Teaching kids creative writing has taught me the value of arbitrary rules. Without some focus, a lot of times there is a kind of angst about writing and about the demands of a blank page. Not everyone wants perfect and complete freedom. And, as I understand it, Wikipedia is far from being about absolute freedom to write what you want. I understand that some people might be intimidated by any statement of standards, which is why I hope the WikiProjects can strongly foreground the fact that they, like everything Wiki, are open to editing (I have done a lot of changing here in the this Wikiproject and everyone is invited to do the same). But I suppose I wonder if there aren't just as many people like me who need a sense of borders and guidelines to motivate their contributions. Minnesota is a good example, I think. Check out the difference between revision 5 where I added a link to the Wikiproject and revision 6. I can't say for sure that Wikiproject did that, but I think it had a part to play. --trimalchio
Yes, if we can take extra special care in making it clear to people that these are just suggestions that some Wikipedians have offered about how to organize data, then most of my misgivings disappear. If the guidelines make it much easier for you to know how to proceed, they really are valuable and we shouldn't get rid of them, certainly.
I'm not at all worried about people being intimidated by standards. My worry is that they will find them tedious and tiresome, but, being polite (as most Wikipedians are), will feel some degree of obligation to fulfill those standards. And they'll just go do something else. It's way more important that we have articles than that we have well-formatted articles, at this point.
What can we say instead of this? -- "Wondering how to edit this City Entry? WikiProject U.S. States might help." Well, how about something like this? -- A few Wikipedians have gotten together to make some suggestions about how we might organize data in articles about cities and towns. Here they are: WikiProject U.S. States These are only suggestions, and you shouldn't feel obligated in the least to follow them. Mainly, we just want you to write articles!
That's only a suggestion. You can work on the wording if you like. The point is to make it absolutely, explicitly clear that people aren't under an obligation to follow the suggestions of a WikiProject.
And, just as a secondary issue, exactly how is the WikiProject U.S. States situation different from your notes on all of the "portal pages"? See: literature for example. --T
I can answer the latter quickly, anyway! I'm not asking that portal pages be made uniform, marching in lockstep, as it were. I am asking that they be made contentful and well-organized. No WikiProject is required for that; just knowledge of the area, or willingness to do some research and clear thinking. --LMS
I think "marching in lockstep" is an unfair characterization. You are asking that portal pages answer certain questions. You provide them with guidelines for how to ask and answer those fundamental questions. We're doing the same thing with the U.S. states guidelines. Your basic topics pages are completely analogous to the state entry guidelines. The only difference I see is how you are characterizing them. According to you, we are asking the entries to be "lockstep" while you are asking that they be "contentful and well-organized." I agree that the state guidelines need to be improved (everything in the Wikipedia does), but I don't think that somehow we are angling for any kind of benevolent fascism. I think your distinction here is just spin. --t
"Marching in lockstep" was a totally unnecessary rhetorical flourish.  :-) Anyway, I'm not sure about the point you're making. I don't remember precisely what Bryce wrote, but as for me, all I really want is a long, well-written, professional-level introduction to the field (that begins with a definition of the field), along with some sort of directory of articles in the field. Now, if that level of structure is all that you were to require on the U.S. states guidelines, I'd be very puzzled, because I don't see why a WikiProject is necessary to say that. It's just a matter of common sense, isn't it? --LMS
"Common sense" is kind of a slippery term. Is it common sense to expect that every state entry should list the state's capital, its history, its population, its geographic features? Then why do so few states have such information in their entries? Is it common sense to assume that every entry for a year (say, 1955) should include Births, Deaths, and Events? Then why does Michael Tinkler have to add that to every entry by hand himself? My reason for liking the WikiProject US States is that it gives focus to common sense. Common sense was exactly my problem. Focus and guidelines don't prevent people from adding things. Rather, they can give a seed entry a skeleton upon which to grow. If I hadn't found this form, I would have felt too intimidated by all of the possibilities that a state entry presented (or I would have developed a form like this and been in this situation anyway). I think that a lot of the state, county and city entries (or rather their potential multiple authors) for places less important than New York City suffer from this sense of anomie. This isn't order being imposed upon entries and their authors (at least it is very much not intended that way). Rather, the goal is for these guidelines to be an offered possible focus, a structure that can help an author to overcome the size of the task. Guidelines prod people into giving shape to their common sense. What is NPOV if not a concrete declaration of Common Sense, one that limits and gives shape to the whole Wikipedia ? Or Wikipedia Is Not a Dictionary--doesn't thiss also limit and give healthy shape to the site? I think as you struggle with the Portal Pages, you are struggling with the same issues. How do we uniformly encourage better general entries which cover the basic points? The portal pages provide a slightly more complex challenge, but it is essentially the same. Say you have all of the Art pages: Literature, Painting, Sculpture, Music. Don't you think it would be common sense to suggest that all of them discuss formalism and to give a list of major forms? Wouldn't such a suggestion lead to a focused development of useful content? It doesn't limit what else can be said, but it prods everyone into recognizing a basic issue. The same can be said of asking that all state entries discuss the governorship of the respective states--it doesn't mean that Alaska CAN'T talk about the oil pipeline, or that Lousiana SHOULDN'T discuss French customs in their colonial history... it just means that if you are at a loss for anything specific to say about your state, if you are stuck or intimidated, we can say for certain that there are a few simple things that can always be said. I guess I am saying that prodding people for more elaborate content is only different in terms of how much prodding you do, not in what questions you ask of them. I am also saying that common sense can sometimes be aided by guidelines (especially guidelines which are themselves open to discussion and revision). It is not always the case that guidelines, in and of themselves, act as a deterrant. Does this make sense?--t

I didn't realize that you had answered interstitially.... your above expansion of the wikiproject link idea is a good one and I will try to implement it. -T


An exception to this rule is Georgia, since that is the name of both a U.S. State and an independent country in the Caucasus

How about Washington?