SourceWatch:How to run a good working group

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This article provides guidance and tips for users involved in the various Category:Working groups on SourceWatch and its projects, including Congresspedia.
This article is currently under construction. Conor Kenny is working on it but welcomes participation. Make some additions or leave a note on the talk page.

Working groups are self-organized groups of editors who work on expanding and improving a common set of articles. Participating in a working group is easy – simply go to the list of working groups, pick one and sign up on its homepage. Being one of the lead volunteers on a working group, however, requires a little more work. Here are some tips on who to run a good working group.

Tips for running a good working group

In general, this post by an admin of the Muppet Wiki contains good tips on maintaining wiki communities smaller than Wikipedia. Here are some more tips:

Tip 1: Keep an eye on the articles associated with your working group

While SourceWatch employs some paid editors, the accuracy of this encyclopedia depends on the vigilance of the citizen editors. Keeping an eye on the articles associated with your working group will help you identify users interested in your subject (potential recruits!), spot vandalism and spamming and keep you generally abreast of what's happening in your corner of the wiki. There are two ways to keep watch:

  • Related changes: If your working group is associated with a category (like one that is linked to off a portal), you can go to the category page (for example) and click on the "Related changes" link in the toolbox on the left side of the screen. This will show you all the changes that have been made to pages within that category. Warning: This does not show changes made to the talk pages of articles within the category, so if anyone is leaving notes or engaging in debate, you won't notice. Therefore, this should only be used as a quick check-in – the talk pages are very important!
  • Your watchlist (the better option): You can also keep an eye on all the articles and their talk pages by adding each article associated with your article to your watchlist. To do this, simply go to the article in question and click the "watch" tab, which is in the same row as the "edit" and "article" tabs. Then at any point you can click the "my watchlist" link at the very top of the screen (in the same row as your username"). This page will show you any edits made to articles in your watchlist as well as any changes to those article's talk pages.

Tip 2: Greet and recruit new editors

Say hello to the newbies: If you see a new user making edits to articles associated with your working group, make sure to leave a note on their talk page saying hello. It may be useful to check out their user contributions (how to do this) to see if they're new or experienced editors on SourceWatch (new users also often have red (blank) user pages). You may want to ask the user what topics they're interested in, brief them on the activities of your working group, or even encourage them to add their name to the list of participants on your working group home page. Just make sure to add that user's page to your watchlist so you can see when they reply – remember, only notes left on your own talk page are automatically brought to your attention!

Play nice with the newbies: Keep in mind that new users will often be unfamiliar with the ground rules on SourceWatch. Rather than immediately deleting edits that are substandard but appear to have been made in good faith, leave a new user a note explaining why the edit was substandard and offer tips on how to fix it. Alternately, fix it yourself and leave them a note explaining what you did. For some high-traffic articles, it may be prudent to move a substandard addition to the article's talk page while it is being worked on.

Recruit from outside: If you know people outside of SourceWatch who are interested in the subject of your working group, try emailing them with information about your working group's activities and an invitation to join. Not everyone may know about SourceWatch!

Tip 3: Call attention to your work

Good additions by a working group deserve to be highlighted! There are three ways to do this:

  • Submit a guest blog: The Center for Media and Democracy will publish blogs from guest posters on its site. While contributions to the wiki should made in sober, rhetoric-free language, the blog affords greater flexibility to SourceWatch editors who want to talk about why something is important, make an argument or generally offer an opinion. The blog is picked up by Google News and other outlets and is thus often widely disseminated across the Internet. Blogs should link to and focus on a topic that is covered on SourceWatch. How to submit a guest blog.
  • Add a headline to an "in the news" section: Most portals on SourceWatch, including the main Congresspedia page have an "in the news" section that highlights new developments covered in articles of the portal. When you update an article, make sure to add it to top of the "in the news "section" in the appropriate portal and on the Congresspedia main page. If you don't have sysop privileges but would like to add something to the Congresspedia main page, email one of the managing editors with a link to the portal where you've added the headline and they will cross-post it for you. How to add to an "in the news" box.
  • Add links and narration to the main box in portals: Many portals (such as the main Congresspedia legislation and issues portal and all its sub-portals) contain a narrative description of current developments in their main (top) box. If there are current developments related to articles edited by your working group, make sure to add some narrative description to the main box with in-line links to the relevant articles. Just don't over-do it – your topic is only one of many!

Tip 4: Create opportunities to participate

If you build it, they will come! Try to have many current to-do items available for completion by members of your working group and passers-by. This is also a good way to attract new editors. Generally, these to-do items should live in a "things you can do" box on the portal associated with your working group (in order to make them most visible to users reading articles on the subject). How to use the "Things you can do" boxes.

You could also start a "collaborative project," which is not a permanent group like a working group, but a one-time collaboration of editors focuses on a project that is more in-depth than simply updating or fixing an article (see below).

Collaborative projects

Collaborative projects are projects with a definite, achievable goal, meant to focus the energy of editors over relatively short periods of time. Collaborative projects can be done under the provenance of a particular working group, can be across working groups, or can be done independently of any working group.

Naming conventions and style: The homepages for collaborative projects should be placed in the meta "SourceWatch:" namespace as they contain information about SourceWatch and are not normal articles. The pages should contain the purpose of a project, the usernames of the initiators of the project (and any other users that join the effort), and any information that would be useful to participants, such research tips, style guidelines, etc.

Notes for article development