Wikinews:Water cooler/proposals

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Timelines as the main content[edit]

I hope I am not repeating some past proposal. I couldn't find any prior discussion of this.

Wikinews is currently about full-length articles, but this doesn't seem to have any rational justification. It's just an imitation of traditional media, which carry full-length articles as a legacy from pre-Internet era and as a way to waste as much time as possible in order to sell more advertisements.

People read news in order to get updates. While Wikipedia answers queries for overview of X, Wikinews can/should answer queries for changes in X or events in X. Full-length articles answer query overview of event X and thus largely duplicate Wikipedia. The main product of Wikinews should be timelines of changes/events, not articles. Even with traditional media, readers get what they want by just reading the story titles in the spirit of TL;DR.

The only timeline interface on Wikinews is the latest news widget on category pages. Even if usability issues with this widget are fixed, the main problem is that you need a newsroom full of dedicated editors to populate such category with useful volume of articles. And all that just to get readers to TL;DR the titles.

For most topics, especially the narrower ones, it would be much more efficient and useful to leave just the titles and rely on links and references to provide context and details. This would allow Wikinews to answer events in X query for much narrower topics like Dentistry or even something extremely specialized like Fingerprint recognition technology, because it would take only one small-time contributor to get specialized topics going. Important events from these topics would then bubble up to broader topics, picking up details, perhaps eventually getting promoted to full-length articles for the most important events. This would allow Wikinews to become what Twitter was supposed to be before it was swamped by rants, spam, and nonsense.

Since reader's time is limited, broader topics naturally need higher importance bar, but there's another kind of filtering by importance that I want to draw attention to. Many readers look for updates on a topic infrequently: weekly, monthly, even once per year. It makes sense to have topics like Europe Daily (today's top events) accompanied by Europe Weekly with about 7x fewer events, picked by importance. In other words, Wikinews should answer queries like changes in X in the last T without dumping a million-event page on the reader.

I am not going into technical details regarding page structure now, because the general idea needs discussion first. Also, BTW, I am throwing dirt on traditional media here, but I do understand that full-length articles are sometimes useful. I also know that many traditional media have been publishing timeline-focused content for years.

Robert Važan (talk) 14:43, 12 June 2019 (UTC)

No, it's not irrational. It's what we're here for: to provide snapshots of what is known about stories at moments in time. We're not "imitating" msm, we share a goal with them. You're failing to grok the difference between journalism and an encyclopedia. See WN:PILLARS. --Pi zero (talk) 15:05, 12 June 2019 (UTC)
I am wondering whether you read anything past the (admittedly cynical) second paragraph. I am chiefly concerned with interests of the reader. I see timelines (event lists) as more useful than event descriptions. I therefore propose to put them front and center. Robert Važan (talk) 16:24, 12 June 2019 (UTC)
I did read what you wrote. I don't think you understand what this project is, neither in purpose nor in practice; nor the nature of inverted-pyramid style. --Pi zero (talk) 17:02, 12 June 2019 (UTC)
Thank you for reading to the end. Actually, I studied the project for some time before posting this. I also understand the inverted pyramid style. I am not a professional journalist though. I don't care so much about the theory of journalism and I don't care about present-day limitations of this project either. What I know is that readers don't come to news sites to learn more about events, because they usually don't even know those events exist. They come to discover current events. That's the essential feature of news that readers cannot get elsewhere. News sites also usually link to their own articles (and sometimes to external articles) about the event, but that's a non-essential feature, because readers can get that information directly from the source via link or search. Traditional media go to great lengths to avoid adding any links for fear of losing reader's attention, opting instead to inline everything into a long article. This results in the article-centered news structure. Yes, I know that media often produce truly original content that needs a long-form article, but most events don't really need it. Robert Važan (talk) 17:26, 12 June 2019 (UTC)
This is a volunteer project. We are not necessarily professional journalists (though some of us have become such after leaving Wikinews; some of us have been academic students, or professors, of journalism; and occasionally professional journalists have come here, although often that has ended badly due to conflicting goals). We have philosophical principles we care about (as serious wiki volunteers generally do), which principles have both similarities to and differences from those of commercial news agencies. You're making blanket claims about what "readers" want, as if there were a unique thing that readers want, and asserting that it's an objective fact you "know". One thing that's very important here is objective facts; we're very objective-fact-oriented here. You clearly have your own theory of journalism, though it doesn't sound as if you've introspected on it; it just doesn't appear to be especially compatible with Wikinews. --Pi zero (talk) 18:06, 12 June 2019 (UTC)
Well, I don't have reader behavior statistics, but I am sure media outlets do have such statistics and I also know that they often offer some kind of TL;DR content in the form of one-line news, short one-paragraph news, and weekly summaries. They wouldn't do that at scale and for years if it was a waste of effort. When you have one-line or one-paragraph "articles", it is quite obvious readers aren't interested in the individual articles and value the whole news feed instead. Such short news entries don't have their own URL and thus receive no search traffic on their own. That means readership consists mostly of returning visitors who like the news feed as a whole. Robert Važan (talk) 20:24, 12 June 2019 (UTC)
Nobody should ever depend on a single news site for their news. That's a mid-twentieth-century model of news. You've missed the point of Wikinews; you're trying to justify doing something that's incompatible with the purpose of this project, based on your desire to accomplish something else. You appear to have also missed several important points about my responses because of unawareness of the goals of the project. --Pi zero (talk) 00:42, 13 June 2019 (UTC)
Wait, so the purpose of Wikinews is to feed articles into Google News? I hope not, because that's a severe underutilization of Wikinews potential. Wikipedia is used as the sole source of information. A trustworthy source saves everyone a lot of time. Wikinews could do the same for news, especially in local and professional niches that are neglected by commercial media. As I have said before, I don't care about rules, because they can be changed. The whole point of this forum is to challenge current rules. Robert Važan (talk) 11:40, 13 June 2019 (UTC)
Wikipedia does great good, and great harm, in the world, about which I've no desire to be drawn into a big discussion atm. Importantly, though, Wikipedia should not be treated as a sole source of information (doing so is a major source of errors in journalism) and is inherently not a trustworthy source (I recall a journalism professor pointing out that, with care, it can be a valuable tool for research). As a practical matter it generally suffices for us here to note that (1) Wikipedia cannot be used as a source for Wikinews, and (2) Wikinews is not Wikipedia. --Pi zero (talk) 12:45, 13 June 2019 (UTC)
But that's not what I was talking about. Wikipedia is used as a single source of information by average casual user. Gone are the days when people built understanding of a topic by tediously searching the Internet. A single stop at relevant Wikipedia article is all that's needed for most queries. Wikinews could do the same for casual news readers. I said this to refute your argument against timelines. You seem to think that the job of Wikinews is to just produce an unsorted set of articles and then let people find them via search engines, links, and news aggregators. There seems to be no place for timelines (news feeds) in this view of Wikinews. You seem to think that timelines are someone else's job or that timelines somehow shouldn't exist at all (but then how are people supposed to discover news?). In my opinion, there is always a timeline: in Google News, in search, in aggregators, in social media feeds. It's just that these 3rd party news feeds are noisy: repetitive, biased, peppered with propaganda and conspiracies, burdened with ads. Readers are then left to sift through all that. And this is where Wikinews, if done well, comes in. It can provide one trustworthy news feed that is free of noise and saves everyone time. And it can do this for much wider range of topics than what traditional media cover. Robert Važan (talk) 21:11, 13 June 2019 (UTC)
None of what you're saying holds water. You're evidently suggesting that I missed your point, thus conveniently dismissing what I said, a convenient "debating" tactic (I mean that in the most pejorative way), but the tendency of readers to do what you say is pretty central to what I said. You speak of reader habits (my earlier remark on overgeneralization doesn't seem to have affected the phenomenon), but your mischaracterization of the impact suggests lack of deep insight into the negative consequences. We're living in a civilization on the brink of disaster because people aren't precise in their language and aren't critical in their consumption of information, yet you're being imprecise in your language and praising people for not being critical in their consumption of information; and your remarks about Wikinews (such as where it should "come in") simply disregard the achievements of Wikinews, unsurprisingly as I see in all your remarks no sign of awareness of them. --Pi zero (talk) 23:26, 13 June 2019 (UTC)
(Note: I'm being pejorative toward the tactic; not to you. I strongly disapprove the tactic; I suspect you weren't aware of employing it.) --Pi zero (talk) 01:22, 14 June 2019 (UTC)
There's no tactic. Assume good faith. The more I talk to you the more I think this site has bigger problems than lack of quality timelines. You seem to be focused on a very narrow use case for Wikinews to the exclusion of everything else. You are defending the truth, which is a good thing, but the extreme measures you take only make sense for the top 1% of news. Most local, professional, and other niche news, which comprises 99% of the total news volume, is not being targeted by sophisticated propaganda. Even for the top 1%, there are many cases where truth is obvious, for example the results of regular elections in stable democracies. But even if we take your fact-checking oriented point of view, timelines are still a good thing, because they provide impartial alternative to the propaganda-laden 3rd party news feeds. Robert Važan (talk) 13:05, 14 June 2019 (UTC)
My assessment of you is that you're acting in good faith; it's not an assumption. We don't have AGF here; see Wikinews:Never assume. You're missing almost everything about this project, apparently because you're making incorrect assumptions about the project that aren't valid, both positive and negative assumptions about our goals. It honestly doesn't seem practical to pour a lot of effort into trying to explain these sorts of basic things to someone who's already in way too much of a hurry to assume Wikinews is a sort of "Wikipedia for news" (hint: it really, really isn't). --Pi zero (talk) 13:33, 14 June 2019 (UTC)

I just noticed there was a discussion in October 2018 where move to short news entries (summaries) was proposed. My proposal can be seen as a refinement, drawing attention to timelines as the main valuable content and proposing a more explicit topic structure using pages instead of categories, which would also lower demands on wiki technology upgrades. Robert Važan (talk) 13:34, 13 June 2019 (UTC)

Shift towards inclusionism[edit]

I know this is long, but please bear with me. Most of the text below consists of ideas that I hope will be inspiring.

I think English Wikinews lives way below its potential. This has chilling effect on non-English Wikinews sites as well, because they rely heavily on translation/adaptation of English news. I believe that excessive deletionism is at the root of this problem. It can be seen in the narrow scope, excessive vetting, minimum article requirements, and general distrust in contributors. Sadly, many of these problems can be traced back to the original conception of Wikinews on meta that was motivated more by fear of what could go wrong than by vision of how well it could work. As a remedy, I propose substantial shift towards inclusionism as detailed below.

News comes in many forms. For example:

  • full-length articles, the current focus of Wikinews
  • links to articles on other news sites
  • aggregations that consist purely of links to other news sites or that embed articles from other sites
  • short-form articles, especially when arranged on one page into a news feed
  • one-liners, particularly popular in financial circles
  • flash/breaking/realtime news
  • human-narrated and computer-narrated news, video news
  • weekly and monthly roundups of the most important events
  • opinion polls collecting insights from several sides
  • realtime charts, periodically updated charts
  • analyses that seek rational explanation of observed events
  • rate-limited lists of the most important events
  • current and expected events, future event calendars
  • automated data-triggered news
  • data visualizations with accompanying analysis
  • minute-by-minute reporting about ongoing events
  • and probably many more...

Wikinews very narrowly focuses on full-length articles. I propose to allow every form of journalism as long as there is someone willing to do it and existing wiki technology supports it. If there are quality issues, create some sort of incubator to let new ideas mature.

Related to this, news covers a wide range of topics. Surprisingly narrow niches can have their own news feed in the form of a blog, twitter account, or other social media account. I propose to allow every topic on Wikinews as long as there is someone willing to cover it.

Wikinews is particularly dependent on day-to-day activity of contributors. I propose to maximize community value through (1) efficient use of contributor time and (2) sort of community inclusionism that accommodates as many contributors as possible.

Efficiency measures:

  • Allow and encourage short-form content.
  • Allow and encourage use of links instead of inline descriptions whenever possible.
  • Aggregate good content from news sites, blogs, and social media.
  • Let editors with prior experience publish immediately without review in order to prevent the content from getting stale during review. Let them expand later.
  • Limit or completely remove review for non-controversial news.
  • Use bubble-up review, whereby pre-vetted news coming from trusted sources or narrower topics on Wikinews is accelerated though the review process.
  • Develop workflows/guides/templates/bots that accelerate posting and maintenance of simple news items.

Editor retention measures:

  • Prevent project forking by accommodating alternative views of journalism as Wikinews subprojects.
  • Accommodate contributor's preferences for different publishing formats (see above).
  • Accommodate contributor's topic interests.
  • Get rid of the back-and-forth review process. Use collaborative editing instead.
  • Create specialized topics. Then get them linked from corresponding Wikipedia articles.

Note that I am not proposing to do all of this right now. I am proposing general policy shift towards inclusionism. Incremental changes in rules and everyday practice can come over several years.

Robert Važan (talk) 20:53, 14 June 2019 (UTC)

I'm not seeing any sign that any of what I've said to you has gotten through. (Clarification: any of the deep principles involved, that is.) --Pi zero (talk) 21:59, 14 June 2019 (UTC)
Well, you didn't make your points particularly obvious, but I nevertheless understood what you mean. I just don't agree with it. Or, to be more precise, I see your take on journalism as one part of something bigger and richer. — Robert Važan (talk) 22:37, 14 June 2019 (UTC)
Nothing you've said shows any sign of understanding the deep principles I've been referring to. What I see is that you came here with no attempt to contribute, and also didn't ask questions, not even when it's been indicated to you that you're missing many important things about the project; instead you arrived here with a set of opinions and sought to impose them. That is, you appear to embody an opinion-based approach, the antithesis of the fact-based approach Wikinews stands for. That's not about different forms of news. --Pi zero (talk) 00:57, 15 June 2019 (UTC)
Yeah, I understand that I am an outsider here and I might be completely wrong. I came here because I wanted to share a small niche news feed and allow collaborative editing of the news feed instead of self-publishing it on my website. I quickly realized Wikinews is not ready for it and I am not going to lead a revolution here just to get my little news feed published, so I have at least dropped my ideas here as proposals, partly to test the waters (and detect errors in my own reasoning) and partly in hope someone will find my ideas inspiring.
I don't mean to stomp on your work. I work on local Wiktionary that is severely underdeveloped and I know what it is like to see comments from outsiders that the project is dead when I know it is not. I also think you are kind of a fanatic, which may be a good thing since it is often the best way to bring about substantial change. I nevertheless think that sooner or later someone will propose a sister project that is much more inclusive. Either that or you turn out to be right after all and Wikinews will prosper with the current model. I will surely come back a year or so later to see how things have progressed. — Robert Važan (talk) 19:42, 15 June 2019 (UTC)
@Robert Važan: Is that sk.wikt you're involved in?

An essay of mine that might, just possibly, be of some passing interest to you: User:Pi zero/essays/vision/sisters. --Pi zero (talk) 06:35, 16 June 2019 (UTC)

On SK Wiktionary, the focus is 50% content and 50% utilizing existing tools provided by MediaWiki, including templates, site documentation, and system message translation. The concept of making any template interactive is interesting although I think that Wiktionary in particular, with its rigid article structure, would benefit more from whole page structural editor and a bot, neither of which complicates the original wikitext. — Robert Važan (talk) 11:00, 16 June 2019 (UTC)
@Robert Važan: A few thoughts.
  • My dialog tools support whole-page editing. The tools particularly allow the entire raw wiki-markup content of a page to be made available as a parameter-value, which can then be manipulated rather arbitrarily using Wikilisp. A small example is the "submit" button that's used here on en.wn to submit an article for review: it goes through the raw wiki markup of the page removing some template calls and adding a {{review}} call at the top.
Btw, as I'm actively developing tools using dialog atm, I'm considering carefully whether there are some adjustments still wanted to some details of the tools. I've always figured the design of these tools would be an ongoing process requiring someone immersed in the detailed operation of a wiki, i.e., it could not possibly be done properly by Foundation devs nor through a conventional specs-first development process.
  • Because I really, really dislike bots —I feel the value of wikis is in having human thought involved in customizing absolutely everything, so that pure automation is always damaging to the quality of the whole— I've thought a good deal about how to avoid bots even for most tasks they're usually used for. It's occurred to me that semi-automation could offer a user with a panel of pending likely-routine automated tasks, suitably dressed with information so a human can recognize when special cases arise, and aids for doing the usual thing and for doing customized things.
  • A related essay I've been developing, which is coming along nicely though I've not yet officially declared it ready-for-prime-time, is User:Pi zero/essays/Meta-assistance.
--Pi zero (talk) 13:31, 16 June 2019 (UTC)
I've already noticed the ability of your tools to rewrite pages. I am a few months away from doing any kind of automation beyond basic templates, but I will surely check out your work when I will be studying wiki automation techniques. — Robert Važan (talk) 22:41, 16 June 2019 (UTC)

Asking people how they read news[edit]

I would like to add Wikinews writing widgets to everything people use to read news: to rss readers, to facebook apps, to any addons or any software that is comfortable with the idea. To do this I will need to develop a list of things which are most commonly used for reading news (for me this is Firefox, for example, I am developing news writing tools for it). If Firefox is the most commonly used news reading app for others as well then I will continue but if not then I will be happy to re-learn another technology that has a greater impact.

To know this I would suggest to replace the 'request an article' thing in the banner shown everywhere with something that asks for peples input about how they read news, i.e.

Want to help out? Share with us how you read your news, so that we can bring Wikinews' writing tools to you. Leave a message today.

--Gryllida (talk) 00:27, 21 June 2019 (UTC)