Friday, August 5, 2011

Tambon articles on Wikipedia

Right now the Wikimania conference  in Haifa is underway and unlike the previous conferences even made it into the mainstream news this time, so I think it is time to have a look again at the coverage of the administrative subdivisions in the English Wikipedia.

Screenshot of a Wikipedia article
on a Thai district
Starting with a positive issue - some some days already an anonymous user is adding the IPA spelling to all of the district articles, something which should help those struggling with the right pronunciation by the sometimes misleading RTGS transcription. But the main point of this posting is a less positive development, at least the way I see it.

When some years ago a Thai Wikipedian and myself worked on creating articles for each of the districts, it was a quite fruitful cooperation - getting the content from translated by my co-worker, and myself adding all of the tabular data and fixing some language glitches. As a result, there are now articles for every district containing at least some valuable information. As I did the tables with the subdistricts, it was myself who decided it would be better not to prepare links to all the 7255 subdistricts and leave them for later when there is more to add. In fact, the same was done with the provinces at first when I did not think there would be enough interest to get one level deeper in the near future.

But currently, there is at least one user very active to create articles for the subdistricts, but the big problem - they have no real content. For example, the one on Tha Mae Lop in Lamphun reads
Tha Mae Lop (Thai: ?) is a village and tambon (subdistrict) of Mae Tha District, in Lamphun Province, Thailand. In 2005 it had a total population of 3032 people. The tambon contains 6 villages.
Everything in these two sentences is just what is written in the table in the article on Mae Tha district - population, administrative villages and obviously the location. But already the reference to within the article points on the base page instead to the page on this specific Tambon, and even the Thai spelling wasn't copied. Even worse was the one on Nai Mueang subdistrict - it was a similar short article on the subdistrict of Mueang Lamphun district, though in fact there are 23 subdistrict with that name all over Thailand.

If you compare that with the article on Ban Mae (San Pa Tong district, Chiang Mai province) which I have spend an hour to bring into a reasonable state, at least having all the easily available tabular data, the location, weblinks and references. If I could read Thai better, some of the content from could also be added.

The German Wikipedia is quite strict rules on the basic requirements of an article, to avoid useless one-sentence articles, and I guess the one on Mae Tha would go directly into the "deletion hell". I usually prefer the more laissez-faire approach in the English Wikipedia, but these article have their problems:
  • Created by a non-Thai without any knowledge on the topic they have mistakes or serious omissions.
  • Without any active and knowledgeable contributors, these articles will be almost never maintained after creation, like no updates with newer data. I even could not manage to keep the district articles up-to-date with all the municipal changes due to lack of time and focus on other issues, so "adopting" the Tambon articles would only tenfold my workload.
  • Hardly ever read, these articles will collect vandalism which will stay unnoticed for years. This already happens for the districts articles when I don't check my special watchlist often enough.
Already four years ago, another Wikipedian created articles for all the subdistricts in Phitsanulok province, but for those also include information collected from But except bot activity and an occasional move due to duplicate names, nothing has been done on these articles since then. At least there seemed to be no vandalism yet either.

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