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Author Topic: Introducing the AARoads Wiki  (Read 21221 times)

Scott5114

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Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« on: September 07, 2023, 06:00:01 PM »

Hey everyone,
As I've mentioned here and there on the forum, Wikipedia policies have been gradually tightening more and more as time goes on. This has led to an annoying group of people questioning whether highways are "notable" or not, and thus whether they should be deleted from the site. Although there's been a back and forth, these people seem likely to win the debate in the long term. Of course, Wikipedia's road content is an invaluable resource for our community, and it would be a big loss were it to be destroyed. Thus, Alex has graciously agreed to host this content on a brand-new wiki that's all about roads–the AARoads Wiki!

The team making up the core of the US Roads WikiProject on Wikipedia has moved over to the new wiki and has done a lot of really fantastic work getting everything set up. Right now, the content is mostly identical to what you can find on Wikipedia. Over time, though, this wiki will evolve from being a small part of a bigger encyclopedia, into a roads gazetteer that covers pretty much anything a roadgeek might need as reference. The wiki covers the United States and Canada for the time being, but we're open to expanding to other countries if anyone is interested in writing about them. (And we have the Wikipedia versions of these articles backed up, too, so even if they're deleted from Wikipedia you won't be starting from scratch.) Also, even if something isn't a traditional article, if it's road related (and isn't fictional), we'd like to have it in our Annex section! It's the perfect place for things like a list of the shortest highway in each state, for instance.

One of the really cool features of the new wiki are the interactive maps, which you can pan and zoom. They currently appear on a subset of articles, but we plan to roll them out across the whole site. These maps are based on the OpenStreetMap Americana project (that means they have actual shields!), and use a custom map legend made just for AARoads that is intended to more closely resemble the legends used on traditional American maps, like state DOT maps. (And yes, it includes county lines! Although we don't have the county names working just yet...) We plan to have a big, easily browsable version of this map available soon, for when you just want to explore the world using an easy-to-read, roadgeek-friendly map.

Interested in pitching in? We'd love to have you on board! Like all wikis, this one is a work in progress, so there's plenty to do. There's a banner at the top of the page that will take you to a list of tasks you can get your feet wet with. And if you've been put off by the bureaucracy of editing Wikipedia, don't worry. Our goal is to cut down on the number of rules, to let you focus on writing the best road content you can. If you need help, we have a Discord server full of experienced roadgeeks that will be happy to help you out (or if you just want to talk about Limon or I-238 or whatever, that's cool too).

We hope you'll make the AARoads Wiki your first stop when you just need to know something about roads. And if you have any suggestions or comments, we would love to hear them–this wiki is a part of your community, so we want to do whatever we can to make it as useful as possible to everyone in the hobby. We hope to see you there!
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2023, 09:34:46 PM »

While I’m kind of busy with my own projects on GN I would encourage anyone wanting to write something for California highways to rip the public documents they need from our page.  I purposely embed hyperlinks and add scans for pretty much everything in the public domain.  The way I see it, reference materials should be easy and free for everyone to use:

https://www.gribblenation.org/p/golden-state-highways-version-30.html?m=1
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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2023, 11:55:32 PM »

While I’m kind of busy with my own projects on GN I would encourage anyone wanting to write something for California highways to rip the public documents they need from our page.  I purposely embed hyperlinks and add scans for pretty much everything in the public domain.  The way I see it, reference materials should be easy and free for everyone to use:

https://www.gribblenation.org/p/golden-state-highways-version-30.html?m=1

I've been working on uploading scans of public domain documents to Wikimedia Commons and then transcribing them to Wikisource. Many of the AASHO/AASHTO minutes have been done on there, making them friendlier to read. I've also transcribed various federal highway reports to Wikisource. Those efforts have been warmly welcomed, so that will continue.
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2023, 12:03:51 AM »

While I’m kind of busy with my own projects on GN I would encourage anyone wanting to write something for California highways to rip the public documents they need from our page.  I purposely embed hyperlinks and add scans for pretty much everything in the public domain.  The way I see it, reference materials should be easy and free for everyone to use:

https://www.gribblenation.org/p/golden-state-highways-version-30.html?m=1

I've been working on uploading scans of public domain documents to Wikimedia Commons and then transcribing them to Wikisource. Many of the AASHO/AASHTO minutes have been done on there, making them friendlier to read. I've also transcribed various federal highway reports to Wikisource. Those efforts have been warmly welcomed, so that will continue.

With California specifically it probably has the largest source of state highway magazine publications and other public domain documents.  The California Highway Bulletin ran circa 1912-1916 which was followed by the California Highways & Public Works 1924-67.  Both publications have been scanned on archive.org but they are purely chronological.  David Rumsey has the 1918-2005 state highway map scans and the 1935 Division of Highways county survey maps scanned.

The Arizona Memory Project scanned all the Arizona Highways volumes.  The modern stuff isn’t really road oriented anymore but the early volumes very much were.  Archive.org has a bunch of Florida Highways magazine scans but I haven’t quite deep dived into those like I have with California and Arizona.
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Scott5114

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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2023, 03:52:08 AM »

Thanks for the pointers to the reference materials! I'm sure that they'll come in handy. Would you happen to know of anything like that for Nevada? I'm wanting to dive into the history of the road system there (especially US 91, since there's currently not even an article on it, it just redirects to I-15), but I'm not even sure where to start.
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2023, 08:07:52 AM »

Thanks for the pointers to the reference materials! I'm sure that they'll come in handy. Would you happen to know of anything like that for Nevada? I'm wanting to dive into the history of the road system there (especially US 91, since there's currently not even an article on it, it just redirects to I-15), but I'm not even sure where to start.

Unfortunately I’ve never found such a publication for Nevada.  I have found the Nevada State Highway Map archive to be useful:

https://www.dot.nv.gov/travel-info/maps/historical-maps

I have done some work on my own regarding the early evolution of the Arrowhead Trail into US 91 for Nevada.  In particular the Arrowhead Trail routing through St. Thomas, Valley of Fire and what is now Nellis AFB is interesting:

https://www.gribblenation.org/2021/03/valley-of-fire-state-park-and-legacy-of.html?m=1
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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2023, 01:10:39 PM »

I'm not sure "those people" will win "the debate." Highway pages on Wikipedia aren't just lists of start and end points, they include photos, mention and link to other pages on topics such as national parks, and often provide history that also includes other things.

Have there been any Wikipedia pages regarding highways removed so far? Every time I've wanted to know about a particular one, I've been able to find a Wikipedia page.
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Scott5114

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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #7 on: September 08, 2023, 01:46:27 PM »

Max, thanks for the pointers, I'll be sure to take a look at them!

[Note for those who are here from the Wikipedia Signpost article: Some parts of the following discussion have been simplified for the benefit of those who aren't familiar with the exact details of Wikipedia policy, and have no desire to become a practicing WikiLawyer (a profession that doesn't pay all that well). -S.]

I'm not sure "those people" will win "the debate." Highway pages on Wikipedia aren't just lists of start and end points, they include photos, mention and link to other pages on topics such as national parks, and often provide history that also includes other things.

Have there been any Wikipedia pages regarding highways removed so far? Every time I've wanted to know about a particular one, I've been able to find a Wikipedia page.

Unfortunately, "is this good content or not" is not the question Wikipedia policy wonks ask, it's "is it notable or not". And "notable" is defined by the types of sources discussing the article or not. And "those people" have come to the conclusion that:

  • DOT sources cannot be used because they are not independent of the subject.
  • Maps cannot be used because they require the editor to interpret them.
  • Newspaper articles cannot be used because they are primary sources. (This one is just outside the Overton window at the moment, but that seems to be shifting. If this ends up becoming a mainstream view, you're going to see a lot of content purged, not just roads. So it's possible that may be a bridge too far, but it is the logical outcome of the policy as currently written and interpreted.)

So without those three things, what else could you possibly cite a road article to? With things like Route 66 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, there are books, but nobody's writing a book about Oklahoma 34 or K-177 or Nevada 160.

No road articles have been deleted yet, but enough editors (many of whom who have been contributing to Wikipedia since before this forum existed) have seen the writing on the wall and decided it was best to get out now while the content can be saved, rather than wait until the deletions actually start. And, of course, trying to win a never-ending argument with these people and convince them that they're being morons takes time out of the day that would be more happily spent actually writing about the roads. Essentially, the roadgeeks have gotten fed up with the non-roadgeek Wikipedia community making things difficult for difficulty's sake, and have decamped to AARoads so we can actually do what it is we like to do without anyone interfering.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2023, 12:35:11 AM by Scott5114 »
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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2023, 01:47:23 PM »

Have there been any Wikipedia pages regarding highways removed so far? Every time I've wanted to know about a particular one, I've been able to find a Wikipedia page.
Not yet.  Rather than attacking articles directly via deletion, they're doing the death by a thousand cuts method.  They're casting doubt on the validity of sources (mostly maps, esp. Google Maps), muddying the waters on what makes a highway "notable", and complaining about a lack of "significant coverage" about minor highways among other reasons.  It's almost like they want a 350-page biography on every single highway in the U.S., which just isn't going to happen for designations like MD 990.

This has been going on for at least 10 years, but it's really ramped up in the last 24 months.  Recently, several of these discussions happened at the same time, which got exhausting really fast.  We just decided to cut our losses and bail.  Morale in the Discord server is sky high and editing a wiki is fun again.
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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2023, 01:58:39 PM »

I can see that happening for some minor highways, but many well known ones have very detailed Wikipedia pages. So they, for example, will eventually not have any information at all on US 66?

EDIT: Re-reading, I guess in that specific case there would be. This is more about minor highways that wouldn't have books written about them.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2023, 02:03:39 PM by Quillz »
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Quillz

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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2023, 02:00:07 PM »

Also what exactly is the "point?" Is it just some cost/bandwidth issue, having to host less pages?
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Quillz

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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2023, 02:01:02 PM »

Although ultimately as long as the same/better info can be accessed in a similar useful fashion, that's what matters.
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J N Winkler

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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2023, 02:12:34 PM »

Have there been any Wikipedia pages regarding highways removed so far? Every time I've wanted to know about a particular one, I've been able to find a Wikipedia page.

There are no removals that I'm aware of, but like dying or going bankrupt, this is the sort of thing that starts slowly and then moves very fast.

Wikipedia currently doesn't include articles for a few primary state highways, such as very short-lived ones that functioned as spurs off I-235 in Wichita soon after it was built, but that's more of an edge case.
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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2023, 02:20:30 PM »

Also what exactly is the "point?" Is it just some cost/bandwidth issue, having to host less pages?
These same people have decided that Wikipedia is essentially complete and now the focus should be on quality instead of quantity.  They recently decided to purge thousands of Olympians from the site simply because they appeared in an Olympics database and someone decided years ago that that was enough to write a (very) short article about them.  I believe the same thing is happening to soccer players right now as well.  They can have their Pyrrhic victories whether they recognize them as such or not.
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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2023, 03:00:31 PM »

I can see the pros and cons. On one hand, Wikipedia has long been dogged by allegations of not being a particular good source for information, so wanting to ensure every article has a solid source (writings, documents, etc.) can have its advantages. But then you run into issues of things that obviously exist not having any information on them.

But on the other hand, it's the free market at work. If Wikipedia keeps doing this, then rival sites like the AARoads one will appear that cater to particular segments. This itself has its pros and cons.
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Scott5114

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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #15 on: September 08, 2023, 03:08:34 PM »

Also what exactly is the "point?" Is it just some cost/bandwidth issue, having to host less pages?

I can't say I really understand the motivations myself. The Foundation certainly isn't hurting for money, at least as far as anyone is publicly aware of, and for the longest time "Wikipedia is not paper" (implying "so don't worry about resource usage") was a guiding philosophy. Deleting articles wouldn't even save any server resources, since all deleting an article in MediaWiki does is set it to not display to non-administrators (it remains in the database, and admins have the technical, if not political, ability to restore most deleted articles at any time).

The only guess that I have is that the people pursuing these changes have some platonic ideal of what an encyclopedia should look like, and their motivation is to make Wikipedia match that ideal. Since most paper encyclopedias don't have articles on state highways, minor Olympic athletes, area codes, and Pokémon*, Wikipedia must not either, or it won't be a legitimate encyclopedia in their eyes. This, of course, entirely undermines what the average Internet user finds useful about Wikipedia (i.e. that they can type any subject into it and get at least a cursory treatment of the subject), but unfortunately, these editors are of the opinion that whatever principles they're following are more important than whatever needs or opinions the uninvolved readers may have.

As I said in another thread where this came up:

Most of the people who are pushing this crap were not on Wikipedia at the time it got popular and do not know what made it successful. Most of the editors who were around in the 2005-2010 era were teenagers or college students at the time, and have since taken on enough real-life responsibilities that they don't have time to babysit a website for free all day. Those that do still have the free time have gotten burned out from the whole "you're just minding your own business writing about something you enjoy and some asshole shows up out of the blue to pick a fight with you about something stupid" thing that tends to randomly occur.

It's kinda like what they say about family fortunes–generation 1 builds the empire, generation 2 maintains it because they were able to observe what generation 1 did right, generation 3 ruins it because generation 1 was out of the picture by the time they came along.


*Pokémon were actually deleted years ago. If you search for any but the most well-known Pokémon, you are redirected to a line in a table, rather than a full article. Searching Google for a Pokémon normally returns Bulbapedia, a fan-run independent wiki, as the top result. We've taken Wikipedia's treatment of this style of content as precedent for what will eventually happen to the highway articles, and thus used Bulbapedia as a model for the niche the AARoads Wiki will occupy.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2023, 12:27:13 AM by Scott5114 »
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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #16 on: September 08, 2023, 03:23:30 PM »

Also what exactly is the "point?" Is it just some cost/bandwidth issue, having to host less pages?

I can't say I really understand the motivations myself. The Foundation certainly isn't hurting for money, at least as far as anyone is publicly aware of, and for the longest time "Wikipedia is not paper" (implying "so don't worry about resource usage") was a guiding philosophy. Deleting articles wouldn't even save any server resources, since all deleting an article in MediaWiki does is set it to not display to non-administrators (it remains in the database, and admins have the technical, if not political, ability to restore most deleted articles at any time).

The only guess that I have is that the people pursuing these changes have some platonic ideal of what an encyclopedia should look like, and their motivation is to make Wikipedia match that ideal. Since most paper encyclopedias don't have articles on state highways, minor Olympic athletes, area codes, and Pokémon*, Wikipedia must not either, or it won't be a legitimate encyclopedia in their eyes. This, of course, entirely undermines what the average Internet user finds useful about Wikipedia (i.e. that they can type any subject into it and get at least a cursory treatment of the subject), but unfortunately, these editors are of the opinion that whatever principles they're following are more important than whatever needs or opinions the uninvolved readers may have.


*Pokémon were actually deleted years ago. If you search for any but the most well-known Pokémon, you are redirected to a line in a table, rather than a full article. Searching Google for a Pokémon normally returns Bulbapedia, a fan-run independent wiki, as the top result. We've taken Wikipedia's treatment of this style of content as precedent for what will eventually happen to the highway articles, and thus used Bulbapedia as a model for the niche the AARoads Wiki will occupy.
Yup, that's the main issue and pretty much the reason WHY book encyclopedias have largely faded. Because you've got Wikipedia. Interestingly, their philosophy mimics the skeuomorphism that was popular in the 90s/00s. On one hand, replicating a real world object made it familiar. The problem was a lot of software programmed in deliberate limitations that mirrored real world objects. I remember in particular a phone app that only let you have nine speed dial settings, because that's what a real phone was limited to. It didn't take into account you're using a computer with tons of memory and is smart, and could create hundreds of speed dials, organized in all sorts of ways. It seems, then, Wikipedia is having the same issue: not taking advantage of the platform they're on.
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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #17 on: September 09, 2023, 03:04:19 AM »

It seems a bit slow and unstable, no doubt due to a massive influx of traffic on the wiki's servers/services.

As far as international information, I know SABRE over there in the UK has their Roader's Digest, which might be worth collaborating with them on for the AARoads wiki, or at least linking back to their wiki in the meantime.
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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #18 on: September 09, 2023, 09:32:43 AM »

It's sad that Wikipedia's inflexibility has led to this, but I love the idea of the roadgeek community having its own wiki where we set the rules that work for us, rather than having them imposed top-down by people who don't really understand what we do.  Congratulations to everyone who's worked to bring the AARoads Wiki into reality!

That said, I have noticed that many of the pages seem to load very slowly.  It could probably use some SRE work to bring it up to speed with other web sites.
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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #19 on: September 09, 2023, 01:18:35 PM »

It's sad that Wikipedia's inflexibility has led to this, but I love the idea of the roadgeek community having its own wiki where we set the rules that work for us, rather than having them imposed top-down by people who don't really understand what we do.  Congratulations to everyone who's worked to bring the AARoads Wiki into reality!

That said, I have noticed that many of the pages seem to load very slowly.  It could probably use some SRE work to bring it up to speed with other web sites.

We are looking at what we can do to improve performance, but that is the drawback of shifting to what is basically a volunteer-managed site (Wikimedia has professional devops engineers running the site). It's basically Scott and I trying to figure out what can be done. Any more ideas (we are running MediaWiki, the documentation is at mediawiki.org) would be welcome.
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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #20 on: September 09, 2023, 02:18:29 PM »

A good chunk of the slowness also happens when you are the first person to visit a given page in a while, since the server has to build the page and store it in its various caches. If you're visiting a page someone else has visited recently, it's quite speedy since it can pull from cache.

It doesn't help that MediaWiki seems to be designed under the assumption that a wiki will always be run by an organization with the budget to throw infinite amounts of server and human resources at managing it, though.
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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #21 on: September 09, 2023, 04:17:44 PM »

I have noticed the slowness. Good to see there is around 15k articles already, though.

Are most of the articles just copy/pasted from Wikipedia? For example, I like the California ones on Wikipedia because they'll have tables showing mileposts, major junctions, etc. Is all that being retained?
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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #22 on: September 09, 2023, 04:21:48 PM »

Directly copying/pasting would be the fastest way to build these types of pages.  The format essentially is the same as the main Wikipedia page. 
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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #23 on: September 09, 2023, 04:29:44 PM »

It's sad that Wikipedia's inflexibility has led to this, but I love the idea of the roadgeek community having its own wiki where we set the rules that work for us, rather than having them imposed top-down by people who don't really understand what we do.  Congratulations to everyone who's worked to bring the AARoads Wiki into reality!

That said, I have noticed that many of the pages seem to load very slowly.  It could probably use some SRE work to bring it up to speed with other web sites.

And the weird thing is, Wikipedia in general acts like they don't impose rules top-down, they act like anyone can participate in determining what the rules are
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Re: Introducing the AARoads Wiki
« Reply #24 on: September 09, 2023, 04:32:40 PM »

  • Newspaper articles cannot be used because they are primary sources. (This one is just outside the Overton window at the moment, but that seems to be shifting. If this ends up becoming a mainstream view, you're going to see a lot of content purged, not just roads. So it's possible that may be a bridge too far, but it is the logical outcome of the policy as currently written and interpreted.)


Honestly I would love for that argument to win out on Wikipedia. No more quickly building articles about specific events based on news articles about the event. (Especially since so many of them have inaccuracies because of the rush to release a news article)
Logged
Control cities CAN be off the route!
Control cities make NO sense if signs end before the city is reached!

Most Traveled rts: I-40, 20, 10, 5, 95
Longest Clinched rts: I-20, 85, 24, 16, NJ Tpk mainline

Champions
Univ of GA football 7x including '21 '22
Atlanta Braves '95 '21
Atlanta MLS '18

 


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