User:Ypsilon/Tips for improving articles on unfamiliar destinations
While Wikivoyage is a travel guide written for travelers, by travelers, sometimes you want to improve an article on a destination you are not familiar with. You might be about to travel to the place in a few days, weeks or months and want to have access to a good and comprehensive travel guide. However you've noticed the Wikivoyage article still isn't that useful and hence needs improvement. Or you may dream of going there someday, or you're otherwise interested in the place. Perhaps you'd like to see it featured on the Main Page and want to bring it up to guide status. But how and where to start?
It's actually not rocket science improving such articles, nor does it take much time (you can get a whole lot done in an hour or two) provided you work in a systematic manner and know what tools you need to use. These tools are other language versions of Wikivoyage, Wikipedia (not just the English version), and the Google search engine, Maps and Translate sites. Naturally, you can also use other search, map and translation services. In addition, official and inofficial tourist pages are often useful, as are official webpages of attractions and businesses. Even other travel sites such as Tripadvisor might be of some use, though caution is needed when working with these (more about this later).
This manual is written from the point of view of improving a city article, though it can probably be used for other types of articles too (perhaps even travel topics to some extent). Beware that this manual can't help you to turn every and any article into a brilliant guide. It all depends on how much information is available online.
Moreover, this is the just the way one editor normally uses to work when he's been improving articles.
An article at guide status allows the reader to go to the destination and spend time there without having to resort to other travel guides. This allows the article to be featured on the Main page, and if you're writing the article "for yourself" (as in you're going there in a month) you should be confident in using it as your main travel resource. The current writer has defined the requirements for guide status for a large (undistrictified) city like this: "For large cities the minimum requirements would be a decent description of the city's history, culture and climate, all "normal" ways for getting in and around, 20 See listings (or 30 See and Do combined) and 20 places in each of Eat, Drink and Sleep (eat and sleep pricified and something in each price class). Buy is for some reason always hard to find meaningful listings for, so a good explanation of where to find shops plus some interesting local things to buy (if there are any) is enough. Overall, all sections with listings should have a paragraph of descriptive text too, if possible. Towards the end precautions for staying safe and healthy, plus ideas where to Go next. There are four sections that are hard to fill; Learn, Work, Connect and Cope, and I don't think it's that bad to leave them empty. Finally, the article should have a banner, a dynamic map and POI coordinates. Smaller cities (articles using the small city template) have somewhat easier criteria. Most notably they don't need to have as many listings, and the Understand section doesn't need to be as extensive."
So where to get this information from? That is what this manual is about to tell you right now.
|This page in a nutshell: WV articles in other languages are the best source. If they don't provide enough information, Wikipedia is good for Understand, Get in, Get around and See. Official and unofficial tourist pages are good allround sites, and the official homepage in listings is a good source for "technical" information about that listing. In a pinch, even other travel guides can be of limited use.|
Start off with looking at the articles of the place in other language versions of Wikivoyage — these are your most important and hassle-free sources.
If you're really lucky you find one or several of them in good shape (maybe even at guide or Star status). This makes your job really easy, you basically have your guide right there with content relevant for a Wikivoyage article, formatted more or less the right way, and you just have to translate it. Of course, it does no harm in adding additional information from other sources as well.
Often you encounter decent but not perfect articles in other language versions. These do help you a long way along the road, and if you're lucky you can get, say, a good selection of sights from one language version and a good selection of eateries from another and therethrough compile a good article from several sources.
If you're unlucky, they're all about as bad as the article you want to improve. In that case much more work is needed (you need to hunt for information from several sources and fit it into the article), and there's a high risk you won't be able to improve the article as much as you'd like even if you employ the full arsenal of tools provided below.
Improving just parts of the article
And of course, the article you're expanding is rarely entirely void of information. For instance, the article may have good sections of sights and places to sleep but not a single place to eat listed. In that case you can just concentrate on finding eateries using the tools below.
Thanks to Recent changes, making extensive edits to the article is often a magnet for other editors to help out. But this might lead to edit conflicts, especially if you have the habit of writing for, say, 15 or 30 minutes and only then saving your work. Therefore, if you want to work without interruption, it's better to copy (almost) the whole wikicode of the article (isintags and such are often better omitted) into your own user space, where you can also fill it with as much "raw material" as you like and work with it at your own pace.
Start with WV articles in other languages
After this, copy wikicode from other language versions into the sections of the article in your user space. Remember that the Creative Commons licence that Wikimedia projects use requires attribution. Therefore copy Template:Translate to the top of the article in your user space and fill in information. Do this for each article you've harvested information from. When you eventually move your final work to mainspace, put the translated tags on the mainspace article's talk page.
You may want to start off with the listings. The parameters in imported listings will almost certainly be different from the ones used in listings in the English version, so each listing will show up either as a redlink or a lone marker with all of the content hidden. It will become visible when the parameters have been translated. The parameters can easily be replaced with the Search and replace tool.
To use that tool, use the wikicode editor, open the "Advanced" bar and click on the icon to the far right with a magnifying glass, a paper and a pen. Search for "foreign parameter=" and replace it with the "English parameter=". Why is the equality sign needed? Because otherwise it will replace that word at other places in the article than the listing parameters, which may possibly lead to funny results when you translate text. You might need to do a search and replace for "foreign parameter =" as well. When using this tool, don't rush because otherwise you might replace e.g. both the address and phone parameter with the address parameter and there is no undo function so if you mess up you need to start over or fix the individual instances one by one. If you're unsure about the exact name of parameters on English WV, just click on a listing icon above the editing window and add an empty listing (and remove it when done editing the section, before saving).
Next up: the translation work! Unless you're (reasonably) fluent in the source language, use Google translate or a similar site for translating the text. Usually you can drop a paragraph at a time into Google translate. Translate all passages you're unsure about. It's often useful to have rudimentary knowledge of the source language; if the translation site produces incomprehensible text you might be able to figure out what the source text said. And don't just copypaste the machine translated text, instead paraphrase it. Sometimes the translation engines do mistakes; especially when the wording they produce seems strange they might have got the original sentence structure wrong (and e.g. missed an implicit negation). If you doubt the result, do not use it: the traveller is not served by faulty information.
Don't be surprised you run into passages that are the same in multiple languages; these have been translated by someone else before. Just delete the duplicates.
When you're done translating, does the article look complete to you already? If yes, you can go down to the cleanup instructions. If not, and you still want to improve the article, you need to use other sources.
If the first third or half of the article you're working on needs more content, head to Wikipedia. While you won't find personal impressions of places and phenomena there, it's a place to go to for obtaining facts. The sister project is an excellent source for content for the lead and Understand sections as it provides facts on history, geography, climate and such. WP is a useful source for Get in and Get around as well, airports, stations, and public transport options are mentioned in articles and often these have their own articles. Plus, you get search terms and URLs to official web pages. Prominent sights are also at least name-dropped if they don't have their own article, so WP is also a good source for the See section.
For Do and anything below, Wikipedia is less useful. If a destination is particularly famous for some activities, these may be mentioned in the article but you need to do further research elsewhere. Particularly famous eateries, bars, shops (large malls and markets often have their own article) and places to sleep might be mentioned, but don't expect any personal impressions. You might be able to find general information on local specialties to eat, drink and buy.
As with content from other WV articles; paraphrase, don't copy! And remember, you can also use other language versions of Wikipedia. The warnings about bad machine translations apply here too.
Official and unofficial webpages
The next stop are official and unofficial webpages, including tourism offices, perhaps also "fan pages" by individuals enthusiastic about the destination and of course official webpages of attractions and businesses. Having brought over stuff from WV articles in other languages and Wikipedia articles you should have a bunch of links or at least names that you can google in order to find the appropriate webpages. This is where you start encountering impressions of places, marketing speech and touting. Yes, if the restaurant or hotel is great, the owners will say so. If it's awful, don't expect that to be written on the official page. Even reviews on such pages might be "curated" by the owners. You should try to write as neutrally as possible.
Start with the official tourism webpage, or if such doesn't exist, unofficial tourism webpages or the official page of the destination might do (provided the latter has some travel related information). From these you can get information of the same kind you harvested from Wikipedia (history, sights, transport etc.) and often also some recommendations when it comes to businesses catering to travellers. Here you can usually also find things related to connect, stay healthy/safe and cope. Move on to home pages of transport companies and facilities (airports, local bus companies and so on) to get route information, ticket prices, procedures for buying tickets and so on.
With the Understand, Get in and Get around sections done it's time to look at the main part of the article (from See to Sleep); the sections that contain listings. Go to the official website of each point of interest. From these you can get contact information, pricing and hours. Try to get a picture of the attraction/business by studying their webpage and describe it in your own words.
Other travel guides
Do you still have trouble finding stuff for the article, or do descriptions of places seem a little short or lifeless? You can give some other travel-related sites (perhaps even printed travel guides) and business directories like Tripadvisor or Yelp a try. At the very least, you can find names of attractions and businesses you haven't listed yet. Secondly, you get to read customer reviews and get more than technical information.
Nevertheless opinions written there should be taken with a grain of salt, and you should read as many reviews as possible and from several sources to get a picture of the place and then write the description in your own words. If you're unable to get a clear picture of what visitors/customers may expect (on a broad level), just drop it. At this point you can also start the cleanup of dead listings; if the last review is from several years ago or if an attraction or business is said to be closed and the place has no presence online whatsoever, it's likely that it's closed; and you may consider removing it from the article. Other travel guides are also a good place to find content for the latter parts of the article, including safety and health warnings.
Maps and other last resorts
Take a look one or several maps, for instance the Mapnik layer in OSM. Look at photos from the destination, for instance in Wikimedia commons or google the destination an open the images tab. If you spot something travel-relevant you've missed, google it. At this point, consider the possibility that you've already listed everything; we cannot for instance list ten places to Drink if there are only seven of them in town. If you still wish to find something, just google "[type of place] in [location]" and look what turns up. The very last resort short of actually going there is contacting the tourist office or similar by e-mail or phone and ask them whatever you need to know.
The last sections of the article
How about the latter sections of the article? If you are still looking for content for the end of the article (such as Stay safe, Stay healthy, Connect), the country article might give you some clues. For safety and health issues, you can also have a look at travel advisories.
Finally, there's Go next. Have a look at a regional or national map of what is nearby (cities, national parks). Then, go to the websites of transport companies in Get in, look at route maps and try to search for these nearby locations. Places that seem easily accessible can be listed in Go next and places that seem hard to access can be omitted. Obviously, if these places have Wikivoyage articles, check out if they mention getting in from the destination you're writing about. And again, you can google "[destination] to [destination]" to see what turns up.
The final major step before releasing the article is the cleanup. The article now has plenty of information, but it might not be properly formatted and some of the information might be outdated. This mainly concerns content that already was in the article before you started and that you've brought over from other Wikivoyage articles and secondary sources. Time to weed out outdated and faulty information and make the article ready for mainspace.
Start going through the article from the top to the bottom. Places that you've already confirmed exist a few hours or days ago, you can of course skip. Try every link, and if they don't work, try to google the attraction/business. If you're unable to find first hand sources and the newest reviews are several years old, it's likely that it has closed down. If the Wikivoyage or Wikitravel destination article comes up among the very first search results for the attraction/business, that's a dead giveaway that it either doesn't exist any longer, or it operates under a different name. If listings still lack geocoordinates, it is a good idea to do this in Google maps (or another map service) when you're at it. Perhaps needless to say, don't copy coordinates from Google maps but use Wikivoyage's regular coordinate tool to make sure that you get the coordinates on the right place.
Bad formatting and grammar? Now is a good time to fix those issues as well. And go to Commons and make sure the article gets some nice photos.
So, does the article now look like a guide per the definition above? If not, then it should be usable at the very least. Move the content from the sandbox to mainspace and you're done.