Well no clear cut answer here as well, it of course has two or maybe even more sides, we all really want to help new members, so they will learn and understand how WikiTree works more quickly and easy than we did when we started a few years ago. And to hopefully prevent they will make the same mistakes we made.
We all of course share one dream,(I hope), we all want our WikiTree and all profiles to look great and as accurate as can be and just one profile for each person that ever lived.
Projects are a great way to divide our huge shared Tree into smaller ''chunks'' (or maybe chapters is a better word), and because of all wonderful members joining and participating in the projects these ''chapters'' can get corrected, sourced and improved a lot quicker than if we had to work on them alone or by ourselves. All contributions and help are so much appreciated.
But if people don't want to join a project that of course should be no problem either, if someone is only adding sources to the unsourced profiles, that's of course a great thing as well and even within projects we of course have different types of members some are very and some less active and it all is ok (maybe depending on the project, but we are all volunteering and one has a lot and the other just much less time to work on things here, some members will spend some time working on this and than some time on a different project they also are member of) The projects were and probably still are the easiest way to catch and finally and hopefully get the thousands of duplicates merged that were imported or created in the past (and new ones that still are imported or created) and get them all corrected, sourced and improved a lot faster.
WikiTree of course is Wiki and we all would like to keep it as Wiki as possible, but..we also have a goal...one accurate well sourced profile for every person that ever lived...now to keep things Wiki and at the same time trying to achieve this goal is just not the easiest combination and because of that we have to sometimes think of ways to make sure achieving our goal is and stays a real possibility ..it's logic that if thousands of members in the past have imported (+ many duplicate lineages) almost all very early Pre-1700 lineages one can think of already, this at some point has to either stop or must be prevented in every possible way, so I think this message: This certification requires participation in a project related to the profiles you wish to edit ...just was one of the ways to try and prevent creation or imports of new Pre-1700 duplicates. The participation in a project strongly encouraged and maybe not required, but communicating about which Pre-1700 profiles or lineages people were planning to add or import was what the word ''required'' probably was meant for I guess.
Of course you're absolutely right, people should always first try and search for profiles and if they are present here themselves, but the problem with searching for a lot of the Pre-1700-1811 (Dutch and other) profiles isn't easy and not always showing the profiles, many names were corrected, the modern names people didn't use were replaced by their real names, sometimes patronymics, so if people only search for them here with still the modern (wrong) names they aren't going to find them and probably will end up creating new Pre-1700-1811 duplicates, contact with someone from the project maybe could prevent this (even the Gedcompare doesn't recognize them as duplicates, so we can't expect a new member to recognize them of course)
Things that maybe could help the new members get to know how Wikitree works without this taking a lot of your time could be :
Start or ask if maybe a small group of maybe your project members are interested in setting something like this up, a beginners course in the language of your Country or a South Africa Portal. For the Dutch speaking/reading members, as you know, we now can direct them to the beginners course or a specific subject added to the Nederlands Portaal,
Joop started the Portaal and the beginners course because he experienced how hard to understand WikiTree actually was for members that are not that good in English, it's really very helpful and new members can learn everything about Wikitree here themselves and in their own tempo and time and without having to join a project if they don't want to and..... it is a great time saver for the project team (Coordinators/leader) I guess WikiTree even if you're good in English can be very hard if you're not used to this concept and just arrive, so a beginners course for all members might be very helpful not only for the new members but also for greeters, project leading teams (coordinators/leaders) , mentors , rangers and anyone who is helping or trying to help new members to learn how everything works around here.
Something else that maybe is an idea and this was mentioned a couple of times in different G2G 's already as well, is maybe some sort of introduction period for new members and maybe a specific amount of contributions, before they can take the Pre-1700 test ? Or maybe a combination is an idea, a beginners course + introduction period before people can take the Pre-1700 test ?