March 2011 Update/Reactions
This page is intended to catalog two things, roughly speaking:
- Reactions to the March 2011 Update and the Editor Trends Study
- ...including questions and specific objections
- ...and ideas about why things happened in the past and what we might do in the future
- How the update and study data are being used and referenced in the community
Note that these are meant to be useful summaries of threads, mostly from and for the perspective of staff and those interested in working on this issue in a hands-on way. It's not meant to be NPOV per se, and please don't continue the discussion here.
Thread: The first experience for new users to the English Wikipedia
A quarter of new editors on the English Wikipedia start by creating a new stub article on their favorite topic and watch it get deleted via any of the many deletion processes within a small span of time"
Thread:Feedback from new editors
"One thing I did was to create a Wikipedia article for a number which was redlinked in a chart. I was upset to find my article rejected, as I did not initially understand notability... The basic problem is we don't know where to start editing. It feels like every time you make a contribution, you worry someone will tell you how bad it is. There's no shallow end, and jumping in at the deep end is not very appealing." (Bronsonboy) http://strategy.wikimedia.org/wiki/Thread:Talk:March_2011_Update/Feedback_from_New_Editors/reply_(4)
"I also showed up and edited a few pages. One, the page for the CETME Model C, got completely re-written to be about the company, rather than the rifle. Did the old (useful) information get moved to a sub-page? Nope. Just deleted. Welcome to Wikipedia. You can tell by my editing history since then how successful that welcome was. Did I make some newbie mistakes? Sure. Did anyone offer to help correct them? Nope. I'd like to go back and make the CETME page useful at some point, but where's the payoff? At the time it was pretty obvious to me that my contribution was not welcome." http://strategy.wikimedia.org/wiki/Thread:Talk:March_2011_Update/Feedback_from_New_Editors/reply_(11)
"All - Just out of curiosity, I dropped by Bronsonboy's talk page. The only thing there was the bot-generated rejected article note. That's an appalling way to treat a new editor, and I am embarrased on behalf of the community that we can't do better than that." (PKM) http://strategy.wikimedia.org/wiki/Thread:Talk:March_2011_Update/Feedback_from_New_Editors/reply_(9)
Thread: Diminishing Retention Rates
"There are quite a few problems with Wikipedia today that make it virtually unusable for new contributors: 1) The notability guidelines are a ticking timebomb, 2) There is no reason in the world for article length to be constrained to encyclopedia length articles, 3) New user participation requires such a high bar to navigate, the deluge of inside acronyms, rules, guidelines, procedures and practices makes it daunting and virtually impossible for most people to work within the system, 4) Deleting things should be hard -- very very hard. It's not. It's very very easy." (IP)
"People who think they are improving the quality of Wikipedia by getting swathes of articles deleted are not thinking in terms of the end user - the person who wants to look something up. All too often, discussions revolve around editors, not actual users. "(Yngvadottir)
"As a quite experienced editor, I absolutely agree with the IP. There is an increasing divide between the inclusionist feel of most WP readers and casual editors and the hardcore deletionist attitude of most regular editors around" (Cyclopia)
The reader doesn't care about what anybody else considers "notable" - if the reader wants to read about topic X, it's notable to the reader." (Teratornis)
"If Wikipedia wants to continue with its campaign of suckering new users into creating content which then gets destroyed, Wikipedia should forfeit its tax exempt status. Is there any other charitable organization that destroys as much intellectual property as Wikipedia? Deleting people's good faith work is not "charitable" in any sense I can recognize." (Teratornis)
"This kind of nonsense needs to stop [referring to the Old Man Murray case]. But alas, it's been going on for 5 or 6 years with absolutely no response from WM." (IP)
- Combating deletionism
"But we have no tools to combat deletionists. In keeping with the principle that "bad money drives out good", deletionists have an automatic advantage over inclusionists, because inclusionists have no way to put points on the board. The best possible outcome for the inclusionist is a temporary draw, since an article can be nominated for deletion an unlimited number of times. A deletionist only has to delete one article, one time to (potentially) drive an inclusionist away from Wikipedia in disgust, whereas there doesn't seem to be anything an inclusionist can do that drives a deletionist away from Wikipedia." (Teratornis)
"All users should be forced to try and improve submissions long before any deletion can happen. Only outright vandalism should be grounds for fast deletion." (IP)
While Wikipedia's strategizers are trying to analyze the falling number of editors, could we have some analysis of the strengthening hold of deletionists? ... Maybe a relatively small number of Wikipedia editors are responsible for most of the editor retention problem. We should track the fate of editors whose work was deleted." (Teratornis)
- Maybe Editors that joined pre-2005 are different than the ones that are joining today
"Nowhere in your study I see anything about a test to see whether or not the same kind of people (age, gender, social background, IQ, education, working environment, accessibility to scientific resources) are signing up for Wikimedia projects like wikipedia. If the userbase changes, then changing the editor or the accessibility across different platforms makes no sense. . .you might find that the kind of people that primarily signed up before 2005 still have a high retention rate, while the new kind of people (hypothesized to be teenagers and adolescents) have a relatively low retention rate." (Redtails)
Thread: Improving the Newcomer Experience
- Helping newcomers is great, but please be aware of impact on experienced editors
"I appreciate that this is a goal for all WMF projects, improve the newcomer experience, make it easier for them to edit, etc. Issues have arisen in the past where attempts to make things "easier" for newcomers, have lead to it being harder for experienced, long-in-the-tooth editors to get their job done" (BarkingFish)
"I can't help but feel that part of the problem of retaining newcomers. . .is the downright aggressive and unfriendly attitude of a small number of experienced editors. . .Often their interaction with newcomers is little short of bullying, their behaviour patronising, rude and overbearing, when what is really needed is a gentle push in the right direction, a kind word or two, and maybe a pointer to good examples of what the newcomer is trying to do." (Skinsmoke)
"Two immediate problems: impenetrably confusing help system/files, and politically correct despotism in enforcing consensus over facts and good grammar." (Peter S Strempel)
Thread: Disputes regarding edits
"The new Wikipedia user faces the problem of unknown unknowns. For many types of negative or unproductive interactions a new user might have on Wikipedia, remedies are available somewhere on Wikipedia, but the new user doesn't know where to find them, or even that they exist. And the software is still too dumb to have any idea of what the new user is trying to do, much less advise the new user on the best way to go about it. . .Instead, the Wikipedia interface is optimized for people who know what they are doing" (Teratornis)
- dispute resolution built into mediawiki
"There should be a (possibly more obvious) dispute resolution system built into MediaWiki [gives example]. . . if there were some very easy, intuitive way to get a third-party opinion on changes and alterations, it might make things more welcoming. The same way LiquidThreads is here being used to replace the Talk page, a GUI for dispute resolution, or even renaming it to "Third-Party Perspective" might improve new user's experience when it comes to their contributions and revisions." (Christophermluna)
- newbies feeling alone
"I didn't feel mistreated, just discouraged, like I was the newbie and in the absence of a third party, I would just have to allow my edits or contributions to be reverted. I'm also saying that this might be one reflection of the retention data Wikipedia is seeing. I started out enthusiastic, and then lost steam after this experience." (Christophermluna)
- mentoring in groups
"What if we just set up some groups for new users? You could be added to a group of new users possibly based on a very short, optional questionnaire, and these groups could be assisted voluntarily by editors. The editors could act as mentors to these groups, possibly with a special page that tracked the changes made by their group members." (Christophermluna)
- more rules won't work
"Rewriting or adding more rules don't work because people with an agenda are willing to make the effort to follow them, no matter how they're written, while experts who aren't familiar with them will be frustrated. In effect, causing the opposite effect intended." (llywrch)
Thread: It's all down to technicalities, isn't it
- Difficulties of online communication
"When you are not face to face, you don't have an instant feedback, and you don't "watch your mouth" ("mixaforically speaking"). The same is with "oldies/newbies": your first order of care is wikipedia, and when patrolling newpages and clicking this gizmo 15 times/min your brain is not tuned to sensitivities of all these nasty ignoramuses which deface your pretty article." (Lothar Klaic)
- Complexity in 2006
" By the time I got here (in 2006) things had gotten pretty complicated. Today things are more complicated." (Teratornis)
- Intelligent Intervention
"We have to find a way to show new users only as much of Wikipedia's complexity as they need to know. This is difficult because each new user has slightly different goals and needs to know slightly different things about Wikipedia. Only intelligent intervention seems to be a solution, and that is expensive because only skilled human brains can do that (until computers become intelligent enough)." (Teratornis)
- Getting paid to work, role of rules
"while companies might use rules to compel people who are paid to work for them to do what is wanted, wiki does not work that way. People, anyway the ones you want, are not paid to work here but do it for pleasure. therefore your task is not to compel them to work a certain way, but to make the experience enjoyable." (Sandpiper)
- interactive chat upon article creation attempt
"A possible way forward might be to implement some sort of interactive chat feature, such that when a new user tries to create their very first new article, an experienced user immediately opens an interactive chat session with the new user to find out what sort of article they want to create. . .It would be better to give the bad news early than let the new user sink hours of work into writing an article that gets speedily deleted. Early intervention is usually cheaper than late intervention." (Teratornis)
- Beta quality articles
"Another thought is to be able to classify an article as, for example, "beta quality", ie it is not of sufficient quality to qualify as a mainstream Wikipedia article (eg. it doesn't have sufficient referencing) and yet is still of merit. In fact, all new articles could initially be classified as "beta quality", and then promoted to a mainstream article once reviewed? That would definitely provide the encouragement for new users to create new articles (they will at least exist as "beta quality" ones) whilst at the same time providing a strong incentive to produce quality work (the acceptance of the article into the mainstream)" (Alexandrews)
Thread: Another Simple Explanation of Editing Trends
- Wikipedia is already pretty good
"As a "niche" editor, the editing trends seem obvious to me. When I started editing years ago, it was quite rewarding to gravitate to a few very rudimentary pages on topics about which I had some expertise (eg. "shoelaces") and editing them extensively. Wikipedia has now been around long enough for countless experts in their field, however "niche", to have similarly gravitated towards their pet pages and fine tuned them. Today, I rarely make major edits to pages because they're all getting to be pretty good, and I feel pedantic making trivial edits. I can't see hat a newbie has anything much to get their teeth into either." (Ian Fieggen)
- potential tradeoff: goal of encyclopedia vs. welcoming community
"I've seen the same thing in just three years of editing at en.wikipedia. Referencing has also improved...The bar for contributing is being raised all the time. So is the quality of the articles. Which begs the question - is the main purpose of Wikipedia to write a world-class encyclopedia, at which it is becoming increasingly successful? Or is it to create a welcoming and friendly online community, at which it seems to be failing? Obviously it doesn't have to be either/or, but the issues around the second question can't ignore Wikipedia's main purpose, which is to create a world-class encyclopedia. . . How to bring the two together is the question that should be asked," (First Light, last line is from a different comment)
- (just wanted to note how this user complimented other users)
"I would like to compliment Ian for his commitment to continue to contribute to Wikipedia; the correct reading of the reality made by First Light; and Llywrch excellent suggestion of added and/or renewed emphasis on article guidelines, once done it is a extraordinary time saver for anyone writing or expanding an article." (Vapmachado)
Thread: Cabal nature of long-term editors and admins
- Bad experience with long-term editors and admins
"As someone who came into the project about 18 months ago and was extremely enthusiastic to start, fell into being morally crushed by highly-experienced users, had come back and again soundly mentally defeated, I feel there is a gigantic problem with exclusivity (or "cabal-like behavior") by longer-term users, and among administrators in particular." (Datheisen)
Points of Agreement
- The lack of information about editors (perceived complete anonymity) contributes to an unhealthy social environment; more social profiles may help
- Organization of editors around topics is useful, but WikiProjects are confusing, not inviting
"I noticed that many of the articles I have written acquired one or more 'within the scope of the XXX project' banners. However, I have never figured out what that meant. I tried to work out how to join these projects (the ones that sounded closest to my interests), thinking that somewhere there would be a mailing list where the group would do some coordination around article-writing (or something) or that I might get advice from them. But, after the banner appears, nothing more happens." -- Kerry Raymond
Thread: Feedback from New Editors
Points of Agreement
- Don't know where to get started
- Unforgivingness of editors
"One thing I did was to create a Wikipedia article for a number which was redlinked in a chart. I was upset to find my article rejected, as I did not initially understand notability... The basic problem is we don't know where to start editing. It feels like every time you make a contribution, you worry someone will tell you how bad it is. There's no shallow end, and jumping in at the deep end is not very appealing." (Bronsonboy)
"I also showed up and edited a few pages. One, the page for the CETME Model C, got completely re-written to be about the company, rather than the rifle. Did the old (useful) information get moved to a sub-page? Nope. Just deleted. Welcome to Wikipedia. You can tell by my editing history since then how successful that welcome was. Did I make some newbie mistakes? Sure. Did anyone offer to help correct them? Nope. I'd like to go back and make the CETME page useful at some point, but where's the payoff? At the time it was pretty obvious to me that my contribution was not welcome." (Davepolaschek)
Suggestions for solving problems
- Tell users how to do something useful
"Channel our enthusiasm-tell us how we can help so we can do something useful instead of wasting time by making editors undo changes.
Ask us about our interests and recommend projects for us to join." (Bronsonboy)
- Rollover Explanations
"Another idea would be to add rollover explanations: "Takes you to the _______ page", "Inserts a section of _______ text", "[verb]s a(n) [adjective][noun]"
Thread: Newbies or Better Information
Points of Disagreement
I'd like to throw out a thought here: should we worry about the decline in new editors? If we compare Wikipedia's history to the evolution of a similar Internet-based project -- the Linux kernel -- both share an important trend: more barriers to newbies (resulting in fewer newbies), yet a growing improvement in perceived quality (Llywrch)
"Actually I would say our main problem is that we do not adequately warn new users about this before they start editing. . .I think part of our problem is our misleading use of the word "Save". Most people have used productivity software on their computers, which has conditioned them to expect that when you save something, it stays the way you saved it, until you edit it again... On Wikipedia, "Save" doesn't mean anything like that. There is no predictable outcome from saving. Instead you are spinning the roulette wheel. Or maybe spinning the chamber of the revolver pointed at your head." (Teratornis)
- Openness vs. quality
"In every example I can think of, the way to increase quality is by weeding out incompetence and malice. There has to be a selection process of some sort, which recognizes and promotes competence and good faith. You want the recruitment to be open, of course, so you start the selection from the largest possible candidate pool. Wikipedia's selection process revolves around its astounding complexity. To edit on Wikipedia, a person has to be comfortable working within the minefield of things like en:WP:CSD, which punishes (often unwitting) transgressors with almost sociopathic indifference." (Teratornis)
- How requirements of being a Wikipedian are in conflict with what newbies want to do:
"It is true that humans are emotional. That is why humans are having a harder time becoming Wikipedia editors. To edit on Wikipedia requires essentially abandoning many normal human impulses, such as the urge to advocate for causes and write one's beliefs. Instead we are supposed to be neutral, and simply focus on refactoring previously published material without getting emotional about it. . . these requirements are distinctly unobvious to new editors. Most people who decide to start editing on Wikipedia have no clue what they are in for." (Teratornis)
- Should worry about existing editors too
"Of course we should worry about a decline in editors. The same issues are driving away established users" (Pengo)
"But maybe new article creation is unnecessarily complex. What is an article really? Text and a few citation links, neutral point of view, encyclopedic style. If it were only a matter of reading one page, then going through a wizard, anyone with a highschool education should soon master the basics." (Heavenlyblue)
"Here is how it can seem to new editors now: "Here, before you do anything, memorise this two-hundred-page manual. Then, when you begin editing, your work may suddenly and inexplicably disappear at the whim of some seemingly anonymous, malign entity or your modest efforts may unleash a torrent of harsh criticism from said entity."
Many experienced editors desperately need to reread and take to heart some core Wikipedia policies, such as Wikipedia:Please_do_not_bite_the_newcomers" (Heavenlyblue)
"I'd suggest trying to make it more informative as to what editing on Wikipedia is really about. Editing on Wikipedia is about figuring how to defend what you want to write against the criteria for speedy deletion and all the other rules about what we cannot keep on Wikipedia. I'm thinking about those rules every time I edit. The new user probably doesn't even know those rules exist" (Teratornis)
Thread: Legitimate decreases need to be considered, too
- Requirements of mature encyclopedia are different
"Most people I know say the same thing I am. We would rather contribute to other wikis that are missing a lot more content." (Trlkly)
"We can pretend we are still young and world-changing or we can realise that we have grown up. What we need now are the experts who can do the hard stuff - fill in the gaps where enthusiasm isn't enough - and are used to the academic grind of digging out references for every factoid challenged by the "I have the right" grumps. Don't go bemoaning yesterday's community - go motivate tomorrow's." (Steelpillow)
"If Wikipedia really wants to cover under-served regions of the world, then we probably need to relax our requirements for notability and against original work, for those areas." (Teratornis)
"It seems to me that part of the systemic bias is due to deletionist behaviour, particularly these (bad) deletion reasons:. . ." (Kobnach)
New Users Creating New Articles
"It might be enlightening to study the retention rate of new users who begin their editing career by creating a new article, compared to new users who begin with more tentative attempts at editing existing articles." (First Light)
Thread: [Foundation-l] Message to community about community decline
Link to thread start: http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/foundation-l/2011-March/064902.html
Main trajectory of the thread:
- The data isn't perfect; it counts user accounts rather than people. It is likely that the proportion of second and third accounts has been rising over the years. By how much, we don't know.
- Still, the trend of editors leaving and it being harder to contribute matches up with most people's experience.
- We've got a lot of work to do.
- But is the focus on the number of editors distracting us from supporting the great editors we already have? (This idea comes up several times, and resonates with a number of people, among them SlimVirgin, Theo10011, MZMcBride, and Keegan.)
- But (rejoins Kaldari, echoed by others) quality is tied to the diversity of our contributor base, meaning that we must get out of the 'white male geek' demographic to improve.
- And maybe part of the decline has to do with earlier editors having written all they want to / can write about?
- And supporting existing existing editors and new ones aren't mutually exclusive goals! Both groups face a lot of the same hurdles, both technical and social.
- (By this point, the thread is starting to fragment and run is many directions without much relevant innovation.)
Points of Disagreement
The following comment and similar ones got some pushback, but also sparked a number of the comments along the lines of 'we aren't doing enough to support the great editors we already have':
"There's a theory that doing something like editing a free online encyclopedia is a niche activity, with a finite amount of people who will ever be willing to participate. If we accept this theory, it makes the very strong focus on increased participation look rather silly. [...] As I see it, the majority of editors don't interact with the hostile parts of the community in any real way. Maybe some new editors receive a rude talk page template, but most of them don't understand or bother to read these templates. New editors do, however, interact with the editing interface quite a bit though, which is more hostile than any person could ever be." (MZMcBride)
"So we should just be satisfied with our Pokemon articles and leave it at that? I for one would like to one day see a Wikipedia that isn't obviously written by people like us, i.e. white male American geeks." (Kaldari)
"It's been a regular theme since I joined in 2004 that people have minimized the contribution of established editors. We highlight research emphasizing the percentage of edits made by anons [...] But I believe that when the history of Wikipedia is eventually written, we'll be astonished by the very small number of people who created, wrote and maintained this project. And every time one of those people leaves, real damage is inflicted on Wikipedia's future." (SlimVirgin)
Points of Agreement
- The data isn't perfect. The editor trend study is based on user accounts, and we don't know how user accounts match up with actual users.
- The overall decline trend nevertheless matches people's experience.
- We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that *quality*, not number of contributors, is our ultimate goal.
"The conclusion of the study is that losses after one year were more likely to happen after 2007. That could be (and almost certainly is) because a higher proportion of accounts created after 2007 were second accounts, which were then abandoned for third accounts, or to return to the first one." (SlimVirgin)
"It seems that our natural reaction is to immediately question the numbers and the underlying studies. We are Wikimedians and will not rest until we are sure that we are looking at 100% accurate numbers.
We could also look at this another way. Looking around me and talking to people about Wikipedia (and sometimes the other projects) I hear a lot of stories which demonstrate our inability to welcome everyone and motivate them to become regular contributors. The data strongly suggests the same thing." (Jan-Bart de Vreede)
Requests for more data
- What portion of new accounts are an individual's second (or third, etc.) account? How does this portion change over time?
- Why do people leave? We don't know except anecdotally.
"From the reactions here [about why people get discouraged from contributing more] (p.e. Milos: my topic was exhausted, Kirill: lots of frustration) we have an idea. It would be nice to have some more statistical data." (teun spaans)
Thread: What really damage Wikipedia, what could improve Wikipedia?
Points of Agreement
- hostile atmosphere contributes to declining editor numbers
Points of Disagreement
- this decline as natural, in part because an encyclopedia cannot continue to double in size year after year
Causes/explanation of decline/difficulties of newbies:
- just human nature, frustration, dealing with anonymous/new people is hard
Suggestions for solving problems
- a separate draft space & minimum time of existence for new articles
- commission of admins should be put in charge of deletion, rather than a few random ones
- "school for admins:" "it looks like a German mentoring programs, but for future admins. I.e. there is a collective assistance at the forums, but there is also a personal tutor whom you can always ask for advice, consultation." (User:Samal2010/Samal on ru.wiki)
- "The deletion process should be formalized so that the flash mob/gang mentality of it goes away. Well predefined and frequently changing deletion committees, a reversal to the burden of proof on notability (not the article must prove notability, the contesting party must prove the lack of it) and a general spirit of inclusion should be there. Also notability rules must be seriously relaxed in a number of areas. And - bring back the stub!" (User:Wefa)
- "I think all that said here can be synthesized through the 5th pillar of Wikipedia, the main one." (User:Dream of Nyx)
Thread: Qualitative Versus Quantitative Research
Points of agreement:
too much conflict, too many rules
ideological battles between inclusionists & deletionists that overlook the common goal & end up being destructive for the project as a whole (like in de.wiki, where WP:Project/Visual arts/Quality assurance was closed after fight btw deletionists & inclusionists)
Additional data requested: qualitative researchers who can pull out stories from the non-English projects, interview editors and "diagnose" the problem
Suggestions for solving problems
More qualitative research
Thread: A modest proposal for "incubating" new articles
Points of agreement
speedy deletion is hurting newbie retention/WP
Suggestions for solving problems
delay speedy deletion for 7 days and bring mentors in to help author edit article; after 7 days, admin can delete article if it still fails criteria for notability -- run this experiment for fixed amount of time
Something like this has been done: "...on EN wiki we've been running a new system for nearly a year that works a bit like that. Unsourced Biographies of living people get tagged with a fairly friendly template that explains that we no longer accept unreferenced Biographies of Living people, and gives them ten days to reference it. Looking at en:Category:BLP articles proposed for deletion by days I believe that a fairly good proportion of the worthwhile articles get rescued by a small team of people. But I fear that few of the authors stay after being told that their article is being tagged for deletion." (User:WereSpielChequers)
Thread: Newcomers Incubator. A small correction.
Points of agreement:
ru.wiki Incubator is not just an "Article Incubator" but, more importantly, a "Newcomer Incubator" -- an article can either get deleted or move to the mainspace, but users stick around, write 2-3 articles, and learn how to edit in a safe space
Thread:Feedback from New Editors
Points of agreement
- new editors need love!
- it's frustrating to be a newbie: you don't know what you're doing, and all the hard work you put in gets reverted/deleted without warning/explanation
- lack of communication from WP community to new users about what to do, where to go, how to edit
- nobody's around to help, nobody's social
- newbies are put off by WP jargon, having their edits reverted/articles deleted b/c of non-notability, when it is clear that the users who revert/delete simply don't know anything about the topic
- "I've been a new editor several times, in the sense that I start editing, maybe make an account since I've forgotten the last one, and quickly get disillusioned and leave. This has happened maybe 4 times over the last few years. (...) Invariably my first interaction with the Wikipedia community is with either a bot or a person telling me what they think I'm doing wrong. They're often polite, sometimes not, but they nearly always come across as supercilious and condescending. I (and other people I know) get a real "I'm better than you" vibe from a lot of experienced editors, even some who probably mean well." (Anon IP: 188.8.131.52)
Suggestions for solving problems
- Create a page where new users can discuss their problems & get feedback from experienced editors
Channel our enthusiasm-tell us how we can help so we can do something useful instead of wasting time by making editors undo changes. Ask us about our interests and recommend projects for us to join. In these projects, designate leaders who will delegate small duties to newer users, as well as mentors to help them if they need assistance (You'd not believe what seemingly simple things I still don't have figured out. Indenting this required about a minute and a half of screwing around with the formatting bar.) Show us how we can be useful. Personally, I feel that I have nothing valuable to contribute, because I feel as if I am blundering around causing problems and not fixing any. This is very discouraging, and I still (after several weeks) have made no contribution longer than three words, simply because I cannot find anything to contribute to, and don't have very hopeful prospects of doing so in the near future. This is actually probably the longest thing I have written. (User:Bronsonboy)
- A "quick reference" page
- Some concrete tech add-ons: "I like that when you click the "I" for italic text, it gives you a prompt Italic text. Perhaps wikimedia could add "Title" and "Sources" to this toolbar? It is very frustrating to flip back and forth from the wiki markup page to the article you're trying to work on." (User:Bronsonboy)
- More flexibility in citation: "Personally I prefer acceptance of multiple citation styles, it keeps Wikipedia open to editors from different places and fields, but folks have produced systematised aids in this - and umpteen other areas. There are some really industrious and helpful people on Wikipedia. I wish the mindset was more that that's good." (User:Yngvadottir)
- Import more sources onwiki (Wikisource)
- More new user studies: "The best commercial enterprises spend a great deal of effort researching what customers think about them, particularly new customers. We should invest some of the proceeds of the fundraiser into doing the same." (User:The Land)
Thread: Glossary of terms
Points of agreement
Even for experienced editors, atmosphere is too hostile & cold, and many technical aspects (like why usernames show up in red on other projects) are a mystery: "Well, I am an E1000+ if you count my contributions, so apparently I'm some kind of Wikipedia guru. But I feel like a babe in the woods most of the time on Wikipedia. (...) I saw a comment somewhere about whether people felt they are members of the Wikipedia/Wikimedia community. After a number of years, I never have. Partly because (until I stumbled on this page this morning) I never found anywhere I could talk to anyone, and talking is surely the basis for community. Has there been a place to talk that I never found before?" (User:Kerry Raymond)
Suggestions for solving problems
- make sure to account for IP editors
- single log-in link feature for all WM projects: "What the single user login should be doing is automagically displaying links to each of your other user pages. If nothing else, that would help other people track you down if they wanted to post a message where you would be likely to read it. (User:Flatterworld)
Thread:How to Succeed in Editing Without Really Trying
Points of agreement:
- WP needs more "non-nerd" contributors
- rules/proceedures for contributing are far too complex for anyone who is not a manual nerd
- newbies are sitting ducks against the army of deletionists: "The new editor is going up against deletionists who have spent years honing their craft. They have an array of time saving shortcuts, jargon, reference pages, templates, process pages, etc. which let them destroy hours of your work with just seconds of theirs. They know their rules inside and out; you (the new user) have never heard of them. It's like wandering onto the gridiron of an NFL game in progress having never heard of American football." (User:Tertornis)
- need to make technical side of WP more friendly for non-Wikipedians
Suggestions for solving problems
"Instead of having experienced users create new articles, let them create new-article "bread mixes" for new users to try making articles out of. I.e., pick some missing topics that are notable enough, look up a sufficient set of sources, and provide enough instructions for new users to craft them into articles, safely in user space. Since the topics would be pre-vetted, the user could edit with confidence that it wouldn't be summarily destroyed." (User:Tertornis) Write manuals that aren't already geared toward Wikipedians. "The problem with Wikipedians writing all the "how to edit Wikipedia" material is that it much ends up being written in Wikipediese. If a user experience consultant reviewed the Article Creation Wizard I shudder to think what they would say!" (User:The Land) "apprenticeship model" -- encourage newbies to edit first before creating articles
Thread: Simplify article editing: anarchic and esoteric templates
Points of agreement
automated bot messages, templates, warnings, etc. are turning newbies away, both by spamming them with negative junk, and because they don't know which of the hundreds of thousands of templates to use in their articles
Suggestions for solving problems
- standardize & streamline templates & template search
- software solutions for reference editing & maintaining
Thread: What happened in May 2007?
Thread:Talk:March 2011 Update/What happened in May 2007? "Something much more dramatic than a falloff in user retention happened around May 2007. The total number of Wikipedia editors that had been increasing rapidly suddenly started to decline. The falloff in new editors was even more dramatic. So something must have happened. What was it?
There don't seem to be dramatic changes to the software. The policy on creating new articles didn't seem to change then. The BLP policy happened some time before. The speedy deletion policy doesn't seem to have changed. Does anyone have a long enough memory to know?"
Some answers included
- The rise of Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, etc.
- Actively tamping down on social features, such as the "userbox wars" that were supported/instigated by Jimmy's position. This may have led to relative newcomers beging "alienated by the aggressively negative attitude towards userboxes at the time, & not only left but warned off other potential contributors" (Lllyrwych)
Thread orginator responded, "a growth in active Wikipedia editors of about 2,100 per month. After this date there was a decline of 1,400 a month - though it recovered somewhat after that, whilst continuing to decline. That is a HUGE change." that one of these events alone doesn't account for.
Other combined/sequential factors posted after this included
- Wikipedia became a household name, including with lots of criticism from the media and other sources (see links).
- The community responded by implementing policy changes and hiring another wave of admins (the second largest jump after 2005)
Relevant links: The media questioned Wikipedia's quality, reported vadalism, reported "paid editing" and somebody got sued for a BLP violation. Also, the first vandalism study said 97% comes from IP editors, w:WP:WIF became more visible, the w:Essjay controversy became big news, a person was detained as a terrorist because of another BLP violation and Jimbo was criticized on TV. This was also the time that w:Citizendium was launched, so people had a new alternative to Wikipedia.
- Hostility, intentional and unintentional
- Overcomplicated software and editing practices
- The speed at which New Page Patrol happens is a problem (regardless of newbie status or not)
- This speed and the sometimes "trigger happy" mentality of patrolling is due to " the sheer number of newly created articles every day that are hoaxes, corporate spam, personal vanity pages, and articles with the sole purpose of attacking people"
- Reducing the complexity of writing articles, learning the policies, and integrating into the community -- after which newbies will be able to better defend themselves against hostility
- A "help I'm being bullied template"
- A draft space, with a "a "Save in My Workspace" button (along with Save and Preview)"\
- Slowing down tagging of articles (for deletion and with problems)
- Find ways to get people to identify and save articles for improvement, instead of just delete/tag/move to draft or userspace as the only options
Thread: The relationship between editor trend and revert trend
Is there a measurable correllation between the ratio of edits reverted and trends in new editors?
If decline pattern for cohort ratio is... from 2004-2005 there was a shallow decline pattern, from 2007-2010 there was a much deeper decline pattern, and 2006 was between the previous two...
While, the total revert ratio are:
- 2004-2005: Less than 5%
- 2007-2010: Greater than 10%
- 2006: between the above two
For the above data, we have below explanations:
- Just coincidence
- Revert ratio change is the direct reason for decline pattern change for cohort ratio
- Revert ratio change and decline pattern change for cohort ratio are related, but both were lead by a deeper reason
- The combination of explanation 2 and explanation 3.
Thread: A couple of concrete ideas
- Support for welcoming and positive feedback campaigns for newcomers
- Additional proposals to:
- More quickly weed out POV/bad faith editors
- Stop community tolerance for rudeness and incivility from longtime contributors who may otherwise do valuable work
Thread: What next?
Thread:Talk:March 2011 Update/What next? What are some pieces of actionable advice we can give to interested community members? What you can do now depends on the role you play in the community, and your personal appetite for helping on this issue. Like...
- if you're technically inclined, you could write tools enabling/automating welcoming behaviour.
- If you're socially inclined, you could find some promising new editors in your topic area and offer to mentor them.
- If you're more of a governance or systems person, you could try to rally support for system-wide initiatives, like maybe including welcoming behaviour as a criterion for adminship, or advocating for establishment of a new article incubator space.
One next step for the Foundation and those interested should be identifying the hands-on roles volunteers with different skill sets can take on.
Thread: The reward complex
"One thing I've noticed in my two or three very active years at the english wikipedia, is the level of discouragement to give out prizes, or to hold contests.[...] Barnstars, icons, and the like are a huge method of encouragement for all users.[...]"
"There are two areas of wikipedia that newcomers struggle with:
- Sourcing: Very few newbies indicate where they found the information they are adding. Most experienced editors (myself included) will revert that, stating "please provide a source", but to no avail. The activation of reftools would certainly help with this, but better still would be to encourage newbies before they make their first edit to read a basic guide to sourcing, NPOV, original research and synthesis. The less newbie edits that are reverted, the more newbies that will stick around and continue editing.
- Communication: [...]"(Floydian)
Points of agreement
- Newbies are likely to be reverted, and this chases them away.
The thread essentially continues as a back-and-forth about what the best way to deal with the newbies-getting-reverted problem is. The two possible solutions are:
- Better ways to enculturate newbies (see Floydian's comment above).
- Gentler treatment and laxer standards for sourcing: "Why revert newly added unsourced information, particularly immediately, if it's not obviously implausible and/or potentially libelous? [...]" (Kobnach) A third way of attacking the problem is implicit on one of Kobnach's comments:
- Improve quality of existing articles so that there are fewer bad articles that people use as examples for new bad content. "As long as the backlog of no longer acceptable material remains, people who use it as a model are going to feel "bitten" - with justification.[...]" (Kobnach)
Thread: Let Contributors Receive Voluntary Donations for Their Work
Summary of issue
IP 74 writes: "I've been an editor for seven years, and one of the main reasons I've slowed down a lot is because of a lack of remuneration for my time. After a while, the self-satisfaction of my contributions to human knowledge wore off. I need some money for my time. Just being honest."
- Issue: Wikipedia editing eats up significant amounts of free time, causing many editors - often experienced editors - to cut back on editing.
- Question: Should editors be monetarily compensated for their contributions to keep them engaged?
Points of agreement
- Editors' time should not be taken for granted
- More experienced editors are facing insensitive treatment. User:Llywrch: "Allowing established editors to have some way to afford to volunteer helps to retain them. a donation system wouldn't work for everyone, but saying that volunteers either contribute out of the goodness of their hearts or quit, is heartless & indifferent. And established editors endure a lot of heartless & indifferent treatment right now -- which is one reason they quit"
- Using money as an incentive to edit brings in many practical, social, and legal challenges, as well as conflicts of interest, particularly in terms of quality
- Monetary compensation
- Allow editors to link to donation pages from their user page
- Have website allow direct donations to specific editors
- Don't punish formerly active editors for cutting back. User: Steven Walling at work: " I think the first step to solving this is not punishing longtime contributors who have to not edit as much for practical reasons -- for example, I've seen really, really experienced editors get ragged on just for having opinions about things even though they don't edit as much now, and I think that's not kind considering how much sweat and tears they've put into the project."
How it's being used/referenced in the community
- In new research, such as what is happening to newbies from February: User talk:Mr.Z-man/newusers
- In collections of previous thinking: User:Physics is all gnomes/New editor library
- And essays: User:Piotrus/Morsels of wikiwisdom#On the distressing trend of editors leaving Wikipedia
- On adding WikiLove as a Gadget Wikipedia:Gadget/proposals
- Ongoing RfCs regarding new users: creating new articles, CSD criteria for new articles, being templated, socialising on WP, and being welcomed.
Mostly used as a reference for reasoning about how and why to take a more positive tack towards newbies...
- User talk:Milowent#Stuff in your citations and possible deletion
- User talk:RobertSegal
- User talk:DrKiernan#Help me understand Wikipedia process
- User talk:Ezhiki
- User talk:Aakheperure
- User talk:Bluewave#Ber Jansch
- User talk:Dianna
On userpages to explain how it effected them positively...
- User talk:Nzohoury
- User talk:Graeme Bartlett#File move request
- User talk:Skyglobeobserver
In community discussion processes
- Such as Deletion Review: Wikipedia:Deletion review/Log/2011 March 17
- At the Article Rescue Squadron: Wikipedia talk:Article Rescue Squadron#New Pages and New User
- At ANI, about how to deal with students: Apparent annual creation of role accounts for a class assignment
- How to simplify citations: Template talk:Citation#Preprints
- About participation levels in FPC: Wikipedia talk:Featured picture candidates#FPC Participation