OK, so - in re-reading the recommendations (particularly Volunteer recognition), I'm struck by the fact that while important, this isn't exactly revolutionary. In fact, it's so un-revolutionary that some of it is happening already, organically. I don't mean to minimize the importance, and I'm on board and think it's critical.
My question, though, is this: what's stopping us?
Really, what's keeping us from recognizing volunteers on a more widespread basis? What are the lever points? Where/why have we failed at this?
I agree that there's an organic process. However, I think it would be excellent to have WMF sponsored recognition. What we have is currently community-based. Something that comes from the top would be something that people can refer to when looking for employment and have taken seriously.
I think Philippe is really asking why we haven't done it so far. What do we need to get it in place?
Of the recommendations that Jayne Cravens lays out, which ones would fit the best with Wikimedia? Why?
And how do we pick who gets the recognition/rewards?
To "why it hasn't been done so far" I guess you'd have to ask the WMF! I'm guessing that it's never felt to have been necessary before; the community saw explosive growth, so why dangle any carrots? Now we are in a situation (depending on which source you read and how you interpret the figures) where it's argued that the community is in moderate decline or possibly just stabilised. Even if it is stable, I haven't yet heard anyone argue that growth is not desirable, so I feel that effectively making volunteering more tangibly rewarding is going to help grow the community.
To get it in place I think we do need both financing and leadership from the WMF, which we can only secure by presenting them with the recommendation. I think any of the suggestions would be relevant and a good fit and I'm happy that the list is lengthy as it gives the WMF plenty of scope to make a decision on which they feel they could run with. I'd rather they have a list of, say, ten ways of recognising volunteers and them to choose some than present them with two or three and have them reject all of them and not feel moved to generate any alternatives, thus abandoning the concept all together.
And as to who is chosen; I don't see how the WMF could choose since the population of volunteers is too large (especially bearing in mind we're talking about something that will extend to other languages). The WMF could guide us in terms of how many people they can afford/have time to award and then I strongly feel it would have to be a community decision. You could cut eligibility at a stroke by saying "ten thousand edits required even to be considered". Yes, it's a blunt instrument and there will be injustices but any form of assessment will suffer from that.
Another criterion could be extending recognition only to projects of a certain size, which it could be argued would encourage projects to grow, so that they have access to them.
The point I'm trying to make is this: volunteer recognition doesn't need to be WMF driven. Ideally, it would belong to the projects, since they're close enough to identify the key people. Why are we waiting for the WMF to lead on something that could be done inside the community?
We just need a bit of "standardization" so recognition will be less uneven and unfair as it's now.
Projects will turn those new forms of recognition into their owns flavors.
The reason I feel it has to be WMF driven is that, in the case of certificates, they would have to produce them and they would have to create the barriers to prevent people just printing their own. They would have to be the custodians protecting the value of a certificate. I don't see how that can come from the community. Even if this task were ultimately farmed out to chapters the WMF would have to initiate this new idea and help chapters get up and running with this.
The same pertains to other things on the shopping list; if volunteers were to be recognised on press releases (as one of the ideas on the recommendation suggests) the releases would come from the WMF; the bulletin board idea would be located in the WMF offices; mugs/pins/key fobs would have to be funded centrally... etc.
Press releases and probably certificates would need support from the WMF for sure. Press releases require a kind of legitimacy that some random community member does not have. Certificates require money.
That said, I think the best custodians really are the community. Not to say that we don't have the foundation review some things... but the truth is it's hard to evaluate a great editor when you might have conflicting reports. Only people close to the community can tell you what would be egregious enough to disqualify someone from recognition, or what would be consistent with high community standards.
But at the same time, popularity contests can be really frustrating. And sometimes the people who are at the highest risk of burning out are the ones brave enough to wade into controversial areas, and stand up to a cabal.
This is a tough nut to crack.
I agree it will be tough going to get this right. But I think it's worth going for it. It will start off shabby and return some poor results but it will evolve over time and be subject to continual refinement and improvement; much like any article or policy.
So is consensus the answer? Do we nominate people, and the 100 most popular picks go to the foundation for review?
Maybe there are other ways around this by having the recognitions built into Community driven process.
For example, Wikiprojects could enter names of users into a pool and a lottery chooses which people get top recognition by the Foundation with the rest of the people getting mentions because their names would be linked to pages about the recognition/announcement.
Each Wikiproject could use their own criteria (within reason) for deciding the people to nominate. Content improvement contest winners and project coordinator would be examples of some people that I would expect to see nominated.
This process allows the Foundation to get involved with the recognition but not be burdened with the heavy task of selecting one volunteer over another to recognize.
I honestly don't like the idea of a lottery. That would devalue the recognition; I think luck should be left out of it and it should be based on merit.
The approach that I suggested would combine both merit and chance and allow for more people to be recognized more often. I think a process based entirely on voting would be too limiting in the number of people getting recognitions.
There are 100s of people across hundreds of wikis that are worthy of monthly recognition. We need to recognize as many people as possible. This is just a list of Wikipedias There are also hundreds of sister projects with hardworking dedicated volunteers.
I don't see a practical way to recognize this large of a group of volunteers regularly unless we add a lottery component that hurries up the process some. I trying to be practical. :-)
I think we can recognize a lot of people, but higher accolades are obviously going to go to fewer people. If we're worried about repeat rewards, we have a separate category to reward emerging editors who haven't been rewarded before. Rather than throwing 1000 people into a lottery, we should recognize all of them, with 10% of them getting special recognition along some criteria.
I'm with Bodnotbod that a lottery would devalue the recognition and not really make people feel good about their contributions, nor would it motivate people to work harder. Being passed up because of a dice roll is more frustrating than being passed up because someone else did X more than you did.
Many people would some recognition but only one (or a few) would get the full recognition with press releases and be featured as a top volunteer.
I don't think the a formal process to select monthly winner(s) to profile in a highly visible way would result in a better selection than a lottery anyway because there are simple too many people that all do massive amounts of high quality work.
How would be organize it so that every wiki had a way to select people to be in the running for Wikimedia volunteer of the month and then give every wiki a chance to vote on the people. I don't think that it is practical to put the organizational structure in to do this every month. I don't see how we can move from the local level selection process on hundreds of wikis with multiple collaborative projects to the next step where the people are thinned out for top recognition and profiles each month.
I think the best we can hope for is a process that lets many different Wikiprojects (and other collaborative projects) nominate their own best volunteers and then let a lottery do the final selection of the person for the Foundation to feature in a high profile way.
I'm open to ideas about how your idea would work but I'm skeptical that we can get from local projects to top Wikimedia volunteer in a fair process that gives every one a chance to be recognized for doing the same quality of work. I think it would be an arbitrary choice so I wanted to label it as such by using a lottery.
OK, I think you're on the verge of convincing me, FloNight.
I agree that there's a definite problem with finding the man-hours to actually assess people for recognition-worthiness. After all, we really want people spending time contributing to project content. Not meta or parallel stuff that could be regarded as tangential to our aims.
A lottery does seem to be a good way of relieving the burden of having volunteers spending hours and hours running through someone's contribs. Although it does occur to me that, currently, checking someone's contributions is a little slow; you basically have to click through from one to the next. If someone were able to bring up, say, 50 contribs at a time (showing the actual edit content, not just the summary) then that would be a valuable tool for assessing what a user has been doing.
I don't really have a firm or fixed position on this.
If it *is* an arbitrary choice to feature someone in a newsletter, and we can only do it for a very select few contributors... then maybe it's a bad choice of reward.
There are other rewards, like senior editors, that can potentially reward everyone who puts in the effort to meet the criteria.
We really should focus on the best ones.
I think we should do a variety of these recommendations. Remember that this is a 5 year plan and everything is not going to happen at the same time. So I support both a senior editor and the Foundation recognizing volunteers in a high profile way.
I think the selection of volunteers to feature in press releases and in newsletters is a good idea, and would like to pursue it. I just don't see a way to have a completely community based process that leads to a conclusive result of a single person being "the one" once a month. Translation of everyone's entry so that all communities could vote is not practical on a large ongoing scale. I don't have a problem with the cream of the crop being narrowed by a lottery. I think it is preferable to eliminating non-English speaking people from the entire process.
Keep in mind that recognizing volunteers through news letters, press releases, and other promotional materials are only a small subset of the rewards that Jayne Cravens laid out.
- Certificates can, in theory, be awarded to everyone who meets a certain criteria.
- Virtual certificates too, which can be posted to facebook or websites or what not
- Same thing with Wikipedia paraphernalia (stickers, buttons, mugs, pens, shirts)
- Thank you letters too...
- Senior editor status too...
There are other ideas that might be better for a smaller audience:
- Inviting our best editors to participate in strategic discussions such as these, with a high profile role such as facilitator or team lead
- Inviting our best editors to conferences and celebrations
I think that we should focus on the best three to five of these and try to apply them to Wikipedia.
I'm sorry to say that I've lost faith in the idea of featuring editors in newsletters, just because there are too many editors to do it in a way that is fair and would actually be rewarding.
Randoman, remember that our work is not primarily for Wikipedia. We are looking at all the Wikimedia Foundation wikis.
Oops :) Slip of the tongue. But yeah, I think we can apply a lot of those ideas towards other projects too. I think that publicizing individual editors is going to be hard. But we can do mass recognition of a lot of editors, special demarkers for great editors online and offline...
Are there any other forms of recognition you like, other than the newsletter approach?
I would encourage you both to be bold and remove any recognition methods from the list you don't feel will work for the projects. Or, perhaps even better, put a heading of something like "traditional recognition methods that won't work for Wikimedia" and place them there with your rationale for suggesting they not be adopted by the WMF; that way the board will still see them and have an opportunity to disagree. It is possible that ones we don't like might get support from the board and they, after all, have the power to make some of them happen.
I guess the question is which forms of recognition would have the most leverage, knowing that Wikipedia is organized how it is, and knowing that editors are how they are. I'm curious what others think. But I'll give it some thought too, and take a shot at it before month's end.
My suggestion would be usernames that scroll through the meta-banners or perhaps under the toolbox. This is currently done on a lot of gaming sites to honor the top players.
An mvp program would be quite nice.
Other than that...physical real world certificates, awards, trophies, and the likes would be something someone could show.
Yeah, I like those ideas because they don't require too many judgment calls. It's not like we're forced to choose between two qualified editors. We can give out a certificate to anyone who meets high standards. We can scroll through every deserving user name on the meta-banner. No lotteries, no "nomination board". Just merit.