Key questions/Answers

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Questions regarding Reach

  1. How can we reach the people who currently have access to our projects, but don't use them?
    Not using our projects is not reading our projects. To answer the question, probably some other questions have to be answered first. Wikipedia provides a valuable source of information for every body. How come don’t they use them? Where do they search and find valuable information online, or off line (who, what, where is our direct competition)? If they never search valuable information, what do they do online? From another perspective: our projects attract 300 million unique visitors each month. What does attract those visitors to our projects? Erik Zachte once blogged that Google is involved in half the traffic. So, people who do search for information – use a well known search engine online – will hit Wikipedia one day. Maybe some people don’t want to follow a link to a Wikipedia article … On the other hand, media attention for Wikipedia in the past generated small spikes in traffice to our projects. So we rely on continued positive publicity for Wikipedia as a valuable source of information, we rely on high page ranks in search engine and positive relationships with search engine operators. So, for definite answers some other questions have to be answered first, for which some research is needed.
    We are gonna need a single, short and simple message to reach out. Consolidation and unification of the brandname Wikipedia will help create and maintain a single, short and simple message. Telling about Wikimedia next to Wikipedia is confusing. Telling about Wikipedia and ‘other projects’ is confusing. Integrate all projects within Wikipedia, probably with appropriate name spaces. Rename the Wikimedia Foundation into Wikipedia Foundation. Broadcast, narrowcast and smartcast the message: We are the Wikipedia movement, the Wikipedia Foundation hosts Wikipedia, local Wikipedia chapters support volunteers etc. Millions of people around the globe profit each day by visiting .wikipedia where they find valuable information for free that help them perform their day to day task at school, at work or at home.
  2. What should we do to ensure our materials are available to people who don't yet have internet access, or who may never have internet access?
    a) not yet access: the next generation of internet users will have access through a small web browser on their phone, with low resolution and small bandwidth. At least, that is what some people predict for Africa and other places currently with low internet penetration. Read further the answer to question 4.
    b) never have internet access: if they do read printed material and have access to some books and some newspapers, distributing printed material might be an option, but probably you have to educate those people first, to learn them to read and write, and possibly have to develop a script for their language (half the spoken languages on the world today have no script)
    c) We should first ensure that our software supports that language. There are still major issues with language support for many languages.
  3. What should we do to ensure our materials are available to people whose governments impede access to them?
    Which governments do impede access? Make a list pertinent of fact of goverments who impede access to Wikipedia, detailing measures used, detailing reason to impede access. Collaborate with free speech advocacy ngo’s, human rights ngo’s etc, on the presumption that those governments will not only limit access to our projects but to a very wide range of information, and providing access to our projects to them goes the way of providing any information to them. Raise the issue through diplomatic channels, to U.N. offices, to W.T.O., to W.I.P.O. Name and shame those governments. Find technical loopholes (tunneling) to circumvent measures that impede access, hacker communities around the world are very creative in providing necessary solutions.
  4. What should we do to ensure our materials are available to the growing number of people who access the internet only through mobile devices?
    Applaud the progress, repeat ‘the future will be mobile’. Get the maximum out of the deal with Orange. Expand such partnerships to other mobile operators. Consider developing a mobile skin, set up a ‘mobile usability initiative’. Check the validity of the assumption that mobile devices with internet access do have a webbrowser. Develop Wikipedia as a special service on mobile devices: clicking on a visual logo on mobile startup or one of the main menus (the puzzle globe) will open the Wikipedia mobile application. Observe (in a test environment) what mobile users do while accessing Wikipedia with their phone. Wikipedia as a phone gadget. Wikipedia as a mobile app.
    As with the answer to question 1: By pushing one (and only one) button (the puzzle globe) mobile users should be able to find information on all projects: integrating all projects within Wikipedia would be very helpful to accomplish just that.
  5. How do we ensure our materials are protected and preserved in usable form, so they continue to be available forever?
    On foundation-l this issue has been explored into wild fantasies of extra terrestrial back ups.
  6. What should we do to ensure our materials are available in developing countries, where many languages with a million or more speakers still have no flourishing wikipedia community?
    We needs maps of the world detailing development, population density, penetration of computers and mobile devices, internet access and other statistics. For every language with a million or more speakers without a flourishing wikipedia community we need to know how many of them can read and write, how many have access to computers and to internet. Maybe they don’t care for a Wikipedia in their language and hop to en.wp directly. What kind of stories do people tell about the Wikipedia in their language, both by users and non-users. Make cross language/culture comparisons of those stories. Who has toured Africa for example to meet local communities and talk about Wikpedia and listen to their stories? Are their up to date per language project reports?

Questions regarding Participation

  1. What can we do to retain, support and encourage the core volunteers who work on the projects today?
    A recent doctoral thesis showed a very high mortality rate and a life expectancy of just a few months. The kill rate of very active editors is even higher than the kill rate of active editors. Is this a problem prima facie? No, definitely not. It is a blessing in disguise. The communities just rapidly renew. Up to recently the arrival of new editors was sufficient to maintain a growing, now stabilizing size of the pool of participants. So what can we do regarding this issue? First of all, be nice to newcomers and repeat that time and again. Understand why people leave: the treshold to be recognized as long term or trusted editor is way to high. Recognized the contributions of volunteers who haven’t done harm. Specifically be way more liberal in allowing special rights, such as sysop rights, or create a special recognition flag such as ‘trusted editor’ (and, liberal goes two ways abuse of sysop rights can be followed by desysop without warning). Understand why people stay: when they feel they belong to, are part of the group, member of the community, it is a social group dynamic thing. Local real life meetups can be very helpful in retaing, supporting and encouraging volunteers.
  2. How can we encourage the participation of new people who share our values and can make a strong contribution?
    The UNU-Merit survey gave us some hints, but further investigation is necessary. People shy away thinking they don’t know enough to contribute something. We value any contribution, even just a correction of a spelling mistake. We’ll have to reassure them when they do edit, they won’t break anything, they can’t cause irrepairable damage.
  3. How can these values spread?
    Person to person communication, meetups and meetings, speeches, lectures, other kinds of publicity, continuing a stream of press communication, have press kits and press meetings. Have local organizations (chapters) organize volunteers to reach out locally.
  4. How can we make MediaWiki transformatively easier to use, and keep it easy to use?
    Keep following best practice in usability, work evidence based, continue to observe client and newcomer interaction with our offerings, keep collecting feedback, see any feedback as valuable information, as an investment in developing our product.
  5. How can we support participation by people who don't have easy Internet access?
    An off line reader/editor of wiki markup text (without having to install a full blown web server, LAMP, WAMP whatever) just a light weight plug in to an existing editor, would come in handy. Or, tools to convert between different formats. Have a process by which people can send in by snail mail usb-sticks, cd-roms, or memory card their articles, and where the receiver will upload the received articles to the website. Have DVD distributions in place without easy internet access. Advocate internet access as a human right, just another utility, just as necessary as water. Have an alliance with OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) – those netbooks were supposed to carry Wikipedia with them …

Questions regarding Quality

  1. How can we effectively and scalably work with institutions that control the copyright for educational/informational materials, to encourage them to release those materials under a free license?
    Nurture collaboration and alliance with Creative Commons – advocacy for use of free license is their domain, have CC carry the weight of the legal stuff. Celebrate each release with press releases and other press communications. Collaborate with open educational institutions – they do exist. Most educational institutions operate locally. Scalably work with them requires local representation. Naturally local chapters can step in to work with local institutions like schools, universities and others.
  2. How can we effectively and scalably work with academic institutions and other organizations with subject-matter-expertise, to encourage them to help improve the quality of the material we provide?
    Wikipedia, and all what is connected with it, is an object of research in itself, and about it multiple research papers and even doctoral thesis have been published. We should applaud such efforts, and recognize the results. We should continue to ask for more research. One idea is to ask for the release of their instrument to measure quality, to have that instrument put to good use by the general public.
    Academic institutions should some day recognize review of subject matter articles by scholarly staff as a professional duty.
    Show the necessity of doing so, as Wikipedia more and more is the primary source of information by the general public. Doing reviews will probably the most effective way of educating the general public about their subject matter.
  3. How can we better prevent editing that hurts quality (e.g., vandalism and malicious edits), and fix it when it occurs?
    Continue to develop smart filtering, further develop tools to help those who patrol for example recent changes, be nice to newcomers, reassure newcomers they are welcome to contribute as long as it fits within the mission of creating an encyclopedia.
  4. How can we encourage readers to help us identify poor quality material, and once it is reported, how can we best get it assessed and fixed?
    Have light weight tools to process reader feedback. That might be a button on each page asking ‘Was this information helpful?’ If not, please tell us, and that with a direct to the talk page – as the talk page is currently the only way to process reader feedback. But remember, in the end, only readers assess and fix articles. Somebody has to hit the edit button. Reassure people that if they don’t fix a mistake they see, nobody else will.