Proposal:Be More Inclusive and Friendly to Newbies

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Status (see valid statuses)

The status of this proposal is:
Request for Discussion / Sign-Ups

Strategic Priorities

Every proposal should be tied to one of the strategic priorities below.

Edit this page to help identify the priorities related to this proposal!


  1. Achieve continued growth in readership
  2. Focus on quality content
  3. Increase Participation
  4. Stabilize and improve the infrastructure
  5. Encourage Innovation



Summary

Make Wikipedia more friendly to new users and to users who may make contributions infrequently. Primarily four things would need changing and/or improving.

  • Providing greater leniency in standards that would cause a new article to be quickly deleted or other factors that may cause a new user to feel unwelcome or his contributions feel unwanted.
  • Simplifying the tools and customary practices amongst Wikipedia users and editors so that communication is simplified and the cultural practices (how to communicate, how to resolve disputes) are more easily understood.
  • Creating easier to use tools to make text authoring, editing and adding other media easier.
  • Changing the tone of communication and the expectations of some long-time members of the wikipedia community.

As of 2009, it has become really hard for a newbie to contribute to Wikipedia and even harder for that newbie to feel as though his contribution is appreciated. Certainly this is true by comparison to even 2004.

The bar to successfully making a new article that meets the ever-increasing quality standards at Wikipedia has become very high. Beyond the technology and tools there is a dense and opaque culture and protocols of interaction amongst an author and various human and 'bot editors. Newbies want to know why someone marked their page for deletion, what they can do about it, but they don't know the the proper way to have a discussion with those who would delete their page, they would appreciate having more time to create the page, augment the page, reference it slowly over time.

Taken altogether, the barriers to entry on Wikipedia have become too high. To a newbie, the predominant culture of Wikipedia seems to be one of ill-treatment.

This proposal should be viewed as a broad theme. There are many other proposals that would advance this overall theme, but it is only with a firm commitment by the Wikipedia community that this could be achieved.

Benefits

The impact on end-users will be massive. The only way Wikipedia can continue to grow is to attract more authors and editors. New authors that may be attracted could be subject matter experts on topics not covered, or not covered well on wikipedia today. New authors could be older citizens in our communities who are not as technologically savvy and who may get discouraged more easily when receiving a comment like "this page is marked for speedy deletion because the topic is not considered notable." Similarly younger members of our community with the potential to grow into the next generation of editors and power-users could be attracted in larger numbers if the technical barriers to entry were lower, if the cultural knowledge required were reduced and if the pervading culture were more accepting of newbies. Not only would new authors from any of these communities add invaluable content, but they would also refer members of their communities to Wikipedia as well.

The impact for Wikipedia editors and other power users will also be significant. By attracting a greater diversity of authors and editors, the entire community will benefit by having a broader and more diverse perspective.

Proposal

This proposal is more of a general theme that could be used to group together a lot of the other proposals that are already identified.

This proposal suggests that Wikimedia seriously commit to an overriding goal of being more inclusive in order to attract new authors, by making it easier for them to contribute and learn the customs and culture of the Wikipedia community.

There are already many proposals that would advance this cause. Many of them are identified below.

Additional suggestions would include:

  • More care should be given to the naming and terminology used to explain changes and possible deletions or behaviors. Good examples of this include:
    • Use of the term 'vandal' to mean edits that are not constructive is offensive to someone who has simply made an editorial decision that someone else disagrees with.
    • Bots with names like 'Smackbot' sound offensive as though the author is being 'smacked around'.
    • Marked for deletion really means "marked for discussion" about some aspect of the article such as notability. While deletion may be the ultimate result, there should not be any rush to delete a large number of articles that are simply regarded as 'not notable'. Inviting contributors to a discussion about how to improve an article is less offensive than warning them that their article is going to be deleted.
  • More time should be given to articles that may, at first, appear to be 'not notable'. Articles could be flagged as 'in Beta' or given some other moniker to designate them as still needing additional material or references. It is sometimes the case that multiple people who do not already know each other will need to contribute to an article before it accurately reflects the notability, history, depth or appeal of the subject. An incomplete article, left in place, is an invitation to others who may be able to round out the story, or who may simply be better at online reference citation to contribute. In many cases it has been proven that great contributions to articles come months after the original article was written. It is also the case that many would-be Wikipedians do not have the luxury of being able to login to Wikipedia on even a weekly basis to see what messages they might have and what actions might be pending against their contributions.

Motivation

I believe Wikipedia can only continue to grow by attracting more members and those members will not necessarily want to put in the time to learn the tools and culture of Wikipedia. I believe Wikipedia is losing out on great input because newbies get frustrated not only with the technology but with the culture and protocols that they don't understand but are expected to know and follow.

I am a part-time contributor to wikipedia and I personally get very frustrated with how hard it has become to not only make new pages, but even to keep the pages and photographs I have made from being deleted. I feel like I need to check in once a month just to find out if someone is going to delete a page I have made and if I have to spend a lot of time defending it.

I am also frustrated in my interactions with expert wikipedia users who expect that I can check my messages (or my talk page) every day, or that I don't raise issues soon enough - I get comments like 'That was two weeks ago!" implying I have missed out on some statute of limitations simply because I can't login every day.

Key Questions

  • What can be done to change the culture of current wikipedia experts to be more accepting of newbies?
  • What tools are needed to make common use cases (creating, editing, finding out why someone has an issue with your page and resolving it) easy?
  • How to design all of these tools into a user interface that is easy to understand?

Potential Costs

Potential loss of wikipedia expert users who do not really like the participation of people who are not expert in the tools, culture and protocols of wikipedia, even though they may be content experts.

References

Community Discussion

Do you have a thought about this proposal? A suggestion? Discuss this proposal by going to Proposal talk:Be More Inclusive and Friendly to Newbies.

Want to work on this proposal?

  1. Vibhijain 05:59, 14 May 2011 (UTC)
  2. Asinthior 03:59, 19 May 2011 (UTC)
  3. Ebe123 18:54, 23 May 2011 (UTC)
  4. .. Sign your name here!