Proposal:Survey Former users

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  1. Achieve continued growth in readership
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  3. Increase Participation
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  5. Encourage Innovation

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Lots of Wikimedians retire or cease to be active every year, compared to real life volunteer projects we have very high volunteer turnover. One way to reduce this, is to find out why people leave, and the best way to do that is to ask them.


If unblocked former users have enabled Email on their accounts, email them an annual survey on the anniversary of their last edit.

Summarise the survey results and make them available so that we can learn from them and hopefully fix problems that they identify.

I suggest that we start with open ended questions, as though they are a pain to analyse, they don't miss out key answers. When we have enough responses to suggest that we know the main factors we can then create a drop down menu and try to ascertain their relative importance.

Users with very few edits probably need a completely different survey, as would users who registered an account but never used it.

What to say

Hi, this is the (insert years since last edit)th anniversary of your last edit to (wikipedia/Wiktionary - insert project here), and we'd like to thankyou for your contributions which are still a valued part of our project to make human knowledge freely available to all. Please spare us a few minutes to give us your feedback about the project - your response will be anonymised unless you choose to waive that anonymity.

  • Click here to opt out of future annual surveys ( )
  • Click here to waive the anonymity of your response ( )

Questions to ask

  1. Do you plan on ever returning to Wikipedia?
    Answer: I've already come back, and contributing as much as I used to. ( )
    Answer: I've already come back, but I've scaled back my contributions. ( )
    Answer: I definitely plan on coming back when I find the time and energy. ( )
    Answer: I might be back. ( )
    Answer: I'm never coming back, under any circumstances. ( )
    Answer: I would never come back unless (________________) happens.
  2. What activities did you take on once you left Wikipedia? How did you fill your time?
    (Open-ended answer)
  3. What role did these other activities play in your decision to leave Wikipedia?
    Answer: Other activities were important, and forced me to reduce my time on Wikipedia.
    Answer: I was no longer interested in Wikipedia, and found other activities once I had moved on.
    Answer: Both, I found more important things to do once I lost interest in Wikipedia.
    Answer: Both, but more that I wanted to pursue other activities.
    Answer: Both, but more that I lost interest in Wikipedia.
  4. If you are likely to return, when are you likely to edit again?
    Answer: I'll be back in a week.
    Answer: I'll be back in a few weeks.
    Answer: I'll be back in a few months.
    Answer: I'll be back in n a few years.
    Answer: I'll be back when my circumstances change, and I find the time.
    Answer: I'll be back, but have no plans to as of yet.
    Answer: I'm not likely to return.
  5. What were your main reasons for leaving Wikipedia?
    (Open-ended answer)
  6. Were you ever an administrator?
    Answer: No.
    Answer: No, but I wanted to be.
    Answer: Yes.
    Answer: Yes, although I went back to being a normal editor.
    Answer: Yes, but I was sanctioned and stripped of my status.
  7. Why did you leave Wikipedia? (Check all that apply, or check X number of reasons that most apply)
    Answer: Because I was pursuing other activities or responsibilities.
    Answer: Because I felt bored with Wikipedia.
    Answer: Because I felt lost or confused at Wikipedia.
    Answer: Because I was running out of things to contribute.
    Answer: Because I felt others were doing a good job, and did not need my help.
    Answer: Because it took too much time to edit and improve articles.
    Answer: Because it took too much time to talk and reach consensus.
    Answer: Because my contributions were being reverted or removed.
    Answer: Because there was not enough feedback that my contributions were appreciated.
    Answer: Because there was not enough response on my questions or concerns.
    Answer: Because there was not enough help to improve the articles that I felt needed improvement.
    Answer: Because I found it too difficult to manage all the articles that needed attention.
    Answer: Because I did not appreciate being warned or sanctioned by an administrator.
    Answer: Because I did not appreciate what other editors wanted Wikipedia's content to look like.
    Answer: Because I felt other editors were being rude or hostile.
    Answer: Because I felt other editors were being unreasonable or stubborn.
    Answer: Because I felt other editors were being deceptive or sneaky.
    Answer: Because of another reason, specifically (_____).
  8. What was your best time on Wikipedia?
    (Open-ended answer)
  9. What was your worst time on Wikipedia?
    (Open-ended answer)
  10. Have you ever been warned or sanctioned (e.g.: blocked, banned) at Wikipedia?
    I have been sanctioned, and it was not fair.
    I have been sanctioned for a good reason, and I learned my lesson.
    I have never been sanctioned, but I was given an unfair warning.
    I have never been sanctioned, but I was given a warning that helped me fix my behavior.
    No, I have never been sanctioned or warned.
  11. After you left, how has Wikipedia changed?
    Answer: (Open-ended answer)
    Answer: Don't know, I no longer follow Wikipedia.


Turnover of volunteers is natural and inevitable. High turnover is a problem, if we can learn why people leave we might be able to fix some of the things that caused the problem.

Key Questions

  • Do we do this across the whole of Wikimedia, so we are looking at the anniversary of people's last edit on any project, or do we do this by project?
  • Do we only do this for established Wikimedians with say 500 edits, or do we interview all former wikimedians who have made good edits (not rollbacked or deleted)?
  • How do we correct for biases, particularly volunteer bias? (e.g.: people more willing to take the survey are more likely to have stronger reasons for leaving?)
    • There are three broad approaches to that, weight the data, structure the sample or put a caveat - I'll explain on the talkpage.

Potential Costs

  • Minor software and admin costs,
  • significant translation costs to collect this in all languages and make the results available by language


Community Discussion

Do you have a thought about this proposal? A suggestion? Discuss this proposal by going to Proposal talk:Survey Former users.

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