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Talk:Emerging strategic priorities/ESP 4 key questions

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Since the beginning of the strategic planning process, users of this wiki have been asked to identify questions related to Wikimedia's future direction and to treat it as a brainstorming question (no discussion, just questions). Over the past few months, users have built a Fact base to describe where Wikimedia is today, identified a set of Emerging strategic priorities related to achieving Wikimedia's vision "Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge," and defined Task forces that will dive more deeply into making recommendations for how Wikimedia should grow in the future.

Now it's time for users here to move from brainstorming questions to providing input. Please read the questions below and discuss them on the talk pages. Discussions there will inform the work of the task forces and provide guidance as we, together, go about writing the strategic plan for the Wikimedia movement.

The following questions relate to "Strengthen the Community"

Questions: Improve reader conversion

What is the potential increase in participation available to the Wikimedia projects, if more readers can be persuaded to edit?

It might help if the lower levels of the power law of participation were better integrated into the system. For example; allowing readers to give a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down to an article, or encouraging readers to build a list of their favorite pages, would make for a gentler introduction to the editing process than clicking on "Edit".

How does the ratio of editors-to-readers vary across languages and projects?

How has the ratio of editors-to-readers changed over time, and what are the potential implications of the change? Does the maturity of a project seem to impact the ratio?
[...] Answer here

Which language versions and projects offer the greatest potential to increase the overall number of Wikimedia readers who edit?

[...] Answer here

What should a target be for a good editor-to-reader ratio for a mature project?

[...] Answer here

What are the factors currently preventing readers from contributing to the Wikimedia projects? What particular factors might have begun to inhibit participation in 2006, when we know it began to stagnate?

  1. At least one large factor is "I don't have anything to contribute"; we assume that we need to be experts in order to edit.
People who can research don't need expertise; they can verify assertions from references ... and add related factual material that seems pertinent. Non-experts can be encouraged to add with, or work out, less technical language, which helps the readability level. Too many articles are written with the background bar too high.Twang 20:24, 24 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
The wikipedia policies specifically discourage original research. Since people may not know how "original research" is defined, this could discourage non-experts. Netmouse 01:20, 29 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
  • Wikipedia exclusively for Kids#Psychology : A continual motivation for adolescents to participate could require to delete their work after a given time. The age groups 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 could have their own content and probably wouldn't mind if it was removed after five to ten years because for a teenager that is "an eternity". A large group of adolescents used to contributing to Wikipedia would of course result in a group of adults who might like to continue on that path, at least now and then. That should solve most problems related to community stagnation. --Fasten 09:47, 28 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
  1. Another issue: many people don't know (in spite of all the promotion of this fact) that they can edit. It's not the dominant paradigm for web content. -- ArielGlenn 02:52, 22 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
  • A couple of thoughts about participation slump:
    • Once the 'easy' stuff got done, the time demands naturally rose
    • Public scrutiny of a subculture of infighting / 'academic standards disease'
    • The move to citations and "unverified comments can be removed" without facilitating that move for people generously contributing from their lifelong learning. Twang 20:24, 24 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
  • I have a small company in Mongolia, and quite many photos of Mongolia. I thought of contributing the photos of our province, hoping the signature in the photos corner would make a small bit of advert for us and the province. Wikipedia shifted from the GPDL to a Creative Common license which allows to delete the author's name in some circumstances. And Wikipedia culture is against any kind of advert and nearly any kind of work recognition. So I didn't choose Wikipedia but Wikitravel (which only accepts Creative commons license, though, but does accept discrete advert.) and tried with one signed photo, putting a link from Wikipedia page to the corresponding Wikitravel's one. I had no problem with Wikitravel but our photo got copied into Wikipedia and the signature got erased by a zealous Wikipedist, in spite of the terms of the license and of some countries law (France, for instance). I protested and reverted the signature deletion, not to avail. We're not ready to release any photo under a Creative common license any more. If we want companies to get involved, there should be more work recognition. Or maybe Wikipedia will soon erased Picasso's signature for his paintings because it's scandalous advert for the museums they are in? On the one hand, Wikipedia requires sources of information, not in a hidden technical page but in the article itself. On the other hand, Wikipedia doesn't accept signed photos and contribution. What is the logic? In what forbidding signatures on photos and below major contributions improves Wikipedia's quality? In The Encyclopedia, the first one, published by Diderot in the 18th century in France, articles were signed, and it's still the case in some encyclopaedias. --Fiable.biz 02:26, 25 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
I too have not posted photos to wikipedia, but mainly because I have no idea a) how to post them and b) how to demonstrate that I have the right to post them. Both aspects of this process lack transparancy and ease. Netmouse 01:27, 29 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
  • We made verifiability an important standard, but we haven't made it any easier to do. Citation templates are tedious. Nobody knows where to look for reliable sources, even though there are tons we can use. If it were easier to just pull a quote from an article, more people would do it. Instead we've created a standard that is hard for a newbie to understand and meet.
    That may be true: many users hate Verifiability. They would rather just put in their beliefs or even just make stuff up. However, I would say the solution is not to abolish Verifiablity, but to spread the word that Wikipedia is supposed to be an encyclopedia, and is supposed to contain actual information and knowledge (an unpopular message, but unavoidable). - Brya 08:03, 28 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
    Agree with Brya. Verifiability isn't going away. So let's make it easier to verify content. Have some kind of automatic citation tool, maybe. Or make it dead simple to flag a news article on a topic, which automatically puts it somewhere that editors can mine it for verifiable facts.
    Actually, that won't do it. Some of the content on the most easily verifiable topics is wrong, because users hate the very idea of verifying anything. It is more fun just to add in beliefs. - Brya 17:22, 5 December 2009 (UTC)Reply
  • this page itself demonstrates that there is no obvious standard way to go about having a discussion in wikipedia. People are using different bullets and indentation techniques and it is very awkward. When people don't know how to start or participate in a discussion even just from a formatting standpoint it is discouraging. Netmouse 02:19, 29 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
That is a good point: the desire of case-hardened Wikipedians to standardize for standardization's sake is certain to be an important factor in driving contributors away. - Brya 06:21, 4 November 2009 (UTC)Reply
  • When I asked for comments about this on my journal just now, the message that came through most clearly was that people had tried editing and were discouraged from it by the actions and comments of other editors and admins, and from having the content they had put effort into over-written or deleted. Netmouse 03:30, 29 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
  • This question is rather biased towards en:wp and some of the other largest Wikipedias. Let's not forget that we should aim for solutions that drive participation in all the projects. After a lot of reading I am coming to the conclusion that we need to:
  • Many times the editors erase articles too easy and cruelly, instead of making contact with the new author (that is the case with Hungarian wikipedia).
  • The expanations for new authors are usally useless. --Mzolta 06:15, 19 November 2009 (UTC)Reply
  • Harsh behavior towards new users. Had I known about some of the discussions I have seen during my 2 years as a Wikimedia contributor, I wouldn't even have considered joining in the first place. The way some "experienced" editors treat newcomers is unbelievable. -- JovanCormac 23:32, 23 November 2009 (UTC)Reply
What key features/changes offer the most potential to increase the ratio of editors-to-readers? (i.e. building awareness, technology solutions, cultural/community solutions)

  1. Creating an account is a first step towards (useful) editing. If there were an incentive to create an account (eg. interesting articles and recent edits in your area of interest were indexed for you based on your browsing history) then that would get a number of people over the first hurdle.Travelplanner 09:58, 22 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
  • I've never seen this in focus: Many students use Wikipedia. Their ability, engagement, and time to contribute can be substantial. *Ask them* what would be attractive. Encouraging educators and students to engage (e.g. as part of the curriculum) is a win for all. Twang 20:24, 24 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
What 2-4 major strategic opportunities for investment would have the most impact on increasing the ratio of editors-to-readers in high-potential language versions/projects?

I'm not sure that you want to increase the ratio of editors to readers in high potential language versions. The ratio may be fine its the size of both that's the issue.

Who is needed to support this strategy (e.g., Wikimedia Foundation, chapters, individual volunteers, external partners), and what do they need to do?

[...] Answer here

Questions: Increase contribution from groups with high potential to add value

What is the purpose of focusing on particular groups that are less represented on the Wikimedia projects? What difference can they make and how might they enhance various projects?

Different ideas, perspectives, and communication patterns will provide the projects with more talent. These benefits are seen in two areas:

  • problem solving
  • creativity

Cultural diversity increases problem-solving capabilities. No single person has the knowledge to resolve many of the problems we face. Diversity in culture on Wikipedia/Wikimedia create valuable new approaches to problem solving. We steer towards traditional "either/or" thinking. We are trapped in a glass box of intellect and opinions not realizing other options exist. Other cultures can make and develop diverse options to hard problems.

  • Teams of people who are exposed to a wide range of opinions and perspectives, including beliefs that are different from our culture can make decisions and resolve problems better than teams of people not exposed to other opinions from people from other cultures(John Oetzel, 215-216).
  • Study's show the quality of ideas produced by culturally diverse groups are on average 11% higher than groups of culturally homogeneous people (McLeod, Lobel, & Cox, 1996).


John Oetzel, "Intercultural communication: a layered approach", Person Education (2009) 215-216.

What key groups are under-represented, and why?

  • Women are under-represented, and so are older folks. (We know this in part from the user survey.) -- ArielGlenn 02:52, 22 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
  • exemple of communication mostly graphical
    All non English speaking people; cause the reflection is made in English (and translate after if possible). This wikimédia page is a great example. Can we do something? I think yes, I believe we can graphically represent the problems, and graphically find solutions, it's an universal language. It's also a very scientific language, theorized in communications sciences, and understandable by every body with non difficulty, with no risk of bad translation. It's not for today, may be an utopia, but it's a way of reflexion, and sometime also a way to help the reflexion. Smily 09:52, 22 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
  • For-profit organizations seem under-represented. Probably because there is no much profit for them. --Fiable.biz 08:42, 25 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
  • Non-profit organizations seem under-represented. Probably because there is no much profit for them, and they have their own purpose and project. --Fiable.biz 08:42, 25 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
  • This may be the wrong question. What is meant here? A proportional representation of the world population? Or the key groups that hold access to the areas of knowledge that normally would make up an encyclopedia? These are very different approaches. If the latter applies then there is the issue that for some areas of knowledge there exist disproportionally few practioners, and in as far as they get involved in Wikipedia they will consistently and automatically be outvoted. - Brya 14:15, 28 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
How has their absence affected the Wikimedia projects?

  1. The existing user groups determine the dynamic for decision making and discussions, bringing the patterns they have learned frmo they way they were socialized (patterns determined largely by culture and societal norms). -- ArielGlenn 02:52, 22 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
    There are many mistakes in Wikimedia articles. I'd trust much more an article on AIDS signed "Institut Pasteur", an article on Poland signed "Lech Walesa" or an article on the diocesis of Port-Bergé signed by its bishop than the corresponding articles signed by any unknown person. --Fiable.biz 08:42, 25 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
  2. From where I stand Wikipedia is 90-95% empty (compared to what I would expect to be there); the contents that is there has a rate of error of some 40% (very rough approximation). - Brya 14:24, 28 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
How could Wikimedia increase the number of members from these under-represented groups? (i.e. building awareness, technology solutions, cultural/community solutions)

  • Giving more recognition to the main authors of articles and photos would encourage organizations in participating. I suggest the photos can be signed, and a banner would say : this article has been redacted mainly by such and such." The name of these main contributors would be links towards their own web sites. If the article has been modified since then, the banner will mention ", but may have been modified since then." and give direct link to the last historical versions theses main contributors endorsed. The biggest wiktionary, the French one, imported the penultimate dictionary of the French academy, and put a banner in all these articles saying it comes from there. Once the article is modified, the banner changes automatically saying it comes from the Academy but may have been modified. I think it's both fair and useful to the reader, but, for the moment it's just for one source of one project. --Fiable.biz 08:42, 25 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
  • It would be nice if it became more or less customary to check facts, instead of users being offended at the idea of going out to find and open an actual reference or doing more than 2 minutes reading. Or to put it differently, if the central policies of Wikipedia were to be actually followed by the users. - Brya 14:29, 28 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
What 2-4 strategic opportunities in targeting under-represented groups would help Wikimedia broaden its diversity of contributors?

What 2-4 strategic opportunities for investment in targeting and growing specific under-represented groups would help Wikimedia broaden its diversity of contributors and better achieve its mission of the sum of all knowledge for all people?
[...] Answer here

Do the same opportunities broaden all under-represented groups equally? If not, which groups should be prioritized and why?

[...] Answer here

Who is needed to support this strategy (e.g., Wikimedia Foundation, chapters, individual volunteers, external partners), and what do they need to do?

[...] Answer here

Questions: Simplify and reduce policy proliferation

How have the number and complexity of polices changed over time?

[...] Answer here

What has the impact of policy proliferation had on the attraction and retention of contributors across Wikimedia projects?

[...] Answer here

What has the impact of policy proliferation had on the quality of articles and article contributions?

[...] Answer here

What has the impact of policy proliferation had on the process of collaboration, consensus-building, and dispute resolution?

[...] Answer here

Are some projects more burdened with policies than others? If so, why and what has been the impact?

[...] Answer here

Which policies have the most direct impact, both positive and negative, on contribution?

  1. Policies on deletion, and the notability/verifiability policies that underly them as they guide the way we handle the flood of new articles.
  2. Policies on civility, no personal attacks, blocking and banning as they set the atmosphere and dictate how we can maintain a civil pleasant environment. WereSpielChequers 14:08, 2 November 2009 (UTC)Reply
What could be done about policy proliferation? What mechanisms exist for simplifying or removing existing policies?

Are we sure that this is happening, and if so are we sure that it is a problem?

Which solutions to this problem are feasible and would have a significant, positive impact on community health?

  1. Have we established that there is a problem? Obviously a project that starts with zero policies and then finds it needs them will have an increase in policies, but have we established that we have a problem? WereSpielChequers 14:02, 2 November 2009 (UTC)Reply
How do these solutions interact with those developed by the Enhance community health and culture task force?

How do these solutions interact with those developed by the Enhance community health and culture task force?
[...] Answer here

What strategic opportunities for investment in reducing, retooling, or creating new policies would have the most positive impact on the attraction and retention of contributors?

[...] Answer here

Who is needed to support this strategy (e.g., Wikimedia Foundation, chapters, individual volunteers, external partners), and what do they need to do?

[...] Answer here

Questions: Enhance community health and culture

What key measures of community health exist and how have these measures changed over time?

  1. How many new editors are we recruiting?
    1. What proportion of new editors are welcomed?
  2. What proportion of our editors are we losing?
    1. What proportion of our editors are disillusioned?
    2. What reasons do people give for giving up editing?
    3. How many Barnstars are being awarded
  3. Have our hierarchies become closed and cliquey or are we still welcoming and open?
    1. What proportion of our unblocked editors with over 12 months tenure and 2,000 edits are admins?
    2. What are the average and minimum edits and tenure of new administrators.

WereSpielChequers 13:23, 2 November 2009 (UTC)Reply

See also: Community Health Task Force resources. --Bodnotbod 12:34, 11 November 2009 (UTC)Reply

What are the causes in the apparent decline in community?

If there is a slowdown in the arrival of new users, it's that the usual demographics (young, English-speaking, technophilic males) have already contributed their major expertise to Wikipedia. Many high-importance articles have been created over the past decade, and filled out with common sense information. Verifying that information requires a different audience entirely, that or lowering the bar for verification. There is other content that will not be provided by Wikiedia's traditional audience (particularly articles of regional interest, or other specialized areas such as economics or finance) and Wikimedia will have to reach out to new audiences, abroad and in the West.

A major problem is the turnover of veterans. I suspect turnover is rising. And even if it isn't, we can't afford to lose the work that veterans do, especially on improving low quality articles to featured content. Some of it is just ordinary burnout. But some of it is also burnout due to Wikipedia becoming a battleground. People spend a lot of time organizing partisans around content issues, which ruins the consensus-building process, and makes Wikipedia a miserable place to work. The unmovable roadblocks wear down on the veterans more than any honest debate or change.

See also Proposal:Survey_Former_users. --Bodnotbod 12:31, 11 November 2009 (UTC)Reply

How can these causes of the decline in community health be addressed? (i.e. cultural norms, technology solutions, communications)

Wikimedia needs to reach out beyond its usual fanbase, particularly those interested in popular tech. This means a better presence in other regions of the world. But it also means looking for audiences with interests that Wikipedia is under-serving. For example, a different kind of person might be attracted to a Wikipedia built around working in teams, rather than working alone (and hoping people don't revert you). Experts in certain fields might become great contributors, but do not know about Wikipedia, or their dire need in certain areas of interest.

Wikimedia also needs to do more to retain its experienced contributors. They do a huge amount of work, and they do work that casual users will never do. Part of this may come from better rewards. But part of this may also come from removing obstacles to their work, particularly editors who organize Wikipedia into a battleground. Veterans are happy to discuss articles, and even discuss content policy. But after a while it becomes impossible to engage in tasks such as verifying facts, cleaning up, and neutralizing POV. Without a clear policy, experienced editors find themselves wasting a lot of time arguing before they just give up. To some extent, we have clear policies, but it becomes too easy for an organized mob to prevent content from being improved.

Yes, I agree with the last sentence, although the problem is not in the policies, but in the fact that they are not enforced (or enforcable), especially the central policies. - Brya 07:55, 28 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
My view is that we need a holistic approach that both encourages new users, makes things easier for them, rewards great contributions, and also some improved 'social networking' style innovations to keep people coming back to the site (though any such innovations should primarily help people make great content together, not become a place for idle chatter). --Bodnotbod 12:38, 11 November 2009 (UTC)Reply
Yes, the Wikimedia projects need to retain experienced contributors, but is it really that important to retain all of them? Contributors come and go, and new, casual editors do become experienced contributors. Yes we need experienced contributors, but not necessarily the current ones. New editors are scared away by the hard-core community (see also Talk:Emerging strategic priorities/ESP 4 key questions#Editor-to-reader ratio. I'm not sure if we can retain both groups. So I'm wondering what's more relevant: getting more new, casual editors and encouraging them to become more experienced, or retaining current experienced contributors? Fruggo 18:16, 15 November 2009 (UTC)Reply
Well, obviously what is desirable is not Wikipedia-experience (an editor who does not know his topic may become an experienced editor who does not know his topic, very experienced in winning fights and driving off editors who do know the topic). A casual editor who knows what he is doing may add a wealth of valuable information, even if it is likely to be deleted by an experienced narrow-interest editor. Qualities in a user that are valuable to Wikipedia are in-depth knowledge of the topic, and an ability to write clearly. What is likely to be retained is the user who is an accomplished politician. - Brya 14:15, 4 December 2009 (UTC)Reply
How do these solutions interact with those developed by the Simplify and reduce policy proliferation task force?

How do these solutions interact with those developed by the Simplify and reduce policy proliferation task force?
To be honest, I don't have too much of a problem with Wikipedia policies. And, regretfully, I am ignorant of the policies on anything other than en:wp. So I would like to see someone kick off this debate and educate me.

See also: Call_for_proposals#Policy_and_governance.

--Bodnotbod 12:41, 11 November 2009 (UTC)Reply

What 2-4 strategic opportunities for investment in improving Community health would have the most positive impact on the attraction and retention of contributors?

[...] Answer here

Who is needed to support this strategy (e.g., Wikimedia Foundation, chapters, individual volunteers, external partners), and what do they need to do?

[...] Answer here

Other questions

Questions here relate to Emerging Strategic Priority 4 and are transposed from the Key questions page, where their history can be found. Please feel free to add to this list.

How can we improve the dispute resolution process so that repetitive disputes with no resolution do not distract or discourage contributors?

Is there a pattern among content/behavior disputes that seem to go on and on with no end?
--Travelplanner 08:04, 3 November 2009 (UTC)The phrasing of this question is interesting - it seems to be assumed that disputes will be repetitive and will never end. Certainly that has been my experience, here is a link [[1]] to the latest request for help in dealing with an editor who has hugely slowed/derailed progress across multiple articles over years, and who to date has only been rewarded with more attention for doing so.Reply

I think it is only natural that repetitive disputes with no resolution will distract and discourage contributors. The question should be: How can disputes be resolved so that productive contributors are encouraged and assisted?

  • I've seen current WP dispute resolution methods work very well where the majority of participants in a dispute are reasonable people. What often seems to derail dispute resolution in this medium, though, is cases in which one or more editors do not accept a consensus. The profile of this type of editor is that they are basically operating on their own, tend to be tendentious and refuse to "get the point" of other editors, yet manage to stay mostly within the bounds of behavioral policies and guidelines. They can be civil in pushing a POV and are often adept in gaming the system. I am familiar with the case Travelplanner refers to, above. It is indeed one of the worst examples I've seen of this phenomenon. It is not the only one though. I've seen two recent disputes in which one or more participants behaved in this manner, thwarted resolution, drove off other dedicated editors, and continue to wreak havoc on WP pages. What can be done about it? Here are some possible elements of a solution:
  1. Policy clarification regarding a process for dealing with tendentiousness, civil POV pushing, disruptive editing, hounding of other editors, etc..
  2. Identification of problem editors.
  3. Sanctions and follow-up by administrators.
Obviously, there would have to be checks and balances to ensure due process. But something must be done. Sunray 02:41, 4 November 2009 (UTC)Reply

Editor-to-reader ratio

I suggest clustering questions 5. to 9. to this factor, so to put them under one subheading. It might be even more clarifying to name it reader-to-editor (without naming the ratio). The key question here is to transform readers to editors.

  1. Start by acknowledging that there is only a very tiny portion of readers that will think of turning to editors at all.
  2. Most readers are very reluctant to add their knowledge to a system that is found to be such a huge building of knowledge already. They are asked to be BOLD and add what they know, but they are simply overwhelmed.
  3. Once they try, new users will be intimidated by the existing apparatus of mods, experienced users and the legacy of unwritten of half-written rules built up by previous generations of users.
  4. Especially in developed wikis, new users will therefore be caught in a net of restraining conditions. They will never feel free to add or edit, as the ideology tells us to be. If they do, they will feel intimidated in advance.
  5. The culture that has developed in existing wikis, the more developed being the more hampered in this, has a serious problem in welcoming new users. It may well be that these Wikis won't be able to reform their own behaviour, because of their natural "defensive" strain of thought. Moderators in particular are trained to preserve what is, rather than to let new content and new users in.
  6. Another restraining factor is, where experts are defending their field of knowledge.
  7. Related to the former, new users are asked to bring loads of references or otherwise their edits will be deemed untrustworthy.

So much for analysis. I'd like to put in a few recommendations as well.

  1. Moderators must review their ways of operation, concentrating more on good will of new users than of preserving what is, or being scared out of their minds by vandalism.
  2. Chapters might have some influence, in developed wikis anyway, by supporting any initiatives that are created; on the other hand, there might be more communication between the wikis and their chapters.
  3. Any initiative between Wikipedia and outer organizations should be welcomed and supported as much as possible. The part of Wikipedias being, to teach their ways of learning and editing, and to adapt to what other organizations can bring.
  4. Any interrelationships between the established Wikis and impulses from outside should be welcomed, be it minor groups within their own society, or less developed Wikis, or initiatives within their scope, or outside.
  5. The Wikipedia community has become, or is threatening to become, far too self-centered, far too defensive and far too self-indulgent. Mentality, I'm afraid, is the main problem.

- Art Unbound 04:04, 22 October 2009 (UTC)Reply