Feedback from New Editors
I am a new editor myself, and to me, the logical way to go about solving this mystery is to ask us what the problem is. I wanted to create this discussion so that newer editors could post their comments, and get feedback from more experienced editors. This way, we can get all the feedback from new editors in one place instead of a couple dozen places.
I think this is an absolutely fantastic thing, and thank you for it. Welcome to Wikimedia! Would you be willing to share your initial experiences? What kept you around and what could have scared you away?
One thing I did was to create a Wikipedia article for a number which was redlinked in a chart. I was upset to find my article rejected, as I did not initially understand notability. It took me about twenty minutes of talking to others on the help chat room thingy (I forget what it's called) to figure out why redlinks don't need to have articles created for them. I thought that making stubs would be better than having redlinks, and felt very discouraged to be informed otherwise. The basic problem is we don't know where to start editing. It feels like every time you make a contribution, you worry someone will tell you how bad it is. There's no shallow end, and jumping in at the deep end is not very appealing.
I am sort of a new user. I created my account years ago, but have very seldom done any edits. Mostly because markup is just not for me. In the meantime, I've participated in a couple of discussion pages. On one of them an experienced user was downright hostile from the very start. As if I was being a naughty kid or I was disrupting the article on purpose. I hadn't done any changes, I was just suggesting it be done. As I see it I had a logic argument that would suffice anywhere in the world. What they told me (or what I interpreted I was being told) was that according to WP policies my argument meant nothing. I found that profoundly unfair and frustrating. Add to that the fact that this editor were completely uncivil and hostile from the start and it's miracle I'm still here. A second experience was slightly civil. Once again I posted a comment on a discussion page of an article suggesting a change. This time a very civil experienced editor showed me the ropes and give all kinds of information on WP policy to explain why this change was unfitting. I did my homework, followed all the links, read them, ask questions to other users and came back to argue my case just to be confronted with a veiled threat that I was rocking the boat for no good and it may have repercussions. As I've never been blocked before and I don't intend to be, I just gave up. From then, I drifted towards the conflict-solving pages in WP. I thought I might be part of the solution instead of the problem. To my surprise I found the editor from the first story I recounted (easily a couple of years after I first crossed paths with him or her) in a wikiquette alert. All administrators participating in the discussion wanted nothing to be done, as this was an experienced user and a new user should know better than upsetting an experienced user. That is my experience as a new user, and this is the reason why I don't really contribute to article writing, except for correcting a typo here and there. Also, the site is not user friendly and it's really hard to A)find a project where to participate and B)learn how to actually participate. Help pages and templates should be written in really easy English, not the opposite. Asinthior 14:19, 17 May 2011 (UTC)
I can understand that, Asinthior. I don't think that more experienced editors should have "Diplomatic Immunity", so to speak. On the other hand, more experienced editors should hold benefit of the doubt/innocent until proven guilty. This testimony is evidence for the necessity of the Assume Good Faith policy.
Couldn't agree more, as long as one keeps on sight the fact that experienced users shouldn't be given more "benefit of the doubt" than new users. I mean, even when an experienced user has a good track record, he can still lose his cool and be despotic once (although I would argue some make a habit of it, creating a pattern of abuse). If that were the case, he should at least be sanctioned as a new user would be, if not harder. After all, they are abusing their position and experienced to harass new comers. It's like they are committing a double fault: they are being uncivil or hostile and they are abusing their power (their relationship to other moderators, their experience with WP policies, their know-how in general) to do it.
I also showed up and edited a few pages. One, the page for the CETME Model C, got completely re-written to be about the company, rather than the rifle. Did the old (useful) information get moved to a sub-page? Nope. Just deleted.
Welcome to Wikipedia.
You can tell by my editing history since then how successful that welcome was. Did I make some newbie mistakes? Sure. Did anyone offer to help correct them? Nope. I'd like to go back and make the CETME page useful at some point, but where's the payoff? At the time it was pretty obvious to me that my contribution was not welcome.
Wikipedia's useful, but take a look at the Metafilter discussion page about this topic if you want to see some comments from other editors that have not been retained. I'd still like to help wikipedia succeed, but I think the fifteen or twenty minutes I spent putting this reply together is about all I'm willing to contribute at this point.
Last edit: 21:13, 12 March 2011
I'll start. Bulleted lists (Alt+0149) are nice.
- As a new editor, it takes a lot of courage to make any edit much bigger than fixing typos.
- (One of my first mistakes was to create an article that did not meet the notability guidelines--I was confused by the fact that a redlinked article might not need to be made, and assumed a stub was better than nothing. Something this teaches me is that first timers will not always understand the existing rules (and they were definitely not offered up early on to me by anyone or anything) and will not understand why their articles/edits are rejected. I'm not sure that all of you veterans out there think of things like that. Sometimes you assume that everyone knows the "basics". So far, notability is the only guideline I know, and then only because I got a rejection and then looked it up. People don't want to read thirty thousand articles on seemingly common sense/irrelevant guidelines.
My Ideas for Improving the System (which I'll add to as the discussion progresses):
- Channel our enthusiasm-tell us how we can help so we can do something useful instead of wasting time by making editors undo changes.
- Ask us about our interests and recommend projects for us to join.
- In these projects, designate leaders who will delegate small duties to newer users, as well as mentors to help them if they need assistance (You'd not believe what seemingly simple things I still don't have figured out. Indenting this required about a minute and a half of screwing around with the formatting bar.)
- Show us how we can be useful. Personally, I feel that I have nothing valuable to contribute, because I feel as if I am blundering around causing problems and not fixing any. This is very discouraging, and I still (after several weeks) have made no contribution longer than three words, simply because I cannot find anything to contribute to, and don't have very hopeful prospects of doing so in the near future. This is actually probably the longest thing I have written.
- Channel our enthusiasm-tell us how we can help so we can do something useful instead of wasting time by making editors undo changes.
•Another idea would be to add rollover explanations: "Takes you to the _______ page", "Inserts a section of _______ text", "[verb]s a(n) [adjective][noun]", etc.
The biggest annoyance for myself was the lack of a "quick reference" page. I can't easily know which parts of a page are meant to be bolded/italicized without learning from experience. The editing window is also overwhelming...most of my complex edits involved looking for articles that used the formatting I wanted (reference/citation styles, lists, etc) and then copying and modifying them. Technician Fry 20:43, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
I've had the exact same problem. It would be good if someone would tell us how to add a title, for pity's sake! I like that when you click the "I" for italic text, it gives you a prompt ''Italic text''. Perhaps wikimedia could add "Title" and "Sources" to this toolbar? It is very frustrating to flip back and forth from the wiki markup page to the article you're trying to work on.
On the editing toolbar, if you click "Advanced" and then look for the word "Heading", and then select from the dropdown menu, it will give you the various heading titles automatically formatted. :)
Another great reference is at http://outreach.wikimedia.org/wiki/Bookshelf/Wikipedia (the top one includes a one-pager on wiki-markup.)
Thanks for the tip (although the PDF won't load-or maybe it just takes forever). What headings go where? Page titles, section titles, subsections, etc.?
Also see Thread:Talk:March 2011 Update/The first experience for new users to the English Wikipedia-the initial post mentions several articles I had to think about to figure out the meanings of, proving the man's point. I've never read any of those articles all the way through, and I've only really looked much at the notability article, and then to find out why I had an article rejected on those grounds. He is right about seeing your first thing deleted--often, you get no explanation other than "Rejected-see Wikipedia: Notability" or some such unhelpful little red box at the top. Another thing I've found really annoying is the fact that common sense/personal knowledge is not a source. I can understand that, but I also know that the last thing I want to do is to go find a source for something I already know (like the fact that numbers evenly divisible by two are multiples of two and thus integers). I am willing to learn how to source, but I've met no one willing to teach me how to source. For that matter, I haven't met anyone except briefly. This is the first time I've actually held a good conversation. The chat room thing is great, but it isn't as helpful as this is. Usually you have to try to follow 2-3 different discussions there, and determine who you're talking with and whether they're responding to you or one of half a dozen other people.
All - Just out of curiosity, I dropped by Bronsonboy's talk page. The only thing there was the bot-generated rejected article note. That's an appalling way to treat a new editor, and I am embarrased on behalf of the community that we can't do better than that.
Bronsonboy - Thanks very much for posting your experiences here, and sticking with us.
Thanks for pointing that out, PKM... you're absolutely right. I dropped a welcome template with a series of my favorite links on your talk page as well, Bronsonboy, and - like PKM - I thank you for sharing your experience.
Last edit: 04:56, 14 March 2011
Glad to share, guys. Thanks for the template, Philippe. Could a bot be made to place that template on all new editors' talk pages?
As to the bot-generated rejection notice, PKM's comment was the first time I heard anything that would indicate to me that that is not the accepted norm. Perhaps it would be possible to create some sort of notification to whoever generates notices like that telling them when it is a new editor, so they would know to offer a bit more explanation? -Bronsonboy
- (replying here for brevity) The bot-welcome idea has been rejected months ago: not all new usernames are actually new users. Many people just forget their username or password, then create another username every few days, and avoid being stalked by troublemakers who try to "psych-profile" them. Hence, when a new user is spotted in making rough edits, someone might decide to welcome them. Unfortunately, like life in the big city, beware meeting charming strangers: a person might pretend to truly welcome you, with promises of cooperation, perhaps getting you to reveal some private thoughts, then flip-out as jekyll-hyde in a debate with you, broadcasting your private viewpoint in a twisted way to others to totally humiliate you and win not just the argument, but the laughter of others who see you as totally insulted. That is just one form of utterly demented sick power-games being played by mental cases on English Wikipedia. Unfortunately, it is a psycho magnet for bizarre people, like showing your new car to a group of "average people" and having one person jump on the hood to say what great shock-absorbers, or another person gulp a beer and vomit down the side, while someone else spits on the window and they say, "Sorry, man, the wind...". For that reason, many people have requested that Wikipedia change to a trusted-user environment, with growing levels of access, so that demented users would be stopped before they vomit in too many articles. Unfortunately, if new users are told that it is really a Sickopedia-Wackopedia, then they are likely to be scared away, so the ugly truth is avoided most of the time. The hope for the future is to transition to trusted-user access, where new usernames would be limited to editing rare articles, and users would need to show long-term evidence of a balanced mental state to be allowed higher access. -Wikid77 04:56, 14 March 2011 (UTC)
No, please. That would destroy the whole point of its being a wiki and would definitively pinch off growth to a trickle. And illustrates fairly neatly the jump from "Vandals are a problem" to biting newcomers.
In addition, Wikipedia really needs to decide whether it wants continuing growth in number of articles, coverage of topics impacted by systemic bias, and for that matter expansion of placeholder 1-line stubs on things nobody has got around to yet - or whether it's more important to emulate Britannica and say "Can't have everything, quality is more important" and thereby lose unknown quantities of stuff none of the existing power editors knows about. I find the latter boring - that's why I edit.
Also, you're agreeing with my point about there being significant multi-ID use; which significantly messes up the stats.
I wish there were more here - and in other discussions - about the "Do we want new articles" issue. There's a widespread belief, not only among "deletionists", that the easy/needed/important articles have been written. That is simply not so. There are a staggering number of redlinks in medieval and renaissance history. Several Olympic medallists have fallen to the scythe of the recent unreferenced BLP deletion pushes, and looking at the NewPages page, I see specialists creating vast numbers of articles on older sports figures and figures in non-Olympic sports, so I know there are still gaps in our sports coverage. I know there are redlinks for older seasons in certain leagues and circuits. Despite the predictable problem of PR people creating articles on businesses, I know we are spotty on businesses, too, especially those that went out of business or were bought up more than a decade or two ago - in general, recentism is a big problem, but there are any number of reference works and other sources that make remedying it in such areas as sport and business not very hard. In addition, I find foreign-language Wikipedias a tremendous source of ideas for articles, and that goes double for the non-English Wikipedias, which started later. But it also goes for en., where our coverage of German and French companies is shockingly bad. (And not only companies. en.wikipedia has only 2 articles on stations on the Vienna U-Bahn.) Then there are all the landmark buildings in every country, all the pre-20th-century literary works ... redlinks abound. Also, new notable people and topics are emerging all the time. Not just news events, but tv and movie stars, technology products, styles of music . . . it would be easier if the newspapers weren't so determined to prevent us from seeing them online and using them for refs, but it really isn't that hard to see that we have only scratched the surface of the mineface here.
The projects seem at times to only pay lip service to the "It's about content" mantra. And I repeat, "content" does include expanding those placeholder stubs. They're an embarrassment.
Actually, Yngvadottir, the "low-hanging fruit" metaphor works exactly well for the "medieval and renaissance history. Several Olympic medallists have fallen to the scythe of the recent unreferenced BLP deletion pushes". In order to write articles on these subjects, one cannot simply rely on Google searches or plundering an encyclopedia or two for material. One has to go to the library (you know, that building most towns have that is full of books & magazines), & do research. Doing that is hard -- sometimes harder than the writing -- often is unsuccessful, & until you learn enough about the subject is too often just wandering around in the darkness & hoping you don't fall into a ditch.
But the education system is supposed teach people how to do research, but apparently don't any more -- if they ever did. Anyone here under 25 living in the US even hear about the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature? (Last time I asked for it in a library, the clerk wasn't even sure if it was even published.) Or has anyone been told that there are bibliographical tools for a variety of subjects, like arts & literature, & for history?
I doubt professors & teachers would be so hard on Wikipedia & its failings if they realized its being written by their own students, who are applying the exact skills they have learned. They could fix many of Wikipedia's errors before they were made if they taught the skills Wikipedia editors depend on -- but don't have.
What is your point? I honestly can't tell if you are agreeing with me, disagreeing with me, or just finding an opportunity to make a joke.
It's an example of something where there are a large number of articles missing. I could have given 2 more recondite examples from my areas of interest '-) In some of these areas, redlinks are there. In others, you see a list in unmarked text. I've also had the experience of writing an article and then when I click "What links here" I find there had been half a dozen redlinks that I hadn't known about.
My point is that the common argument that the encyclopedia is almost complete is codswallop based on a very blinkered and parochial view that doesn't even extend to looking at the actual encyclopedia to see redlinks. And I admit I don't even haunt the pages on members of governments, on the geography of Africa or Asia, on the hard sciences or on schools of philosophy.
There are also very real issues with the notability requirement and the deprecation of fringe beliefs bashing into the stated aim of reducing entrenched bias. I think the notability standards need revisiting, and I know that one thing that happens to the type of new editor who wants to create articles is that very often their topic is sneered at. But the idea that en.wikipedia already has articles on most of what is notable - an idea that I am seeing here is also being invoked on some other wikipedias - is just as much a canard as the one that new article creators always choose to write on worthless topics. Not interesting to you personally =/= not worthy of an encyclopedia article, and an encyclopedia should have articles on things that a reader knows little about or hasn't even heard of. That's what it's for, looking things up! It is not for testifying that something has been written about in a lot of other places.
I have what may be the world's simplest solution to multiple accounts. Have everyone (optionally) register their e-mail for account recovery purposes. No one should need more than one account unless they are hiding something or causing trouble. To ensure that several accounts are not registered to the same person, track IPs for which accounts are registered to which address. Any IP address with more than three accounts registered to it could be red-flagged by a bot to be investigated by a senior member, who could then take appropriate actions or issue warnings. I know that Wikipedia already tracks IP for unregistered users, and registered users (if they have good intentions) should not mind it being recorded by a bot (which would keep these IPs secret unless it flags them, as above). I'm sure that such a system would also help to get rid of wackos, cranks, and hooligans, as such people often get banned and just make umpteen different accounts so they can continue to be offensive. For users forgetting their login, have them put in their email address and a couple of preset answers to questions selected at the time of account creation (or later, via a userpage option or something) ex. (your date of birth, your mother's maiden name, your middle name, the color of your first car, etc.). They could then be sent the information in a bot-generated email. I've seen similar systems on many other websites.
I've been a new editor several times, in the sense that I start editing, maybe make an account since I've forgotten the last one, and quickly get disillusioned and leave. This has happened maybe 4 times over the last few years.
What usually happens is I'll see a place I could contribute something interesting too, or that clearly needs more information or accuracy, and I'll go from there. Invariably my first interaction with the Wikipedia community is with either a bot or a person telling me what they think I'm doing wrong. They're often polite, sometimes not, but they nearly always come across as supercilious and condescending. I (and other people I know) get a real "I'm better than you" vibe from a lot of experienced editors, even some who probably mean well.
For instance, the first thing someone told me on one of my talk pages was that my completely innocuous username might violate WP:Gibberish and WP:Huh?. Other times I've run into people on the talk pages citing WP:I'mRight, WP:GoAway, and WP:YouSuck in a ridiculously overdramatized 'discussion' over edits. The fact that the senior editors are much more familiar with these wikipedia policies means that they will always be able to justify their position in an 'edit war' -- whether or not they are misquoting the policy. (WP:NPOV and WP:OR, for instance, frequently become arbitrary slogans that each side in an argument is defining in a completely different way.) Ultra-possessiveness of pages and subjects, and over-aggressive arguing, citing, and mis-citing of policies drive many people away.
And of course the most irritating 'welcome' to Wikipedia - and probably the most common - is to have your edit reverted or your new article deleted. Notability is the most common reason, and the issue of 'notability' is usually decided by one or two senior editors who may or may not know anything about the subject in question. Another version of this is when an edit is flagged or outright deleted due to 'citation needed' when the information is indisputable to anyone who has the most basic knowledge of the subject. Rooting through a poor-quality book to find a line that says the equivalent of "Botanists study plants" or "Surfing is a water sport" should not be a prerequisite for editing.
Well, that's my feedback. I'm not sure how to change such an entrenched culture, or convince senior editors to stop viewing whole swathes of topics as 'theirs' (especially, good god!, when they have no idea what they're talking about). But it needs to happen before Wikipedia becomes a place for casual users to edit.
I am encouraged to see considerable use of "citation needed" tags and/or cleanup tags rather than outright deletion. I do understand references and I have found it to be quite difficult to do it properly on Wikipedia. Is there a 'fill in the blanks' form or something similar to guide the user (and make it much easier to get consistent syntax)? Notability will always be a thorny issue, and some of the rules are kind of arbitrary (even though necessary). I have experienced a deletion, but it was accompanied by a reason and a link to a relevant discussion that explained it further. That not only prevented me getting upset about the deletion, but also gave me a starting place for working out how to do better next time. The human touch is very good, but we can probably also improve bot notifications with a bit of thought.
There are citation templates, but my experience of them is they are more trouble than they're worth. It's almost impossible to find out how to refer to an article within an anthology, a book with multiple authors and a translator, to say which edition you are using, to figure out how to add the Google Books URL for the page ref . . . and the output looks bizarre unless you are used to Harvard-style refs. They are therefore not mandatory, but are there for those who like them, and I understand there's a way to get a link to them into your toolbar, but it involves downloading a widget. Personally I prefer acceptance of multiple citation styles, it keeps Wikipedia open to editors from different places and fields, but folks have produced systematised aids in this - and umpteen other areas. There are some really industrious and helpful people on Wikipedia. I wish the mindset was more that that's good.
I think it would be a great asset to give users sources. For instance, if Wikimedia could acquire a large amount of miscellaneous information, it could be ordered, structured, sorted, etc. by users to improve articles. Just like writing a research paper involves sifting through the whole library to produce a concise, detailed essay, so should writing an article have a supply of resources. These sources don't have to be orderly, just accurate.
In counterpoint, if we have the information, it's probably already in the encyclopedia...
Edit: Is Wikisource a credible source? Just curious.
(This is off topic but I am not going to let that stop me.)
I think it entirely depends on what source one obtains via WikiSource - but they have been chosen because someone thought they might be useful. For example, yesterday I made this edit. That's not a very good source, not because it's on de.wikisource or because it dates to 1889, or because it's in German, but because it's another encyclopedia. Secondary sources - for example, academic works on the history of the Cologne archdiocese or on the 15th-century politics of the German states - would be better. But since I started by translating the de.wikipedia article, my next step was to check its references (in this case sources) and use those I can get access to. Today and/or tomorrow I'll look for other works I can cite, with emphasis on non-encyclopedic books and articles. And that isn't a bad source - that particular encyclopedia (and the one I cited with the next 2 edits) are known to be good. As it happens the older one is available on wikisource, while the newer one is online in a pdf or something similar. That's not really the issue in using them - it's their nature as sources that matters.
I think Wikisource is laudable, and very useful for older stuff (for example, de.wikisource also has the text of all editions of Grimm's Fairy Tales, but handicapped by being restricted to sources free of copyright. GoogleBooks gives me access to far more and I don't think Wikipedia either can or should try to beat GoogleBooks at the digitization game. It would be a waste of effort, and with regards to helping editors, it would be analogous to those books that collect together articles on both sides of an issue to make it easier for students to research their first ever research essay. There's always more stuff in the rest of the library, let alone on the internet.
I think the Wikimedia Foundation has done some research into the subjective experience of new users. More would be helpful, I'm sure.
The best commercial enterprises spend a great deal of effort researching what customers think about them, particularly new customers. We should invest some of the proceeds of the fundraiser into doing the same.