Newbies or Better information?

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And what is encyclopedic style? I ask this question because I have been looking for an answer to that question -- more specifically, what is an encyclopedia, beyond something along the lines of "a collection of essays in alphabetical order, usually printed in multiple volumes" -- & have yet to find a useful answer. I suspect that "encyclopedic style" is one of those things, like obscenity, which no one can define yet everyone thinks she/he knows it when they see it. Unfortunately, such a situation only leads to more disagreements than agreements. -- Llywrch 18:19, 11 March 2011 (UTC)

18:19, 11 March 2011

There is no need for absolute agreement for a group project to function. If we had waited for an absolute, all-encompassing definition of the word farm and a thorough and complete explication of the concept of farming before any group of people planted seeds, we would have all starved long ago and there would be no civilisation as we know it. I'm being facetious, of course, but my point is that Wikipedia guidelines are quite clear that newcomers and their efforts are to be heartily welcomed, and that substantial knowledge is not required at the outset.

That being said, it is clear to me that most new article problems could be avoided by presenting (mandating?) a short, concise tutorial with clear examples (correct/incorrect) at a person's first edit and first article creation. This, paired with a simple, well-thought-out new article creation wizard would certainly reduce deletions and lessen the long-term workload for more experienced editors.

Here is how it can seem to new editors now: "Here, before you do anything, memorise this two-hundred-page manual. Then, when you begin editing, your work may suddenly and inexplicably disappear at the whim of some seemingly anonymous, malign entity or your modest efforts may unleash a torrent of harsh criticism from said entity."

Many experienced editors desperately need to reread and take to heart some core Wikipedia policies, such as Wikipedia:Please_do_not_bite_the_newcomers

20:45, 11 March 2011
"Here, before you do anything, memorise this two-hundred-page manual. Then, when you begin editing, your work may suddenly and inexplicably disappear at the whim of some seemingly anonymous, malign entity or your modest efforts may unleash a torrent of harsh criticism from said entity."

Actually I would say our main problem is that we do not adequately warn new users about this before they start editing. What you describe is the reality of how Wikipedia is: if you want to edit productively here, you had better read a lot of manuals (and read them repeatedly, because many of the concepts take time to sink in). Over on the Help desk, a lot of baffled new users ask Why was my page deleted? - they ask because they had no idea that Wikipedia has a thriving deletion industry that feeds on newbies, until after they got suckered.

I think part of our problem is our misleading use of the word "Save". Most people have used productivity software on their computers, which has conditioned them to expect that when you save something, it stays the way you saved it, until you edit it again.

On Wikipedia, "Save" doesn't mean anything like that. There is no predictable outcome from saving. Instead you are spinning the roulette wheel. Or maybe spinning the chamber of the revolver pointed at your head.

It's hardly surprising that we are seeing a drop in new users. What do we think happens when we delete someone's article? They probably get angry, and tell all their friends about how they got suckered into wasting their time. Word starts getting around that editing on Wikipedia is not a fun thing to do.

We shouldn't pretend that just because we think we have all these righteous and pure reasons for deleting articles, we aren't doing incredible damage to the way people perceive us.

00:51, 12 March 2011