I am fairly uncomfortable with the idea of a task force coming up with its own suggestions, particularly when the topic is as broad as "improving community health" and the task force is so small. This is an issue that's consumed endless discussion time among very bright people, and it's not something we're necessarily going to figure out in two months.
I personally would like to focus on researching a) what proposals have been made about community health, b) what outside research or data could be looked at, and c) what discussions have been had in the past, to synthesize and present. For instance, the very premise given for this task force -- that editorship is in decline -- is a very broad-brush and possibly inaccurate conclusion drawn from some fairly tentative research. I think we need to be very clear about what's opinion, what's fact, and what might not be fair to conclude when we discuss these things.
I agree, Phoebe. As a general rule, I think that identifying what we already know and what we don't know is a good start. As part of that, I think it's useful to identify what "we" agree on and what "we" don't agree on (where "we" is the "community" as best as we can define it).
Phoebe is basically right. This can't be about the "really awesome ideas" of a small task force. We need to focus on verifiable data about what's actually happening in the community, and offer solutions consistent with reality. And yes, that means we have to establish that the community is actually in decline. (And what does "decline" even mean?) We can't just determine a decline from a vocal minority of complaints, or a misreading of very tentative research about slow growth. Let's focus on what's actually inhibiting the community.
I think you covered two of the most important. But there is also value in a few others:
- Category:Proposals for improving usability
- Category:Proposals for reforming policy and governance of Wikimedia projects
- Category:Proposals for reducing in-fighting
- Category:Proposals for editor awards or rewards
In theory, I think we could focus four proposals around four areas. Improve community health by: improving usability, reducing in-fighting, adding social tools, expanding rewards, supporting volunteers, and improving overall governance. But that's more than four areas, and any one of those could be a good focus by itself. That's going to make this challenging.
We may find we can knock a couple of those out because they fit more readily under the work of another task force. For example, under ESP3 they have a key question that specifically asks "how can we reward good contributions?". I only saw that 5 minutes ago and it's my particular area of interest and so I'm somewhat wrong-footed by the realisation that I might be in the wrong group :o/
I'm half-joking... I fully intend to stay with this task force and work with you all. There is nothing to stop me keeping an eye on work going on elsewhere that I'm passionate about nor indeed to rule it out of the deliberations of this task force :o)
I would be surprised if 'improving usability' doesn't have its own task force... I'll go and see if I can find it.
Usability does indeed fall under Tech Task Force, but it's useful to consider usability under this one as well. The tool itself can have a great impact on building and shaping community.
I don't think it would be terrible if some of our recommendations re-inforce or complement what other task forces recommend. Especially things like usability and rewards. Yeah, usability is a technical problem, and rewards can encourage quality. But what would be better for the community than creating a more usable and rewarding experience? Let the foundation understand that many problems are interconnected, and so a set of recommendations can actually target very many problems.
Overlapping recommendations is not terrible. In fact, I'd say it's a good thing, as it emphasizes the need for certain things.
By the way, as a process point, this thread is getting long. One of the features of LiquidThreads is the ability to summarize threads. I'd encourage people to use this feature to help others follow these conversations more effectively.
Good idea. I've kind of avoided it until now, because I didn't want people to think I was trying to shut down the debate. Kind of waiting for a moment of closure or stagnation :)
I fully agree that if two or more task forces come up with similar proposals that it is a good thing, even a great one. The proposals from Strategy will be all the more compelling to the WMF if it turns out that two reasonably distinct groups ended up reaching the same or very similar conclusions.
Returning to research; I thought I would post a message on Slashdot and Metafilter which are two big forums where I might find ex-Wikipedians willing to talk about why they don't contribute any more. I'm not currently a member of either of those forums but I don't mind signing up. I thought I'd mention it here so it may inspire other TF members to do s similar experiment.
Update: I have submitted a question to Slashdot, it has to go through moderation. Metafilter charges $5 to new signups (a one-off charge). Is anyone already a member? It's not that $5 breaks my bank but I'd rather not run the security risks of an online payment needlessly.
Volunteer support is a very delicate job. I have the honor to support authors of (paper) books. It takes a lot of human soft skills to make an author to write a book in the desired way. Lots of authors quit, because of all kinds of human failure. My guess is: writing for WP is as delicate a job as writing a book. Lots of support is needed, and far less technology and threats to delete a text of an author. Most WP police that I know of are very concerned about quality of text, and not concerned a bit about community and human relations (I know this is not true for everybody). This concern for quality should be broadened from only text oriented to community and text oriented concern. Does a robot exist to say thank to to someone who did write a text? JaapB 20:05, 5 November 2009 (UTC)
I was there for the IRC strat meet last night. I mentioned that we may lack data to answer some of the questions posed to this TF. Eekim said that we should pass on thoughts on what data we're lacking. I think we could do that in our weekly reports which ask us what resources we need to best carry out our work. So if, like me, you're struggling with the questions, write down what data you feel you need to move forward and suggest it for inclusion in the weekly report.
In IRC there was also a lot of discussion about ideas for 'social networking' features. Two or three people were pretty hostile to moves in that direction. A lot of concern was expressed about anything which would enable users to talk off-wiki amongst themselves because it might lead, for example, to group-think and issue driven groups to weigh in on polls and discussions and get them out of balance. User:Werdna (the tech guy behind liquid threads) felt this was being overly paranoid. My personal view is that things ought to remain on the projects for all to see and I'm not in favour of enabling back room cliques to form. By all means enable users to hold conversations more easily and to message each other, but I think things should remain visible to all users so that every user is responsible for the "paper trail" they leave behind them.
You may think, well that sounds like what we already have. But in my view things could be improved. For example, if I want to post a message on 10 people's talk pages - as far as I'm aware - I have to do that manually ten times. I would like to be able to post to a group of users. Something like this must already be available on MediaWiki because Signpost surely doesn't deliver "by hand" every copy; so it could be just a matter of opening up that mechanism to users (with, of course, a way to withdraw the right from anyone using it to spam). But, anyway, this is all a bit of a digression...
Here's the IRC log, however please note that the log ends when Eekim left the room and that substantial discussion on social networking happened after that point.
The critics raised a very good point. Ideally, we want the social networking tools to be used to make it easier to bring people into the community, and to identify articles that need work. But the example you used -- messaging ten specific users with the same message -- can often be canvassing. Organizing people to get involved is good, but organizing people to push an agenda or a viewpoint would quickly ruin Wikipedia. I'm not sure how we can get the benefits without all the problems.
Argh! I wrote a long reply to you, Random, but my browser and then computer crashed before submitting. I'll reply properly but, briefly, I agree with you about canvassing and I don't currently see how we can both improve ease of communication without making canvassing easier too. But who knows, someone might think of a way.
I hate it when that happens. Take some time and think it through. I haven't abandoned hope. Maybe the key is that we have to build the social network around the expectations of the community. Maybe you're allowed to create a group with an interest in Atheism, but you're not allowed to create a group devoted to pushing a POV at every single religious article. Maybe mass-messages have to become a subject of scrutiny. Maybe even the friendlist itself, if people insist on befriending people based on POV, rather than general interest. We can make it work, but we have to be very realistic about some of the policies around consensus-building and battleground behavior.