Editing and contributions from offline users

    Editing and contributions from offline users

    As I mentioned at the last IRC meeting, there is one major topic that we have yet to cover. This relates to no. 6 in our mandate:

    "Offline usage of the Wikimedia material inherently makes participation difficult. Are there ways to overcome this challenge, to enable offline readers of the Wikimedia projects to also make contributions?"

    Propsals related to this include:

    I asked SJ (via email) a series of questions about this issue, which (I believe) he mentioned in his Wikimania talk in 2009. SJ currently works for One Laptop per Child (OLPC), and I believe he has talked with offline users in remote Peruvian schools about this sort of thing. He had a lot of fantastic ideas, which I'd like to list as the foundation for a recommendation on this issue; please note that he is focused on offline uses in schools, mainly for Wikipedia:

    1. Offline editing, periodic synchronization.
    2. Encourage large-group newbie editing. Find ways to identify blocks of new users, make sure they are welcomed by mentors and watchers rather than vandal-fighters and spelling zealots.
    3. Support school projects to edit WP, especially about local topics. Encourage mentorship of young editors; build guidelines that don't reflexively delete anything the reader hasn't heard of as NN. Improve notability guidelines by making it easier to write about people/places/events that have no web presence for lack of connectivity.
    4. Find mentors for each new community interested in solving that problem. Don't dictate from on high, support the idea and encourage the growth of these networks.
    5. Encourage local editing through contests and other high-profile events making editing a cool thing to do within a community at universities and schools; where you can find mentors for kids and others from that community in the future. [see the Kiswahili Wikipedia Challenge for an example I've been working on recently]
    6. We shouldn't hold articles about new and hard-to-source topics in a holding area, where we want to expand, to the standards we use for commonly known topics with thousands of references. Perhaps a different article-page template indicating this is an article about a new and developing topic, is of extra interest but lessened verifiability; and could particularly use corroborating cites, sources, and edits.

    While I don't think any of these proposals could be implemented tomorrow - they all require either significant organization on the ground, or they require major changes in practice. Still, I personally like them, and they indicate (for me) a viable path towards engaging whole new communities of contributors. In order to facilitate the implementation of SJ's proposals, I think we need to do the following:

    • Work with NGOs - particularly those interested in educational initiatives such as OLPC, to develop a system whereby mentors and organizers can be in place locally, and people working in the local languages can contribute.
    • When the time is right, start a discussion on how the community can work with groups contributing from offline, and how we should treat the idea of "reliable sources" and "original research" differently when we don't have any available! A town in Africa will often have very little information available in census data, peer-reviewed journals, etc., so it may be hard to verify even current data. As SJ suggests, we may need templates to flag this type of issue, and we may need experts serving as advisers and "welcomers" in the online communities.
    • Hardware and software will need to be developed that make it easy to edit offline as a group, then upload the information from there. The proposals at the top mention this type of idea.

    Please make your comments here; I also hope that we can discuss this topic at the IRC meeting on Thursday, at least briefly. Walkerma 10:03, 7 January 2010 (UTC)

    Walkerma10:03, 7 January 2010

    Generically speaking, the concept is good but has substantial technological challenges depending on the scenario:

    1. Non-internet-accessible school site, long period synchronization
      • Scenario: Synchronizes local dump at start of school year.
      • Multiple classes of students with editing integrated in the curriculum over the course of the school year.
      • End of school year synchronization of thousands of student edits to revisions now 9 months out of date
        1. High number of edit conflicts predictable
        2. Single synchronizer (school teacher?) becomes responsible for resolving each edit conflict for entire school even though xe may not have relevant knowledge.
    2. Single-user short period synchronization
      • Scenario: cellphone synchronizes weekly automated.
        1. Edit conflicts, after hand resolve, are then delayed until the next week's updating, at which point they may have developed another edit conflict.
    3. Any remote scenario
      • en.WP admins/CVN see a blast of edits from a given user/IP, especially if poorly formatted, and their likely response is to block/rollback all contributions.
      • Most such synchronizations would be effectively indistinguishable from bot edits, and may be in violation of some project's bot/automated edits policies

    Some of these may be resolved via technological measures, such as a more contextual edit resolver, but it is unlikely they could be 100% resolved. I would question whether - at this stage - this should be a primary recommendation.

    Amgine00:54, 12 January 2010

    Amgine says :- I would question whether - at this stage - this should be a primary recommendation

    I agree. Take it out.
    Wizzy05:56, 12 January 2010

    No problem. I think I can see workable scenarios different from the above, but I don't think it needs to be a major part of our focus at this early stage. I wanted to test the waters! Walkerma 06:21, 12 January 2010 (UTC)

    Walkerma06:21, 12 January 2010