Barriers to Quality at Wikipedia (and potentially other Wiki projects)

Put on your seatbelts, this is gonna be long...

Woodwalker: “We do have to find ways to get this more practically applicable though, and for that we need better analysis of many things.” Yes, which is why I keep going back to analyzing what currently exists, taking the user experiences we wish people to have at Wikipedia and using them as a litmus test to see if what currently exists fulfills those experiences and if not, what needs to be done to ensure that the Wikipedia experience is appropriate and meaningful in a positive way. '

  1. “(Wikipedia is at a cross roads)…I agree”' YES!
  1. “But how (do we change?)The foundation and chapters should take the lead imho. New…users could get more personal supervision too.” Yes and Yes
  1. “(perhaps Wikipedia needs to work at furnishing computers…): nice ideal, but is it…possible…in say, ten years?” I am not sure but what I do know is that every day hundreds of users at our county library utilize computers in the Gates Computer lab – many of whom would not otherwise have use of a computer. I am pretty good at getting corporations and people to give to those who need, I am certain there are thousands more people like me who have this skill. All we have to do is focus it and we can attain this goal.
  1. “ (Wikipedia needs to be more even handed in the information that is covered)…I'm all in favour of that...” This is a long term project. There is a lot of information in the world. The Guttenberg project has something similar going on with literature and from seeing their results I know that this is doable. Perhaps we need to section topic areas off and try to fill in a bit of each and then more of each and then…until those topic areas are better populated. I think this is an area worth discussion – how to approach more comprehensive content – as appropriate for a quality team. Breadth of content creates better quality.
  1. “(Wikipedia needs to start cultivating a kid audience for contribution) That's simply a great idea.” Thanks. I also wish Wikipedia to be host for working groups for school and university kids. Why not a Wikipedia style “wave”? and Wiki groups? (of course once we get more basic issues under better control.)
  1. “(Wikipedia needs to show by example) -> Yes, people should start to read guidelines and each others talk contributions instead of reacting on one mere word. Discussions turn sour because people don't take the time to read well and understand each other's position.” This is where a 24 hour rule is good. Some of my profs won’t allow us to discuss our grades on a test or a paper for 24 hours so we really think about what it is they have “said” and what we really want to say. This is but one example. People who regularly can be shown to not actually read content yet react to it can eventually get a negative rating score of some sort. (I am certain yall can work this one out – I have seen great discussions of metrics/procedures on here.) Teaching people the power of forgiveness, of flexibility, of all the tools they need to be good collaborators is truly KEY if Wikipedia is going to exist in ten years. This how we become the gold standard – by teaching. If knowledge is power then those who teach are truly great. We teach others what we know about how to work together. We figure it out, we define it, we create wizards, we create videos, we do whatever it is we need to do to ensure that people can learn what it is they need to know to participate. And we remove barriers to participation.

I know this is a really long post, but I want to share something that ties into this post.

I am incredibly late on a paper on civil disobedience for a key class in my major. Today, after class, I showed my professor of Social Justice, Dr. Alexander Kaufman,, the Barrier Wiki. I told him how angry I got at first at how LT wasn’t working right, how I felt the group wasn’t working in a way that I felt productive, how I had the choice to do “civil disobedience” and walk away to make a point or how I could choose to stay. I told him I was working out the principles in the paper on this Wiki and on this Task Force. I also told him that what he has taught me about Rawls and Social Justice is the foundation for my work on this Task Force – that everyone needs to be included and everyone is worthy of consideration and respect, and that the benefits of natural and social endowments need to positively impact those with the least. And the cool thing is that you guys/gals are responding to what I am sharing that he taught me.

Everything Kaufman teaches me I can share with someone else. Teaching a student may be the single greatest thing that Kaufman can give to all of us, as long as we continue to share that which we learn with others and they share with more people. Teaching, whether it is how to collaborate, or what social justice is, may be the single biggest gift we can give to someone. And this is how knowledge lives on.

And this is why Wikipedia is powerful.

I think it may be possible to challenge the existing community to be teachers. I think there may be a myriad of ways to entice them to play by rules not of their own making to create a just result. We just haven’t explored them all. So while we are adding to the community, we can also heal the community. Each of us has a teacher inside of us. We just have to figure out how to harness all of those Alexander Kaufmans, give them the tools they need and take away the barriers to participation.

Oh and guys/girls, all of this is about Wikipedia’s brand, as I perceive it.  mumble brand mumble. (Okay, I give up on trying to get the format of this to be any more readable.)

Bhneihouse03:36, 2 December 2009

Thanks, this was like educating me, since I'm only a geologist and know nothing of the sort. I'd like to give two examples from my own experience, that gave me the faith the wiki-concept can work if people are shown the way how to better communicate/contribute. I'm myself not a technical type, besides I don't have experience with internet apart from Wikipedia, the occasional news site and email. Last year I started a facebook profile, only because my wiki friends asked me. So I probably don't fit in the average contributor profile we discussed. I started contributing when a friend took me behind a PC and showed me how Wikipedia works (letter by letter). If that hadn't happened, I would never have edited.

My first example is about content and about the 1000 article list. When I started editing Wikipedia, we had a list of all subjects covered by Encarta at wp-nl. I began by writing one or two articles about geology from red links in the list every day. Without the list, I wouldn't have known where to start. Even if contributors have the knowledge to add content, they often don't know how to start logistically/structurally or even what things are needed because of the information demand of the readers or the coverage of the project. Without the list, I would've lost interest pretty soon, just because I couldn't have come up with all these subjects myself. A month ago I scrolled through the 1000 article list at meta, and I found the geology section pretty bad, even though it contains only about 20-30 subjects. Then it occurred to me I would, with the help of other geologists active on Wikipedias, be well able to make a separate list of 1000 articles about geology alone (100 rock types, 100 minerals, etc - 1000 seems a lot but it is still only enough to include general topics). Besides, we could make a list of articles with other subjects that should have a section on geology as well (for example: the Rocky Mnts, the Atlantic Ocean). Other users with specialist knowledge could make similar lists for their specific areas of expertise. Some knowledge is universal and should be included in all wikipedias. Such lists would be beneficial for small and medium-sized projects, but probably also still for the larger ones. Users will then have a way of knowing where to start adding content, even without needing to have the knowledge themselves (they can translate from larger wikis), instead of getting lost in policies/rules/talk pages, which is so easy on wikis.

Second example is from my experience as an admin/arbcom member. In contrast to most of my colleagues, I'm not often for blocking problematic users, unless there is clearly bad intent. Rather, I'd go for other restrictions or make 'deals' with them ('you do this or else I block you'). For example: don't do more than 5 edits at talk pages every week, don't edit the village pump or election debate pages, etc. The results have been mostly positive. Most of these well-intending problematic users can become good contributors when they just have a little less freedom/choice where and when to edit. The most surprising aspect to me is that many of them were afterwards thankful and told me they'd never have figured out how to get constructive for themselves. I think your ideas of 24 hour reaction time and teaching users how to communicate/contribute are super. Editing Wikipedia shouldn't be a matter of simply signing in and then having total freedom, it should be a learning process that only begins with signing in. I understand this doesn't seem compatible with the liberal ideals and mentality of the founders and many of the current incrowd of Wikipedia, yet I think this is a misconception. I think guiding contributors to more constructive ways is in a way even more compatible with our ideals than the total freedom to behave, edit and do as you like we have now. Yes, why not have anonymous ratings for every talk contribution? That would really force people to become more constructive in discussions and help the consensus building process.

I think all of us agree something has to be done about behaviour. The question is mainly how to convince the communities and how to make a recommendation that will have impact.

Woodwalker08:55, 2 December 2009

Ok I officially hate LT. foty five minutes of typing and organizing lost because I was working on the web page. I have to run to take my daughter to the doctor, but this is a reminder to myself to come back and edit this message to respond to Woodwalker.

Woodwalker, for now my comments are: great post.


Bhneihouse17:17, 2 December 2009

It would be most helpful if you could document what happened. For instance, what behaviors were experienced? What happened? What did you do immediately prior? Were there error messages?

~Philippe (WMF)17:46, 2 December 2009

I had the same experience (lost ~15 minutes of writing) when I wrote my long message above (8:55, 2 December 2009). I was patrolling vandalism at the same time and accidentally clicked and opened a link in the same window. I went back to this page but my text was gone, which normally doesn't happen in Firefox.

Woodwalker19:40, 2 December 2009

Yeah, Andrew told me this morning that he's working on EXACTLY that issue - making sure that the text is buffered or something so that it's there when you hit the "back" button.

~Philippe (WMF)21:34, 2 December 2009

same issue. working on a Mini 10 with small keyboard and literally grazed the mouse pad, the page went forward and when I went back I had lost everything. At one point I had copied it to clipboard but I had just copied a URL from another window to share and that knocked my buffer for the clipboard. :( Will rewrite in a bit. Busy day.

Bhneihouse23:51, 2 December 2009

btw who is Andrew?

Bhneihouse23:52, 2 December 2009

Andrew is Werdna, who developed LiquidThreads. He monitors this wiki closely.

~Philippe (WMF)00:25, 3 December 2009

ah. I guess we're special. ;) LOL

Bhneihouse03:55, 3 December 2009

It's ok, I've had a word with him too...... :)

FT2 (Talk | email)12:51, 3 December 2009

@woodwalker, this was good stuff. I have been trying for a few days to respond to this and will when I am caught up.

Bhneihouse15:22, 5 December 2009