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