Anonymous editor acquisition

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Anonymous editors are a significant part of the community of Wikipedia contributors. Every month about a million edits are made by anonymous contributors in English alone. While we have run reader and donor oriented acquisition campaigns in the past, these require a high degree of noise with little gain. We already know that anonymous editors who sign up are highly valuable new contributors.[1] This year, the Wikimedia Foundation's Growth team will be focusing on anonymous editor acquisition campaigns to increase the number of new registrations.

Project goal[edit]

Our goal is to increase the number of anonymous contributors who register accounts and become active Wikipedians. We will also aim to increase general awareness among Wikipedia readers of the fact that they can edit, and how to do so, before we ask them to register.

Current user experience[edit]

The current reader-to-anonymous editor workflow is composed of the following three stages.

Pre-edit[edit]

Before an unregistered user edits, they can...

  • Read content
  • Read or comment on Talk pages
  • View history
  • Notice a call-to-action (see Calls to action section)
  • Notice an error or omission in the content
  • Read help or policy pages

Users ultimately decide to one of a handful of relevant actions. They can...

  • Decide to edit immediately, via wikitext or VisualEditor depending on site configuration
  • Decide to sign up or log in
  • Leave the page, to read other content, search, etc.
  • Leave the site

Mid-edit[edit]

Once an unregistered user is editing an article, they may...

  • Read help or policy document, in-situ using tools like WikiEditor or via links
  • Abandon their edit

Post-edit[edit]

Once an unregistered user is done with that edit, they may...

  • Edit again
  • Navigate to other content via search or links
  • Leave the site
  • Register an account or log in

Anonymous editor personas[edit]

These very limited personas represent our current understanding of the different archetypes that represent anonymous editors on the site.

The first-time contributor
These people are simply trying out editing, often for the first time. Many active Wikipedians today report that they first started by editing anonymously.[2][3] For these individuals, anonymous editing is a low barrier to entry method for trying out contributing before they fully commit to joining the site. They are likely to not yet be fully aware that they can register an account or what the benefits might be.
The peripheral participant
These people do not log in or sign up, but occasionally notice errors or omissions and then correct them. They are likely to be aware of some of the benefits of an account, and they might even have had one in the past. However, they do not think that the benefits of account creation are worth the trouble of signing up. They may have also had (or have heard of) negative interactions with the Wikipedia community, or they may simply not identify socially with the kind of person who edits Wikipedia regularly. Time is also a significant factor here: even people who find editing Wikipedia pleasurable may not feel they have the leisure time to commit more fully.
The logged-out Wikipedian
Active Wikipedia community members do edit while logged out of their regular accounts from time to time. This often is because logging in requires several steps (as opposed to in a dropdown on page, or as part of saving) or because they may not want an edit associated with their identity.

Among some Wikipedia community members, a negative stereotype persists that anonymous editors are primarily vandals, spammers, trolls and jokesters. While the revert rate for anonymous editors is higher than for registered users, the majority of edits they make are retained, suggesting they are not primarily acting in bad faith. Nevertheless, all three of the personas above may include people making trouble for Wikipedia.

Proposed changes[edit]

Our acquisition methods break down in three broad types:

  1. Invite more users to sign up, and demonstrate the advantages of having an account (explicitly or implicitly)
  2. Increase visibility of current calls-to-action, or create new ones for attracting potential contributors who aren't yet registered
  3. Reduce signup friction by reducing the steps involved and requirements

Invite users to sign up[edit]

Overall, Wikipedia makes few strong calls to register directed at anonymous editors. Only one is directed particularly at anonymous editors. We should experiment with more ways to invite anonymous editors to sign up, without being intrusive or annoying.

Improve contributory calls-to-action or create new ones[edit]

What ways can we either make current entry points to contributing more visible, or create new ones?

Currently visible to unregistered users:

  • Main Edit tab (may also be "edit source" depending on VisualEditor configuration)
  • VisualEditor Edit tab (some wikis)
  • Section edit links
  • Upload file (in auto-collapsed sidebar)
  • Stub tags ("This article is a stub, you can help Wikipedia by expanding it") with a direct link to page-level editing. Dependent on local community, and may wildly differ across projects/not exist.
  • Article issue templates, which often contain links to how-to guides and links to either Talk or page-level editing. Dependent on local community, and may wildly differ across projects/not exist. See also: Actionable cleanup templates

Available only to registered users (not including advanced permissions):

  • Edit and section edit on semi-protected pages
  • Watchlist star
  • Wikidata "add links" button

Reduce sign-up friction[edit]

In addition to general usability enhancements that could be made to the account creation user experience, there are potential ways we could reduce friction specifically for users who are editing anonymously.

Research and data analysis[edit]

Notes[edit]

See also[edit]