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One potentially powerful tool that can be brought to the table with Flow is the concept of truly useful "welcome" system.
Currently, the policy about welcome templates differs from project to project. Some allow for automatic welcoming; others do not. Research has shown that welcome templates are typically not useful. In fact, they are generally a detriment. However, they continue to be used (even if manually inserted) and there are various types and qualities of welcome templates.
A Flow-enabled welcome system could possibly solve many problems from the outset. Most importantly, it will enable the Wikimedia community to communicate with new editors before they have made their first edits.
- Experienced editors have often described a wish that new editors read and understand several policies regarding editing.
- The "first contact" of any new editor to the community is in reverse: the community contacts the new editor first, usually with negative feedback, which results in scaring off new editors
- New editors need to have a "home base" for education and access to guided tours.
- Being provided with up-front education and the opportunity to ask for help early on will provide new editors with a degree of confidence that will enable them to become productive contributors faster and will result in higher editor retention rates.
- The workload of experienced editors will reduce overall because new editors are being educated before their first edits.
- New users will be less likely to fail because they have been introduced to notification and discussion mechanisms before they make their first edits.
- Experienced editors who enjoy mentoring processes will achieve greater satisfaction in their volunteer work because they have a faster and easier mechanism for attending to the needs of new users.
Current "Welcome" Process
The current process for new editors is fairly grim and results in an abysmal failure-to-retain rate. It follows thus:
- The new user makes an account.
- The new user makes a mainspace edit in good faith but with ignorance of policy
- An experienced editor reverts the edit. Typically, this is automated via Twinkle or some other tool and results in the following (in one click, but they are separate actions)
- The edit is reverted
- The new user has a (rather awful) "welcome" template dropped on their talk page
- The new user has a warning template dropped on their talk page (even nicely worded, a revert is a revert)
- The new user may or may not find these notifications (this will hopefully be alleviated with the advent of Echo). Even if they do, they are likely to read them poorly
- The new user goes away, likely forever.
Proposed "Welcome" Process
- The new user makes an account.
- Upon account creation, the system publishes a welcome notice into the new user's Flow board.
- This fires an Echo notification (which immediately teaches the new user about notifications)
- The new user clicks on the notification, which brings them to the welcome message on their Flow board
- This teaches the new user about Flow boards
- The new user is now presented with interactive tutorials and the ability to request help before they have made an edit
Ideally, we then see:
- The new user views the tutorials
- The new user obtains a (limited) grasp of local policy
- The new user makes good faith edits that work within policy
Overall workload of volunteers is reduced.
Aside from the standard conversational features granted by Flow itself, this module would provide:
Instant Help Access
A big, easy to understand button that would allow a new editor to request help from the community. This system could be as easy as "simple" as "click this button and people who monitor the tag will be notified" or as complex as "click this button and tell us what kind of help you want and we'll try to find the right people for you".
Additional elements can be added to this function, such as the ability for a new editor to mark comments received as being "helpful". This would introduce a social currency to the movement that focuses on mentorship (number of people helped) that may be more useful to the movement than the current (artificial and organic) currency of "edit count."
In the Far Future, with additional technology, we might be able to tailor these welcome messages based on interests and skills provided by the new user during the account creation process.
Since one of the difficulties new users face is "having things to do" we can also suggest tasks based on this information.