Growth/Wikimania 2019

Opening panel in the Community Growth space

Six members of the Growth team were at Wikimania 2019 in Stockholm. This page contains our report on our goals, what we did, and what we learned. This page also contains links to videos from the sessions that are most relevant to our work. Overall, Wikimania was a valuable experience for our team because our learnings from community members have changed the way we're thinking about our future roadmap. We also made contacts with communities who we can work with in the future.

The most important links are the following:


  • Promote discussions about new editors, the challenges they face, and ideas for helping them.
  • Learn how communities feel about the features our team has been building and our plans for the future.
  • Identify contacts from communities that are interested in trying out our features.


These are the main activities that Growth team members participated in:

  • Wikimania Hackathon: we conducted a session at Hackathon to explain about Growth team features, get feedback from technical audiences, and encourage participants to extend the features we've built.
    • We discussed ideas for how to use the Content Translation tool to help newcomers make their first edits, about how to facilitate live chat in the help panel, and how to make it easier to be a mentor to newcomers through the newcomer homepage.
    • Growth team ambassador Martin Urbanec worked on a project to allow mentors to “claim” newcomers, overriding the random mentor assignment done by the newcomer homepage.  The idea here is that many experienced users meet newcomers at an offline event, like an edit-a-thon, and then want to also be that user’s mentor online after the event. The work is tracked in T228210. We intend to deploy this work to production in the coming weeks.
  • Community Growth Space: we helped organize a 1.5 day space at Wikimania for sessions all about growing communities and about newcomers. These sessions touched on the topics of technology, events, campaigns, and mentorship. The space was well attended. There were three sessions that were particularly relevant to the Growth team's work:
  • Editor retention meetup: we participated in a lunch meetup in which community members talked about editor retention issues in their wikis. The notes, and continued conversation, are here on Wikimedia Space.
  • Community conversations: all of our team members spent time talking with Wikimedians from all around the world about the ways they run events, talk to newcomers, and the challenges in their wikis.


  • Overall
    • Alignment on newcomer retention: It seems like Wikimania attendees generally believe that newcomer retention is an important problem.  This is good -- it means that the big question is not whether we should retain newcomers, but how. It sounds like communities are open to ideas of how they can become better places to be new.
    • Positivity around Growth features: The feedback we received on our features was almost entirely positive.  We did not hear any attendees tell us that they think we are heading in the wrong direction with our work.
  • Feature ideas
    • Connecting offline to online: Many Wikimania attendees are very active in off-wiki events, such as edit-a-thons.  Because of this perspective, we heard a lot of enthusiasm for ideas that connect our features better to offline events, such as making homepage mentors correspond to offline mentors, or encouraging newcomers to communicate with mentors in off-wiki channels, like social media.
    • Offline lessons for online features: Wikimedians who run successful off-wiki events say the keys are to make them fun and collaborative, and make sure that newcomers leave the event having successfully published an article.  We can use this insight as we build newcomer tasks into the homepage: we might want them to be fun, doable, and for the newcomer to feel successful on their first try.
    • Hybrid help panel: We heard multiple people ask if it would be possible to quickly and automatically answer some of the most common newcomer questions in the help panel, so that the newcomers don't have to wait for a mentor to respond. This brings up the challenge of speed vs. quality -- generally, an automatic answer won't be as good as a personalized answer from a mentor, but it will be much faster. This led us to discuss approaching the help panel in a “hybrid” way that combined some artificial intelligence to quickly serve up common answers, along with the option to contact an experienced user if the automatic answer was not helpful.
    • Mentor dashboard: When talking about the mentorship module in the newcomer homepage, we heard experienced users request some sort of dashboard with which they could monitor newcomers who may need help, and have a way keep track of and thank them for their work.  This may be easy to attempt via the existing newcomer homepage’s mentorship program.
    • Collaborative editing at events: Multiple Wikimedians who run edit-a-thon events for newcomers use Etherpads or Google Docs to allow newcomers to work together as they write their first article.  A native real-time collaborative editing tool may help them do this on-wiki.
    • Off-wiki communication: Most emerging communities use social media heavily to communicate off-wiki.  We should be open to opportunities to integrate or incorporate off-wiki communication if it helps retain newcomers. For instance, perhaps if a community heavily uses a messaging app to speak with newcomers, the newcomer homepage could encourage newcomers to join that app and ask their question.


We met members of the following communities who may be interested in trying Growth features. Some of these communities have started conversations about whether the features are a good fit for them:

  • Armenian Wikipedia
  • Ukrainian Wikipedia
  • Hungarian WIkipedia
  • Danish Wikipedia
  • Spanish Wikipedia


Throughout our sessions community members asked questions, which were captured in an Etherpad. The team was unable to respond to each question due to the time constraints. Below you will find the questions from the community and our team's response.

  • In reference to the Editor Journey experiment, someone asked if the results were are a result of welcome bots on wikis?
    • Bots were present on one of our target wikis (Korean), but not others, and there was a difference that was noticed as a result.  
  • Have you thought on an AI to interpret the most common questions (for example "how to add a photo?") and answers it quickly
    • Speed vs. Personal touch is what this raises. AI could be great, or the newcomer think it is a robot and they think that is bad. Marshall asked the group their thoughts on the implications on personal touch versus speed.
  • Newcomers create a profile page and they get deleted because it has nothing to do with editing Wikipedia, how can we change the policy to not drive people away?
    • Some communities evaluate whether or not the process is the problem. The Growth team is thinking of a way to better structure profiles to limit this
  • Experienced user and there are hundreds of newcomers coming in everyday and is there a way to notice the most productive new people to say join us
    • We agree
  • So what type of help was the most popular? Person to person, fulltext, lightweight tutorial, videotutorial? Have you tested that?
    • We heard videos are helpful in some wikis but we do need to look further into this. Asking questions on help desk was less popular on Czech.
  • So the findings are, that more users survive if they come via desktop? So mobile user survival is minimum?
  • It sounds like raising awareness of a "vibrant community" in relative real-time is important (I'm assuming, based on the plan to encourage use of the Watchstar for this reason). How much consideration has been given to live-update type tools, such as a list of "online users" or "recently online users" (depending on how recent)?
  • How are the "suggested tasks" generated?

In addition to the questions that were received, there were general ideas shared with the team, which can be found in Etherpad.