Reading/Mexico Readers Research



The Reading Team was created in April 2015 to take on building better experiences for Wikimedia project readers. While defining strategic goals for the team, we came to the conclusion that it is critical for us to create reading experiences particular to readers in the global south.

(Note: "global south" is a less-than-ideal term that is currently being discussed within WMF. We're using it here for now as a proxy, and will update terminology when there is consensus within the Foundation for a better classification.)

Why the global south?[edit]

The next billion people are coming online worldwide in the global south. Mobile Internet penetration will grow from 28% to 45% in developing markets from 2014 to 2020 (GSM Report), which is an increase of 700 million potential readers and editors (1.55 billion now; 2.25 billion in 2020) compared to 600 million total today in the global north. Our readership ratios are inverted compared to population; 78% of our page views are from the Global North and this number has been flat for more than a year.

WMF has previously focused on developing the Wikimedia movement in the global south mainly through access (through Wikipedia Zero) and editing (through grant making). That said, we have a lot to learn about the different constraints and behaviors for people outside of the global north, particularly when it comes to product development.

Through a better understanding of users in the global south, we will improve the interface of the Wikimedia projects to help readers access our content. With more engaged readers, we hope that editing will also increase and plan to share what we learn along the way with the Editing Team to help build the non-English wikis.

What we know[edit]

This deck is a collection of the Industry analysis performed by the Reading team over the last year.It has been used for background to the Reading strategy work and will be also be used for the review of the Reach strategic approaches.

The global south is not a single, monolithic region. With over 150 countries classified as being in the global south, we cannot define any single sweeping characteristics. In order to build great products, we need to focus on building the right features for some group of our potential readers and then expand from there. To that end, we developed a number of dimensions to segment the market in order to narrow our focus, as described in the Industry Analysis deck.

We still have a lot to learn about how people in the global south approach knowledge, both on- and offline. In order to develop understanding for our product teams, we are planning a Deep Dive. A team of WMF researchers (a mix of Product/Engineering, Design Research, and Partnerships) will be traveling to Mexico in February 2016 for deep ethnographic research.

Research trip format[edit]

Research Goals[edit]

  1. To inform concept development and iteration for New Readers for all product teams in WMF.
  2. Keep an eye out for similarities and differences between what we learn in Mexico, and what we have learned about South Africa and Ghana.
  3. To prototype our research methodology (and iterate for next research).
  4. To inform Reading team strategy.
  5. Observe the rural and urban contexts of advertising and awareness - where to people learn about connecting to the internet / relating to  telecom providers, etc.
  6. Inform additional personas to add to our set.

Big questions to explore through this research[edit]

  1. How are people accessing and using information for learning online?
    1. What kind of technology (hardware and software) are people using to learn with?
    2. What kind of access do people have to the internet? (frequency / speed)
  2. What information is most valued?
  3. What information is most difficult to access?
  4. What do people search for but can not find or have difficulty finding?
  5. What’s impact of having access to more information?  (might be hard to answer this one)
  6. What differences between social groups are there – male/female, age, wealth etc when it comes to learning?
  7. Do people use Wikipedia for learning? If so, in what context, and for what reasons?
  8. Wikipedia brand; how aware are people of the brand and what sits behind it?
  9. If people are aware of Wikipedia, what do they turn to it for? or why don’t they turn to it?

Research Methodology[edit]

The plan: Contextual inquiry / deep dive. Ethnographic interviews in people’s homes with debriefs done as closely after each interview as possible.  For this research, we have two teams of 3 doing interviews. The teams will share out their debriefs with each other, and start to see patterns along the way.

15 non Wikimedian interviews[edit]

Interview, in context, end users (and non users) to learn more about their relationship to knowledge and learning, their technology ecosystems and their lives in general to inform how Wikimedia is meeting needs and not.

Here is the complete research protocol. We will allow conversation to flow naturally, so some topics may be covered more fully than others and we may get some insights outside of the scope of the research.

  • In this portion of research, we will focus on learning about how people who don't have a lot of experience with Wikimedia projects approach knowledge and the internet.
    • 16 interviews, segmented:
      • Participants will vary in their usage of Wikipedia from non-users to frequent readers
      • 6 interviews for each age range: age 15-17 / 18-25 / 26-35
      • 8 men and 8 women
      • 6 with unlimited access to the internet, 6 with moderate access to internet (has access but financial or other considerations limit use), 6 with limited access to the internet (use is occasional and may be dependent on access to other peoples devices and where digital confidence is low)
      • 1/3 working, 1/3 in school, 1/3 not working (some parents and some not parents)
    • Interview format
      • Conducted in participants' language
      • Conducted in participants' home
      • 90 minutes, mixed between
        • Conversation with structured questions
        • Drawing or collage mapping of users ecosystem of technology (devices, connections to the internet, electricity)
        • "Remember the future" (more description to come)

Expert interviews[edit]

We will also meet with experts in various fields who have more involvement with Wikimedia projects, especially around medical and educational work. This will include active editors, community/chapter members, translators, and community health workers who use Wikimedia projects in their day to day lives. These interviews will be less structured.

Why Mexico?[edit]

We hope to conduct similar research in many regions worldwide, starting with Mexico. We decided for this first effort to focus on an area that we thought we could maximize the impact. This location would be somewhere that shares some characteristics to the places we know Wikipedia is read widely, the global north, but has limitations and lower traffic comparatively. We looked for an area with:


New readership data - Some things we've been learning recently about how Wikipedia is read.

We have concluded the interviews and are in the process of analyzing. We will be doing as much of this on-wiki as possible, keeping in mind that some participants requested to have their personally identifiable information available only within the Foundation.

Follow our process here, including a list of deliverables.

Important dates:

  • Present at WMF Monthly Metrics, 10 minutes - 31 March 2016

Non-Wikimedian interviews (in progress)[edit]

15 interviews, segmented

age gender internet access in school/working/not working Location In Home / Elsewhere Parent?
P1 17 m all the time - Wifi at home, data plan - parents pay - is conscious of amount of data used. in high school Puebla in home no
P2 23 f Puebla
P3 31 f Puebla
P4 19 f Puebla
P5 19 f Puebla
P6 17 m Puebla
P7 27 f Puebla
P8 21 m Apizaco
P9 24 f Apizaco
P10 20 f Apizaco
P11 28 m Apizaco
P12 41 f Apizaco
P13 36 m Apizaco
P14 31 m Apizaco
P15 25 f Apizaco

Interview format: We conducted 15 interviews, some people were OK with us coming to their home, and others were not. If someone did not want us to come into their home, we interviewed them in a restaurant or in the hotel we were staying in. We had a protocol of 45 questions that we worked through, while also leaving room for natural conversation flow and learnings we wouldn't have encountered through the protocol.

See the full list of participant profiles here.

Expert interviews[edit]

Dean of Medical school + a PhD student/teacher/doctor[edit]

We spoke with the dean of a public medical school in Mexico City and a PhD student there who also teaches classes and is a practicing physician. They did not want to be recorded.

Meeting notes are available.

Dean of Medicine, Tec de Monterrey[edit]

Director of Library, Tec de Monterrey[edit]

Classroom of Medical English students at Tec de Monterrey[edit]

We interviewed a complete class of students studying Medical English at the Tec de Monterrey. The interview was conducted in English and is fully transcribed. We can't release the video as some of the students preferred to be kept anonymous.

2 students at Tec de Monterrey[edit]

Eric + Nancy[edit]

Eric Huerta a lawyer is highly involved in working with indigenous communities in Mexico to provide access to telecommunication infrastructure, education, and support. His work has focused largely on radio in the past and he is also interested in propagating knowledge via the internet to these communities.

Nancy Gertrudiz is involved with some organizations that are working to establish mobile communication services for healthcare purposes in rural communities.

Meeting notes are available.

Emerging patterns[edit]

Listed below are a few patterns we observed across the 15 interviews we conducted, as we did analysis.

Online behaviors

  • Some people (7 of these participants) have a confused mental model of the internet. For example, some people did not distinguish between search, Google, and their browser, or have a clear idea of what a browser is.
  • We observed people saving content for later use in several ways:
    • screen shots or copy/ paste into another context to access later when offline (3 participants)
    • downloading pdfs of online content to access later when offline (5 participants)
    • saving for later (when online) by keeping many tabs open, and the use of bookmarks. (4 participants)
  • At least 9 of the participants described getting their news from Facebook.
  • 5 participants use Facebook groups for various kinds of coordination.

General information seeking

  • 8 participants told us they have had difficulty finding information about something they want to learn about.
  • 14 participants said (and showed us) that they get to Wikipedia by going to Google first.
  • 10 participants described using Youtube to learn how to do things.
  • 5 participants said they trust published books for trustworthy knowledge.
  • 8 participants showed us, or described how they trust information when they see the same information in several different places.
  • 6 particpatns described a lack of trust in major media for news accuracy.
  • 9 participants descried that they actively compare information across sources to validate the information.

Use of technology

  • Everyone we spoke with has multiple devices, wether it is a laptop and a smart (or "dumb" phone) or two phones, or a phone, laptop and a tablet.
  • 9 people carry a smart phone with them, and use it as their main device throughout the day.
  • 7 people said they do not take their laptops out of the house (people described having devices stollen, or were concerned that if they took laptops and tablets out of the house, they may be stollen).
  • 8 of the people we spoke with had tablets along with cell phones.

Internet access and usage

  • 10 of the participants had a data plan for their cell phone
  • only 5 of those 10 (in above pattern) participants have a data plan of 1G or more.
  • 5 of the participants do not have a data plan, and only use wifi to get online (one of the participants had a feature phone rather than a smart phone).
  • 10 of the participants are concerned about, and conscious of going over the limits of their data plan, and make sure they don't exceed it's limits.
  • 7 of the participants who do have a data plan, rely on wifi to not go over the limit of their data plan.

Use and awareness of Wikipedia

  • 10 of the participants said their teachers, or the teachers of their children tell the students to not use WIkipedia for their school work for various reasons, including concern about copy / paste plagiarism and lack of trust in the accuracy of articles because "anyone can edit".
  • participants have various mental models of how Wikipedia articles are created:
    • 6 participants thought that "experts" write the articles on Wikipedia.
    • 3 participants described that they thought there is a process to verify the correctness of wikipedia articles before they are published to Wikipedia.
    • 4 of the participants had tried editing in the past, but didn't continue (two made biography articles about themselves, which were quickly deleted, one successfully created an article on the town he lives in, and another participant contributed to the Transformers article "just to try it out".)
  • 4 participants described Wikipedia as a "search engine"
  • 6 of the participants described searching for information in Spanish (their language of comfort), and not finding what they were looking for. The next thing they would do, is search for the information they are looking for in English. Usually they found the information they couldn't find in Spanish, in English and using depending on their English language fluency, they would use Google translate to take in the information they fond in English.

Ideas for product focus areas[edit]

(being updated all the time, please add ideas to the talk page)

  • Speed/Performance (in progress by Reading Web & performance teams)
  • Language switching - are readers looking to be able to switch between languages in order to get better definitions?
  • Translations - if readers are using a second language and don't understand a word, can we solve that?
  • Simpler content (in English or in general)
    • Medical translations
  • Improving the offline experience
  • Improving multimedia content
  • Trust / content quality. References?
  • Messaging integration (off-wiki)
  • News/current events
  • Saving content for later


Other Wikimedia efforts

Further reading[edit]