Talk pages consultation 2019
The Talk pages consultation is a global consultation planned from February to June 2019, to bring Wikimedians and wiki-minded people together to define better tools for wiki communication. The consultation will seek input from as many different parts of the Wikimedia community as possible – on multiple projects, in multiple languages, and with multiple perspectives – to come up with a product direction for a set of communication features that a product team will be able to work on in the coming fiscal year.
- 1 Purpose of the consultation
- 2 Desired result from this consultation
- 3 Participate
- 4 Consultation structure
- 5 Status updates
- 6 Final decisions
Purpose of the consultation
A wikitext talk page isn't made out of software; it's a collection of cultural conventions that are baffling to newcomers and annoying for experienced editors. Counting colons to indent a reply properly, using tildes to sign your name, having to watch an entire talk page instead of the section you're participating in, not having an easy reply link – these are headaches for everyone.
At the same time, there are many things that wikitext talk pages do well. The empty edit window has given people the freedom to invent templates and techniques that are extremely flexible and adaptable. Conversations can be reorganized on the fly. Using diffs and revisions means that you can always see what's been done on a page, when, and by whom. The functionality that helped people collaborate on millions of encyclopedia articles for fifteen years shouldn't be dismissed as old-fashioned and useless.
Wikimedia Foundation product teams have worked on communication tools before: LiquidThreads (started in 2010) and Flow/Structured Discussions (started in 2012). Both of these projects have been used successfully on many wikis, although they've also both been heavily criticized, and neither has gained wide acceptance on many of the largest wikis.
We want all contributors to be able to talk to each other on the wikis – to ask questions, to resolve differences, to organize projects and to make decisions. Communication is essential for the depth and quality of our content, and the health of our communities. We believe that this is essential for us to reach our goal of providing free access to the sum of all human knowledge.
Desired result from this consultation
One sentence, one paragraph, and one document that describe the overall direction of what we will build.
By the end of this consultation, we'll have an overall product direction for a set of communication features that a product team will be able to work on in the coming fiscal year. We'll have a rough consensus that our contributors agree with that overall approach, including both new contributors and longtime veterans, in multiple languages and across multiple projects.
By the end of the consultation, we'll be able to answer these questions:
- Are we building one feature, or more than one?
- Are we improving previous systems, or building a new tool?
- How will we balance ease of use with the advanced feature set that our most complex use cases require?
- What are the important open questions that the product team should investigate and test?
The result will not be a complete, detailed product specification. Detailed plans will be developed and revised by the product team over time, informed by design, testing and continued close partnership with our users. But we'll have a solid place to start, and we'll be confident that the team is on the right track.
To encourage trust and good faith, the consultation and ultimate product development will be entirely public and transparent. Every step will be documented on wiki.
For this process to work, we need to be open to all kinds of directions.
While we are interested in all good ideas, and might take some up in future, some things are out of scope for the current project:
- Off-wiki discussion platform – Discussions need to be on the wikis, using Wikimedia accounts.
- Temporary content – Discussions need to be stored on wiki, so they can be found and referenced later.
- Tools for a niche audience – Discussions are designed for everyone, with equity in mind. We're not building a tool only for a subset of users (e.g., experience, language, preferred device.)
- A social network per se – Discussions on Wikimedia should primarily be in service of improving content on the wiki.
- Real-time discussions – Real-time discussions have value, but our current focus is on asynchronous discussions for the reasons mentioned in points above.
We are currently collecting information about how editors and other contributors communicate. Please read this page and tell us about your experience with communication on wiki:
You can also help build the list of the many different ways people talk to each other.
This consultation will have a "hub-and-spoke" structure, with a central hub located here on mediawiki.org ("Talk Page Consultation central"). Over the course of the consultation, multiple participant groups will have discussions on other wikis and in off-wiki settings, and then contribute notes and findings back to TPC central. Some participant groups will participate through the whole process, others may participate for a limited time (especially if they're in real life/meet-ups). Everyone can follow along and participate at TPC central (language permitting).
Phase 0: Planning
This was the planning phase. During this phase, we:
- Publicly announced the project (banner info here), and invite questions and ideas from the Wikimedia community
- Set up TPC central documentation structure; current notes are featured on the main TPC page, while historical staff notes can be found here and here
- Created a list of wikis and user groups for initial outreach and invite groups to sign up
- Established code of conduct guidelines
- Began retrospective process for StructuredDiscussions/Flow, Liquid Threads and wikitext workflows, collect important documentation
- Began outreach to participant groups
- Invited volunteers to facilitate discussions, and participate in other ways
- Created the schedule for phase 1
Phase 1: Collect information (started)
Source: TPC Feedback from volunteer participant groups and individuals
When: Mid-March - April; Community summaries posted by April 6, 2019
During this phase we will solicit open feedback from a wide range of individuals and groups about their experiences with talk pages or alternative tools. Questions are:
- When you want to discuss a topic with your community, what tools work for you, and what problems block you? Why?
- How newcomers use talk pages and what blocks them from using it?
- What do others struggle with in your community about talk pages?
- What do you wish you could do on talk pages, but can't due to the technical limitations?
The information collection has started when the first messages have been sent. Check if a group exists for your language.
Wrapping up the conversations
Community summaries are due by April 6, 2019. We advise communities, especially the ones that would have had collected a lot of replies, to end the conversation by March 31. That way, volunteers making the wrapping-up have time to make it.
Since this consultation is based on a different consultation process than how consultations are defined by local rules, those rules regarding how to close conversations may not be applied.
Phase 2: Trade-offs and prioritization
Source: TPC Feedback from volunteer participant groups and individuals
When: Late March-April 2019 (tentative)
Some ideas generated during phase 1 may be mutually exclusive. Some ideas might work better for some purposes or some kinds of users. We'll have to talk about which problems are more urgent, which projects are most closely aligned with the overall needs and goals of the movement, and which ideas we should focus on first.
Discussions about these trade-offs will be moderated by the Wikimedia Foundation, guided by our decision criteria, listed below.
Space for unexpected discoveries
Within the scope of this project, all the options are on the table. There are no hidden agendas. We don't know all the things, and we don't know what we might learn. We need to accept these "unknown unknowns".
The schedule of this consultation may change because of these unexpected discoveries.
Phase 3: Review potential direction
Source: TPC Feedback from volunteer participant groups and individuals
When: May 2019 (tentative)
We invite everyone back to the central page on MediaWiki.org to review the emerging direction for this project.
March 20, 2019
Due to Trevor's departure, Marshall was brought onto the team, especially due to his experience in survey construction. More discussion was had as to the best approach for the trade-offs phase and its associated survey, with Danny and Marshall working on a more focused approach this coming Friday. Values-based and hard trade-off questions may be incorporated into the updated version. Values-based questions could help in defining and supporting any future decisions to show how those decisions match with the community's feedback.
In order to remain transparent, future thought is to show how enabling certain most-desired features might affect the current iteration of communication tools. For instance, enabling VE, seeing how it functions merely by turning it on, and then examining publicly what would need to be done in order to get it to function correctly. Could it be done with how things function now with only a few tweaks? Or is the task so large that it would require a new system altogether?
Spanish and Arabic WP are joining in the TPC discussion. There remains concern about newcomers and how best to rest then in order to elicit responses. To that end, Benoît will be querying the system to determine what users have not only attempted to use Talk pages, but who have less than 500 edits, to invite them to share their experience on this main discussion page. Education programs have already been invited with no result, so Marshall is going to reach out directly to Sage Ross for assistance in touching bases with beginners about talk pages. Sherry will also be sending out individual emails for similar groups since on-wiki outreach has done little; while creating fully fleshed out responses might not be of interest to those contacted, perhaps some sort of short survey could help in getting some data. Likert scale satisfaction-type survey via Qualtrics perhaps. This could also be expanded to include just about everyone who might be interested in providing feedback. Due to the internal weakness of such a survey, however, that idea is shelved for now.
Because the project has now moved into the feedback stage, the main TPC page should not only be updated to reflect that, but also provide clear direction for how and where interested parties can now leave their thoughts. Beginning to host conversations at this juncture means communities won't have time to complete that before the deadline of April 6th, so that should also be removed. Trevor had an email set up for feedback, so Danny will take over that aspect. For groups and individual feedback, Danny is going to set up a landing page.
Danny will also talk with Aubrie and get FB conversations set up, talk with Jack who built the house on Russian about their Telegram group, talk with Ed Sanders about VE and talk pages, and talk with Roan and Moriel to see if there is any documentation about the future evolution of SD/Flow.
March 13, 2019
The team has noticed that there are a number of wikis that, though they have an initial invitation to participate in consultation, have remained silent thus far. For some wikis, it may be a matter of lack of advertising to their user base. A concerted effort should be made to draw them into the discussion; to that end, the team will reach out to individual users on those wikis that could help start the discussion. As well, those communities may benefit from a survey in order to generate some sort of feedback. Different wiki and individual voices are still very much an important part of the consultation. Due to the number of wikis and the need for translations, however, the team may focus on the 10 largest wikis (in terms of active editors).
For groups involved in emerging communities, the message should be tailored somewhat to their community, in the sense that the team is seeking their input as it relates to their particular needs and context, i.e. conflict resolution, specialized needs, tech support. These lists need to be either cleaned or created, which should be done by the end of the week.
The number of wikis in these lists will be quite large, so an effort will be made to pull in as much help as possible in posting to them, including finding existing contacts on those wikis and pulling in other WMF people.
When the trade-offs survey is created, it needs to be translated into multiple languages. Tentative launch date: April 15, so needs to go to translators at least a week in advance. Discussion is ongoing about specific questions (values, features, etc.) and format of the survey itself. On concern is that answers may be skewed, especially depending on ranking values.
March 6, 2019
While the action items are moving along at a great pace, there is some concern that the majority of feedback gathered so far has come from more experienced users. Certainly that feedback is invaluable, but solely relying on one perspective defeats the intention of casting as wide a net as possible to gain a variety of feedback and perspectives. Some of this is mitigated with an upcoming in-person questionnaire provided by Benoît for this Friday's summit in France. It will further be mitigated by reaching out via social media; a plan is still in the stages of formulation. There is some archival feedback to go through related to Flow, and Danny will reach out to see if there is user test data anywhere else.
A point that resurfaced was with users providing very ephemeral feedback (i.e. I hate this) rather than points that could be brought to the designers that are both actionable and have support. Continued efforts will be made to reach out to communities to both clarify that we need this sort of explanation (whether pro or con x tool) and potentially reach out to individuals to ask for such clarification.
Regarding edit-a-thon organizers, Trevor performed outreach via email and most team members will be receiving those replies.
The team has noted there are some user-created tools and scripts that have addressed some issues with communication tools, such as on the Russian wiki. When they're found, the team should investigate how many people use those tools and potentially reach out to their authors.
See updates from before March, 2019 at Talk pages consultation 2019/Status updates.
Information from multiple communities and other stakeholders is extremely important. We deeply believe that we can't make a good decision without listening to you and understanding your needs. However, the final decision about what software to support will be made by the Wikimedia Foundation, after due consideration of all the available information, our educational purpose, and the movement's 2030 strategic direction.
While the Wikimedia Foundation will make the final decisions in the 2019 talk page consultation, we are entering this process with honest curiosity, no preconceived solutions, and we are legitimately seeking to comprehend the feedback we receive. That said, there will be many difficult discussions about trade-offs we need to make. When it comes time to make a decision, all valid options will be weighed by the following criteria:
- Which option(s) most aligns with our values?
- Which option is most in alignment with Strategic Direction of Knowledge Equity?
- Which option serves the most users and use cases as opposed to niche users?
- Which option will result in more accessible user experience, for anyone on any device?
- Which option will result in a more sustainable product that will be resilient to changing technologies, evolving use cases, and user expectations?
- Which option poses the least amount of risk to achieve our project goals?