Talk pages consultation 2019

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Community Noun project 2280 white.svg The Phase 1 report has been posted!

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.

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 sometimes 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.

Possible solutions

For this process to work, we need to be open to all kinds of directions.

Non-goals

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.

Participate

The phase 1 report has been posted!

We are currently collecting responses to the Phase 2 trade-off questions, coming shortly. The end date for feedback is June 15.

Communities are invited to:

  1. Translate key elements of the Phase 1 report.
  2. Sign up your group to participate in Phase 2.
  3. Create a local consultation to answer the Phase 2 questions.
  4. Ask your community for feedback.

It is also possible to comment on MediaWiki.org or in a survey hosted at Qualtrics.

Community Noun project 2280 white.svg Include your community discussion link for Phase 2.
Echo user-speech-bubble.svg Individuals: give us your feedback for Phase 2 trade-offs.


Consultation structure

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 Yes Done

This was the planning phase. During this phase, we:

  • Publicly announced the project (banner info here), and invited questions and ideas from the Wikimedia community
  • Set up TPC central documentation structure; current notes were featured on the main TPC page, while historical staff notes could be found here and here
  • Created a list of wikis and user groups for initial outreach and invited groups to sign up
  • Established code of conduct guidelines
  • Carried out retrospective process for StructuredDiscussions/Flow, Liquid Threads and wikitext workflows, collect important documentation
  • Reached out to participant groups
  • Invited volunteers to facilitate discussions and participate in other ways
  • Created the schedule for the project

Phase 1: Collect information Yes Done

Source: TPC Feedback from volunteer participant groups and individuals

When: Mid-March - April; Community summaries posted by April 6, 2019

During this phase we solicited open feedback from a wide range of individuals and groups about their experiences with talk pages or alternative tools. Questions were:

  1. When you want to discuss a topic with your community, what tools work for you, and what problems block you? Why?
  2. How do newcomers use talk pages, and what blocks them from using it?
  3. What do others struggle with in your community about talk pages?
  4. What do you wish you could do on talk pages, but can't due to the technical limitations?

The information collection started when the first message was sent. Interested users could check if a group existed for their language.

Wrapping up the conversations

Community summaries were due by April 6, 2019. We advised 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 had time to make it.

Since this consultation was based on a different consultation process than how consultations are defined by local rules, those rules regarding how to close conversations were not applied.

Phase 2: Trade-offs and prioritization

Source: Phase 1 report, built from from the feedback received from volunteer participant groups and individuals.

When: Starts in mid May

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. We advise that they happen on wiki, like for Phase 1. As such, communities can sign-up on the group sign-up page under the new Phase 2 section, similarly to how they did for Phase 1.

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.

Wrapping up the conversations

Community summaries are due by June 15, 2019. We advise communities, especially the ones that have to collect a lot of replies, to end the conversation by June 10. 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 are not applied.

Phase 3: Review trade-offs

Source: TPC Feedback from volunteer participant groups and individuals

When: June 2019 (tentative)

We invite everyone back to the central page on MediaWiki.org to review the emerging direction for this project.

Status report: Wrapping up Phase 1

Thanks to everyone who's participated in the Talk Pages Consultation so far! We're wrapping up the discussions for Phase 1 and compiling all the results, which will lead into the start of Phase 2 in May.

The purpose of Phase 1 has been to collect as much information as we can about how people use talk pages, documenting the advantages and challenges, and generating ideas for making improvements. We've also collected information about communication tools that people are using now, both on-wiki and off-wiki. People have hosted group discussions on more than 15 wikis and at events, and we've also received individual feedback from many people. You can see the summaries of the wiki discussions here, which has links to the original discussions.

In addition, as part of Phase 1, we're currently running some user tests with people who are active Wikipedia readers and would like to become editors, in order to document what it's like for them to communicate on-wiki. The tests are just starting now; we'll post results over the next couple of weeks.

For the rest of April, the team is working on bringing together all the information and ideas that you've provided. We're reading all of the discussions, summaries and feedback, and putting it together into a big report that we'll publish at the beginning of May. The report will reflect all of the major themes from the discussions, so we all have a shared understanding of the issues that have been raised. It will also include a list of all the things that people want to accomplish on talk pages. (People in software development call these "user stories"; you can see the current draft list here).

Once we publish that report and people have had a chance to look at it and respond, we'll start Phase 2 in May. This is the "tradeoffs" phase, where we'll ask more specific questions about how to balance different user stories. The discussions we have in Phase 2 will help us to put together ideas to propose for a product direction in Phase 3. (You can see some early notes on the tradeoffs phase here.)

We'll post more updates on the Talk pages consultation 2019 page, as we work on the Phase 1 report together, with links to the current work. We're excited and inspired by all of the ideas that people have posted so far; thank you for being a part of this project! -- DannyH (WMF) (talk) 16:08, 17 April 2019 (UTC)

Status updates

May 15, 2019

Proofreading of the final draft of the report is being done by Sherry (Whatamidoing), who is also including a "How to participate" section for Phase 2 and finalizing the questions the team will ask. The report is still slated to go live today, barring any unforeseen issues. Translations will be needed, specifically for the intro, summary, and questions. Due to the extremely long nature of the section including quotations, that section will not be translated; quotes there will be presented as they appeared on their home wiki, with their rough English translation, as that was already done during initial data-gathering.

Once the report is posted, Benoît (Trizek) will inform those communities who participated in Phase 1. Similarly to that phase, communities can copy the questions for Phase 2 and are encouraged to create their own discussion pages on their home communities. Once enough communities have created discussions, a central notice banner will go live leading to a page containing those links. Additionally, the Qualtrics survey is expected to launch next week to give participants a different avenue to contribute their feedback if they do not want to use the traditional discussion format. Data-gathering will begin as early as next Wednesday and continue through June 15th, at which time Phase 2 is expected to wrap.

In finalizing the transition between phases, TMeadows will revamp the participant group sign-up page to include a section particular to Phase 2, while moving existing information to a Phase 1 section. Due to the fact that Phase 1 led to the direction of building on the wikitext interface rather than going with Flow or other alternatives, the focus of Phase 3 will now be to decide what features and improvements will be made based on the trade-offs discussions, rather than the product (i.e. Flow vs. wikitext vs. new tool). The main TPC page will be updated to reflect this.

May 8, 2019

The final draft of the Phase 1 report is being worked on by both Danny (DannyH) and Sherry (Whatamidoing). The plan it to have it ready for internal review by Monday, with a soft release on Wednesday of next week. Included in the report will be an announcement for Phase 2 and how folks can participate; this will be at the end of the report and the "summary of findings" section. Hard release will occur the following week; the delay between the two is merely due to a time conflict for Benoît (Trizek), who is heading up promotion across participating communities. Soft release will be via direct contact, while hard release will likely be via mass messaging of some sort.

Due to feedback specifically obtained regarding metadata, Marshall (MMiller) is running another set of user tests focused on those boxes, i.e. wikiproject tags, etc. There are five test pages users can interact with (sample here) with the goal of ascertaining how tags affect a user's understanding of a page's intended use. This will help to inform a more targeted discussion about metadata during Phase 2. Results are expected next week.

For those participating in Phase 2, feedback will come from a couple of avenues. The first is direct reaction to the report issued from Phase 1. The second is by answering trade-off questions either on-site or via a Qualtrics survey, the content of which will be polished in an upcoming, separate meeting. Data collection for Phase 2 is set to begin prior to the 23rd of May, as Danny will be gone for a period of time after that. Going over the data is not expected to begin until June.

May 1, 2019

The final touches are being put on sifting through and organizing all the information gathered from Phase 1 of the project. The projected release of the report to users is the end of the week, though that is certainly not set in stone. As it stands, new feedback was incorporated from third-party MediaWiki sites and there is still a need for better translation for the Hungarian feedback.

For the report itself, the determination was made to present direct quotes first, then their EN translations. User testing was recently completed and a summary of those findings will also be included. Some of the more interesting points was that talk/discussion pages weren't immediately apparent to users and, once they were found, users weren't exactly certain what was going on within them. The same interface as articles seemed to be misleading.

A meeting is happening (WikiSalon) in the office tonight that Danny (DannyH) will be attending. Since Phase 1 is complete, Danny will be presenting the TPC project and what the team has found, looking for thoughts and reactions, focusing on features versus flexibility, and sharing the user testing.

This meeting is indicative of what Phase 2 will look like: looking for feedback on findings, figuring out what direction to take based on that feedback, and serious discussions about trade-offs. Some things communities have expressed a need for might be easier to implement, such as automatic signatures and indenting. Other things, such as the various way threads are created and then subsequently treated, will be much harder. There needs to be a discussion about metadata and various options dealing with that, as well as whole page histories and section histories; this latter is not an "either/or" case. The team wants to figure out use cases and frequency, among other questions.

Note: This paragraph is merely conjecture and is not meant as a definitive direction or set of ideas. This is merely the team spit-balling based on the data collected and analyzed. The actual direction will only be formulated and set after Phase 2 discussions have taken place with communities. At this juncture it seems that Flow will not be the direction. For now, it seems the best approach might be to have a system whereby wikitext - for those who want to use it - will be an "under the hood" feature, accessible for more advanced users, with a "surface" interface more user-friendly for lay users or simply those that have no desire to use wikitext. Yet new features suggested by communities might break established conventions, so the team wants to make sure those trade-offs make sense via discussion with all communities. Even if there is a different overall interface, the thought is to make certain there is still a transfer of needed skills and abilities that users have pointed out are vital.

Previous

See updates from before May, 2019 at Talk pages consultation 2019/Status updates.


Final decisions

The project is led by Danny Horn (Director of Product Management), Benoît Evellin (Community Relations Specialist), Sherry Snyder (Community Relations Specialist) and TMeadows (Logistics)

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.

Decision criteria

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?