Talk pages project/Updates

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This page is the best place to stay up to date about the Talk pages project.

The Editing Team will use this page to share information like:

  • Decisions that need to be made
  • Decisions that have been made
  • Progress about feature development
  • Open questions we are trying to answer

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27 November 2019[edit]


Over the past few weeks, the team has been working on the following:

  • Partner wikis: defined a set of criteria we will use to identify the wikis we work closely with to design and test early versions of new features.
  • Replying to comments: prototyped an initial version of the improved workflow for replying to comments on talk pages.
  • Understanding the impact of talk page usage: completed the initial stages of a collaboration with the Research Team to better understand the impacts of talk page usage.

We need your help[edit]

We would value your input on the questions below. If you have answers to any of the questions, please say so on the talk page: 27 November 2019 update.

  1. Talk page research: What questions do you have about the initial talk page usage research? What refinements do you think we should consider making to the next iteration of this research?
  2. Talk page usage metrics: How might we measure/monitor whether the changes to talk pages made as a part of this project promote "unproductive behavior" on talk pages?

Partner wikis[edit]

Follow along: T233627

In an effort to increase the likelihood the tools we build to improve on-wiki communication meet the needs of the range of people these tools are intended to serve, we are striving to partner with a limited number of Wikipedias to design and trial early versions of new features.

The team is currently putting together a list of candidate wikis we think would make for good "partners" with the following criteria in mind:

  • Do contributors to this Wikipedia depend on talk pages to collaborate?
  • Do contributors to this Wikipedia see improving talk pages as a necessary and important endeavor?
  • Among the Wikipedias the Editing Team partners with, is there at least one wiki whose contributors use a [Right-to-left language] on their wiki?
  • Among the Wikipedias the Editing Team partners with, is there at least one whose contributors use a non-[Latin script] on their wiki?

Replying to comments | mw:Talk pages project/replying[edit]

Follow along: T233443

We now have an initial version of a prototype that supports replying to specific comments running on an internal test wiki. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be making iterative improvements to the prototype before posting it on the project page for feedback as well as conducting an initial round of usability tests using

There are still open design questions to be answered. You can read more about these and share your input in the soon-to-be created discussion: Talk:Talk pages project/replying.

Understanding impacts of talk page usage[edit]

The team has been working with the Research Team to better understand what – if any – impact talk page participation (across namespaces) has on contributor productivity. In this initial research project, we have translated this broader curiosity about talk pages' importance into the following research question: Do interactions on talk-pages increase or decrease contributions to edits on articles?

Our initial analysis suggest:

  • Edits to talk-pages seem to create additional edits to subject-pages
  • Edits to user-talk pages have a negative effect on the number of future edits to the main namespace (
    • For other wikis, no such negative effect can be found and article-talk pages play a more important role

To learn more about these initial results, as well as the methodology used to arrive at them, we recommend reading this report: Research: Usage of talk pages.

Also, if you have any comments, questions and/or thoughts about this research, we would value you sharing your thoughts here: 27 November 2019 update.


That's it for this update. If you have any questions, comments or thoughts about anything included, please add them on the talk page: 27 November 2019 update.

5 November 2019[edit]


We would like to highlight @HHill, @Dvorapa, @Jc86035, @Tortliena, @JAn Dudik and @Alsee for their input about the templates/gadgets they use most on talk pages.

Feedback like the kinds they shared helps us to, among other things, better understand:

  • How contributors would like to use talk pages in ways that the software, by default, does not accommodate for
  • How conventions vary wiki-to-wiki which makes identifying and solving for these edge cases more straightforward

You can read this discussion and add your own thoughts here: Most used talk page gadgets and templates


Over the past two weeks, the team:

  • Defined the objectives and key results we will use to guide this work and measure its impact
  • Completed specifications and designs for v1.0 of the first enhancement to talk pages
  • Published the project page for the first improvement the team will is working on: Replying to specific comments
  • Continued making technical improvements that will support replying to specific comments as well as future features
  • Started collaborating with user:Enterprisey (author of's reply-link gadget) who has been, among other things, helping the team identify edge cases we will need to design for

We need your help[edit]

We would still value your input on the questions posed in the 15-October update.

Project goals[edit]

Follow along: T233888

In the 15-October update, we shared the goal of this project is to evolve talk pages in ways that  help contributors work together more effectively.

We now have a set of metrics to quantify this objective. Those metrics are:

  1. Increase in the number of Junior Contributors participating on talk pages
  2. Increase in the retention  of Junior Contributors participating on talk pages
  3. Increase in the number of productive contributions to article pages made by Junior Contributors

More details about how terms in the above are being defined (e.g. "productive contributions) can be found in this task: Create OWC metric definitions. These goals and definitions will also soon be posted to the main project page and project glossary.

First improvements[edit]

Follow along: T233443

The first enhancement to talk pages will be an affordance intended to make replying to specific comments on talk pages easier and more intuitive for contributors across experience levels.

We now have a set of specifications for v1.0 of the feature as well as a rough idea for how it might evolve. For now, links to the specifications for each version can be found in this task: T233443

In addition to finalizing the specifications for v1.0, we also now have designs for this first version. For now, the designs can also be seen in Phabricator, in this task: T235592

Technical progress[edit]

  1. Parsing signatures | Follow along: T232780
    • The software can now "read" time and dates. This is a big step that will make it possible for talk pages to do things like:
      • Showing you the time and date comments were posted in your local timezone and
      • Showing you new comments posted to the talk page since you visited it last See the 27-September-2019 update for an introduction to this work.
  2. Text input for drafting a reply | Follow along: T234403
    • In order to reply to a comment, there needs to be a way for contributors to write out their comments. Over the past couple weeks, the team has started prototyping a text-input to make replying possible.
    • The first version of the text input will support wikitext only. In time, a rich text editing mode will likely be added.
    • There are open questions about how multi-line comments should be saved and what should happen when contributors attempt to insert a table inside a comment. These are questions we will explore on the project page: Talk pages project/Replying

That's it for this update. If you have any questions, comments or thoughts about anything included, please add them on the talk page: Discuss 5-Nov Update.

15 October 2019[edit]


Over the past two weeks, the team has been working to:

  • Define the goals the team will strive to achieve with this project
  • Identify the first improvements to talk pages the team will work on
  • Work on technical proof of concepts for:
    • Programmatically identifying signatures on talk pages
    • Supporting autocomplete which could be applied to things like seamlessly pinging/@-mentioning a specific user while writing a comment

We need your help[edit]

A few questions came up in the course of our work that we would value your input on. If you have answers to any of the questions below, please say so on the talk page: Discuss 15 October 2019 update.

1. What templates and/or gadgets do you use most on talk pages?

Context: the team wonders whether these gadgets will give deeper insight into how contributors use and/or would like to use talk pages.

2. What non-Wikimedia projects/services do you think handle commenting/discussions well? Reddit? Discourse? Something else? What about these product(s) do you value?

Context: as the team begins to design the first set of improvements, they are curious to know what functionality you have found to be helpful in contexts similar to talk pages.

3. What do you type on a talk page when you want to notify someone in your post?

Context: the team is looking for conventions that might be specific to certain wikis. More information in this ticket: T234472

Project goals[edit]

Follow along: T233888

This project is about enhancing on-wiki communication tools in an effort to improve how contributors work together.

As Phase 2 of the Talk Page Consultation puts it,

It is one thing to make certain workflows "easier" (i.e., replying to comments, indenting, and signing your name), but it is another to make sure those changes amount to contributors working together more effectively. | Source

It is with this in mind, that the team is working to define goals that honor that intention and a corresponding set of quantitative metrics they will use to track their progress towards achieving them.

First improvements[edit]

Follow along: T235285

For Talk pages to be valuable, contributors need to intuitively know how to participate in conversations.

Trouble is (as the Talk Page consultation and the team's research over the past couple of weeks uncovered) contributors, across experience levels, find replying to specific comments on Talk pages to be challenging.

Specifically, the team's research has found:

  • More experienced contributors find it difficult to locate the specific comment they are wanting to reply to when participating in long, multi-person conversations, within big blocks of wikitext.
  • Newer contributors report not being sure how to reply to a conversation, regardless of its length or complexity.

The team is now drafting specifications and beginning to develop designs for the first iteration of an enhancement that would make replying to specific comments on talk pages easier and more intuitive.

Technical research[edit]

The team is continuing the work on parts of the underlying architecture future features will rely on.

  1. Parsing signatures | Follow along: T232780
    • The team has an early technical prototype working that identifies signatures on talk pages.
    • This is an important part of being able to build features like replying to specific comments. See the last update for more context: 27-September Update.
    • The next phase of this work will involve enhancing the tool so it can "read" the dates and times included in signatures. Doing this, will enable functionality like showing contributors when posts/comments were made on talk pages, in their local timezone and preferred date format
  2. Text input for drafting a reply | Follow along: T234403
    • One of the first improvements the team plans to work on is a way for contributors to reply to specific comments on talk pages.
    • There are several components that will need to be designed and built to make this possible.
    • One of those components is a place (read: a "text input") to write a reply. Right now, the team is researching "text inputs" that have been built in the past to help inform their approach for doing something similar on talk pages in the near future.

27 September 2019[edit]


The team has been, and is continuing to work on:

  • Design and product research: forming a better understanding of the most common talk page use cases and the opportunities for improvement within them.
  • Technical research: investigating existing gadgets and developing early proof of concepts for parts of the underlying technical architecture future features will depend on.

Getting involved[edit]

Do you have a question? Is there something you think the team could benefit from knowing? If so, please say something on the talk page: Discuss 27 September 2019 update

Design and product research[edit]

The team is working to form a more complete understanding of where and how contributors communicate on-wiki.

Right now, they are cataloging the most common use cases of article and user talk pages and the pain points and moments of delight contributors experience using them.

This work will help us to develop a roadmap. That is, an overview of the specific set of improvements we will propose working on and the order in which we are thinking about working on them.

You can see this work in more detail by visiting the following links:

  • Journey maps: this is where the team is creating visual representations of specific use cases, the steps that make up these use cases and the opportunities for potential improvements we see within them.
  • Research: this is where the team is cataloguing the use cases, design patterns and social conventions that help to make up "on-wiki communication."

Technical research[edit]

The team is working on two parts of underlying architecture future features will depend on:

  1. Parsing signatures | Follow along: T232780
    • One of the biggest technical challenges of making improvements to talk pages is their unstructured nature.
    • Without a clear structure, it is difficult to build software that can do things like enabling you to reply to specific comments, receive notifications when someone replies to a comment you've made, receive notifications about a conversation you are interested in following, etc.
    • Right now, the team is developing a proof of concept to identify signatures on talk pages. Signatures contain important pieces of metadata like where a comment ends, who is speaking and the order in which people are speaking...information that is needed to build features like those mentioned in the bullet point above.
  2. Enabling in-line autocomplete | Follow along: T232601
    • Autocomplete can speed up how quickly you can express something by predicting what you are trying to type before you have finished typing it.
    • Right now, the team is developing the infrastructure to enable this kind of functionality on talk pages.
    • Functionality that could make it possible to seamlessly ping/@-mention a specific user while typing a comment on a talk page.

9 September 2019[edit]


Members of the Editing Team were in Stockholm, Sweden to attend this year’s Wikimania. We arrived with a few questions in mind:

  • What are contributors' current experiences with Talk Pages? What could be improved?
  • How have the Foundation's past efforts to improve on-wiki communication impacted contributors?
  • What new questions will the team need to consider answering?

To help answer these questions, we engaged with Wikimania in the following ways:

  • We led a session in the Community Growth Space to share the Talk Page Consultation's findings and outcomes
  • We had casual conversations with contributors from around the movement
  • We met with the Foundation’s Parsing team to explore how wikitext syntax might be evolved to enable some of the improvements that surfaced in the Talk Page Consultation
  • We attended sessions relevant to Talk Pages throughout the three conference days

Below are our findings and notes from this year's conference...

After flow: a new direction for improving talk pages[edit]

Description | Slides | Q&A notes | Session recording (YouTube video)

Session overview:

The team led a session in the Community Growth Space to bring attendees up to date on what we've learned from the Talk Page Consultation and to discuss some of the decisions and tradeoffs we will collectively need to make to improve how contributors collaborate using talk pages.

Around 35 people attended the session who, generally, agreed talk pages need to be improved and were glad the WMF is prioritizing this work. With this said, some people expressed skepticism about whether the Foundation would follow through on completing the improvements we are proposing. More specifically, attendees were clear about how – in the past – the Foundation has promised changes to improve on-wiki communication and collaboration that have not been fully delivered (e.g., Flow).

The Q&A that followed the presentation was lively. People asked about the future of Flow and asked for more details about the improvements to existing talk pages. Notes from the Q&A portion of the session will be posted to the project FAQ. In the meantime, they are available in this Etherpad: AfterFlow session notes

Session takeaways:

  1. Communicate and follow through. We need to acknowledge we do not have people's full trust. We need to appreciate how the Foundation promised big changes with Flow and has not been able to deliver on all of them. In response, we need to make improvements more iteratively and communicate any changes about these plans early, often and thoroughly.
  2. Create spaces for conversations. During the Q&A, there were many questions we – the team – do not yet have answers to. Questions like: What improvements will be implemented? How will they be implemented? When will they be implemented? These are valid questions that need to be answered. They are also valid questions we do not yet have definitive answers to. In being open about not having all the answers, we noticed people in the audience started trying to help. This is exactly how we think this work needs to feel and flow...for us all to be asking and answering questions together, as partners. This interaction was a good reminder. It reminded us that we need to be intentional about creating environments where diverse groups of people feel invited to speak up. And we think this will partly depend on us continuing to be open about what we do and do not know.
  3. More communication doesn't mean more collaboration. Attendees highlighted the relationship between communication and collaboration and how more of the former doesn't mean there will be more of the latter. To quote one attendee who put this well by saying there is a, "...tension between improving communication and collaboration on Talk pages vs impact on growth and contributions." The full context of this exchange is posted here.

Causal conversations[edit]

Following the team’s session in the Community Growth Space, an impromptu and productive feedback session happened with experienced contributors from Hungarian, German, Swedish and English Wikipedias.


  • Often times contributors are wanting to find the specific conversation where a decision was made about the content of an article, but that conversation is difficult to find. Being able to more easily search archived conversations could help this. This was something that came up in the Talk Page Consultation as well: #Searching.
  • Contributors who focus on helping newcomers learn Wikipedia observe newcomers write “everywhere” looking for help. One person suggested communication on the wikis be centralized to make a system that can be more easily understood by newcomers.
  • In relation to some of the criticism about unfulfilled promises, contributors generally agreed that an approach of incrementally developing features seems like a good idea.

Editing Team + Parsing Team[edit]


Considering the direction that came out of the Talk Page Consultation is to build new features atop wikitext talk pages, it is important we start conversations with the Parsing Team early to understand what technical considerations will need to guide how the team designs and builds these new features.

Meeting details

At Wikimania, the team met the Parsing team to discuss what changes to wikitext ought to be considered in order to deliver on some of the changes that came up in the Talk Page Consultation. Changes like watching and being notified about replies to specific discussions, replying to specific comments and automatically appending signatures to content contributors post on talk pages.

To build features like this, the software will need to be able to effectively know where comments begin and end. One idea for doing this is introducing new wikitext syntax to make content on talk pages more "machine readable".


  • A number of syntax changes were proposed and are some are documented on Phabricator:
    • Parent task: T230654
      • A parser function for signatures to make them machine readable: T230653
      • Encapsulating multi-line comments: T230683
      • Automatic IDs for list items (comments): T230659
      • List item attributes (e.g. for thread IDs): T230658
  • The conversation surfaced some new questions we will need to answer:
    • To what extent do new tools need to be compatible with existing conversations?
      • More details: by "existing conversations" we mean: active conversations on talk pages and conversations that have been archived
      • Context: if we introduce new features that depend on new wikitext, these tools might not work with existing content that does not contain this new wikitext markup.
      • It is generally felt that the tools should work reasonably well with "existing conversations" but that it would not be essential to apply any syntax changes to existing conversations.
    • How does the software determine whether a page contains discussions or not?
      • Ideas: we could use a magic word to explicitly communicate "talk" on a page

All Talk? The effects of easier communication interfaces (than user talk pages) on collaborative production[edit]


Session overview

In this session, researchers shared their findings about how Fandom's/Wikia's message wall feature impacted new editor behavior. The researcher's were specifically interested in understanding whether the feature's release led to an increase in the number of article contributions from new editors.


  • Presenter's conclusion: while the release of message wall* increased communication among all editors and newcomers, the feature decreased article contributions from new editors.
  • The Editing Team's takeaway: this study's findings helps validate feedback that was shared in the Talk Page Consultation and something the team has been mindful of ever since: making it easier for contributors to communicate does not necessarily mean people will make more contributions to articles.
    • It was interesting to see how this conversation about the relationship between communication and collaboration resurfaced among attendees of the team's After Flow... session. Here is a snippet of an interaction that surfaced on the session's Etherpad: After Flow Etherpad:
      • Person A: "It would be good to consider the tension between improving communication and collaboration on Talk pages vs impact on growth and contributions. There was a research session this morning where increased communication bt users on message walls in Fandom/Wikia saw *decreased* article contributions?"
      • Person B: "I think something like this really depends on what your ultimate aim with improving communication actually is ... I didn't see this presentation but there are more things to be done and communicated about on the projects than raw article growth. -foks"
      • Person A: "Agree. I think that's is part of the question the team posed "How do we measure collaboration?" - is it about making it easier for newcomers and experienced editors to communicate and make connections 'healthily' instead of getting into edit/revert wars (in which case less article contributions may be a positive sign of reduced conflict)"

*It should be noted, that Fandom's/Wiki's "message wall" feature is the equivalent of user talk pages on Wikipedia.