Talk pages project/replying
This initiative sits within our team's larger effort to help contributors work together more effectively. To accomplish this, we will build upon existing community conventions to evolve talk pages. It is our intention to evolve talk pages in a way that gives experienced contributors more leverage to coordinate their work and connect with other editors, while making communicating on-wiki more accessible and intuitive for newer contributors.
To participate in and follow this project's development, we recommend adding this page to your watchlist. We will use this page to do things like:
- Share potential designs and ask for feedback about them
- Test prototypes
- Post updates about this feature's development
- Ask and invite questions about any part of this project (e.g., measurement, deployments, etc.)
This section contains questions the team would value your input on. If you have thoughts to share, please add them to the talk page here: Talk:Talk pages project/replying
Question #1: Previews
What do you find valuable about being able to preview the content of a reply you are drafting before posting it to a talk page? If you have thoughts, the team would value your thoughts here: Topic:Vcehezaiyl3znf0d
- Context for this question: The team is thinking through how the initial workflow for "previewing" the reply you are composing might work as part of this new dedicated workflow for replying to specific comments. For reference, the way User:Thnidu articulates why they value previews has been instructive: "...a large part of their value for me is spotting errors of execution as well as errors of intention." 
Question #2: Indentations
What wikitext should the reply tool use for the indentations it will automatically generate? Does the tool use whatever indentation syntax is used on the page the tool is currently being used on? Does it use
: in all cases? Something else? If you have thoughts, the team would value your thoughts here: Topic:Vcehgf0nr8rpi26a
- Context for this question: When bullets are used for indentations (e.g. on ru.wiki), multi-line comments will render on the page as if they are separate comments. This situation can be avoided if contributors manually insert
<br>tags as has been done here. Assuming there will be contributors using the reply tool who will not know or think to manually insert
<br>tags, what can be done to make sure their multi-line comments are posted to pages in a way that is legible to others?
This section will contain updates about the project's development.
This work is intended to make participating productively on talk pages easier and more intuitive for contributors.
"Easier" means more experienced contributors can participate in existing discussions with less effort, and "intuitive" means newer contributors do not need specialized knowledge to figure out how to add their thoughts to a conversation. Said in a different way: as a result of this work, both newer and more experienced contributors should report the workflow for participating in existing discussions to be "obvious" and "approachable."
It is important to note the mention of "participating productively" in the first paragraph of this section. We appreciate it is not enough to build tools that simply encourage contributors to "talk more"; they need to encourage people to work together to help improve the project they are discussing.
While we are still defining how to measure the impact of this feature, a key part of this work will involve figuring out how to understand the impact this new affordance has had on the quality of discussions on the talk pages it is deployed to.
This section will contain the metrics we will use to measure the impact of this feature.
This year, the Editing Team is committed to improving how contributors communicate and collaborate on Wikipedia, using talk pages.
For talk pages to be valuable, contributors need to intuitively know how to participate in the conversations that happen on them.
The trouble is – as previous user testing, the Talk Page Consultation and the team's research 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.
In exploring an affordance for replying to specific comments on talk pages, we are striving to make participating productively on talk pages easier and more intuitive. We think doing so will help newer contributors understand and use talk pages as places to communicate with others and help more senior contributors collaborate more efficiently.
One part of building new features is codifying social conventions in software. In this context, "conventions" could mean deciding what character the software should use for automatically indenting or outdenting replies. "Conventions" could also mean deciding how the software should represent the first comment in a discussion in wikitext: Is there a linebreak between the reply and the original comment? Is the reply added to the line immediately following the original comment in the discussion? Is there another way this comment should be represented?
It is unlikely all communities will answer these questions in the same way. This means the software needs to be built in a flexible enough way to accommodate these different preferences. This is possible, although it adds complexity to the design and development processes.
To increase the likelihood this enhancement is useful for contributors across experience levels, we have broken down the improvements we have planned into a series of releases. These different releases are outlined in more detail in the "Versions" section below.
Also below are the latest iteration for the designs we are planning to implement in Version 1.0. If you have thoughts about anything included in this section, we would value you sharing them on the talk page: Talk:Talk pages project/replying.
❗️Please consider the features included below as drafts and expect them to evolve as we learn new things.
This version will introduce the basic reply functionality to validate the core workflow. This version will likely include the following features:
- An affordance for replying to specific comments
- A text box for composing replies using wikitext
- A way for signatures to be appended to comments, automatically
- A way for those comments to be indented or outdented, automatically
You can "click through" the designs for this version here: tappable mockups.
Assuming version 1.0, and any smaller releases that follow, helps us to validate and refine the core replying functionality, version 2.0 will likely include enhancements to make it easier and intuitive for Junior Contributors to draft and post their replies. This version will likely include the following features:
- A way to draft and format replies using a rich text editor
- Mention/notify specific users in a conversation without needing to know about or interact with wikitext
- A way to easily understand who the author of a post/comment is
- A way to easily differentiate between different replies and comments on the page
- A way to intuitively know how to reply to a specific post/comment
This section will contain information about user testing we conduct as part of the development of this feature. This section will also contain findings from these tests.
Many projects have, and are, working to improve contributors' experiences with talk pages. This project is better off for their existence. Some of the projects the team continues to learn from are listed on the main project page and below. If there is a project you think we should be aware of, please boldly add it here.
- Convenient Discussions
- Flow satisfaction survey
- Moderated Testing, November 2014: talk pages and Flow
- Talk pages consultation
The Talk pages project glossary is intended to help us all communicate about talk pages more effectively by making sure we have a shared understanding about the words we use in our discussions and documentation throughout the project.