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Does positive feedback increase editing activity?

JMatazzoni (WMF) (talkcontribs)

A whole set of interventions we've discussed revolve around the idea that encouraging users and showing them the impact of their edits will help them to be more active and successful. I personally like these ideas—I get excited when I get messages from Yelp, for example, telling me that hundreds of people saw my review.

But I just stumbled on some research around a very similar initiative. The experimenters set out to discover whether providing positive messages such as "25 edits. You're doing great!" lead the recipients to greater heights of editing activity.

The question gets asked and analyzed systematically in a variety of ways. The answer, across the board, seems to be that there is no measurable result. What do you think? Are you convinced by the findings? Or do you think the experiment was flawed?

TMg (talkcontribs)

I can see two main issues here:

  1. In contrast to your example where people have read your review, there is zero human interaction in "25 edits, you're doing great". Don't get me wrong. I like to get these messages. But in contrast to your example where you literally reach more readers, these "25 edits" are exclusively my own performance. We know highlighting personal performance can trigger people (think of fitness or sleep-cycle apps), but we also know most lose interest very fast.
  2. How to measure feelings? Lets say motivational feedback makes me think more positive of my editing experience. How to measure this? The number of edits I feel need to be done is not going to increase just because of a computer-generated message I received. How could it? I know what I know. I do have my fields of experience I can contribute to. I see what an article lacks. I only have so much time on hand. None of these factors is going to change because of a pop-up on my screen. It just makes me feel better.
Mikemorrell49 (talkcontribs)

A general comment: I don't see how this question directly relates to the 2 current focus areas.

As a newbie, I agree with TMg. I don't find the automatic messages "Congrats, you've must made your nth edit" especially motivational but they're good anyway. They don't influence my level of activity. But they do give me feedback on my (quantitative) level of 'engagement'.

I've found personal feedback from other wikimedians far more motivational. This ties in with Opportunity 15 in the REBOOT report. Mikemorrell49 11:45, 12 December 2017 (UTC)

Alsee (talkcontribs)

I have a negative view of sites that send 'milestone' messages like these. I find it annoying and condescending when software chatbots to interrupt me to pat me on the head for reaching N actions.

There's also an extremely annoying bug. The milestone counts are tracked separately for each wiki. If some task takes me to one or more other wikis, I get spammed with several worthless 'first edit' notifications. I have thousands of edits. I seriously don't need to be congratulated for my first (or Nth) edit on each of the hundreds of projects/languages.

Pginer-WMF (talkcontribs)

Positive feedback can take many forms and serve different purposes.

In terms of form, the example of the study focuses on surfacing personal productivity, but surfacing the positive impact that your results have for others can be more effective. This short clip from an interview illustrates well the joy of randomly finding that an article you created grew over time and was seen by thousands of people.

In terms of purpose, increasing editing activity may not be the only valuable goal. Making users more motivated so that they don't leave when they receive the less positive feedback, or helping to understand better how the community works are also legitimate goals.

For example, in a new notification type I proposed, the messaging touches some of the points I mentioned above: "Congratulations. Your contribution on X has been live for a week, with 154 views and new contributions from 7 others.".

MKramer (WMF) (talkcontribs)

I really like the notification type that you have proposed. I think that shows impact, and not just amount. Have we tested that? On Twitter, I'm always happy to see how many times my tweet has been retweeted. I imagine this could be similar.

Pginer-WMF (talkcontribs)

Thanks for your comment, @MKramer (WMF). No, this has not been tested. It would be great to test a small experimental initiative in this direction and measure if it has any impact to encourage short term participation and/or longer term retention.

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

It might be worth encouraging personal feedback, at least to the extent of producing more "Bob thanked you for your edit" messages. I sometimes make an edit at a wiki whose language I can't read. "You made your first edit" is worthless in that situation. "Thanks" tells me that the edit was checked by someone else and wasn't impossibly bad.

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