Topic on Talk:In-context help and onboarding

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"In context" vs "Series of lessons"

7
Kerry Raymond (talkcontribs)

There seems a mismatch between the "in context" ambition and what seems like a "Series of lessons that experienced Wikipedians would demand very new WIkipedian know before they are let loose". Nobody is going to do Modules 1-500 if they just want to fix a spelling. I'd be more inclined to ask each new user (based on some minimum number of edits) first "What do you want to do", offering the likely options like "fix spelling, grammar, punctuation", "change something that is wrong", "add some new information", "start a new article about me, my business, my product", "start a new article not about me, my business, or my product", as you want to teach them different things. Obviously there are more things they might want to do. Then tell them the *minimum* they need to know to do that task (just-in-time learning).

The change/add need to know about citations for their new information. I wouldn't give them the full range of citation-providing formats. E.g. in the VE, I'd just give them a text box where they can paste URLs or type whatever and emit it wrapped in ref tags and let someone else sort it out.

Those wanting to write articles about themselves should be sent packing, I doubt that this type of person is likely to become a regular contributor (too self-motivated), so let's get rid of them quickly before they waste everyone's time at AfC.

Those wanting to write articles not about themselves etc (no CoI) should firmly be told "not now, it is too soon, you need at least 100 edits to existing articles to gain experience" (this is what I say in F2F training and I am very upfront that the unlikelihood of a new users successfully creating a new article - I am an occasional reviewer at AfC and I know what it's like). AfC involves the user making a lot of effort and seeing it never published; not a useful way to onboard someone so just STOP them from doing it. AfC is a stupid solution to the problem. Once they've met the magic 100 (or however many) edits, when you ask what they want to do, offer "start a new article" for the first time and talk about notability and how to demonstrate it. Move to a *lightweight* AfC process where initially they fill in a form answering "title", "what is about", "what is it important/interesting for Wikipedia", and 2 independent citations (stop them investing a lot of effort on article writing until they have the green light on notability) - including some examples of "good" and "bad" ways to answer these questions in terms of demonstrating notability.

While we have watchlists for articles being edited, we don't have watchlists for "new user doing edit". I have a topic interest (Queensland). If any new user turns up editing on that content, I am happy to reach out and offer to help (having some canned ways to do this helps a lot - I use Twinkle > welcome > project-specific WikiProject Australia as my standard welcome). If there was a way I could sign up to be notified of the activity of new users within my topic space, that would be a good thing (for this purpose, topic space could be defined either by a category closure or a WikiProject template). At the moment, they have to edit something on my watchlist for me to notice them.

My own experience of supporting both F2F and remote new users is that email is infinitely preferred to Talk or Teahouse. Firstly they understand how to send an email, they don't understand how to write on Talk or Teahouse (assumes you know about source editing! - why no VE on Talk, User Talk or Teahouse). I put a VEFriendly template on my User Talk page so they can use it if they want to do so with VE, but really they like email. Also email is private (their ignorance is not public knowledge and they can be honest about what happened if it involves another user) and they can email screenshots, which you cannot easily do on-wiki). While we know that there is a an "email this user" on left side-bar of a user page, it's rarely found by a new user (and of course some users don't have a registered email address on their Wikipedia account). I hand out business cards at F2F training with my email address and I publish my email address via whatever medium is being used by remote training. Because I edit with my real name, I actually get a lot of new users where I have written something on their User Talk page (or sometimes a potential new user who has found my name in the history of an article or an article talk page) tracks me down in real life (fairly easy to do as I have a website on which I have both my real name and my email address) and then emails me or phones me or manages to contact me via a friend of a friend from Linked-In. It shows how hard our Talk mechanism is that new people find it easier to reach me by such other means! I think when we ask the new user "what do you want to do today", I think contacting someone they have encountered or someone connected to an article of interest to them should be an option (might require a bit of detective work on their user page, or recent edits on any articles they are interested in).

As part and parcel of this, we must very strongly encourage the provision of an email address when signing up, and keep suggesting it while they are a new user, as it is the best way to talk with them.

The other thing I think we should do is divert any new user from making a change to a high quality article or high readership or one with many page watchers. These are very high risk places for new users to start. Instead just put their request onto the Talk page and hope someone follows up with them. Only allow them to do early edits on lower-risk articles, low importance, stub/start/C quality, low readership, low page watchers. This is the approach I take in F2F training, I start them working on their own User page to learn the minimal skills (bold/italic/heading/link/cite) and then provide "low-risk" real articles and one or more sources for each of them to update the article. I was a mentor in the OCLC course for around 300 public librarians last year and I saw that many of the new users went for "high risk" topics for their first edit and were reverted. I don't know if anyone has the revert stats based on the risk factors I mention, but I would be very surprised if revert rates aren't higher on the articles I identify as high-risk. I know when I edit outside my normal topic area, I experience more reverts, not because I don't know standard Wikipedia rules but because I don't know what that topic area regards as a reliable source, or what conventions/agreements have been established at a particular WikiProject, or even how that sub-community interpret the same standard rules.

Pigsonthewing (talkcontribs)

"The other thing I think we should do is divert any new user from making a change to a high quality article or high readership or one with many page watchers"

I can understand your reasoning, but consider how this would impact things like 1Lib1Ref, or an editor who just adds photos (possibly their own, taken especially) to articles that lack them.

JMatazzoni (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Hi @Kerry Raymond. Thanks for all this great input. It's fantastic to hear from someone with your experience. I'll respond to a few of your points below.

"I'd be more inclined to ask each new user...first 'What do you want to do'"

  • Agree. I'm adding a form element along these lines to our concept for the Welcome sequence. I’ll post an updated version tomorrow.

“Those wanting to write articles...should firmly be told ‘not now, it is too soon, you need at least 100 edits to existing articles to gain experience’”

  • We've been puzzling over what to do with newbies who want to write articles. It’s one of the most common reasons why people register, according to research. We’re thinking along the lines of directing newbies to Article Wizard, which we’d want to revise and expand. I’m not sure about telling people they can’t write an article—especially since different wikis have different standards/priorities on this question (some really need new content). But perhaps it would be a good idea to include a dose of warning/encouragement to start with something easier.

“Those wanting to write articles about themselves should be sent packing.”

  • How many options we might practically put on the “what do you want to do today?” form mentioned above—i.e., how detailed to make it and how many separate paths it can direct users to—is an interesting question. We know that most articles by non-autoconfirmed users get deleted. It sounds like you’re suggesting that COI is one of the most common reasons (I’ve asked for research on this, but it might take a while). In your experience, is that true? What are the other big ones? Notability...what else?

"When we ask the new user 'what do you want to do today', I think contacting someone they have encountered or someone connected to an article of interest to them should be an option

  • Agree. And I'll return a question. There is research suggesting that new users who manage to connect with the community have a greater chance of success. Which would suggest we should make a point of emphasizing the importance of talk pages across multiple "lessons". Does that check with your experience?

"I wouldn't give them the full range of citation-providing formats."

  • Yes, I think in general we're realizing that VE should be the focus (except for talk pages). Thanks.

“My own experience...is that email is infinitely preferred.”

  • Sounds right. I’m adding a prompt to the Welcome sequence asking for email and explaining why providing an address will help us help the user.

"The other thing I think we should do is divert any new user from making a change to a high quality article or high readership or one with many page watchers."

  • Thanks for this suggestion. I assume your warning about high-risk pages would also apply to pages tagged as a Controversial topic, Recent deaths or under various types of restrictions as well? We’d  planned to use such edits as a trigger for a lesson on Neutral POV.  It sounds like a warning that such edits have a high probability of being  reverted is something we might also usefully add?  
Kerry Raymond (talkcontribs)

Re: newbies and new articles. I know newbies often want to write new articles. It's why I deliberately tell them the chances of succeeding as a new contributor are very low. Walk before you can run etc. Generally as an AfC reviewer, you can suspect (and not usually prove) CoI and undisclosed paid editing, so the bulk of new articles from new users are declined for failing to demonstrate notability (but I know I generally set the bar higher on notabilty when I suspect CoI). That's why above I suggest that AfC should start with a light-weight process focussed on just getting over the notability hurdle. Move to a *lightweight* AfC process where initially they fill in a form answering "title", "what is about" (only let them have a small number of chars to do it in) "what is it important/interesting for Wikipedia" (again force it to be short), and 2 independent citations (stop them investing a lot of effort on article writing until they have the green light on notability) - including some examples of "good" and "bad" ways to answer these questions in terms of demonstrating notability. Don't let anyone invest time and effort into writing the body of an article until they have passed the notability hurdle.

If we actually enforced that you couldn't start a new article until you have 100 (or some other number) of edits, would people get started and do edits to existing articles in order to qualify or would they walk away? Would we deter people who would become long-term contributors or would we only deter people there to "(ab)use" Wikipedia without intention of giving back in any way? Or would we just get 100 rubbish edits? Obviously it's difficult to answer such questions. And we do have to be mindful of not "burning" the time and goodwill of our existing contributors with onboarding the newbies. AfC does seem to burn its reviewers (they are always calling for more, I respond, do it for a while, then drop out again -- it's just so soul-destroying). I'd rather thank/welcome new users I spot on my watchlist doing little edits and try to nurture them.

Kerry Raymond (talkcontribs)

Re: connecting new users with existing communities or individuals. I do believe welcoming/thanking new users helps and I know this because some of them tell me so, here's few recent ones

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:Kerry_Raymond#Teneriffe,_Queensland

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:Kerry_Raymond#Sisters_of_St._Joseph_of_the_Sacred_Heart

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:Kerry_Raymond#You're_welcome

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:Kerry_Raymond#Thanks

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:Kerry_Raymond#A_Kitten_For_You!

But of course there are the ones that figured out how to get to my User Talk page and I know newbies have difficulty doing this, so I hope there are more out there with "warm fuzzies" even if they could not thank me for them. The last one (A Kitten For You) actually illustrates the value of showing people their impact. What they are referring to is

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:Rose64bit

where I explain that 1000 readers have now had the benefit of reading an article improved by their edit. I get similar reactions from our 1Lib1Ref folks when they look at the Articles Viewed on our 1Lib1Ref2018 dashboard:

https://outreachdashboard.wmflabs.org/courses/State_Library_of_Queensland/State_Library_of_Queensland_1lib1ref_2018

and you see the staggering multiplier effect for edits on very ordinary articles that are about 2 months old now. Why not put that statistic on everyone's contribution page? Obviously we all know that people benefit from our edits, but I confess that those Articles Viewed statistics on the dashboards blew me away when I first saw them. OK, I know it's not a perfect metric. If I do an edit that gets reverted, it would still count for the Article Viewed statistic which would steadily grow over time. But as a way to show a good-faith newcomer that they are doing something that matters, it's a powerful tool even if the actual value is a bit rubbery.

Kerry Raymond (talkcontribs)

Re: avoiding high risk articles. Yes, I see nothing wrong with saying to a new user that the article they want to change is "very important", "widely read", or "controversial" or whatever other risk factors are perceived. I think our mistake is not being honest with our new users. The encyclopedia "anyone can edit" is only half true. Anyone can try but many will fail. Again, I make these points face-to-face and people seem to accept the wisdom of them. "Often the wording in such an article has been debated at some length by several people, so if you just jump in and rewrite those words, they aren't going to be very happy with you". And I also caution against deleting anything as a newbie. "Remember someone else wrote that and they think it is interesting/useful, if you delete it without a very good reason, then you are probably not making a friend but an enemy, it's better to focus on adding new information not deleting what's already there". Everything I say is about de-risking the newbie experience, I want them to survive long enough to be "bitten by the bug" of contributing so they can survive the negativity that they will sooner or later encounter. "Learn to pick your battles", "Let that one go", "If you encounter pushback in one article, forget about that topic and work on another article, it's a big encyclopedia, remember". These are my regular pearls of wisdom both to the newbies and to myself -- I get bitten like everyone else and I do point that out too to the newbies! I don't want to create the expectation that there is a point at which everyone will become nice to you. I try to reinforce that there are more nice people on Wikipedia than nasty ones, it's just that we tend to remember the nasty ones more, and that there are a lot of readers for whom we are doing something wonderful. "Every good edit is a gift that keeps on giving".

Roan Kattouw (WMF) (talkcontribs)
Reply to ""In context" vs "Series of lessons""