Topic on Talk:Growth/Discussing potential Growth ideas

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Improve upon basic wiki flaws

4 (talkcontribs)

Due to lack of mechanisms for true collaboration growth is incredibly hard for even third party wikis. Below are some encountered issues.

Concrete problems:

  1. Assumption 1 -> anyone can create an article on their first try. This is a very core wiki principle and flaw. Nobody can produce a good page in whatever medium (be it a book or letter or whatever) on their very first try. Yet the interface persuades a user to do this, relying on the principle that it will be improved overtime. Except that sometimes before one even gets that chance the article may be deleted. Wasted work...
  2. Assumption 2 - Just because a non-existent page is reached it should be created - page creation workflow is non-existent as far as default mediawiki is concerned. Consider this, the link to improve or create pages is called ?action=edit. The only way to reach said link is either by knowing it, or reaching it accidentally.
  3. Assumption 3 - As long as it has content , anything created in the main namespace is deemed a page. One can create a page with a single character, a word, gibberish ("aszxdcareqweqdas"). No sensible restrictions on what can be saved as a page.
  4. Before the advent of internet, an application would be basically awful and poor quality if it didn't have built-in documentation. Nowadays, interfaces are designed to assume that users are mind-readers. They simply choose the lazy way of sending the user to a separate internet page that may contain help. For wikis, this is worse, one can reach a "documentation" page that has been vandalized and be even more confused.
  5. There is much duplication of effort - the simple fact of the matter is that volunteers are inherently unreliable. This means that they can work in haphazard ways, and can individually (un)knowingly disrupt each others work, or agree to do something but not do it. This is made worse by the fact that there is no way to get an overview of what processes, pages, or places need most help. In some cases this leads to decline rather than growth.

Some possible solutions:

  1. Basic tutorial - it would be easy to either guide the user through a compulsory basic tutorial, and perhaps a sort of micro-quiz before starting to edit. While this could discourage many, the ones that remain may actually produce better content. An alternative is a personal draft ( created with the help of the tutorial) invisible to others until the user publishes it. The draft would be automatically deleted if not published within a week or so, maybe after a copy is emailed to the author.
  2. Entry point for creating a page - One possibility is that redlinks on search pages only appear after considerable users search for the same keyword. The most important issue to solve here is the creation of a sensible entry point for creating a page (not search or 404). See how wikia for instance created it : . A more wikimedia-centric approach was discussed here Article Creation Workflow/Design ,
  3. Definition of a content page - Some basic mechanisms or restrictions for creating a page should be introduced, e.g. minimum character count, minimum number or links, a reference or a heading or whatever. Content consisting of one character or word is not a page, it is a scribble. Mediawiki even allow(ed?) pages with no content.
  4. Online help / in-context help - Help for most frequently used dialogs, and even a general description of the interface itself, along with a glossary and definitions of terms used by it. Visualeditor has some basic help. Wikitext editor focuses on wikitext, and doesn't provide any help for many of its dialogs or even describe what some terms mean.
  5. General Queue -This will not likely be achieved by this team. It simply requires a general Queue, e.g. What articles are reasonable, what articles need more work, which have low coverage, which could benefit from simple fixes and are good for beginners, etc. The reliance on categories for this kind of thing is purely misguided. Currently, editors fly blind, randomly improving things without a sense of progress and sometimes duplicating work or reverting someone else's efforts. See,
MMiller (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Thank you for posting these thoughts. "Assumption 1" is a good point about how many new editors struggle when creating new articles right away, and end up being demoralized. Our team talked about this last week when we discussed some of our most important long-term questions. One of them is: "How do we help new editors find a place in the wiki that fits their interests, fits their skillset, and fits the wiki's needs?"

With respect to the "Basic tutorial" idea, I think many wikis have something like this, such as the Wikipedia Adventure in English Wikipedia. There is a lot of thinking and improvement that could go into tutorials like those.

And with respect to the "General Queue" idea, task recommendations is definitely on our team's radar. We will probably revisit thinking about that in a few months. (talkcontribs)

The wikipedia adventure isn't really a good tutorial because it separates the user from normal editing and isn't integrated into editors. Consider this, many applications have tutorials, but the best ones are so well integrated that some users never realize they even went through a tutorial.

> "How do we help new editors find a place in the wiki that fits their interests, fits their skillset, and fits the wiki's needs?"

This question reminds me of old computer games that would not let the user play unless they answered specific questions to ensure they were "old" enough. That's unfortunately the only way to really assess editing competency and interest, but it is an answer that editors will not like. Generally speaking that question can't be answered due to how incredibly disorganized wikis are.

A book written by 1000 volunteer authors is very likely to become very incoherent, just like wikis are. The best solution to that is doing some research with professionals and coming up with a sensible list of topics (probably less than 2000 pages) that MUST be covered in every wiki, along with a dashboard to see how well a wiki fares. This wouldn't be applicable to places like wikinews and wikisource that might need different approaches. Consider this, wikimedia's wikis have existed for more than a decade, but can anyone really answer how well and accurately topics related to basic needs and survival are covered (e.g. water, hygiene, food and shelter)?

Old printed encyclopedias had their flaws, but the need to have a limited amount of books meant that they at least attempted to properly cover what they deemed to be the most important topics ( and / or the most lucrative).

Alsee (talkcontribs)

doing some research with professionals and coming up with a sensible list of topics (probably less than 2000 pages) that MUST be covered in every wiki

We already have lists resembling that.

  • One list is tailored to the English-language Wikipedia, see EN:WP:Vital articles. It contains a most important 10 topics, top 100 topics, top 1,000 topics, top 10,000 topics, and the entire list extends to 50,000 topics.
  • At Meta we have M:List of articles every Wikipedia should have. This list contains 1,000 entries. It is intended to be global in scope.

Note: I'm not claiming either of those lists are perfect. I'm just pointing out that we already have them, and they're probably in the ballpark of 'reasonable' or 'useful' considering the inherent difficulties of such a list.

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