Wikimedia Product Guidance/Communication channels

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Knowing where to ask for feedback or to post your message is tough. Do you do it on a private wiki or mailing list? Do you do it in public on Meta or on a project's village pump? Or do you have a graduated strategy, where you float it on a small, private forum first (this wiki, for example), then start asking for more feedback in more public places?

There are no hard-and-fast rules. In general, if you're stuck on "Where should I post my announcement?" or "Where do I find the people I'm looking for?" try thinking in these terms:

  • Who is your target audience? (not everyone in our movement will need to know or take action about your thing, right? Do you need the attention of the techies? Of affiliates? Of editors from a certain project or with a specific workflow?)
  • When do you need to notify the audience and how often? (Immediately? Just once? Or do you need people to see the same message daily until a certain date?)
  • What is the content of the communication? (is this an emergency or a routine thing? is it a polite FYI or a call to arms?)

Once you've answered these questions, you can choose a channel from the channels menu.

Community Relations Specialists are happy to advise Project Managers on which channels may work best for each project.

Sharing your product information[edit]

Information about a product's development can be communicated through several channels, such as the team's talk page, a public mailing list, or the most appropriate community forum. There are some concrete best practices about where to communicate milestone information:

  1. A project page with status updates section or subpage, per Wikimedia Product Guidance/Starting a project page.
  2. Strongly encouraged: a post on the Wikimedia Space for the salient phases of your project - it doesn't have to be long, and it doesn't even have to be different from what you are already posting elsewhere (unless you want it to be, for instance if you'd like to share additional context or perspectives, like "developers' thoughts", that you usually would't put on a project page).
  3. Optional: Beta Features is an available option to get qualified software in front of end users for testing. All Beta Features offer direct links to leave feedback about a product.
  4. Optional: a dedicated team or project mailing list. Ideally, this communication is a nutshell of what can be found on the wikipage. Further feedback can be directed to the talk page for centralization.
  5. Optional: a subscription-based newsletter that can contain all the information needing to be shared, with a link to the relevant talk page for discussion.
  6. Optional: mass-message delivery to appropriate types of contributors or community forums. As with the team or project mailing list, this communication is a nutshell of what's on the wikipage, and further feedback can be directed to the talk page for centralization.

Finding pages where people congregate: village pumps and co.[edit]

If you need to make announcements or to talk to community members, then you need to find the right pages for that.

Large wikis may have multiple or specialized pages for making announcements and talking. Smaller wikis might have one—or none. Look for:

  • Village pump pages: these pages are explicitly for talking to other people in the community. Wikidata has a list of all local village pump equivalents (their names vary between communities). Some big wikis have multiple village pumps, each of them hosting different contents (one is for getting technical help, one is for off-topic chatting, etc.). Most village pumps at very small wikis look like a long page filled with mass-delivered messages in English.
  • Community boards: these pages are for making more formal announcements. Some may collect information such as project milestones or work that needs to be done.
  • Embassy pages: these pages are for people who don't speak the local language. As for any other page, a response may not be guaranteed. List on Wikidata.
  • Administrators' noticeboards: these pages are specifically for announcements or requests that require attention from a sysop (admin). In several cases, you will need to copy and paste a template to state what you need from them. List on Wikidata.
  • WikiProjects: on a few larger projects, subgroups of editors have pages to discuss specific topics. If you need to reach subject-specific people, these are a good option. List on Wikidata.
  • Check the {{welcome}} templates for links to help or discussion forums. On some wikis, community members will put such a template on your talk page after your first edits (in some cases, a bot will do that: sometimes you can even receive the message seconds after just visiting any page on that project). List on Wikidata.
  • If all else fails, the talk page for the Main Page. List on Wikidata.

Using interlanguage links[edit]

If you know what kind of page you are looking for on one wiki, you can use it to find similar pages on other languages for that same project. This works for content pages as well as discussion pages behind the scenes. Interlanguage links are usually listed on the left-hand side of the screen, just below the "Toolbox" and next to the gear-shaped icon for the Universal Language Selector. The links are written in the language that they represent, e.g., "Français" rather than "French". They may be alphabetized by the projects' language codes, so that, for example, Basque (eu) comes before Persian (fa), which comes before French (fr). On some wikis, the order depends on your previous selections, or on other factors. While the options appear in the local language, they are all searchable in English, so if you want to find the Arabic village pump equivalent, you can type in "Arabic" in English without having to first find a translation.

To use this feature, go to a page that you think is the right target at a project that you are familiar with. For example, to leave a message of general interest, you might go to the main village pump page on the English Wikipedia. When you look in the sidebar on the left, you will find the Language menu, which provides links to the equivalent page on almost 200 other Wikipedias. These are reciprocal links, so all village pump pages, regardless of language, should have the same list.

This feature only works within the same type of project. You can use interlanguage links on one Wikipedia to find similar pages on other Wikipedias, but you can't use them to find similar pages on Commons, Wiktionary, or other projects. However, many projects are structured similarly, and especially the English-language editions often have redirects set up from familiar pages. As a result, if you go to the English Wiktionary and search in "Help and project pages" for "Village pump", then you will find that Wiktionary:Village pump redirects you to the English Wiktionary's equivalent, which is Wiktionary:Beer parlour, and that this page offers interlanguage links to similar pages in other language editions of Wiktionary.

Luckily, you can now reach the equivalent of a given page in any language and in any project thanks to Wikidata. At the bottom of the list of links in the left sidebar, click on the pencil icon which says "Edit links": you'll be redirected to a comprehensive Wikidata page. As an example, see the Wikidata page that provides links to the main village pumps on most WMF wikis.

Using off-wiki communication channels[edit]

Some communities congregate mostly off-wiki, so it's important to be familiar with with these channels as well. See Community Engagement's guide to off-wiki communication channels.

Reaching out to key stakeholders[edit]

When you're looking for feedback or action that goes beyond a few wikis, there are some recommended groups and venues you may be interested in:

  • Tech Ambassadors: a page on Meta lists the most active among the tech savvy users on our websites. For a longer shot you can simply reach their mailing list, which includes people who are only around from time to time. Soon you'll be able to work with them via Phabricator as well;
  • Tech Translators: sometimes these groups overlap, however, a current list of active ones is available on Meta. An email to their mailing list could catch them all;
  • People interested in new stuff: there are over 100 people already subscribed to Tech Showcase updates, ready to jump in to provide feedback or help test new shiny things.

How to add noteworthy items to Tech News[edit]

How to make a newsletter[edit]

How to create a newsletter via Extension:Newsletter[edit]

  • If your audience lives on mediawiki.org, you can also create a publication via the mw:Extension:Newsletter. This is still an experimental service.

Mass message systems[edit]

Use the MassMessage system to automatically deliver your note to a list of pages or people; there is a list of people who are able to send a message on your behalf if you don't have the necessary user rights. Distribution list/Global message delivery is the basic list for central community pages on all projects, but anyone can create specialized lists to reach only the most relevant targets.

If you need a response, or if there is any possibility that people will have further questions, then include a link back to a central location of your choice (generally, a page on Meta for policy questions or a page on MediaWiki.org for technical issues). If you are posting to message boards like the village pumps, then you need to include a date stamp at the end of the message.

Be careful with MassMessage: it is easy to spam the wrong list of people, or forget to close an HTML tag that breaks hundreds of pages across wikis that you'll need to go through and fix manually. In some cases, your message may be labelled as "spam" and treated as such. Try to pre-empt these issues by talking to an expert; members of the Community Relations team are happy to help you avoid these pitfalls. With great power can come great messes.

If you need to deliver messages at mediawiki.org, you may want to know that the correct syntax in the Target template is site = www.mediawiki.org.

There's also a distribution list for Technical Village Pumps, and a Wikidata MassMessage tool that "generates a list of wikipages based on Wikidata items, ready and formatted as a delivery list for MassMessage".

In several cases, the advice provided below applies also if you want to distribute messages manually instead.

How to make your message readable[edit]

LTR & RTL[edit]

Even if your message is in English, you need to label it so that it will be readable on a non-English wiki. Put your message inside the following HTML tag:

<div lang="en" dir="ltr" class="mw-content-ltr"> Your important notification.

</div>

This will ensure that the message is treated as English and left-to-right by the software. If you do not do this, then your message may be displayed with all the letters running in the wrong direction on the page, or it may break the formatting for the rest of the page. Mastering the use of these tags will make you look considerate!

If the message is in English[edit]

Use some translated messages to begin a message when you post in English on a wiki that is not in English (that means, virtually everywhere!)

  • {{int:Hello}} will display "Hello" in the language that each user specified in their preferences.
  • {{Int:Please-translate}} will display "Please help translate to your language" in the same way.
  • {{Int:Feedback-thanks-title}} will display "Thank you!" in the same way. (NB: {{int:Thank-you}} also exists, although it may have fewer translations as it's a more recent message. This needs verification.)

For example, if nobody has pre-translated your MassMessage into Estonian before you send it, then you can add:

{{int:please-translate}}

Feedback wanted on mobile web contribution prototype

The [[mw:Special:MyLanguage/Reading/Web|Readers web]] team is working on improving the [...]

{{Int:Feedback-thanks-title}} [[m:User:Foo (WMF)|Foo]] ~~~~~

Will be displayed to a reader using a Estonian preference/wiki like this:

Palun aita emakeelde tõlkida
Feedback wanted on mobile web contribution prototype
The Readers web team is working on improving the [...]
Aitäh! [your signature]

Write short, simple sentences. This helps translators, English language learners, and people who rely on machine translation. Tools like readability indicators, the Hemingway app, the SimpleWriter and the Up-Goer 6 check for complex and rare words. The website SimplyPut.ie gathers useful resources on how to write in plain English and provides a handy list of words and phrases to avoid.

If you plan to work with Tech/Ambassadors, you can create a translatable page with your message in English. This way, it will be easier for Ambassadors to spread the word, by using the translation extension; if you wrap the page (except for the "languages" tag) in <pre> tags, they'll be able to just copy/paste everything. This is how the example above, with the grey background, has been made.

Other advice[edit]

  • If your message discusses elements in the user interface ("Click on the 'Edit' button"), then try using the qqx trick to provide automatic translation of the names of buttons and other system messages.
  • Avoid using any templates in your message. Most templates, even common ones like {{@}}, are not present at smaller wikis.
  • Don't use the usual 4 tildes (~~~~) to sign messages sent through MassMessage. That will result in your message being signed by an account named "Mass Message Delivery system", instead of by you. Instead, type your name manually, that is, by linking to your userpage on Meta or another wiki, and use five tildes to set the date:
    [[m:user:Trizek (WMF)|Trizek (WMF)]] ~~~~~

Examples[edit]

  • On Office wiki, look for "codfw" to see the communications plan, written and executed by Community Relations Specialists, to communicate about the switchover to Dallas backup datacenter (and related planned outages) in 2017. It identifies audiences, defines which steps to take at which point in time, and who does what in the process. Having a plan doesn't simply make things smoother; most importantly, it can be reused with minimal adjustment and learning curve.

Additional resources[edit]